The amazing thing about travel, even a weekend trip, are the surprises. Even when your plans take a back seat to delays or problems, there are moments and opportunities that arise that can make it seem more bearable, sometimes even pleasurable.
I went to a Mets baseball game on Sunday, courtesy of free tickets secured by Brother M for his family and me. It was another sultry New York City day; residents who were pining for the promised break in the persistent heat wave were denied, again.
The surprise wasn’t that the Mets won the game, though I’ll concede as a long-suffering fan that any victory, especially over the rival Phillies, can be considered somewhat surprising. The surprise was afterward, walking in the heart of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
We were looking to kill some time and let traffic around Citi Field subside. We crossed the rail yard, passed the U.S. Open tennis center, and headed toward the giant steel globe that is the centerpiece of Flushing Meadows park and the symbol of the 1964-’65 World’s Fair. The globe, called the Unisphere, is surrounded by fountains that shoot streams of water high into the air.
There were lots of folks playing in the fountains, pushing their bodies in front of the upward-facing spouts to redirect the water toward their friends and family members, eliciting screams of delight and lots of laughter as the spray found home.
Kids and adults, including Niece K and I, ran through the sections between the fountains; some, like me, getting a mere sprinkle, others getting sopping wet.
Most of the people were at the park for a free festival celebrating Colombian independence. A band fronted by singer Maria Mulata, sponsored by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, was playing to an attentive crowd in front of the Queens Museum of Art, where a couple of mobile food trucks were providing Colombian specialties.
There were soccer and volleyball games filling the park’s green spaces, and large groups gathered under trees, desperate for the shade, watching the games and talking.
It was fun to see a different part of the park and to see the massive globe looking so fine after its major renovation three years ago. I can’t count the number of times I’ve passed the Queens icon on my Long Island travels.
My travels to my brother’s house on Saturday and to the ball game on Sunday were a story on to itself. Yet another high-powered storm had messed with the signals along the Amtrak tracks, and my train from Utica to Croton-Harmon in Westchester County was delayed two hours.
I’m not a patient guy, and as much as I admire the Utica train station, I quickly got bored. I drove to the Munson Williams Proctor Institute on Genesee Street for a look-see. It turns out an Andy Warhol exhibition was available, but I didn’t feel I had enough time to do it justice. So I strolled the grounds of the art museum, stopping at a shaded bench to eat the pusty pastry (I’ve written about them before) I had bought at the Florentine Pastry Shop on Bleecker Street.
I got lost, of course, heading back to the train station. But once I got there, what could have been an interminable wait at the station turned into something else: watching a big wedding held in the station’s waiting room.
I thought I was on a sugar high from the pusty when I walked back in to the station to check on my train’s status and saw one side of the waiting room and its long wooden benches filled with smartly dressed people looking at four groomsmen and a fairly nervous looking groom. All of the guys were plucking at their black jackets, hoping for some air to seep through, and wiping their foreheads with handkerchiefs.
I asked a guest, “Why here?” And her only answer was, “The bride is a little different.”
Different it was, as me and my fellow delayed Amtrak passengers watched the bridesmaids walk past the Department of Motor Vehicles section that fills one end of the station toward the groomsmen.
Then, the bride was walked into the waiting area, past some of the 34 marble columns that fill the beautiful space, which also features a 47-foot-high vaulted ceiling.
She was beautiful. And beaming. The wedding was quick. There were vows, a kiss, a dip and a second big kiss, and lots of cheers from the wedding guests and from the passengers-in-waiting.
It was a wedding in a train station on a hot CNY day. The Travel Gods must have been watching.