Bec looks to me, “The train is moving”.
I know it isn’t, because there isn’t the signature jolt of the NYC trains as they begin to create momentum.
I look past Bec, and straight to the train opposite the track to us, and promptly correct her of her error.
“Babe. The other train is leaving, we haven’t moved yet”.
“Nah, look at the tracks”
I look down, to see the tracks slowly passing us. That can’t be though. I didn’t have to fight the laws of physics to prevent a concussion from the head of the seat. By logical conclusion, we are still stationary. A simple formula, but since we have been in NYC, it hasn’t let me down once.
My brain can’t handle this.
How did we begin to gain momentum without me feeling a thing? We are moving nonetheless, and I don’t know what to do with this new information. Each time we stop on the train, I find myself noticing the scenery slowing passing the window before I feel the train moving.
Very impressive, NJ transit.
Very impressive, indeed.
Today, we are headed to meet up with a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in 9 years. I met Julia when I was 15 years old, studying in NZ, at Lifeway college. We had some amazing experiences together. We did this thing called Mission impossible, where we were pretty much dumped on the side of the road, with literally nothing but the clothes on our backs, and had to complete a whole plethora of tasks and activities, all the while needing to trust God that everything would work out.
And boy… Did we see that happen. It was amazing to see prayers answered, and was probably one of the most formative experiences of my life. We met so many people who were willing to help us out on our seemingly pointless adventure at the drop of a hat. It was great. Since Lifeway, however, I had hardly spoken with her, let alone caught up with her. In this time, I had got married, and she has also had a boy named Quinn.
I was really keen for her to meet Bec, and was seriously looking forward to catching up on all the years of life that we’d missed.
Bec and I had to get there around midday, as Julia had an interview that morning. By the time we arrived at the station to catch the train, it was about midday, and we had over an hour’s train ride ahead of us. Once we were on the train, we had no hope of trying to hook into the wifi. Most of the stops in the NY transport system has wifi. I literally didn’t come across a stop on the NJ transit system that had wifi.
Since I am a stingy bastard, I didn’t really wanna buy a sim card for the US, when we were only there for a few weeks, so wifi has become my means of communication. In most US cities, we have been fine, because there has been so many spots to abuse free internet connections. Apart from that one guy who wouldn’t give us the wifi code, because he couldn’t find the router. He also couldn’t change our money because the cash register was broken. Specifically for that particular 30 seconds, cos it must have been the will of the Lord that the register started working again for the next guy.
I mean, there is no other logical explanation.
Back to the story. There is no wifi for the whole 70 min ride. We rock up to the station, hoping that there is going to be a means of internet connection there somewhere.
After enquiring from a few people, we are encouraged to walk from the station, down the road to reach a Dunkin Donuts. We start walking, and come across an Asian bistro. We walk in there, and I am not holding high hopes. At risk of being a racist, Asian shop owners can be very… picky with the things that they want to give for free. And by being ‘picky’, I mean, I have always had to pay. At one point, I even paid to use the toilet.
Anyways. I get to the register, and I am never sure whether my Asian countrymen are going to be fluent or if I need to delve into the depths of my charades experience and marry words with the appropriate gestures. In this case, my mate was the former. Whats more, is that he picked up that I was from Australia, and he told me that he lived in Melbourne for the better part of a year.
This guy has to hook me up with wifi now. If there is anything I learnt from door to door sales, it is that once you get rapport and can make someone laugh, you’re in. In this case, I was selling him a really good feeling of helping a straggler connect with the outside world. I had my eyes on the prize. I start, I build that crap out of that rapport, and we become good mates.
I go for the kill, “Mate, I need to get in touch with someone, and I need to use wifi. Any chance I could hook in to send a couple messages?”. “Yeah sure”, he points to the wall behind me, which has the wifi password, plainly, for everyone to see.
Whatever. I was being a good human. A good human, with ulterior motives, but a good human, nonetheless. I give him a fist bump and give him the appropriate thanks.
