Jettisoned layover in Maine during Covid-19 crisis; Surviving scarcely on lobster rolls, whoopee pies and IPA.

I am grateful the universe guided my way to Maine for summer. There are a lot of locations for jetsam to wash ashore but Portland sure resulted in as serendipitous a coast as any to land. A reserved melancholic state filled with boundless Subarus and massive white pine forest, where I could spend my summer frolicking about in nature, or so I thought. As I soon discovered je ne sais quoi, it was a state of ‘Maniacs’ who know much less about survival in the bush and much more about fine cuisine and craft beers. I was in the right place; there are no mistakes in life.

More on Maine in a minute, but first an update on the wags from Queens, NYC: Bart and his pious compatriots in Pennsylvania (owners of the Hilton Garden Inn at JFK, NYC) provided round two of comedic relief after their abhorrent treatment of me at their hotel while stranded poor and homeless in NYC. As if their first response to asking me to leave their hotel, under a discriminatory (non-existent) 14 day stay policy, was not humorous enough, the second reply through their attorney wins the ‘almost Darwin’ medal of honor, a world-class pisser.

In my second week at the hotel from hell, while attempting to transfer from the toilet to my wheelchair, the grab-bar I was using for support broke off from the wall, leaving me to find support on a hard tile floor. Their lawyer, in his greatest vomit of jester twaddle, attempting to make me look bad, as vacuous his basis and unsound his argument, however sophomoric and ill-prepared his research and statement, replied to the NY State AG’s complaint by insinuating: 1. It was a made-up story; 2. It was revenge against their ‘raved about’ General Manager, Tracy Kass; and 3. I intentionally caused the grab-bar to break off from the wall. Bartholomew, please send me a package of what your Lancaster crew feeds you for breakfast – evidently reality changing.

It is hard to believe such saints still exist in this world but notwithstanding their holiness, I will address these delusional saboteur swines who treat loyal Hilton customers like trash then cower and hide behind a half-assed inept lawyer who I would not hire to defend my trespass dog. Allow me to pull back the curtain for you: 1. Your hotel clearly partakes in discriminatory practices – easily verified through other guests; and 2. I could have called an ambulance, sued and definitely walked with a settlement, akin to your ilk – but I did not, I chose the high road. To what end?!

None of your attorney’s baseless accusations are worthy a reply except only to rebut: 1. Permit me take away the function and operation of your legs and see how well you can stand up to pull a screwed-in bar, almost one meter above the floor, from the wall and 2. You first could start off by complying with Federal ADA and NY State bathroom building code(s) – your grab-bar was not mounted to wall studs. It was anchored into sheetrock, unable to handle load – sure to get you multiple city infractions upon [further] inspection; and assuredly, possible future litigation.  

Hilton Honors has still yet to sufficiently address the situation or provide an adequate reply. They recently reported earnings to Wall Street, Q2 77% revenue decline. As well, Hilton has had to close 1000 hotels and has experienced a 56% decline in room revenue resulting from Covid-19. And this is how you respond to true-blue customers – silence? What are you so busy doing that customer service has fallen off the radar?  One might think they would choose to treat their Diamond members a teensy-weensy better – but do not hold your breath. J.W. awaits my return.

As I mentioned in my first blog concerning being stuck in NYC under Covid-19 crisis, it did not take long in the car before my attitude and energy were on the rise. As my good friend Elena drove out of NYC, up Interstate 95 towards Maine, the excitement of visiting The Pine Tree State was palpable. We arrived into Portland later than expected. George at the Black Elephant Hostel was gracious enough to provide me an emergency number I could call to be let in. Safely ensconced by the cozy fire, cup of tea in hand, I was where I needed to be. Puff, puff, pass.  

