31 December 2005

Grubs and Cigarettes: Part II

We started off the day again at West Islip Fire Department. They told us to come by in the morning. Since it was a Saturday and there was a meeting tons of people would be there. We talked with a bunch of the guys, got more pictures, etc. I had never realized what it takes in a volunteer department to run a call. While we were there they got a rescue call for a "respiratory problem." We waited...and waited. About two minutes later they toned it out again. Then the EMS chief pulled in, got in one of the command vehicles and headed to the call. They toned it out again. Then another command vehicle flew by from his own house. After the fourth tone out two people made it in, flying into the parking lot with their blue lights and racing to the rig. It seemed like forever until they got rolling. Thank God the EMS chief was ALS equipped in the command vehicle.

After the usual bull-shitting, drinking coffee and hanging out, we decided we had better head towards the train station to get on our way to New York City. We were told at the fire station that they barricade off all the surrounding blocks to Times Square at 1500-we didn't want to be late. The train fares were ridiculous $32 for the both of us. I guess that's New York prices for you. I got to see a couple of the burrows on the way in. We got off at Penn Station and made our way towards Times Square. It was still really early, but we wanted to get a good spot. We ended up under a marquee on 44th and 7th-practically the heart of Times Square. We just wanted to get out of the way of all the people walking away, but being under the marquee served us well. It started sleeting/raining/snowing shortly there after.

Probably about a half hour later three police officers came to stand under the marquee. They noticed my fire jacket and my friend's Chicago police jacket. We all started chatting and one of the guys said he wanted to do us a favor since it sucked so bad outside and it was still so early. He told us to walk down to the fire station ( about 2 blocks away), hang out with the guys, and then meet him at Smith's bar at 44th and 8th at 2000. He would walk us right up to the front. Awesome. We got the hook up. We went to the fire station and it was unmanned. The crew returned shortly after but they were really busy and didn't have time for visitors. We wandered around for a while and decided that we would just try to get our spots back by the marquee and suck it up. We were too late...the barricades were up. We finally spoke to an officer that let us back through.

We got near where we were earlier in the day, but tons of people were walking away from Times Square. Then police officers started coming out of the woodwork turning people around and telling them to walk down the block. I thought there had to be something seriously wrong because people looked worried and many were walking with a very quickened pace. The first thing that came to my mind was that there was some terrorist threat or incident. I was kind of freaked out. I couldn't believe something was happening. We pulled aside an officer and asked what was going on. He told us everyone has to go down a block to 8th and over to 45th street. There would be a checkpoint-anybody with bags would be searched and IDs would be checked. I was definitely relieved. The people that looked worried and were rushing were only doing so because they feared losing their "spot" that they got there at 0600 to reserve. We decided to get away from the mayhem and sit in Smith's bar.

The bar was rather packed, but we managed to get a table to sit at and chat. It was still rather early, and the officer wouldn't be meeting us until 2000. We had a few drinks, ordered some cheese fries and just sat there until 2000. The bar was already having a cover charge to get in. We went outside and waited...and waited...and waited. It was 2030 and I was sure that we had been had. I was pissed, but realized that even if he didn't show up and we had never gotten the "hook up" we would have been standing out in the sleet for five hours, just to be kicked out, walk two blocks, and wait in line with the other 750,000 people that were there to be checked in.

We asked an officer if there was any way to contact him-I had given him my cell phone number, and we had his badge number and last name, but I never got a phone number from him. The officer we spoke to said he was only a transit officer, but he could put us on the subway for free. We were to get off at the first stop (34th street) and walk down the block to the Midtown South precinct. Of course this was the hard part. The officer had told me to say I was his sister-in-law if anybody asked. The only problem was that if I was his sister in law I should definitely know his first name. So instead, once inside the precinct, we asked how we could locate him-and we gave them his last name. They said, "Oh, you mean Johnny?" I was like, yeah; that's it. They tried and tried but to no avail. Nobody could find his cell number and they couldn't call for personal business over the radio. The officer that spoke to us said that she would spread the word that Johnny's "cousin" was looking for him and to contact me as soon as possible. We got back on the subway and headed back towards Smith's. Sure enough-there he was, waiting for us. He had left several messages on my phone but it didn't get service in he subway. Yeah!

We started our way towards Times Square. We went through tons of barricades with people in the crowd and lines giving us evil looks. The officer took us all the way up to the front right up against the stages and right by where the ball drops. It was amazing. I had really doubted him-but he pulled through. A huge shout out to NYPD!

We got into Times Square around 2100. There were bands playing: P.O.D., Mariah Carey, etc. There was a lot going on and it was extremely loud-but fun none the less. They kept us entertained right up until 2400. I had always thought that the ball was much larger, but it was quite small. Oh well-it was good all the same. I had the worst headache in my life, I was nauseous, and frozen to death. The good news: I got our fire department patches out to the FDNY photo unit :)

We filed out with the rest of the crowd. On our way out we actually ran into the officer and his partner from earlier in the day. We got pictures and talked for a little while. Then we made our way to Penn Station with the monstrous crowd. There were actually police officers lining the way to the Train station. I guess that's for all of us that don't know the city, or just to keep order. There was even one officer yelling over a loud speaker telling people to keep it moving and no standing allowed. Penn Station houses the subway, buses and the trains. So we had to make our way to the opposite side of the station to get on the Long Island train back "home." We got there just on time to take the last train to the island-otherwise we would have had to wait until 0500 in the morning. The train was really bright inside and I felt like I was going to die. We finally made it back to Long Island and back to the apartment. Tony was really talkative when we got there-we just wanted to get to bed. It was 0300 and my head was about to split in half, I had been dry heaving/ vomiting for no good reason for 15 minutes and I just wanted to sleep.

But, of course, we had to hear the stories of the evening. The same "grub" from yesterday was making a scene in the hallway yelling at his grandmother. The cops ended up coming down to fix that. Then he made his way back to complain that he was hungry and "what's for dinner?" After we got back the kid was back again yelling in the hallway. It got so loud that the people across the hall from Tony came out of their apartment. Well, none of them had their keys on them and the doors in the building automatically lock. So that brought about more yelling and screaming (mostly in Spanish). The three people (two guys and a girl) were fighting as to who locked who out. So, Tony, in his drunken stupor starts yelling back. It was actually pretty hysterical-even though we both had such bad headaches. He was yelling, "I can't believe you idiots locked yourselves out." The woman started screaming in spanish and that led to another outburst from Tony. All we could hear was "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" coming from the other room in anything but a nice tone of voice. Then he tells the three that they can spend the night in his apartment and sleep on the floor. That's a great idea, right? Let's just have the entire neighborhood over for a slumber party. We were both already in the bedroom, with the door locked, just listening to all this like it was a good TV show. The woman is yelling, then they are contemplating whether they should call the fire department to "put a ladder to the window" or "bust the door down." It was not completely clear, but it sounded like the police were back again. Somebody kicked the door trying to get it open, and I heard someone yell "knock it off!" We later found out that they jimmied the door open. Tony came stumbling into our room, flipped on the light, and wanted to recap the entire story...we definitely weren't happy about that. So, we outsmarted him and took the light bulb out of the lamp. He came back about 10 minutes later, jimmied the bedroom door open and flipped the switch. All we heard was "ohhh...they shut the lamp off." And he went back out to the couch. Welcome to section 8 housing I guess.


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