I let Julz know where we are, and we hang 10, while we wait for her to come pick us up. She lets us know that Quinn is coming to meet us too, because he wants to know about the Kangaroos from Australia. The best pics, I know are going to be of Lucky Bay, and the roos along that beach. If you haven’t seen the Lucky Bay roos, jump on google now, and have a look for yourself. They’re technically wild, but they are the least wild beasts you could ever imagine to encounter. You can pat them and feed them, and they will just sit there while you take photos with them and everything.
This will set Quinn of something chronic.
At least, I am hoping so.
Nothing worse than not being liked by a 3 year old. Thats pretty much when you loose at life. I load my phone up with the visual ammunition needed to set a 3 year old’s mind off in wonder. A few moments pass, and Julia pulls up, and we are inundated with hugs and smiles. Which are well overdue. I finally get to introduce Bec to Julz, and as per usual, Julia falls in love with her too. We’re driving off, and mid convo, she leans to me and says “Billy. She is so gorgeous!” haha.
This is pretty much my life.
That, met with “Oh, she’s a chef?! You are a lucky man” are the two involuntary responses I get when I introduce Bec to anyone. Both are accurate statements.
Lo, but she is my wife, so feast your imagination on the dinners we regularly eat, cos thats all you get.
I have heard about Princeton University. Princeton competes with Harvard and Yale Universities, however, only has around 5000 students, as opposed to 30,000-60,000 in some of the bigger campuses. Julia does an impeccable job of juggling conversations with us and with her little man, who is equally as inquisitive, as he is excited to book a flight to Australia this afternoon. This tends to be a recurring theme throughout the day.
Quinn is ready to visit Australia now, and is adamant that Julia’s explanation that they need to save and book tickets first is quite simply not a good enough of an answer. I mean, he’s not rude about it, but he sure doesn’t let the point go easily.
We walk through the campus, and Julia shows her all through her old stomping ground. I thought that Washington DC’s architecture is impressive. To be honest, I feel like Princeton has more history in it’s architecture. Some of the buildings has almost a bit of a viking kind of feel to them, and for the first time in my life, I was mesmerised by stained glass windows. We walk into the chapel, which errs more of the side of Cathedral, than chapel, and the vast ceilings and monstrous walls encase some of the most exquisite stained glass windows I’ve ever seen.
We head to the front of the chapel to get a good look, all the while being inundated with the incredible craftsmanship and architecture in the building. As we make our way up, we hear the faint humming of the organ. It’s not really loud at this point, and quickly learn that this is an anomaly. Unless its a Sunday morning, the organ is never going.
The bloke is doing some sort of maintenance to it, and we are met with the loud roar of the organ as he fires it up. Quinn is perched on the front pew, but the moment the organ kicks to life, he puts those three year old running legs to good use, and seeks comfort among Julia’s knee caps. It’s cute and we all have a good chuckle about it.
Julz continues to show us all round the campus, all the while we are surrounded by laughter and exchange stories of life that have passed in the last 9 years.
Julia just casually drops the bomb that Einstein was a lecturer here.
“Sooo… Can we go see his classroom?”, I ask. “Oh sure!”, she says like its nothing.
Oh my God.
This is insane.
We walk up the stairs and there is some punter who has taken refuge in the classroom to do something to do with studies.
I. Do. Not. Care.
We have a 3 year old with us, and were not afraid to use him. We’re peering through the window, and the guy, much to his demise, opens the door to let us in.
You know the iconic shot with Einstein standing by the black board? The really really big one that has the board which can be lifted up and down the wall? That is where we were. Quinn and I walk up and down the tiered seating. We make a tonne of noise, and I think Quinn can take some lessons from me on how to make more noise than necessary when walking up stairs. I was disappointed with his contribution to the decibel level in that classroom.
We get our fill if standing in history, and continue to the museum. Once, there was a gospel choir which were at the museum when Quinn and Julia visited. So, now each time that they visit, Quinn’s only ambition is to find those singers again. He doesn’t quite understand that they aren’t going to be there every time he goes to visit.