For the next eight days my home was the Black Elephant Hostel, a boutique hostel with a bohemian savoir-faire, owned and operated by a saucy local entrepreneur and former New Jersey native, previously in the horse business, Heather. George kindly reserved me a room that was ADA compliant. The bathroom in the room was exceptionally spacious, a real treat to a traveler in a wheelchair. As well, the kitchen was drafted by architects with the injured in mind; designed pragmatic and utilitarian, sunlight abound, a great place to congregate for mid-afternoon tea.

Aside from a superb kitchen you will also find a delightful general room with comfortable chairs, a table and a layout couch for a relaxing fireside chat or read and an outside patio and lawn area for joining other guests for a smoke or drink or chat. Marijuana is legal in Maine – becoming fully legal for retail sale in October, 2020. The outdoor garden seating area is a great place to meet with friends over a joint and discussion of transcendentalism. Albeit a cheeky owner, the staff, most especially George and Isabelle, was super helpful and caring, always willing to assist.

My over-confident exuberance was quickly replaced with worry and anxiety as summer housing was not panning out as originally thought. Housing is at a minimum in Portland. Real estate well over priced, is in a bubble. A few places did become available but then quickly turned south as one informed me the roommate no longer wanted me as a roommate (only after informed about my injury) and the other did not want my wheelchair banging up his thirty thousand dollars in new upgrades to his double-wide trailer. Anyway, probably prudent I do not appear on Springer.

Was coming to Maine the right choice? Of late, with housing options once again slipping out of reach, and money a wee bit short, it appeared inexorably I had placed myself in a worse off situation than in NYC. In spite of all successive otherwise invincible obstacles, I remained overly brimming with bold perseverance and infinite hope. What would I do now? Where would I go, sleep? Staying in a hostel was surely not the answer. It was expensive; not a long term solution.  

After receiving some unsolicited compassionate help from a few friends, I was able to get a room at the local Hilton in order to reassess the situation and come up with a new plan. It soon became clear that I was in need of additional assistance; I had just become poor and homeless in Maine. It is similar to being poor and homeless in NYC but surrounded with more congenial people and prettier scenery. After five torturous days of having no-where to sleep I was ready to give up.

However, something deep inside told me it would be ok, that this unfortunate situation too shall pass. As if the universe was testing me to make sure I truly had given up control of the wheel of life. The lesson(s) must always be worked through and understood before one can advance past the incessant hurdles of life onto increased mental capacity and psychological resolve. As I state in my book, Unbreakable Mind: One first must pass through darkness before they can enter into the light; it is a journey, not something you can order up from the fast-food universe. There is no free ice cream in the world – all is well-earned, graced upon you – endowed by your higher-self.  

The Vedic astrology reading, a gift from Sunita, I had from Nepal in June was coming true: I was warned I would face four months of hardship, having to rely on others for my survival: Doing the Dirty Dishes of life – only to emerge into the shining light whence soon thereafter. So I was now in the thick of the fight, in the middle of battle. As it turned out I did not qualify for any general assistance in Maine. Apparently the $178 in my checking account was not broke enough. The YMCA manager was able to find me a room but sharing one bathroom with forty other men on one floor, with my injury’s requirements, and its high costs, would not have been feasible.

After two weeks of being bounced around Portland like a pachinko ball in a Tokyo parlor it was time to give in and stay at a hotel. Portland is not a cheap city for lodging – and already suffers from a housing shortage. The manager at the Hilton did not want me to leave to another Hilton branded property for an extended stay so he offered me an amazeballs daily rate [to stay at his location]. It ended up being cheaper to stay there per night than the local hostel. I gladly accepted the deal. Vernon, Tim, Gudrun, Stephanie, Les, Al, Seonye and all staff were absolutely first-rate.

Once settled in and feeling a bit of wanderlust, it was time to explore what Maine had to offer. The most northeastern U.S. State sated with stunning ocean and lakes, craggy rocky coastline, limitless verdant forest, winding mountains and rivers, marvelous lighthouses and ripe maritime history, it is an outdoor wonderland – loaded with supernatural beauty at every new rocky cove. Our day trip to Sebago Lake with Joe, our new friend from Park Slope, Brooklyn, whom we met in the local hostel, was a proper introduction to the outdoor allure and natural grandeur of Maine.

