My First Trip To New York City

By: Anthony Jackson

        Though I have portions of the trip videotaped, I felt a short written piece on it would be in order since I may never get around to putting pictures of it on this website. I had just gotten back from Parris Island, SC, and I was learning still to be a civilian all over again. I had taken up an new occupation over returning to Wal-Mart, which was that of being an unarmed security officer at Bellevue Mall in Nashville, TN.

        I approached two of my closest friends, Jason Hulan and Chris Martin about joining me on a road trip someplace very difficult to make it to in two days--the alloted time that I had off coming up. Jason and I had already made such a ventrue to New Orleans and knew that that was totally possible but not enough of a challenge to us. California was mentioned, but I knew it was out of reach. Other destinations put on the back burner were Canada and Mexico, but I think it would have been possible to reach either of them. Anyway, when all was said and done we decided on New York City.

        I was still going out with Stacy at the time, and I would have loved for her to have gone with us but she could not get the days off from Wal-Mart. She said to go on and that she didn't mind. Chris was laid off at the time and I think Jason was working at Tensco about that time. Another friend of ours, Joseph Hollis, wanted to go but we wouldn't let him. He could get on your last nerve, and I wasn't about to drive cross-country with him. I was working second shift still at that time, which ended at 11 p.m.

        As soon as I got off of work, I sped back home to Dickson. I was living once again with Mom and Larry in an apartment near Kroger at that time. With the car loaded with the essentials, my camcorder, tapes, cds, and a big box full of food. I told Mom I loved her, and that I would be back in a few days before departing for Jason's house in my 1988 Toyota Tercel, which was what we took on the trip.

        I think Chris was already at Jason's when I arrived, but I am not sure if that is an accurate recollection. I do know that both Jason and Chris brought along some clothes and food. The car was just big enough for the three of us and the box of food. The trunk housed a cooler with meat and sodas I think. And with that we were off, headed back through Nashville carefree and full of wanderlust for the road.

I was in such a hurry to get on the road that I had not stopped to eat, and since I was taking the first leg of the trip driving, eating was going to be a bit of a task. I remember distinctly as we were eastbound on 440 (approaching the Hollywood 27 cinema) Jason stirred the car and I worked the gas all the while I was eating vienna sausages on a fork with mustard on them. It felt so good to simply be sharing a novel experience with good friends. Yes, it felt good to venture boldly into the unknown. I drove all the way to the northeastern boarder of Tennessee and I think Chris took over and drove most of Virgina in the night. Jason relieved him in the early morning.

        It was shortly thereafter that Jason got us pulled over for doing 85 in a 55 by a state trooper. It was cold, overcast, and misting rain that day as we stood on the edge of the interstate while they searched my vehicle. I assume they were looking for drugs, though they found none. I know our story had to seem like bs to them. "Yes officer, my friends and I had two days off and just decided to drive to New York and back." Truth or not, I knew the car was going to get searched, so I declared the dagger that I always carried in the glove box and the knife under my seat. They searched, found nothing, issued Jason his well-deserved speeding ticket and were on their merry way to spred more joy to motorists. We vowed that we would spend as little time in Virginia on the return trip as possible--a vow we kept.

        We reached Washington D.C. just in time for mid-day traffic. It reminded me of Atlanta, Georgia because of the size of the roads, so many lanes. We decided to do a little sight-seeing, though all we did was drive around. We saw the Capital Buiding, the White House (which had a tent in the yard at the time!!), and many other famous landmarks. It was also in Washington D.C. where we first got lost, but only briefly. We were on Martin Luther King Blvd when we officially admitted we didn't know how to get out of town. (It was also at this time that we observed that MLK Blvd in every city is always right in the middle of the slums.) A few turns later and we were back on track again. Chris was sill driving I think.

        We decided to bypass as much of Baltimore as possible since we handled Washington D.C. so well. I think I took over around then, but by the time we got to Philadelphia I my eyes refused to stay open, and another switchout was in order. Against our better judgement, we let madman Jason behind the wheel once again.

