Do you want to know what stinks? My luck when it comes to New York. The last time I was there, in 1985, I suffered an extreme case of intestinal distress so bad that it caused me to jump from my seat and race to the nearest exit. Just short of the 16th floor--the floor my room was on--my guts erupted. I don't know if it was the hotdog from the cart across the street or the slice of pizza I had for dessert--and that was just for breakfast--but I wanted everything the city had to offer and I didn't care about the consequences, but obviously, my digestive system did.
I was travelling with the All American Musical Ambassadors Band from Purdue University in Indiana. We were a hodgepodge of teenagers from all over the country representing the US as we played our instruments throughout Europe. We were in town for three short days and our time was filled with 14-hour rehearsals, brief and harried introductions to those sitting nearby and overwhelming anxiety as many prepared for their first flight out of the country. We had little time to spare but one afternoon a group of us set out to see the sights.
We rode a cab through Times Square, glanced down into the subway too frightened by the unfamiliar to chance a ride. We viewed the Statue of Liberty sheltered under a massive curtain of scaffolding as crews worked to repair the wounds from years left exposed to the elements. We were astonished as the mass of humanity gathered at every crossing awaiting the light and startled by the bleeping honk of a yellow taxi if we ventured too close to the curb. We walked into the lobby of the Empire State Building--no time to scale its length--and gawked at the homeless and bums that settled on every bench and stoop as nightfall beckoned. Our senses were shocked and energized just like the third rail that runs beneath--the vein pulsing through the heart of the city connecting the chaos and us together in a lifelong embrace.
Nothing struck us more though than the magnificence of the twin towers. Most of us were from small farms, villages and towns where the tallest structure was a three-story bank building or a silo filled with grain. We stood at the base, mouths agape and looked skyward--how was it possible to build something so large we wondered. We hadn't seen anything that resembled nor imagined anything quite like them. The three days went quicker than a Babe Ruth home run leaving Yankee Stadium, but the visit, for me, will always be marred by the unpleasant occurrence just short of my hotel door.
Thirty years have passed and I'm planning my return to an all too familiar beat: something stinks and once again it's my luck. The Pope and I are headed to town on the same day. We both want to see Freedom Tower but I worry that the Holy Father will call trump and hinder my plans.
Ever since I saw the twin towers disintegrate like a too short fuse blowing off the finger that clutched it I knew the singe of the blast would be forever emblazoned across my soul every time I saw the charred, vacant land at Ground Zero. The void was as cavernous in our hearts as a Wednesday afternoon football game at Giants Stadium. I watched the progress--the rise from the ashes as your metamorphosis took place--just like a phoenix--reborn and released from its death sentence and able to begin anew.
I can't do anything about the day. The trip is planned, the checks are written and the route lined out. I could pray to the Holy Father or even send him a tweet but I know he wants to go, too, so wouldn't that just be a wasted prayer? Is it a sin to ask for something like that? "Excuse me, Father, but I haven't been to New York in 30 years and my last trip didn't turn out so well. Actually, it stunk. Could you help a gal out and reschedule?"
Or better yet, maybe we could hang together--they say your Papacy is trending now and although I'm not Catholic, I'll take your blessing, along with the rest of the city, anyway I can.
Even if it doesn't happen to be on the same day.
And one last thing: let's skip the pizza.