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An American Adventure

Dr. Vinisha Peres Monday, January 16, 2023
An American Adventure

“You can take life as you want to. Enjoy it! Have fun! Do things you want to do. Go places you want to go.”- Dorothy Johnson

There is a land far away famous for Tesla, the Silicon Valley and people chasing the ‘American Dream’, the green card and the green currency as aptly portrayed in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. I had to choose a country for our anniversary. So, this July 2022 it was… well, I’ll put it this way- since Christopher Columbus discovered America, we thought of seeing it for ourselves!

When a lawyer sits to chalk down a travel itinerary for her geologist husband, the result is a timed schedule with visits to museums and places of science, technology, rock formations, faults, gems, meteorites, and everything that’s connected to the earth. Jeez…there have been some serious tectonic shifts in my life making me a Geo-layer, oops I mean a Geo-Lawyer!

Before I proceed, I need to give you an insight into the key factors around which I designed our trip. In my itinerary pot- I threw in some ‘must see’ sight-seeing monuments, a couple of our bucket list items, a handful of famous ‘must eat’ dishes and seasoned it with ‘time’. “Time is the essence”- leave on time, reach on time, save time, don’t waste time yadi yadi ya… So, I always book our tickets online and in advance. It is a blessing to have a direct flight from Kuwait to JFK by Kuwait Airways. The best time to travel is from May to August. We stayed with my uncle and aunt in Ohio and with my cousin in Brooklyn (NY).

I will try my best to keep my professional skills aside and unlike a long legal document keep this travelogue short and concise. A word of caution: salt is bad for health but do read this travelogue with a pinch of salt!

NEW YORK

‘New York in 1 day’- do it my way!

Breakfast 8 am: Katz’s Delicatessen:

If you watched the movie ‘When Harry met Sally’ or any of Anthony Bourdain’s shows, one must eat at Katz’s Delicatessen. I should warn you it is expensive or in geological terms it might “drill” a hole in your pocket but let me assure you that it will satisfy your palate and stomach...ohh... you know that feeling where you are stuffed to the brink yet at the same time you feel you could push down some more! So, close your eyes, don’t look at the price and just dive into the sandwich.

Corned Beef Sandwich- $24.95; Reuben Sandwich (Swiss, Kraut & Reuben dressing)- $26.95; Pastrami Sandwich- $25.95.

Now now…like any normal human being, we had the urge to click a photograph under the sign ‘Where Harry met Sally…Hope you have what she had!’. Bang opposite was an old man staring and glaring at us with his big round eyes who wanted to eat peacefully... oh, what a serious faux pas! Surprisingly my attention was drawn to the dessert on his plate. Now, I could have asked him “What’s on your plate?” or “Whatchya eating?” but I had no intentions of waking up a sleeping tiger. So, I walked up to the serving counter, pointed my finger at the angry man’s plate ensuring that I was at a safe distance and told the server “I’ll have what he’s having!”. Voilà! that was Cheese Blintzes- pancakes with cheese ($15.9). Like a stuffed python that slithers slowly after its fill, we got into a Taxi and headed to our next destination.

10 am: American Museum of Natural History:

Unfortunately, law does not have museums or interesting artifacts to display other than books. On the other hand, go to a science museum, it’s got colour, texture, size, variety, and the list is endless.

The museum has 4 floors and is never ending spiraling around like a maze. It covers ocean life, biodiversity, American forests, meteorites (those big stone thingy’s that fly in the sky and sometimes land on earth), gems and minerals, artifacts from Mexico and Central America, Asian people, Dinosaurs, American mammals, Asian mammals, African Mammals (when I say ‘mammals’ they are the taxidermy version where you get to see them up-close and personal and somehow manage to not get eaten by them …I wonder why? hmm.. I think it’s because of the glass that separates us!) In the entire museum, I enjoyed the gems and mineral section the most, which had a rare blue diamond on display. Come on now, I am not being biased because my husband is a Geologist, I am being a woman! Haven’t you heard “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”

Ticket cost- 28$ per adult (General admission + 1 show at the Hayden Planetarium). We had our lunch at the museum cafeteria and headed for a show to the Majestic Theatre that would blow our minds… boooom!

5pm: The Phantom of the Opera

As Charlie Kaufman said, “There’s theater in life, obviously, and there’s life in theater.”

Coming from a family of musicians and composers and with music in our veins, I thrive and survive on music and musicals. Let me clarify here – when I say “music”- I mean soft, calming, soothing, gentle music and ‘NOT’ the loud noisy stuff where your chandelier rattles and could drive a person insane (that my friend is not music, it’s just noise).

