July 30: Westminster to Amherst to New York City
At least since the sixties, the interstate has been the system that all state roads and, more recently many suburban roads have chosen to emulate. Why have a two land, easy-moving local road, in other words, when you can have something fast and frenetic and well, kike an interstate!
Robert Sullivan, Cross Country
We woke to a "continental breakfast" of coffee and donut holes, one small box to feed the 18 units of the motel. The weather had cleared again, but heat and humidity had set in by 10 and there was no pool to linger for. We took off so fast that Laura Anne forgot her leftover fettucine in the refrigerator, excited by the prospect of doing some of the driving on the interstate. We had planned to go to Amherst to find Emily Dickinson's house, but the town sprawled for miles around the green lawns of the University and we drove around looking for signs that never materialized: foiled again.
Now our goal was to get back in time for Laura Anne to buy New York City souvenirs on her way out of town. Since we could take interstates all the way, Laura Anne got to drive through the rest of Connecticut and on to Massachusetts. Springfield was the largest and most interesting city we passed by, with its gigantic silvery Basketball Hall of Fame. The shining chrome sphere was in contrast to most of the other buildings, which were brick and several stories tall, a combination that makes Angelenos nervous. But then there probably aren’t many earthquakes in Springfield, Massachusetts.
We made good time and the distance wasn’t much farther than going from Houston to Austin, so we arrived with most of the afternoon left to cruise down 34th Street to Macy’s and browse the shops on the way that sold miniature Empire State Buildings and Statue of Liberties and I Heart New York memorabilia. It was Sunday and parking was catch as catch can when people moved out of their hoarded spaces in the neighborhood; we snagged a spot near Sister Laura’s apartment, unloaded, snacked and started out walking. By the time we got to Macy’s we were dripping with sweat and pleased to find a Starbuck’s in the Junior Department that served frozen drinks. While the Lauras shopped, I luxuriated in the air conditioning and a raspberry tea concoction that threatened brain freeze with every strawfull. A few years earlier when I visited Laura. we had spent an entire Labor Day staying cool in Macy’s and Bed Bath and Beyond. Marathon shopping was one of the thrills of New York City, a la Breakfast at Tiffany’s, even if we did graze the lower end of the consumer chain.
As for the souvenir shops, Laura Anne found shot glasses and lighters and pins for all her friends back in L.A. and bought a cityscape from a vendor on the street. I got an Empire State Building towel to cover the car-bed and broken heart salt and pepper shakers for the cover of this book.
Sister Laura took us to a Japanese restaurant called East around the corner from her place, a rabbit warren of dark bamboo rooms upstairs in on Third Avenue. Downstairs it had a sushi bar on a conveyor belt, which apparently was its claim to fame. Very tasty!
Laura Anne was going to catch a plane at 8:00 the next morning and fly to L.A. for her first week of film school, so we would have to be on the road by 5; we packed up her new treasures and turned in early. Tomorrow would be my last day in New York City, time to hit the Triple A for maps and brochures, and Sister Laura would be back on the chain gang at BBC America.