One day Elena decided to take me on a road trip, a magic trail replete with drinks, food and breathtaking panorama. We ventured north 160 km to Camden, famous for its high mountainous peek, scenic vistas and gorgeous views of the harbor and surrounding landscape. We had stopped on our way into town at a local oyster farm, and along with the healthy snacks, pita and hummus Elena packed, we had ourselves a smorgasbord atop the hill, whilst the sun set over the harbor. After some mouthwatering local seafood and delish beers in town, we were off back to Portland.

One weekend an old friend, Sunita, from Boston, visited with her daughter Hazel. It was a typical summer day in Maine, bright azure sky overflowing with cotton-ball clouds, awaiting outdoor exploration. We ventured to the Head Light Lighthouse, just across Casco Bay at Fort Williams Park. There was a local restaurant’s lobster roll stand just up the hill – wow. No doubt I agree that roadside stands serve the best rolls in Maine. On another day we visited Old Orchard Beach and all its tourist fanfare. On our way home we stopped at Bayley’s Seafood for their NE Clam Chowder and a shrimp roll; also stopping at Clambake Seafood Restaurant for locally fried Maine clams. The best “Clam Chowda” and tastiest fried clams I ever savored, respectively.

A new friend, Rita, from Brasil, the following weekend, invited me out for lobster rolls and oysters. We decided to spend the day at Pine Point, a breezy back-bay sand-grass filled marshy delight where delectable food and drink are served at any number of “famous” restaurants. We settled for the local empire of Bayley’s – this time visiting their Pound Shack, on the water. Social distancing in place, masks off, it was a splendid day of hoppy IPAs, freshly shucked oysters with briny liquor and spicy peel-n-eat shrimp. Next we plan to meet in Rio de Janeiro.

The list of out-of-this-world foodstuffs, pioneered by distinctive carpet-bagging restaurateurs with all the right ingredients to make your taste buds pop with excitement, is inexhaustible. The square pizza at Slab Sicilian Street Food is one of a kind, worthy of review. The Thirsty Pig has the most unique menu of house-made hot dogs [with toppings] and sausages, paired with local beers. After sampling lobster rolls at Red’s Eats in Camden, the lighthouse stand, High Roller, Bayley’s, and one upscale restaurant, Scales, the best was High Roller in downtown Portland.

The local bar scene is as bustling as the food scene, with many locations sharing both honors. The East Bayside district of Portland, with its old emptied-out capacious industrial warehouses and expansive lots, has been turned into an extensive neighborhood of eclectic flavorful micro-breweries. Kris and Marty AKA baby tiger (his 14 yr old Shiatsu) visited one Saturday from New Hampshire. We selected Austin Street Brewery – perfect for sitting outdoor with friends. We ended up pairing with Sarah and Gabe, on their second date, which were sitting at the table next to ours. Later we met Miguel at Rosie’s Restaurant and Pub, where food and drink is served late into the night. And in a town where most places close at 9pm, it is a refreshing godsend.

If ever there was a place to be stuck for the summer, Maine wins the award. Portland has quickly moved onto the top three list of my favorite small US cities for food and beer. A charming and enchanting town, filled with a mix of artistic and liberal personalities, a feeling of unrestricted freedom to expand inside & outside the self, packed with an endless number of satiated artisanal restaurants and drinking establishments, it is certainly a place to visit with an open stomach and heart – without fail, both will be better off after a short visit. They will thank you tremendously.

With Europe unquestionably now in the rearview mirror, as the world is mired in a continuing international health and economic crisis, it begets the million dollar question: where off to next?

Stay tuned!

CLICK HERE for PART I of Covid-19 story: Stranded in NYC, JFK.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

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Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Moving to Europe during Covid-19; Becoming poor and homeless in New York City.

