We were on a mission when taking this trip up north toward Connecticut. On Friday, we set off from Tom’s downtown DC print studio with some mysterious artworks in the truck to be delivered to Greenwich, Connecticut.
After landing, the night had come, and the land was dark. We cruised on to Toms River, where we were going to stay for the night. Passing the faraway lights and activities of Atlantic City, we also noticed the trees and bush were different than the other side of the strait. Morning came after a muddling night, we got on highway again not being able to know what awaited us for the day. We were still cruising on in the storm. While we were skimming through north of Manhattan and a little bit of Bronx, the storm had passed. After a short driving, turning around a corner off the highway, we entered the Greenwich neighborhood. In no time, we had noticed the rich-ness of the district. Everything is being taken good care of as if every leaf and every piece of grass have been carefully cut and trimmed. Trees, bush, flowers are saturated with colors, decorated with hanging water drops. Surrounded by the green, all kinds of castles, plantations, hotel-like houses were making our eyes busy. On both side of this winding road, real super wealthy family homes were surrounded by low stone walls and behind the iron gate. Tom’s client also lives in one of the gigantic houses with a gate, but a relatively cute one with some style. We parked on its gravelly round court in front of the “delivery” gate. Strangely enough, when Tom carried the artworks in and I followed, the room we were immediately in and had conversation with the client lady was a dog shower room, with low tiled show tub, and cute dog-themed wall paper, as well as drawers for collecting dog-related accessaries. Now after finishing our task, the rest of the weekend was free for us to squander.
We had our lunch at a local Thai restaurant, named Thai Basil near Greenwich town center. Their beef salad tasted good, noodle soup was also acceptable. Out on both side of the street, Greenwich people were enjoying a lazy Saturday, taking time having brunch, chitchatting, at local restaurants, coffee shops. An Apple store stopped us. Tom made a random decision of fixing his fancy iPhone6’s screen. It left us wondering around Greenwich for another hour or so. But we heard that there was a craft show going on at the museum on top of the hill, we turned around to check it out. Oh right, everything should cost money here, if not a lot of money. We did not stop for the $8 of entry fee. Instead, we walked around and fooled around the playground before we went back to pick up the fixed phone. When we got in the car again, we were ready to work our way back home.
This is Tom’s choice too – going to Coney Island to check it out first. After one or two hours of bad traffic, we were here at Coney Island, the south most point of Brooklyn. Trying to find parking, we quickly found this famous beach area of New York now was most likely to be a place for people from the surrounding not so wealthy neighborhoods to hang out. Commercialized beach of America’s east coast are always developed and designed in a similar way. A boardwalk along the beach hosting all sorts of junk food restaurants, snack shops, game stores, and of course carnival rides. This is one of those places. The boardwalk were crowded with people speaking all kinds of languages, a lot of them with their small kids. We still parked and took a long walk, and felt the cold water of May ocean. Its chilly-ness healed the blisters in our feet. The beach is not the best, with scarcely scattered broken seashells and sea grass. Seagulls were playing above the moderate waves, and being fed by people. Children’s world does not have comparison, they were filled with ecstasy playing with sand and water.
From there, we drove on without a particular destination in mind. Well, why not to another beach. From the north east corner of New Jersey, all the way to Atlantic city, a long and skinny island runs parallel to the coast. This is the so called “Jersey Shore”. Our next stop is tip of the north east point of New Jersey, Sandy Hook, a peninsula stretching into the Atlantic Ocean like a hook, across the sea from Brooklyn, where we were just now Coney Island.
Sandy Hook is a national park, which allowed us to park and stroll anywhere. We drove all the way up to the northernmost point until we hit the last parking space. Stepping off the car, we began our little hike to where we thought the beach would be. Through some low bush, a trail led us to some deserted houses, then the ocean was not far away. It was the time for birds to reproduce, signs were everywhere, warning people not to go off both sides of the sandy trail and disturb those birds. At the end of the trail, we saw the ocean! Light was disappearing, tide moving in. The buildings of Brooklyn was still in the view, behind all the mist above the ocean, like a silky veil. A feeling of being remote and away from everything, people, noise, city, civilization struck us for a moment. This moment was short, but precious.
We left the unprotected beaches at Sandy Hook, driving south, on the long skinny islands. There were bridges linking the parts that are not connected between the islands or with the mainland. We passed several tourist towns along the way. They are the hot spots for people to hang out in summer. Right now, the season was just getting ready to start. The heat had not kicked in yet, ocean is still freezing. But students and young families were already gathered at these tourist towns, their boardwalks and fun fairs. We continued our house-inspecting through many of these towns, where private clubs, gigantic homes stood wide and stout. Many of them lacked of trace of being lived in. The neighborhoods inland ward had some life but nothing interested our eyes and mind.
At Seasides Heights, before we totally turned inland, we stopped again, had our dinner and deja vu “funnel cake”. A sudden shower came in time when we were eating. The night was about to move into its second half when we began to find place to stay and rest our tired eyes, sticky hands, and blistered feet. A lower price stay brought us to mid-Jersey at night. The bar was still open at this Flying W Inn in the middle of New Jersey. People were drinking, chatting, singing, dancing through the night. But we hit the bed without too much hesitation.
Getting up, setting off, we chose to have a random visit of Philadelphia. Since last time, I visited Philly in 2009, and Tom years ago, both of us had not been back to Philly for a long time. Parking was hard to find as people were outside all over the place enjoying their weekend activities. The city looked like full of vibe. Time was limited, we missed the Fine Art Museum, Rodin Museum, as well as the Italian market at the south of Philly. Large areas in south Philly were packed with two-story row houses. Living was tight in this part of the city. When we stopped just at the edge of the city, in a popular dinner, two giant salad filled our belly, but it seemed to keep growing while i was eating it. We were happy for many reasons and for no reason.
Finally on the way home, hours of riding on high way, with other cars. We know inside every car, there was at least a person, we were in a system of people’s construction, but we did not see them, only cars. They were in front of us, behind us, as a piece of steel, shiny but cold. Every minute in America, I experience the very essence of American culture. Everybody has their own space and possessions, nobody interferes with others’ matter, but to some extent, they don’t care…We are all like cars, just moving to the same direction, doing the same thing, but not related.