My two aunts: one was visiting from Canada with her two eldest daughters, and the other who lived nearby was accompanied by her only child—a tall, lanky, girl for her age, sporting long, curly, flaming-red hair and was a year older than me (we got along famously)—mounted the Public Service coach at Kinderkamack Road and Reservoir Avenue in River Edge, NJ, with my mother and I, bound for Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. Quite an exciting excursion awaited; after all, my being a youngster of seven or eight and aside from riding one to school, I had never embarked on an omnibus for such a seemingly long journey before this: roughly 17 miles or 27 kilometers one-way, with all the stopping and going in between.
My father’s sister-in-law, the one who lived a town over from my family, was an extremely frugal woman; as was Dad’s sister-in-law from the Great White North—a farmer’s wife with a boatload of children. They packed away a tremendous assortment of loose candy, loaded in a large, brown-paper sack, intended for everyone to munch while traveling and sitting throughout the movie and musical performance at Radio City Music Hall: our planned destination in the Big Apple. The women didn’t want to pay the exorbitant prices charged by the venue for anything extraneous to eat. We sat in the extreme rear of the bus where enough seats were available. While the kids took up the long bench seat, the adults sat directly in front of us.
Our family entourage marveled with oohs and aahs at the phenomenal sights revealed to us on the way, especially when scaling the towering Palisades that offered a birds-eye view of the scintillating Hudson River filled with motorboats, ships, barges and tugs, ferrying below; passing by the spot where Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded from a pistol shot during a duel between himself and his political rival, then-sitting Vice President Aaron Burr, on July 11, 1804. Glorious 18th- and 19th-century townhouses lined the lofty thoroughfare. Magnificent, glistening skyscrapers, graced Manhattan Island directly across the large waterway.
Descending a huge, spiraling roadway to what seemed like the bowels of Weehawken, NJ, the bus entered the Lincoln Tunnel. The children proceeded wide-eyed for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) while underneath the river bed, wondering what would happen if the semi-tubular structure sprung a leak.
Our hair-raising expedition concluded by our ascending a concrete ramp into the massive bus terminal at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street in New York City.
Rockefeller Center, the locale of Radio City Music Hall, was less than a mile away. The general consensus was to hoof it. Most likely the women were looking to save the cab fare. We kids wanted to see what was going on in the big city and would have insisted on walking had our parents decided otherwise. The gorgeous spring afternoon was exceptionally bright and warm. Not a cloud was in view. The sun’s shimmering rays reflected off the expansive plains of pavement everywhere like a mirror. The clear, crystal-blue sky weaved radiantly above and between the sparkling multitude of monstrous buildings surrounding us, as if the altitudinous mega-structures were holding up the heavens like sculptured iconic columns of ancient Grecian temples. Little did I know the ultimate conclusion for that extraordinary day would prove to be extremely spiritual as well.
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To be continued…