After the success of my first book, Unbreakable Mind, endless projects were offered to me but none were a good match. There were many extremely attractive proposals. One was a second book, traveling to ten cities in the world, writing from an injured person’s perspective; an additional for NYT, to travel to 52 countries in 52 weeks, in a wheelchair; and, yet another, to create a travel TV show – but not any were the right fit, not one idea resonated with my soul.

Which avenue to further explore remained unclear until one fateful conversation in early May. I was on the phone with a friend from Amsterdam, a Norwegian-Dominican up-and-coming rap star, David AKA Big Mill, and he had an idea to share. “David,” I asked, “let me guess, another TV show idea.” He replied, “Yes, but this one is distinct.” Well, it was unlike all prior options – different to the point where I loved it. It made sense; it clicked with me – it felt right inside.

The other missing pieces to the puzzle would fall into place shortly thereafter. The morning of the 14th of May, my birthday, for some reason I was nudged to write an old classmate and friend, Adam, now living with his wife and four-year-old in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was recently laid off as an AV Director, a high position in the non-profit world of museums, now in search of a project to develop. I shared my idea for a new travel TV show with him and the rest is history.

After a seven hour conversation, going over every detail possible for how the project could ostensibly work, determining key people and positions needed to make a production company and TV show successful, and agreeing on a pilot location abroad (Amsterdam), we were off to the races. Since Covid-19 has affected so many business-people and investors globally, we were unable to raise the necessary funds. All agreed, signing on to the project on a shoestring budget.

One week later, with all airplane tickets and hotels reserved, my wheelchair supercharged by Gary Gilberti and his amazing team at Numotion Mobility, we were set to start filming pilot footage in Amsterdam in July and August. As I already live part-time in Amsterdam, I was planning on moving to Europe for two to five years. With everything [assuredly] in place, and not being a fan of storing items that others less fortunate could better utilize, especially during a global pandemic, I decided to give away my home, car, all my belongings to those in dire need.

What type spiritual person or leader would I be if I did not practice what I preached, helping others in life anytime one is able, truly living out the words I guide and ask of others to live, if I cannot do so myself? There was no need for me to store away furniture, clothing and other household items while others in my immediate presence were suffering from the current health and economic catastrophe. For two weeks friends and strangers came and took what they wanted.

Everything was going fine, just as planned. My home was donated, flights ready, bags packed and ride to airport sorted. Before flying out to Europe I planned to spend four days in NYC with an old friend, Georgie-boy, who lives across the Hudson River in Jersey City. George is an old and dear classmate from my irascible undergraduate days at Rutgers College; also the General Counsel for our production company. He has a thriving law practice in nearby Newark, NJ.

It was great to be back in NYC, my old stomping grounds in the late 1990s. There is nothing like “The City” – one of a kind, no other place like it on the planet.  We spent an afternoon sunning on the spacious waterfront in Hoboken, NJ, a nice day playing Frisbee in Central Park West, eating amazing Mamouns Falafel and Prince St. Pizza in Greenwich Village. Though it was expected to see murals and damage from prior fortnight’s rioting, it was eerily strange in person.

It was Sunday, a day of respite before flying to Europe on Monday. George and I spent the day having a relaxing lunch at Iberia outdoor café in the Little Portugal section of Newark, NJ. The next morning we were up bright and early, soon off to the airport. When we arrived at Newark International Airport it was nearly empty. There was not but one person at the check-in counter – moi. The Delta terminal was empty. It was June 15th and Covid-19 was in full effect. Wow!

Having never seen such a normally super busy airport terminal this empty in my life, it did not give me pause. George, on the other hand, had a different feeling, and decided to stay with me until I was ticketed to board. After finding a way to get my heavy bags checked in with no fees I thought we were on plan. Then a hiccup: “Sorry Mr. Quigley, you are unable to board the flight to Amsterdam. Dutch Immigration in Holland is denying you entry without proper permission.”