Being an ardent fan of André Rieu and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, I had to attend a musical. One of my bucket list wishes was to watch the famous New York Broadway show. You are spoilt with choices and to name a few you have- Alladin, Lion King, Moulin Rouge, Chicago, the Phantom of the Opera etc. We had watched Andrew Lloyd Webbers movie ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ but to watch a Broadway show is out of the world. It was indeed a ‘once in a lifetime’ thrilling and chilling experience.

If you are on a holiday and in NY for a few days, I would suggest booking tickets in advance. It is unwise to spoil one’s vacation by going for ‘on the spot’ last minute bookings filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Do you remember Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ where he said, “To be, or not to be, that is the question” … well, when you see the prices online for a Broadway show you will get a feeling “to buy or not to buy”. But go for it, you won’t regret it. Prices vary based on the seat selection from $29 to $200 per seat. The best view is from the Orchestra and Front Center Mezzanine section. Apart from the seat charges there is an additional 20$ fee per ticket. To get cheap tickets or discounts I followed ‘Todaytix’ on Instagram for updates and offers. (No, I do not get any commission.) Transportation by Uber from Brooklyn to Times Square is around 60-70$ one way.

More days to spare- take a tour guide everywhere!

New York tours are good when you want to cover maximum in a short duration of time. I find “Tours” like “mind maps”- they cover the entire city without spending too much time going into the details. You get to see all the places sitting inside a bus and the guide mentions the location for different movies (watch a lot of Hollywood movies to connect the dots). We could see the elderly looking dazed. The tour was booked with USA Guided Tours- ‘New York in one day guided sightseeing tour’. Cost is $99 per adult, and they provide bottled water on the bus.

We left at 9 am and the total duration of the tour was 6 hours. We covered the World Trade Center, 9/11 memorial, Times Square, Central Park, Strawberry Fields (No, it’s not a field where you get to eat or pick strawberries! It’s a memorial to the famous musician John Lennon who sang songs like ‘Imagine’ and ‘Strawberry Fields forever’), Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Park, Flatiron Building, Empire State Building, Charging Bull sculpture etc. We bought some sandwiches for the way. After lunch, we went for a boat ride on the famous ‘Staten Island Ferry’ and got a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. With that the tour ended and we were liberated.

BOSTON

My parents always believe that “education is an investment”. My unceasing pursuit of education made me plunge into the depths of American Literature. Little did I know that my master’s program would come handy in Boston. It is a 4-hour drive from New York to Boston. ‘From New York City: Boston in One Day tour’ was booked with Royal City Tours. The cost was $130 per person and the total duration of the tour was 15 hours. During the drive our tour guide kept talking about American literature and my mind kept yapping “Yup yup, seen that, read that, yup yup…” I had the urge to raise my hand like a small kid and tell her “Me... me... I studied all this, can I come up and explain it in more detail!”.

It is interesting to hear the guide explain the history of New England, Puritans, Mayflower and to quote some famous books like ‘The Scarlet Letter’. The tour guide gave us an insight into the history and background of America. For those who plan to visit the US for educational reasons or to narrow down on universities for further studies, I would suggest driving and staying in Boston for a few days. The locations and stops covered in the tour were Harvard University, Freedom Trail, and Quincy Market.

Yessss, finally I can say that I went to ‘Harvard’... even if it is for sightseeing but I did go right! The Dexter gate that leads you into the premises of Harvard has some inspiring words which makes us realize the value of education and our duty towards the society. As you enter the arch, outside has the words engraved “Enter to grow in wisdom” and on the inside you have “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind”. These words struck a chord in my heart, and I hope they inspire you too!
As you must have noticed we enjoy eating. I am not talking of McDonalds and Burger King but the real authentic local delicacies of a region that gives an insight into the community. I believe to get a true enriching experience of any country one must eat the local food and at the same time it promotes business. We barged into Quincy Market like a pack of hungry wolves and headed straight to Boston Chowda Co. We tried their ‘Hot Buttered Lobster Roll’ a sandwich stuffed with butter and lobster ($38 each); and a big bread bowl filled with chowder. I am sorry to say that I do not have any pictures to share on this…you need to understand that I was more focused on eating and the bulb in my head glowed later after the food had vanished…ooppssyyy. If you walk ahead a must try is Cannoli with cream cheese and chocolate filling. Some of the places famous for Cannoli are Mikes Pastry and Modern Pastry. Unfortunately, walking to Mikes or Modern would have delayed the bus so we bought a few from Quincy Market. I must warn you- if you plan to eat a lot, please wear loose stretchable pants. Come on now, don’t jump to conclusions... it’s just that we are food lovers!

