I had now made it to Grand Central, after a grueling trip that started at dawn in warm Hurghada on the Red Sea, passed through Cairo International and JFK, and ended up on the NYC Airporter Express shuttle bus, with the night cold and blustery.
I had been away from America for seven months, and now it was time to visit my Mum in Westchester. I was going to spend a few days with her, then, on Tuesday, I would fly to Florida, and finally sleep in my home under my roof.
I stood in the Grand Concourse and looked at the Stars and Stripes and the Grand Central clock.
How many times have I commuted through here? How many times have I said to someone, meet me under the clock? How many times did I look up at Grand Central’s filthy ceiling before they cleaned it up? How many times when I struggled did I clutch a morning 16-ounce can of Bud wrapped in a brown paper bag before they got rid of the benches in the Waiting Hall that the bums and derelicts would call home? How many times did I rush to the Lexington Avenue subway on my way to Wall Street, starting way back when a huge Kodak sign blocked the eastern staircase and the slimy pig was making his first big move with the Hyatt? How much time went by as I remained a little boy in a man’s body, lost in a world that waits for no one?
I was in what was once my home town, before it too, changed beyond recognition, thanks in part to Giuliani and then Bloomberg.
And now, I was back, still standing, having lost much of the weight that had disfigured me.
I would visit with Mum for a few days in Westchester, help her out with this and that, and then I would take a car service to the madness that is LGA. I would search for the counter where I could check my ratty black suitcase (didn’t know I would have to pay and extra $25 for that!), and a short vaguely Indian woman in an official jacket would ask me if I had a Priority Pass and I would reply no, I am just an ordinary person, and an attractive young woman in a smart outfit who was standing nearby would overhear that and grin at me.
True I’ve left a lot on the table, over the years, which is nothing special, but there’s still enough time to make a last run for it.
I believe that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, and despite how I have always — like my doomed Palestinians soul brothers — managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
So there’s still an appetite in me for the new, despite the enormous challenges ahead. I’m nonplussed by articles that claim that Boomers are reaching the end of the line in terms of creativity or thirst to accomplish still more with their lives.
Of course there’s the challenge of being older, but to me it’s more a function of being away from places like New York most of the time, thus out of step, with the cultural scene, as well as more mundane things, such as, say, the state of current suburban commute technology. I happened to see a guy use an eTix, on the train to White Plains North that I took. These were introduced last year.
I had never seen this before, and I joked with the conductor, saying how do you punch a smartphone?
The fact is, nowadays, conductors walk around with scanners that they can point at the ticket QR code that can be displayed on a passenger’s smartphone. I thought about thinking about the social and privacy implications, as we passage into the future of train travel, but was too exhausted to go Deep Think, after being on the road and in the air for some 32 hours straight.
At any rate, I’m unlikely to ever return to Egypt. That is not the future for me.
The seven-month stay in Gouna made that obvious.
And now I was back in New York. I made it past TSA at LGA with a baggage snag (the exquisite Asfour crystal present my uncle had given me in Cairo was the culprit, as it went through the X-ray machine: apparently crystal shows up black and they can’t tell what the object is) and then found myself sitting in an empty row on shiny new seating of a gleaming, two-week old Airbus 321. This is the same aircraft model that crashed in the Sinai in October 31st, 2015.
But there was to be no crash that day.
Three hours later I would land in a Florida that was a bright shimmering green, with my beautiful wife awaiting me.
I was back.