Well, that was a first, and not only a huge surprise but a major setback to a monumental project.  Oh shit! What do I do now? Thank goodness Georgie stayed with me; and thank goodness he was able to put me up at his place until this mess was all sussed out. It was an absolutely horrid situation; and to add salt to the wound, I was right smack in the middle of a Covid-19 USA EU political Visa predicament; whereas the EU would review country entry list every two weeks.

George was gracious enough to see me through the immediate emergency until it began looking like my delay would be a bit longer than originally anticipated. The EU placed a travel ban on Americans’ travel to Europe. And it would not be reviewed again until July 1st.  My new ticket was issued for a direct flight from JFK, NY to Amsterdam, Holland, July 1st. This being the case, and since George had a life to live, I moved to a Hilton close by to JFK airport in Queens.

What started as a journey by giving away all my belongings in order to chase a dream project and move to Europe was swiftly turning into a situation that could easily result in me becoming poor and homeless in NYC. Hotels are not cheap in NYC – nothing is inexpensive in the Big Apple – you pay through the nose. The costs were quickly adding up and what small financial safety net I had set aside was speedily disappearing. I could not last long in a hotel in Queens.

The hotel itself was of no help to my stress and anxiety levels. They had me on the sixth floor, all the way down the hall, in the far corner, in a room that was a very tight fit for a wheelchair, and could only be reached after struggling down one hundred twenty feet of carpet. As if that was not enough, one week into my stay the GM, Tracy Kass, awoke me early in the morning to inform me I would reach my 14 day hotel stay limit after this registration renewal, and she was calling to inform me they could not extend it any further. I was astounded, appalled. Unbelievable!

Miss Kass, later when challenged, changed her story, informing me I did not let her finish, she had more to say on the call – that there was, in fact, no 14 day limit. Three days and three voicemails later, and no reply arrived from the normally overly pugilistic General Manager. Only once it was elevated to Hilton Honors corporate office level did she return my call. This was after numerous emails asking her to send me a copy of the policy. She refused. It does not exist.

Upon complaint to NY State AG, their attorney replied that I did not let her finish, that it was actually a 28 day limit. That is total utter bullshit! Firstly, then why call me only after seven days? Secondly, I met two people outside the hotel who received the same inhuman treatment. Thirdly, all her staff, including her Director of Operations, apologized profusely to me in person for her insensitive, cruel call. It should be noted that all other staff were caring and supportive.

Later that week, while in the bathroom, the grab-bar broke off from the wall while attempting a toilet transfer, sending me straight onto the hard tile ground, injuring my neck and back. Do you think the hotel or GM did anything to help address the issue, let alone make some changes to mitigate a more comfortable stay? No! The room was a disaster for a wheelchair user. My stay in Queens was quickly morphing into its own mini crisis. I was stuck in a cement jungle without any stores. I had only one friend to assist me – Sunita in Boston. Hilton corporate has yet to reply.

With every door opening but quickly closing, I was running out of viable options, rapidly. The immediate future looked grim.  Running out of money (and patience), with no home to move to, with no home to return to, life was proving overly difficult. It allowed my mind to get the better of my heart, lulling it into anxiety, sadness and no hope for the future. Life was grim; I was not a happy camper. After nine years of struggle, I figured this project would run smoothly. Silly me!

After time searching deep inside, meditation and prayer, chats with mentors, close inner-circle friends and spiritual advisors, I decided that I would face the universe’s tests head on. It was time to truly practice my words – taking my hands off the wheel of life, as the universe has it under control. It was another example of ‘Doing The Dirty Dishes’ of life – the Buddhist principle that if you want to get anything done in life you first must put in your effort, getting your hands dirty.

In May, when the project began coming together, one night while deep in meditation, an angel came to me and told me: “Steven, after 46 years of white-knuckling the wheel of life, you can now finally remove your hands [from the wheel], let go, give up control of life (as if you ever had any in the first place) – the hardest lesson for most to learn, aside from reaction and attitude, or living through love – I am now at the wheel, in full control. Wake up each morning and relax.  Forget about your past; do not worry for your future; live in the present moment – the now.”