CHICAGO

‘To travel is to take a journey into yourself’- Danny Kaye

Another day, another museum! Did I mention that I have a walking talking science dictionary at home (my husband)? I have learnt more from him than I learnt in school as he tries to explain the science behind everything inside the house. With a ‘science aficionado’ at home, we had to go to the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago. If in college I had focused all my attention during the science lectures, I would have at least understood ‘something’. The museum covers and explains concepts of physics, chemistry, biology, and every aspect under science. I admit there must have been some science balls that bounced over my head but there is nothing like confronting hands-on experiments and objects on display. That brings us to another ‘must do bucket list item’…not mine...my husbands!

“If you dreamt of being a Pilot but never got an opportunity to be one, you need to try out the ‘Flight Simulator’” – says my husband. Hearing that, I regretted the fact that just weeks before our trip ‘I’ had booked movie tickets for Top-Gun Maverick. This is a real case of “hitting the axe on your own leg”. I was oblivious to the fact that the movie would encourage my husband to try out one of the fighter jets for himself. You have on display two options- 360 degrees (2 People) or 180 degrees (8 people). My courageous better half all excited told me that I had to experience it. Before I could blink my eyes and read the instructions or get a feel of what’s happening around, he zoomed to the counter and booked 2 tickets for 360 degrees flight simulator. It works this way- you have 2 people who sit in one simulator -one gets to be the pilot and the other a gunner. Before entering the simulator, they give you a heads-up on how to use the controls and the red emergency stop button which needs to be pressed …here I need to stress on the words ‘only in case of emergency’. I must admit I felt it was a very bad idea to try out a flight simulator. I could hear people screaming when we passed by some simulators. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to back out since we paid for the tickets! Now, it was both of us in the simulator- one of us was the gunner and the other the pilot (to keep you guessing, I’m not going to reveal our identity). We sat inside buckled up, the pilot took off and was shocked to see the controls not working and not having any effect on the movement of the plane whatsoever. Whereas the gunner on the other hand burst out laughing and continued laughing loudly grabbing the control for support. The simulator turned 360 degrees again and again and again. Every time we were upside down the pilot would start screaming “oh god! oh god! oh god!” and the gunner was laughing it out. Finally, the pilot pressed the emergency button…ahhhhh… but we only finished 2 minutes out of the 5?? The gunner asked “WHY”? Well, apparently the pilot’s stomach started churning or to put it exactly in the pilot’s own words “I could feel my intestines twisting and turning”. It was indeed a stomach wrenching experience! As we walked out, we saw on display some funny pictures of us clicked by a camera inside the flight simulator. The gunner was all excited and jumpy to buy one, but the pilot refused… Then the gunner all pumped up suggested that we try out the section that said ‘go down the coal mine shaft’ but again the pilot refused! Moral of the story: Being a Pilot is not easy! With a humble heart, I need to give credit where it’s due. Our adventure would not have been possible without the generosity of my uncle and aunt who made our stay comfortable and booked the New York day tour and Boston day tour. They went out of the way to drive us around US for hours. Their younger daughter based in Ohio took us to the Cincinnati Zoo & the American Sign Museum. She took us ‘blackberry picking’ (when I say blackberry, I mean the fruit and not the phone) and baked different American dishes. Their eldest daughter based in New York grilled a nice barbeque dinner on the rooftop of her apartment in Brooklyn overseeing the night life of New York city. She drove us for 4 hours from Ohio to Chicago with her phone battery low and trying to figure out a way to connect it to the charger of her father’s car. And who can forget the drive back home from Chicago to Ohio on a dark lonely night on those deserted roads... spooky!

To conclude, from New York to Boston to Chicago, we got a feel of science, music, culture, and food. What an American adventure!

At the Chicago Museum I was inspired by the words of Ruth Adler- “I traveled with my husband, and we went to many beautiful places. We traveled all over the world, and we had a wonderful time together”.

Yes, indeed we traveled and learnt a lot of new things, quenched the thirst in our minds and satisfied our stomachs but at the end of it all, we take home something very dear and close to us… what can I say... only one word- “Memories”.

Dr. Vinisha Peres holds a Ph.D. in Law. She is a homemaker, orator, guest lecturer, researcher and legal consultant for a US Company. She enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and has visited 14 countries.



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Express your comment on this article

 
Xavier
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Very well written Vinisha !
Reading your experiences makes one want to catch the next flight there ! 😊
Xavier

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