Eastern Airlines served the Boston-NYC-Washington circuit throughout the 1960s as the premier shuttle airline between those three cities. A billboard at the entrance to Logan Airport promoted a $11 commute flight to La Guardia. My paper route paid that amount every week and I dreamed about purchasing a ticket to the Big Apple, however when my father announced a business trip to Manhattan in the spring of 1962, he declared that our method of transportation was the family station wagon.
A 1961 Ford Galaxie Country Squire.
"Let fly. I've never flew," I begged him to take my mother, older brother, and myself by the Lockheed Constellation. I had about $200 in the bank and mathed out four return flights. $88. "I'll even pay for them."
"That money's for college, plus the Company will pay for my gas." My father believed in higher education. He was an engineer for New England Telephone and said, "You're lucky you're going at all."
"I guess I am."
I had never been farther west than Mt. Greylock.
We drove down that week from Boston. The trip on the Merritt Parkway took almost four hours.
My father had booked us into the Hotel Manhattan.
My older brother and I had never stayed at a hotel before.
"Do not order room service," ordered my father. Our family had six kids.
"What's room service."
"Expensive food." Every penny was counted by my mother.
My brother and I didn't watch TV. We stared out the windows. We were in a big city.
The next morning my father went to work. My mother brought my older brother and me to the performance of the Rockettes in Radio City. The dancers kicked their long legs high in unison. My mother loved the routine and she sang along with the music.
No one had a better voice than her.
At noon we rode high-speed elevators to the top of the Empire State Building.
A bomber had crashed into it during WWII and I remembered seeing a photo of a girl who had jumped off the observation deck. She looked like she was asleep.
I didn't go near the edge.
Our father met us in the ground-floor restaurant.
We ate at Tad's Steak House.
The meat was as tougher than a dead man's shoe.
But the baked potatoes were good.
On the way out of town my father got lost and ended up on the Bowery.
The broad street was lined with flophouses and drunk men. Several were sleeping on the sidewalk.
"Are they dead?" I asked staring at one still fellow.
"No, just drunk. You don't study and you'll end up like them."
My father didn't like New York. He was from Maine. Big cities were filled with strangers. Some of them were no good.
We came. We saw. We Went.
We didn't visit New York again.
I lived in the Blue Hills.
I knew Boston.
I even saw Game 2 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park.
I might have remained in Boston forever, except in 1970 a work friend invited me to see his sister in the East Village. We hitchhiked from Mass. Avenue to the Bronx and rode Pelham Park 123 subway to Manhattan.
We bought pot from Wayne's friend.
Over the course of the next few years I traveled to New York by train, bus, car, and thumb.
Boston - I95 - New York.
Boston - I90 - I84 -Hartford - I86 - New Haven - I95 - New York.
Boston - I90 - I84 -Hartford - Waterbury - The Taconic Parkway - I95 - New York.
Every single highway route possible.
In 1976 I moved to New York in a Oldsmobile Delta 88 straight down I95 in the middle of the night.
I obeyed the 55 MPH speed limit.
The Olds was sort of a stolen car.
The Olds guzzled too much gas for the owner's wallet and I dumped the big car on the Hudson with the keys in the ignition.
Joyriders stole the Olds 88 within three minutes.
I walked to the Riviera Cafe. I was in love with the waitress there.
Upon arrival the manager told me that she had quit the previous day and had flown to Paris to study Art at the Beaux Arts in Paris.
I heard every word in French.
Since 1976 I must have made that trip several hundred times over the past 35 years.
I have flown a few times, but mostly trained to Route 128 since that was close to my parents' house on the South Shore. I know every route possible, but there was always one which evaded me.
New York-Montauk-Block Island-Point Judith-Providence-Boston.
Partially by sea.
Despite all the trips around New England my family never ventured to Block Island lying 13 miles south off Rhode Island and 14 miles east of Montauk Point.
When I told my younger sister that I was planning a commute by sea, she immediately volunteered to meet in Old Shoreham for a bike excursion around the island.
