Last April 2nd a one act stage play I wrote titled Funhouse made its debut in New York City! It was staged by Manhattan Repertory Theatre and performed at the Chain Theatre on W 36th St, an Off-Off-Broadway venue in midtown. Seeing something I wrote performed in America’s theater capitol was a dream come true and I hope to do it again someday. Before I begin my tale a big thanks to my older brother for paying air fare and his wife’s step mother for putting me up so I didn’t have to spend a fortune on a hotel.
So many interesting things happened on my trip, and they began before I was even in the air. On early Wednesday evening March 30th I went through the TSA checkpoint at Mineta International Airport in San Jose. When my bag went through the X-ray machine and came out the other end, the agent set it aside for closer inspection. I tried to recall possible weapons or contraband I may have packed but couldn’t think of any so I was perplexed. I rarely fly so anytime I’m in the foreign territory of an airport I’m already a little nervous, so my bag getting flagged triggered some of the worst possible scenarios in my imagination; interrogation, detainment, strip search. Turned out my bag was set aside only because I brought my safety razor and its blade isn’t allowed on carry-on luggage. He removed the offending blade and I was on my way to Seattle for a layover then across the country to Newark, NJ.
The drama continued when I landed at Newark Liberty International Airport. My flight arrived Thursday morning at 6AM and I tiredly grabbed my bag and warm jacket from the overhead compartment and made my out of the airport. When I was outside in the sudden unfamiliar cold I decided to put on my warm jacket, but when I picked it up I felt something in the pocket that I didn’t remember being there. I zipped it open and discovered a Canadian passport! Suddenly realizing my error I ran back into the terminal and asked the nearest TSA agent what to do. He referred me to the Alaska Airlines counter where I was just at, so I ran there and found another person who looked like an airport employee. I told him I just arrived on the Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle and accidentally grabbed the wrong jacket. Fortunately the correct owner was nearby with my jacket so we traded our identical jackets. Good thing I discovered this error before I left the airport.
Next task was finding the train that would take me to South Amboy. I called Nan, my sister in law’s step mother who lives in Sayreville, New Jersey and had agreed to let me stay at her house during my east coast trip. She told me in her NJ accent to take the AirTrain to the train station but I would have to get a ticket first. Armed with this opening bit of information, I followed the signs to the AirTrain, and spotting a ticket machine I began to interface with it. When it asked for my destination I clicked the icon for South Amboy, then clicked the pay icon. After I inserted my cash and received the ticket, I followed other people up an escalator hoping I was going the right way.
Once the escalator ride ended I found myself on what looked like a stop for the AirTrain. My ticket said track 5 and I only saw signs that said track 1 and track 2. I asked a person on the platform where to go and in her broken English she told me to get on the next AirTrain and it would take me to where I needed to go. The AirTrain arrived, we got on with other people, and I hoped I was going the right way. The AirTrain is a monorail that stops at the three terminals and a couple of parking garages. I looked around the New Jersey surroundings and saw pockets of wetlands surrounded by asphalt and buildings, one isolated pond even had an egret. Even here mother nature makes its presence known.
Once I was at the train station I figured I was at the right place, so I disembarked and asked a train station employee where I had to go. She told me track 5 (like it read on my ticket) and said the train was on the way. I scanned my ticket at the turnstile to let me in and I ran down the stairs to the train platform just in time for the doors on the train to close. As I watched it pull away, I thought I had blown it and missed my train, but the next one was there in 20 minutes so I didn’t have to wait long.
On the train ride south I took in my new surroundings without gawking too much so I didn’t look like a tourist. The conductor took my ticket, took out a tag, punched some holes into it, and placed it underneath a metal bar on the seat in front of me. I looked out the widow at the factories, warehouses, oil refineries and thought to myself, why do people make fun of New Jersey? Doesn’t look any worse than Oakland.
At last I arrived at South Amboy station, stopped in at a Dunkin’ Donuts, and waited for Nan to pick me up as I had a coffee, a doughnut, and a sandwich. I looked out the window and took in the new surroundings. It was my first extended time on the east coast and I felt I was still acclimating to my surroundings. No longer was I in my familiar California coast, I was a stranger in a strange land and I had to get used to a new vibe.
Before long Nan came to pick me up and she drove me to nearby Sayreville. I looked around New Jersey as Nan and I talked and got to know each other. I noticed most of the unadorned, rectangular, two story clapboard or brick houses had enclosed front porches, a sign I was in somewhere much colder than to what I was accustomed. Once we got to Nan’s house and we settled in, she took me to an Irish tavern called Sean’s Pub N’ Grub where I had possibly the best cheese steak sandwich I ever tasted, the proximity to Philadelphia may have helped.
After food, drink, and talking with some locals, Nan and I went back to her house. We watched some TV and chatted some more until I dozed off in my chair from all the traveling and little sleep. I went upstairs to the guest room and was soon sleeping on the other side of the country. Tomorrow would be my trip to Manhattan.
COMING UP NEXT: Trip To New York, Part II
©2022 Robert Kirkendall