Our final stop of the day was uptown for dinner at the Empire State Building. There was a buzz on the bus as we headed up 6th Avenue. The kids were keeping their eyes peeled looking for celebrities walking the streets of New York. The first landmark we noticed was Macy’s. The kids went crazy at the sight of the storefront they recognized from Thanksgiving Day parades.
We turned at Macy’s onto 34th Street which led us to our destination. We got off the bus on the 5th Avenue side of the Empire State Building at the entrance to Heartland Brewery, our dinner host for the early evening.
Once inside there was a mad dash to find tables big enough and close enough for groups of friends. Maggie and Elaine were cool about it. They didn’t care where we sat or who sat nearby. I was hoping for a seat near Abby but her area was already full. The girls and I grabbed a table and took a moment to relax. I hoped we would have a menu selection similar to the one I had at Mamma Leone’s back in 1981. Those hopes were quickly dashed when the wait staff explained the several-course meal that had been selected for us.
The girls and I looked at one another in a confused fashion. We were expecting something more along the lines of fine dining than what had just been described.
Our meal consisted of coleslaw, penne pasta with spaghetti sauce, sliders, French fries, and a dessert. Aside from the unusual inclusion of the pasta, what made the meal odd was the manner in which it was served. We each received our coleslaw appetizer as expected. Each item after that was served to our table on a large dish from which we had to serve ourselves. On top of that, each item was brought out one at a time. First we received our pasta, which wasn’t all that good. When we were finished with that we received our sliders. We waited a bit thinking that the fries would be out right away. They weren’t. We didn’t get our fries until we were nearly finished with the sliders. Making matters worse, the fries were nearly cold when we got them. Rather than cause a fuss we ate what we could stomach.
The entire experience was akin to a fine dining restaurant serving up food from Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s. It was odd, to say the least.
From the restaurant our group walked around to the entrance of the Empire State Building where we rode to the top for an incredible view of the city. The timing was perfect. The twilight hour provided enough light that we could make out the buildings but was low enough that the streets were lighting up with traffic. It was spectacular.
The kids amazingly had enough energy left to run around the observation deck snapping pictures of their friends and the view. Like most of the adult chaperones, I was plum tuckered out. I stepped outside and took a few photos then posed for a few with Maggie. I walked around the deck once to see what there was to see before stepping back inside to warm up and get some rest.
Our time was limited so Mrs. V and a few moms started herding the kids and dads back to the elevators. After a stop at the obligatory souvenir shop we made it to the elevators and back down to street level. You could hear a collective sigh from the adults once we were all loaded on the buses and headed for our hotel in New Jersey. The kids were still full of piss and vinegar when we loaded up but were succumbing to fatigue within just a few blocks.
The day wasn’t quite finished when we arrived at the Courtyard by Marriott in Secaucus. The luggage still needed to be unloaded, a task the kids weren’t the least bit interested in. There was some grumbling about the task, but the kids managed okay and went inside for their room assignments.
The kids got their room keys and a reminder of the rules during our stay. The chaperones got their keys once the kids were taken care of. I made some small talk with one of the dads while we waited.
I grabbed a Coke before heading up to my room. I was exhausted but wanted to relax a bit and enjoy the solitude before going to bed. I dropped my stuff off on one of the beds in my room, turned on the TV, and took a big swig of Coke. Looking over at the curtains covering the window I wondered if the room offered a view of Manhattan. I had no idea where we were in relation to the city and hoped against hope that the view would be a good one.
I opened the curtains and was treated to a wonderful view of a parking garage. I stood there and admired the view for a minute or two before bursting out in laughter at my continued misfortune with New York-area hotel rooms.