Turning the big 4-0 (finale)

(Recaps of the first day and the morning and night of the second day for those who missed them. And now, the rest of the story…)

Saturday was a cold and windy day, but our group had plans that couldn’t be kept waiting. So it was once again back to the subways. Pedro and my sweetie pondered the maps and led us on our way. To this point, I still didn’t know where we were going—again, the whole weekend’s plans were one surprise unfolding after another. But once we got on the #4 north towards the Bronx (and taking into account the size of our group and the fact that she would have planned something up my alley), I offered a guess: Yankee Stadium. And the guess was right. And I was thrilled.

Next stop: Yankee Stadium.

I’ve been to the Stadium on a handful of occasions for games, but this was going to be an inside-the-stadium tour, which I’d never done before there. Plus, given that this is the last year for the old Stadium (with the new Yankee Stadium opening next door to it for next season), it was great to be able to see the inner workings of the old place before it met the wrecking ball. And it was just as cool as I was expecting, me being the huge Yankees fan and all. (Thanks, dad!) We, of course, got to walk around Monument Park. We also got to mill around the home dugout, the press box, and one of the high-roller luxury suites, and—because it was still spring training and the Yankees were out of town—we also got to step inside the Yankees clubhouse. (No pictures of the players’ lockers, unfortunately, as they were very adamant about their “no photography inside the clubhouse” rule. In fact, it was rule #1 of the many rules that a large man recited before the tour, the breaking of any of which would see us “…removed from the tour”—this last line became a running joke among us for the remainder of the tour… guess you had to be there. Bummer, too, because it’s not like any of the players’ personal items was out for display—the only things there to see were a bunch of empty lockers and piles and piles of empty clothes hangers. But hey, it’s their rules.)

Monument Park.

And all this time, my sweetie had been toting around a shopping back with (what else) my birthday cake. After the tour, we tried to find a public place (a park or anything) where we could sit for a spell and cut the cake, but around that part of the city, nothing was to be found. So we ended up in a McDonald’s next to the stadium. But it was my friends and family (and, of course, the cake), so it didn’t really matter where we were to me.

The rest of the afternoon was free, so everyone went there separate ways for a few hours. A small group of us ended up back down in Greenwich Village, where we spent the afternoon eating and milling about. (No Julia Stiles this time. Oh well.) Later that evening, most of us got together again (a couple of folks had made other plans for while they were in the city, which was fine by me—after all, they’re in New York City!) for a couple hours of entertainment at Ha! The Comedy Club (also within walking distance of the hotel… not an accident) that my sweetie had bought tickets for. And with the exception of one poor, terrified female comedienne (who, unfortunately, just bombed), it was a funny lot. A couple more of our group broke off to catch a late-night show, and the rest of us wandered down the street to another pub to grab some dinner and a couple (maybe more than a couple) of beers. And for the third night in a row, it was back to the hotel well after midnight—a little tougher on this now-old guy, but ask me if I minded.

Sunday morning found us all together one last time for a group breakfast at a diner (say it with me) down the street from the hotel, and then it was everyone off to make their way back home. New Hampshire. New York. Virginia. Florida. Nebraska. Texas. And the best birthday I’ve ever had officially came to an end.

A huge thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy lives to spend a weekend with us in New York City. Ray and Amy. Milda and Lawrence. Keith and Staci. Tom and Tanya. David and Kimberly. Pedro and Nicola. You are my friends, and you are my family, and I must be doing something right to end up with the ones that I have. You’ll never know how much this meant to me.

And to my wife: I love you. You are everything to me. And you must like me a little bit, too, to go through this much time and effort just to celebrate me turning old. :-) Thank you, sweetie.

[Oh, one last thing. Remember the signed picture from everyone that was my gift at the birthday dinner? Well, we almost didn’t. After getting off the bus that took us from South Station back to our car, we accidentally left the bag containing the picture in the overhead compartment on the bus. By the time we realized this, we had just missed the bus leaving the station and heading for its next stop up the highway in Concord. And you should have seen us tearing after that bus—85-90 miles an hour at midnight, trying to catch up to it. Somehow, though, we never caught sight of it. But as we pulled into the Concord bus station, we saw our bus sitting there—it turned out the driver had to make a stop of his own, if you know what I mean, and because of that, it hadn’t yet left the station. We managed to talk our way back onto the bus and, with much relief, recover this precious item. Hey, it was a perfect birthday weekend—surely you didn’t think it would end on a low note…]