Of Immigrants, Taxicabs and Nintendo World
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My son’s fifth grade teachers arranged a motor coach day trip to New York one Saturday to wrap up the unit on Ellis Island and immigration. It wasn’t a required field trip, just something put together and if you were interested in taking your kid, you could go. I thought it would be a good cultural experience for my sons, Jimmy and Danny, so I signed up.

I have spent my adult life working in Boston and have traveled some; I was undaunted by New York. I had been there before as well as other major U.S. cities and wasn’t worried about getting around. My children, however, consider themselves "Town Kids." They have very limited city experience.

The day of the trip finally arrived. We met the motor coach in the school parking lot a little after 6:00 a.m. (We were a couple of minutes late because I had to go to Dunkin’ Donuts. I was not about to embark on a four-hour ride with a bunch of fifth graders without my coffee.)

  
 
The children were very excited as the trip got underway, and became anxious while driving through Connecticut. Danny, who was sitting a few rows behind me with other fifth graders’ younger brothers and sisters who were his friends, suddenly called out, “New York! I see New York!”

“No, Dan. That’s Hartford,” I told him. The children groaned in disappointment.

At last we reached Manhattan. The motor coach let us off at Battery Park, where we were given tickets for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The kids enjoyed the ferry ride; I myself felt like we were in storage on a coffin ship, packed in like rats and herded on and off like cattle. I think it’s to give the tourists the true immigrant experience. The ferry employees were telling us packed rats to “take bigger steps” down the gangway. I can do without the ferries.

Miss Liberty was, of course, amazing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside the statue and had to make do with walking around it and taking pictures. Still, it was quite an awe-inspiring experience. When we finished there, we were packed onto another ferry for the short ride to Ellis Island.

Visiting Ellis Island is like visiting a ghost town. It’s hard to believe the place was once full of life and contagious diseases. As I toured the museum, I could feel the spirits of the immigrants who had passed through Ellis Island in search of a new life. Much time needs to be spent here to explore thoroughly (without a bored kid in tow).

After Ellis Island, we once again boarded the ferry that returned us to Battery Park. We broke away from the crowds, and I led the boys out of the Park to State Street. I knew they were too tired to attempt the walk to Midtown, so I planned to take a cab.

We walked down Pearl Street, stopping at a bank at the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets to use the ATM. The financial district was eerily quiet, this being a Saturday. After we left the bank, we continued right on Broad Street. “Spiderman!” Dan cried, looking up at the buildings around him. “These buildings are in the Spiderman game!” We crossed at Water Street and headed north. “Tony Hawk!” Dan cried. “Tony Hawk skateboards down this street in “Tony Hawk Underground!” Dan couldn’t believe his good fortune, to be walking down the same street shown in Tony Hawk and Spiderman video games. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island paled in comparison.

It was hard to keep an eye on the boys and look for a cab at the same time, so I told the boys to stop. I led them near the curb and told them to stay on the sidewalk. I stepped off the curb. “Where are you going?” Jimmy asked, and they both stepped a foot off the curb to follow me.

“No, stay there,” I said. “I’m going to get us a cab.” I went two steps into the street and looked over my shoulder. They were both standing there, toes to the curb, staring at me. I realized they thought I was leaving them in search of a cab.

“Where you going, Mum?”

“I’m just stepping out into the street to get a cab,” I assured them. “I’m not going anywhere.”

They both looked at me in wide-eyed innocence. Jimmy said, “Oh, you mean you’re going to walk out in front of a cab and make it stop?” Town Kids.

I turned to my children. “Yes,” I said. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. When a cab comes, I’ll jump out in front of it, and when it hits me, you guys jump in, okay?” They both stared for a good 10 seconds, and then the wide eyes of innocence slowly became the narrow eyes of distrust and suspicion. I couldn’t be serious, could I? But still, they weren’t sure. This was, after all, New York, and they had never been in a cab, much less hailed one. There are no cabs in our town. Here in New York anything was possible.

An available taxi approached and I raised my arm, two fingers extended, and the cab pulled over to the curb. The Town Kids were baffled. I opened the back door of the cab. “Hop in,” I told them. I asked the driver to take us to Rockefeller Center, and off we went. The kids were in awe.

“Mum, why did you go like this?” Danny asked, extending his arm.

“To hail the taxi,” I told him. ”That’s how you let the cab driver know you want him to pull over.” Danny found this amazing that all one had to do was stand in the street and extend one’s arm and voila! A cab stops. Magic. What a city.

“It’s better than running out in front of the cab and having it hit you, isn’t it, Dan?” I smiled. Dan agreed that it was and marveled at the art of taxi hailing all the way to Rockefeller Center.

The cab let us out at West 50th and Sixth Avenue. We made our way to Rockefeller Plaza. There was skating at the rink but the kids weren’t interested. Here, Jimmy had only one place on his mind -- the main reason he made this trip (although he won’t admit it). Nintendo World.

When Jimmy entered its hallowed halls, I saw a transformation. He was flushed, visibly shaking, emitting little groans of happiness. “I’m here! I’m really here!” I have never seen my child in such a state. He liked the Statue of Liberty, and he liked the Ellis Island museum, but this, this was NINTENDO WORLD! I thought he was going to pass out.

Nintendo World is just that: the only place of all things Nintendo in the world. Only in New York City. And if it’s Nintendo, it’s here. Game Boy, Game Cube, Pokemon, Mario, Nintendogs, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Micro, Nintendo SP, Nintendo DS, and every video game Nintendo makes. There are stations set up where all the hardware can be played, including a “Game Bar” with Game Boys at every stool. A video gamer’s Utopia.

Needless to say, we spent a great deal of time here, as Jimmy inspected all the offerings. The place was well run and the employees friendly and helpful, not at all the free-for-all I expected. (I had enough of that on the ferry.) Each child purchased something because, hey, this was NINTENDO WORLD!

It was almost time to meet the tour bus, and I wanted to get something to eat before we left the city for home. When we left Nintendo World, Jimmy turned to me and said, “I can die now, Mum. I’ve been to Nintendo World.”

“Yeah,” I mused. “The Red Sox winning the Series and Nintendo World in one lifetime. Doesn’t get any better than this, does it, Jim?"

Indeed, it does not.

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