        Finally, we reached New Jersey, which was, well, actually pretty boring. It looked, for the most part, like Southeast Missouri. We strayed from the turnpikes and causeways to take a short cut without fear of getting lost, and joked that we could all three sleep and if we went off the road the car would simply cross the fields and come out on a different road. FYI, we didn't sleep though, hehe. Our careless ways went rewarded and we were making great time.

        Jason drove the whole time we were in New York, and I am glad. Let me tell you, it takes a crazy driver to just survive in the big apple. As we drove, I noted in my mind how differently I would perceive the big city of Nashville ever after having seen New York. In Nashville, on the interstate you drive and see the cityscape off to one side and woods and streams of to the other. New York is one big maze you cannot escape. It almost feels suffocating at times. Entering the city proper, we passed a garbage dump treating us to some of the foulest air I have ever had the misfortune to breathe. From there we made our way into Brooklyn.

        Brooklyn is just as you see it portrayed in the movies. I liked Brooklyn despite the excessive amount of violent crime. We were in Brooklyn for about an hour I would say, and in that time I saw a chalk outline where someone was shot/stabbed/etc and on the next block I saw two guys stealing a public payphone. All this excitement in the afternoon hours made me curious what occurred when no one was watching. Again, we found ourselves lost, but quickly got back on track and found the Manhattan Bridge.

        We saw the Empire State Building, which for some reason or another I kept blurting out the "Eiffle Tour" intead (one of our little jokes). It was on the Manhattan Bridge that one of our most memorable moemnts happened. As I said, Jason was driving, and a bit fast I might add, when along comes a sign reading "raised plow". All that kept going through my mind was a draw-bridge, which separate in the middle to let tall boats pass. Jason proclaimed, "Raised plow? What the hell does that mean?" At that very moment we hit a very pronounced bump in the bridge, still it was far from being a splitting of the bridge. We all proclaimed some four letter words at that point followed by relieved laughter.

        We drove around in circles for awhile trying to find a place to park so we could check out Time Square. All the parking garages were extremely expensive, so once again I decided to take a chance-- we simply parked on the side of a road. We backed in close to a vehicle so our out-of-state tags would not be so readily seen, locked the doors, and proceeded on foot. We passed a big thimble and needle art piece close to Fox Television Studios. We wandered around a bit, checking out Virgin Records, which was really cool. After it closed we were going to try to go to a showbar, but as we quickly discovered you have to be 21 years old in New York as opposed to merely 18 as in Nashville, TN.

        By this time it was almost 1 a.m., and we had two choices clear to us. We could either find a place to stay for the night, or just drive through the night. Well we drove around the city for a bit longer, only to run into a police roadblock on the exit we chose to get out of the city. I talked to the officer as he approached the car, and I explained we were on our way home after some sight-seeing. He didn't press the point. He let us pass, and we were homebound after eight hours in NYC.

        Jason drove in the dark of night until we came to a rest area somewhere off the Jersey Turnpike, where we pulled over and slept for a few hours. When I woke I got us back on the road, in the wrong direction I think for about 20 miles, which we backtracked. We drove the minimum amount of Virgina that day, opting instead to try our luck with West Virgina. West Virgina I liked. It was very beautiful.

        Kentucky was next up, and by this time my car was beginning to get ill with me, releasing white smoke from the tail pipe. At times we would pass people and smoke them out. Night fell half-way through Kentucky. I-65 south saw us safely back to Tennessee and ultimately, Nashville. Good old !-40 West delivered us into Dickson. When all was said and done we had drove (if my memory serves correctly 3145 miles in 36 hours on the road. We had spent between 8-10 hours in New York City and 2 hours in Washington D.C.

        That was one of my favorite road trips I have ever taken, and given the option of having taken it with anyone else I would have declined. Chris and Jason were excellent road companions.