Anyway, this is the tale of how a planned excursion went awry, the bitching I did in the meantime, and the incredibly worthwhile ending that came about from such an event.
The first part of our plan went off without a hitch. We made it to Katz's and, to my disbelief, there was no line. I don't think I've ever actually ordered a sandwich here, so I kind of threw Andrew to the wolves and made him figure it out on his own. I'm all about putting my friends on the spot, but he didn't sweat and even managed to order the right type of pickle. Ten points for you, Andrew.
That's when a man with a red vest saw us and made a beeline for the two morons standing there dumbfounded.
Man: ELLIS ISLAND?
Me: Yes. HOW?
Man: Ohh great deal for you. Beautiful boat, tickets to see all of Manhattan, one hour express tour, leaving at 2pm.
Andrew: How much?
Man: $35 each
Me: *deliberating* Hmmm I dunno...this definitely seems sketchy.
Man: There is a bar on the boat.
Both of us: Yes.
Within five minutes, I already knew we were in trouble.
He led us down the city block and around a corner, to a line where a casual hundred or so people were already standing, waiting for a "free shuttle to the ferry". We gave one another a look that could not be mistook to mean anything other than "Oh, shit".
As the minutes drug on, it was becoming pretty clear that we wouldn't be getting on a 2pm ferry, perhaps even a 8pm ferry. At one point, a man with no more than two teeth, moving no more than two miles per hour, hobbled past us, towards the back of the line. It was beginning to look like a horror movie. We began to get desperate. Which this Ferry Mafia JUST SO HAPPENED to anticipate! A gentleman - with camo pants and jewelry/shoe combination more expensive than my college tuition - began walking up the line shouting "IF YOU WANT THE EXPRESS SHUTTLE, IT'S LEAVING NOW. JUST $3 EXTRA PER PERSON". Aha, we have found our ringleader.
And because we're morons and figured we've sunk this far - we took it bait, line, sinker. Before we knew it, we were being crammed into a van that was probably used in several high-profile murders and being sped off to an undisclosed location. If you're worrying about the entertainment provided, please don't. Aside from trying not to hit our heads on the hanging air conditioning unit, we were able to listen to "Black Beatles" being blasted at a volume I'm still not sure I've recovered from.
The bus finally deposited us near a pier, where hot dogs and pizza were being sold immediately to your right as you exited the van. I looked at Andrew and said, "See that meat? That's going to be us in an hour". He didn't disagree with me.
We then spent the next hour waiting in this line, watching it grow longer and longer. At this point, I had to call my mom and arrange for her to take over babysitting duties, since we were certainly not getting home soon, if EVER. By 3:45pm, we began getting slightly delirious. Which is when the boat finally showed up. The problem now, however, was waiting for the distressed looking passengers to disembark. Let me tell you, those passengers - the sullen faces, the scared eyes - they SEEN some shit.
We were about to get on when Andrew said it, looking off into the distance, "Oh my god. He caught up." I followed his gaze to the end of the pier and saw him. The hobbling man from the first line. Moving even more slowly and creepily than before. Again Andrew said, "I'm happy we took the express shuttle". We both lost it. I was laughing so hard I was crying. If the fact that THAT MAN MADE THE FERRY doesn't drive home HOW LONG WE WAITED, then I don't know what will.
Finally. Our time came. WE ACTUALLY GOT ON THE DAMN BOAT. What does one do, when they finally get on a boat after three hours of waiting? They take pictures to document their whereabouts, should they happen to mysteriously vanish at some point during the trip. Again, STREET MEAT.
What do they do next? They buy alcoholic drinks. Immediately. Which was when we ran into our umpteenth problem, which consisted of two words that should no longer exist in our society: Cash. Only.
Well, shit. Didn't see that one coming. Like rabid animals, we began pulling out cash and change from compartments of our jackets that neither of us knew existed. When we finished, we were left with a whopping $9. I looked at Andrew, said "I got this", and sped off down the stairwell.
Bartender: What can I get for you?
Me: *spills change all over bar* How much will this get me?
Bartender: Hmm I'm not sure, what do you like?
Me: Honestly, at this point, after this day, I'll take ANYTHING. If you want to grab a cup of water from the Hudson River, and mix it with vodka, that would be fine by me.
Bartender: Alright, alright, I got you.
He then proceeded to pour two of the deadliest mix drinks I've seen poured since college, all the while telling me about how he "hasn't drank in two years because he hit a point where he was blacking out for days and couldn't remember what month it is, so really he needed to calm down a bit and just maybe use some light recreational drugs instead". Red flags, folks. They were everywhere.
Let's just say that those drinks took no time hitting the spot and we were pretty happy in no time.
Regardless, we were now fully capable of enjoying ourselves and viewing the city from a unique perspective - one that it definitely deserves to be appreciated from.
I'm a big fan of taking stalker pics - basically those type of photos where if you didn't show someone soon after taking them, and they happened to scroll through your camera roll at a later time, they'd be slightly alarmed/begin planning their exit route.
I went along my merry creeper way, snapping photos, when the significance of what I was capturing dawned on me. This is where I get real, y'all.
Here was a man looking at his past, present, and future. When most see the Freedom Tower, they're typically in awe of it's enormity, it's unique design, its almost uneasy presence amongst buildings that absorbed smoke and residue from 9/11. I know, because for the most part, that's my thought process.
When a veteran sees it, however, I can only imagine the bittersweet feelings that might be evoked. This very building exists because of a day in our history that forever impacted their lives in a drastic way. Perhaps they were like my husband, sitting in basic training and being told "something happened in New York". Maybe they were like Andrew, sitting in high school and watching the towers being struck during homeroom. They might have even been a child, looking to their parent for reassurance, even when Mom or Dad didn't have a ton to give them. No matter the experience, I can't imagine what seeing a skyline missing two buildings, and understanding full well the implications of that absence, must feel like.
I saw someone who sacrificed many years of his life, looking at the reason why.
I saw someone who served with my husband and made decisions that brought him back alive.
I saw someone who fought, struggled, grieved, and celebrated, all for this tower to exist.
And here the two of them are, seeing each other for the first time.
And just like that, every single step that got us here, felt totally worth it.