It all sounded great until I awoke on June 15th, only to be denied entry to a plane that represented my life’s work and dreams. Or did it!? What was the universe trying to tell me through stranding me in NYC? What was the lesson? It did not come at first, but it did not take long to figure it out. The universe was sending me bigger struggles to overcome. Why? 1.To truly test if my hands were off the wheel of life, wholly trusting in the universe 100% ; and 2. At length, it still had to break and broke me before my dream could be realized. I am grateful to both my teachers, the universe.

Three days later a friend from Portland Maine came down to NYC to rescue me. As soon as I stepped into her car I felt an immense 800 lb gorilla freed from my back. Off to Maine.

To be continued….Click here to read part II.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher.

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.

Thank you for your love and support.

My three day adventure to New York City via Greyhound: Next time, I will think twice on transport.

It has been over twenty years since I lived and worked in the “Big Apple,” AKA New York City (NYC). After a couple years, the twenty-four/seven non-stop lifestyle wore on me and eventually I moved back to the Philadelphia area to start a company during the .com boom. “The City,“ as locals call it, had not yet seen the wheels of my chair; unsure if I would ever experience her special embrace again. Many years have passed since my last visit; all these years she has been slowly whispering sweet words of taunt to me, alluring me back into her arms. She is one-of-a-kind, energy unmatched the world over. It would take the invite of an old friend for me to consider dancing with her once again. Dance, we would.

One late morning while stretching in bed my phone rang. George Solano, a close friend from university, was calling. With a growing Law Practice in Newark, NJ, he is an extremely busy man.  What could my crazy irascible friend possibly want today? George recently returned from a one month trip to Ecuador, a trip he invited me on but I was unable to attend as I was in Spain at the same time. So often we tried matching our schedules, making weekends tough and anything longer even tougher. Alas, Georgie had some free time. He invited me to his home in Jersey City for a weekend of pre-holiday cheer. A trip to NYC will take some planning, “Let me get back to you, Georgie.” Two days later I answered, “Yes.”

In my final attempts to be freed of owning a car, I stumble here or there how to get certain places. It is no secret that public transportation in the United States does not compare to other industrialized nations, especially Europe, where I also live. And now that I must travel in a wheelchair, more meticulous planning than usual is required. Auto is the best way from Delaware to New York City – straight up the ‘world famous’ New Jersey Turnpike.  Auto no longer an option, other ways would have to be considered. There are only two other viable options: bus or train. Both go to and from the exact same stations. The train is much more expensive, costing up to three times normal fair on an off day.

Knowing the travel-ways would be busy the week before Thanksgiving I decided to plan ahead. Having established Amtrak was too expensive, Greyhound won out as the chosen type transportation.  Being that George lives in Jersey City, it would be more convenient for both, and a closer pick-up/drop-off, If I traveled via bus return trip through Newark’s Penn Station. Greyhound’s website is [still] not the easiest site to navigate. Once able to locate available trip information online I quickly found two convenient departure and arrival segments. As they had a special area to designate, I checked the box for injured travel, with wheelchair as transportation mode. All planned, including wheelchair reservation, I smiled.

My bus departed on a Friday mid-afternoon.  Forty-five minutes before departure I rode an Uber to the Wilmington bus station. The bus arrives and slowly one by one it loads almost full. There, outside in the blustery cold raw elements, I sat and froze. After a few minutes it quickly became clear the bus driver did not have the key required to open the door to the lift so I could properly board.  The driver, from Alabama, was kind and thoughtful, as she sat on hold with dispatch to see how best to proceed with the situation. I requested to get some passers-by to help me onto the bus but the driver declined due to liability. Eventually relenting, one strong fellow passenger, Miguel, lifted me into the first seat. I was on.