The first segment of the trip was a departure from Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal, barely three minutes from Fort Greene. I arrived at the ticket machine 10 minutes before the 11:42 train. The holiday queue was 9 minutes long.
I made the train with a minute to spare and arrived at Jamaica Station before the Penn Station train. The AC was pleasant and my seat companion was a young intern from Duke. She was planning to be a finance wizard. I wished her good luck and said nothing about my plot to overthrow capitalism.
My good friend Billy was waiting at the Easthampton station.
He drove us to the beach.
We had a good swim.
The next ferry was in the morning, so we had arranged an evening of drinking and dining with a realtor living in the north woods with his wife and daughters. The four of us polished off a feast of oysters, swordfish, and tuna as well as swilling 8 bottles of wine and a couple of Billy's famous drinks.
The next morning I got out of bed before 7am.
I went for a quick swim.
The bay water was warm.
There was a bus leaving East Hampton at 7:42. I was on it. The other passengers were mostly Mexicans working on lawns while plotting to overthrow the gringos.
I arrived at the Montauk docks at 8:30. The ferry departure was scheduled for 10. It was on time and the Viking King cut a wake across the channel between Montauk and Block Island in a little over an hour.
The captain had a little difficulty docking in the New Harbor due to winds. The taxi ride to the Old Harbor cost $4 and I reached the pier on time to see my sister and her 15 year-old daughter roll their bicycles off the fast ferry.
I see you're ready for a bike tour of the island." My sister pointed to my attire.
"I'll change into my outfit." I was wearing a sports jacket and khakis. The rest of the island was uniformed in tee-shirts and shorts. At 59 I feel an obligation to dress smart. Someone has to in this ages of bums.
Several minutes later I emerged from the men's room in appropriate gear. Tee-shirt and shorts like the rest of the hoi polloi. I rented a wide-tire cruising bike.
My niece asked, "Where's your helmet?"
"Errr." It was a good question and I replied, "They didn't have any."
"Hogwash." My sister doesn't believe anything that I say. She is a lawyer. They make their living listening to lies.
"No matter." I started before them, as her daughter wanted an ice cream before setting off. I reached the lighthouse before them and anyone else. The old clunker was a good ride, especially after I discovered it had more than one gear.
The circumnavigation of the hilly part of the island was a three-hour slog through verdant green pasture walled by stones. Lemonade stands dotted the route. The sun was bright and my skin was reddening with every hour on the road.
Our destination was the Oar on the New Harbor. My sister, niece, and I ate lobster rolls and drank $2 Narragansett draft beers. They were cold. Her daughter had more lemonade and sushi. They were biked out and went to Crescent Beach, while I trudged to the northern end of the island.
The vista from Settler's Rock was an exquisite maritime melange of sea and shore. I biked back to the beach and swam in the ocean. It was cold.
We returned to the ferry landing and changed into respectable clothing. My sister and niece wanted to do some shopping and I retreated to the Harborside Inn for my 4th Narragansett of the day. They were growing on me.
They were the drink of choice in JAWS.
I would have had a fifth, but the last ferry was leaving in ten minutes.
The fast ferry skipped atop the waves.
A 30 minute journey ending at Point Judith. My sister drove her Audi A6 to her house near 128 in less than an hour. We took a dip in her pool. I spoke with her husband for a few minutes and then crashed in their basement on a blow-up bed. I was exhausted and slept from 9pm to 7am. A good 10 hours. My sister dropped me at the 128 station and I boarded the commuter train from Providence headed into South Station.
The trip lasted 34 minutes.
No one was there to greet me on completion of my epic voyage by train, bus, ferry, and car. I approximated the actual travel time to be about 7-8 hours, as I walked from the train to the Fung Wah Bus. I bought the last ticket for the 11am bus. I sat next to an old Chinese man. The only other seat was with a fat Arab woman. She was happy with her choice and I slept all the way to New York.
But not by sea.
Not the fastest trip ever, but I now knew the longest.
4 days from door to door.
The long way home.
Sometimes it's the best.