The other big tourist trap the entire group took part in was the most famous of New York City attractions, the Empire State Building. Now THIS was something I could get excited about. I’d been dreaming of this day since the first time I watched the original King Kong on one of the Saturday afternoon monster movie shows.
The Yorktown group had been exploring other sites in Manhattan when it was close to time to go the iconic landmark. We rode the subway down to Herald Square Station. The subway rides had become old hat to us by this time. We were practically New Yorkers now and felt there was nothing the city could throw at us to phase us. Until, that is, we exited the station and got our closest look yet at the Empire State Building. I was in awe.
I stood there like a total rube craning my neck backwards to take in the enormity of the skyscraper. Oz yelled out my name to snap me back to the here and now as the rest of the group continued on ahead of me. Without taking my eyes off of the top of the building I slowly walked to join my friends, bumping into – and catching the wrath of – New York pedestrians the entire way.
The view from the top was not as glorious as I had hoped for. The sun was out but the weather was unseasonably hot and humid, creating a thick haze that knocked down visibility to the point where we could barely make out the World Trade Center at the southern end of the island.
As disappointing as the view was I still took pictures of the other familiar landmarks that weren’t as obstructed. I took three of four shots with the Kodak Instamatic camera that Mom let me borrow and was feeling pretty good about them until I saw another student wielding a fancy schmancy Nikon 35mm SLR camera with a zoom lens. He caught me admiring the camera, gave me a friendly grin and a nod, and then continued taking more photos. I shoved the Kodak Instamatic in my front pocket and committed as much of the view as I could to memory.
The rest of the touristy stuff for the week was left up to us. We discussed the different things we could see and do and based most of our decisions on how much time and money would be spent to do them. Another factor was the record-setting heat wave the city was experiencing during our stay. Staying in our rooms to keep cool was another option.
I wasn’t happy about all of the decisions that were made.
In was Central Park. We spent a couple hours getting to and walking around the expansive park. We spent more time sitting in the shade trying to cool off. It was worth it though to see the park itself and all of the incredible buildings surrounding it.
Out was a ride to the top of the World Trade Center. I wanted badly to see the view from the tallest building in the city. The group decided no. The poor view at the Empire State Building helped ease my pain over the decision. It still would have been cool, though.
Out was the Statue of Liberty. There was no assuaging the disappointment of that one.
In was a night time cruise on the Staten Island Ferry, one of the items on my list of things to do. The ride was a nice change from the crushing sea of humanity in and around Times Square. The cool night air off of the harbor was refreshing after a day in the sun and the ferry took us past the Statue of Liberty, providing us a nice view during the outward bound and return trips. Getting to see the statue all lit up at night was pretty cool, which, I guess, did alleviate some of my disappointment.
The rest of our free time was spent exploring the city from Times Square down to Greenwich Village. Oz requested that when we went out that we do so in groups of three or more. Jeff, Lloyd, and I split off into our own little trio as often as possible.
The three of us went for a walk down Broadway to see what we could find. Up ahead of us loomed a large movie marquee for the Loew’s Astor Plaza theater with an equally large sign for a movie that just opened: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
“Holy shit!” I shouted. Raiders was the next movie from two of my favorite movie directors – George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – and starred Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. Any movie with those three was bound to be a great one let alone an action adventure movie in the style of the old Saturday matinee B-movies. I brought two magazines – Rolling Stone and Newsweek – to read during the trip only because they had cover stories about the movie. The articles fed my desire to see Indiana Jones more than anything since Star Wars, and that included The Empire Strikes Back. This was HUGE.
“Come on! Let’s go!” I enthusiastically said as I headed towards the ticket window.
Jeff and Lloyd both looked up at the marquee and then at me with furrowed brows. “No! I’m not going here,” Jeff told me. “I’ll wait until next week when we’re back home.”
“Yeah,” Lloyd agreed. “Do you know how much a ticket’s going to cost? Hell, no.”
“You guys are crazy,” I admonished. “I’m goin’. I’ve been waitin’ forever to see this and I’m going now,” I said with a nod to drive my point home.
“Alright then,” Jeff said. “I’m not going to stop you. See you back at the hotel, I guess.” With that Jeff and Lloyd continued down Broadway.
“Huh,” I sniffed. They’ll be sorry, I thought as I approached the ticket window. I can’t wait to tell them how great thi-. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“Five dollars?” I said out loud. “Are you kidding me?” I double checked the sign to see if I wasn’t mistaken. I wasn’t. It was five dollars for a matinee showing. I stared at the sign in disbelief. The regular showings in Muncie weren’t that high. I quickly did a U-turn and ran down Broadway to catch up with my compadres.
“Changed your mind, did you?” asked Lloyd.
“Hell yeah,” I replied. “It’s five bucks for a damn matinee!”
“Five bucks? Holy crap.” The price managed to surprise the already skeptical Lloyd.
I continued to rail about the high price as the three of us continued down Broadway. “I’ll tell you one thing. I will never pay five bucks to see a movie. NEVER.”