As if that was not a peculiar enough start to a trip, it was about to get a bit more interesting. The first omen of many to arrive, once on the bus, appeared when the driver was unsure how to exit downtown Wilmington for the highway to the bridge to New Jersey. She was also unsure which direction on i95 to take, North or South. One goes to Florida, the other to New York, on its way to Maine. Big difference! She entered the entrance to go towards Philadelphia, the wrong way. After directing her through city-center we eventually made it onto the correct highway. After more wrong turns in Newark, getting the bus stuck on tight one-way streets, two and half hours late, we finally arrived at Penn Station, Newark.

George was parked just across the street from the bus station. Upon entering his jeep, he exclaimed he had a long week, was tired of waiting and needed a drink. I concurred. Off to La Fortaleza Mexican restaurant to meet friends we went.  Twenty minutes later, two naked lime margaritas arrived as we awaited our table at the bar.  Ahh, it was time to relax in the company of a long-time close friend. Soon after, other friends joined us for a memorable night out. Their guacamole is luscious; with a nice twist. I ordered beef tacos. After trading two beef for two shrimp tacos I was in taco heaven. Their chocolate covered churros and fried ice cream are highly recommended for dessert. Their food is delicious.

Saturday morning Bikram Yoga comes early. As George’s neighbor was visiting Vietnam, he was dog-sitting Herman, a French Bulldog with an impish grin.  I awoke to my jacket on the floor, covered in slobber. Hermanator swears it was not he who was mischievous in the night. And George thinks perhaps there is more to the story. Ask Herman. Deciding to sleep through Yoga (great session) gave me an extra two hours stretching and preparing before departing to NYC. We had ferry tickets reserved for a 14:00 departure. The ride from Jersey City to NYC midtown takes approx. 12 minutes. Once parked, we met up with Tim, a SAP Software Engineer, who incessantly travels the world implementing software solutions.

The ferry dumps you out on the West Side of Manhattan, midtown section, which now is predominantly taken up with the ever expanding growth of real estate project Hudson Yards. It is the largest private real estate development in the United States, including Chelsea and Hudson Yards neighborhoods of Manhattan. At $25 Billion one would expect some wow factor. It delivers, NY style: in your face. It has an outdoor courtyard with beautifully light-lined trees and various landscapes for walking or sitting to watch people. It is anchored on one end by The Vessel, an eclectic structure and landmark that offers great vistas of lower Manhattan from its lookout deck. The shopping, food and drink are world-class.

The fact Georgie is a foodie, and one of the friends we were meeting out, Steve, is a local NYC hotspot and food critic blogger, was sure to make for a gastro-oenophile connoisseur’s experience of a lifetime.  Not five minutes passed before George arrived with a round of fresh Sangria. Every person circled Mercado Little Spain over and over, each time returning with new exotic and delicious tapas. Mike and Tim also ventured into the unknown abyss for food. Each attempt took a bit longer; the queues were long.  Mike was mistreated by a chef. Steve returned with rabbit-chicken over rice. Then Mike with tasty succulent octopus and paprika potatoes; George with chorizo sausage and tomato bread, and on and on.

Bellies filled, we decided to see Tim’s friend’s jam band play in the West Village. The band did not come on for a few hours and so we headed to Washington Square via Uber. As the area has many obstacles for a wheelchair, and for obvious safety reasons, I am grateful to George and friends for their selfless assistance.  This square, always filled with interesting and unique characters, served as my balcony view when living on 9th St. during my Wall Street days, with clear views of Arc de Triomphe, NYU Library and the [prior] World Trade Center.  As stated in my book, Unbreakable Mind: Doing the Dirty Dishes of life is the truest path to real growth. The night’s participants were out in full effect. The night was young.

Only in Washington Square can you find a virtuoso opera singer singing aloud atop a $85K Steinway Grand Piano, sand artist (Joe Mangrum) constructing a Mandela about three meters across, tourists busy snapping photos in front of the Washington Sq. Arch and drug dealers every fifteen feet – “The City,” a class its own, unrivaled on this planet. We left there to take a stroll down Bleecker Street, a street replete with the most delicious of foods, endless comedy show cabarets (hawkers too) and innumerable supply of the odd variety. Oh, and plenty of homeless too, mixed within misfits and unusual people lining the Village streets late into night. The West Village is known for being strange. It always delivers.

The show was at The Red Lion sports bar on Bleecker Street at 21:00. They host rock and blues bands, all while international futbol is broadcast via satellite to TVs throughout the bar. On the way we stopped at Olive Tree, an Israeli restaurant, comedy show below, for hummus and mint tea. Wheeling through the Village streets can be challenging but easily done with some effort. If crowds bother you, better to have someone guide or watch for you. To me, as in life, it is all about our energy. Mine is good, thus those surrounding me are affected in extra-special ways, allowing for pleasant exchanges of acknowledgement and synchronicity of love with complete strangers. The West Village is a people-watcher’s wet dream.

The band performed their original music as well as some covers. They were astounding. Our friend’s friend played the electric violin like no one’s business. This guy could give the devil in Georgia a run for his fiddle.  They were a jam band and jam they did – the whole place was rocking, a good time had by all. After a few hours we decided to try some local eats. It did not take all but two minutes for a consensus: Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street is the best ‘pie’ in the West Village. The line for slices some nights can go on for hundreds of feet, especially when all the bars let out. We were there early. Eighteen minutes and $26 dollars later, we were in an Uber dreaming of eating the large pepperoni pizza steaming in the box.

As is the case with most those who live and commute in the tri-state (NJ, NY, and CT) area, I spent most of my trip on different sides of the Hudson River, which separates NJ and NYC. The ferry between NYC and NJ is easy and convenient for a wheelchair, with parking close by and flat walkways and docks. A one way ticket during the weekday, $9; discounts on weekends. Once in the city you can expect the normal obstacles, with some neighborhoods’ buildings harder to access than others. Do your research, first. Accessible subways in NYC are hit and miss, many MTA stations have no lift access, or the station is under construction – which seems like the whole system some days. Rider beware (rats inclusive)!

Sunday we decided to stay in NJ. With countless options, as a cold damp rain fell outside, we decided on a football game at home, movie in later afternoon and then some food from the old days. Being in the NY TV market the only two games on were the Giants and Jets. I was forced to watch the Jets – it was tough. Afterward we headed off to see the new movie starring Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which was much better than I had expected. Bow Tie Cinemas in downtown Hoboken is easily accessible, with limited handicap street parking however. Hungry from theater treats, we headed to Mamoun’s for their renowned falafel. It is as delectable as it was twenty-five years ago. Wow!

After delicious Lebanese food in NJ, original location on Bleeker in West Village in NYC, we were off to Newark’s Penn Station for part II of the Greyhound debacle. Life is a journey but sometimes we have smaller unforgettable fiascos along the way. This was one of those strange times. If I didn’t know better I might think there was some LSD in my system. Hmm, maybe some was leftover – sure felt like it. Would that make this Gonzo Journalism?  The weekend was one of those trips in which you are never quite sure which dimension or plane you are living on. It makes way for fresh growth, allowing sun to shine on your garden of life. It is only through struggle, facing our fears, which we truly grow and prosper in life.

Was it my first choice to take Greyhound to the NYC area for a weekend? No, not exactly. I preferred a different mode of transportation. But that was not in my cards. And so the bus it was. It was quite the experience, no doubt expanding my horizons, branches of tree of life and  forming indelible memories. Being that I had lived in NYC many years previous I had no interest in a weekend of the standard tourist hot-spots. It was meant to be a weekend with cherished friends in the Jersey City/NYC area but also turned into a story. It was a most delightful weekend.  The bus was late. I had to be carried on and off again by kind passengers. Such was my experience taking Greyhound.  Next time I will opt for Amtrak!

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