This is proven true by the way he wanders into a lecture in progress. We had to usher him out before he got too curious.
We explore the displays, and if you thought that the museum in Washington was impressive. This place is amazing. Granted, there are a lot more pieces locked behind glass boxes and cabinets, but there was piece after piece which dated back to the BC era. This is mind boggling. To be so close to history, that old really is a whole new level of amazing.
We are running out of time before we have to head to the station, so before we go, we need to see Julia in action with her harp. Julia has been the subject of many conversation I’ve had over the years when it comes to musical prowess. Being that she has played the harp since she was 4 years old, and even went as far as playing at Princeton stands to reason that she is bloody exceptional at a very niche instrument. I’d always imagined what it would sound like, so to have the opportunity to see it in action was exciting to say the least.
We rock up to her old’s place, and meet her lovely mum, Elle. She’s super laid back and definitely the kinda mum that you have to compete against for your friend’s affection. I reckon we’d get along. She snaps a photo for us, and heads out the door.
We head to the living room, and the mythical harp is perched in the corner, by a stool. Its nearly as tall as Julz, herself. She sits and leans the harp to her shoulder, propped up sneakily, by her knee. She begins to play us this piece, and my lord, it is sooo silky smooth, its not funny. I whip my camera our and record it. Theres no way that I am not going to get this on record. She puts on her own little show for us, which we are both equally impressed by.
We coax another song out of her, which upon finishing, tells us that we can try if we like. “Yeah, nah. I can barely play guitar at the moment, let alone the harp”, I think to myself. Not to mention that it’s a good $20k I’d be holding. I don’t want that responsibility in my life right now.
She tells us that her mum used to drive her an hour and a half each way so that she could learn the harp at 4 years old, and that her infatuation began when she was on a school trip, and became mesmerised by the harpist and continued to sit and watch the harpist play for the duration of the time there. 24 years later, she’s got a harp in her living room. Quinn’s girlfriend better have a wild card or something, because he’s grown up with his mum playing the friggin harp. I mean, if the girl he comes home with can only play the ukulele, she better have serenaded the President, Queen Elizabeth, Mother Teresa and The Pope with that Ukulele.
I teach Quinn how to operate my camera, to which, he does rather well. We jump in the car and head to the train station. We share hugs and bid each other fare well, hoping that the next time we meet isn’t going to be in another 9 years time. We wave goodbye to Quinn, and give him the necessary high fives.
Its been an incredible day. Both of experiences and memories. Its been great to be able to catch up again. My only regret was that we didn’t do it sooner and that we had more time to hang out again. Only having a few hours, to catch up on nearly a decade of life is near impossible, but it was enough to satisfy until we meet next.
Bec and I are next headed to a place called Medieval Times. We were intending on going there with Drew, Jen and the rest of the extended Stokes crew, but along the plans we made, we weren’t able to make it in time. Bec and I were keen to experience this phenomena before we left the states. Everyone we spoke to, when we told them that we were going to Medieval Times, was so excited for us, and as Julia put it “a quintessential American experience”. They have a good 7+ locations around the states, and it is pretty much just the WWE version of jousting. And they do a good job.
In typical American fashion, they do entertainment exceptionally.
Each section in the arena is allotted one of 6 colours. We got the Black and White section. These sections correlate to the Knights competing in the arena. There are allies, and foes. The two sections next to us, are our mates. The others, we are encouraged to boo as viciously as we know how.
The night begins with shows of horsemanship, and incredible training that has gone into the horses. All sorts of trots, strides and leaps. Its great. Entrees is served, and the entertainment stepped up a notch. Rings are lowered from the roof, and the knights ride their horses under the rings and try to pick up the points they can, by collecting the rings that they can on their passes. Our knight is doing us proud. Didn’t miss a beat.
Its absolute carnage in the arena. It is 100% not a place that you go to just sit back and admire. Everyone around you is whistling, yelling, bashing their mugs on the table top in a bid to cheer their knight on more. Each time the knight rides past our stand, fist raised, the section erupts. Its perfect. The dishes are all Medieval inspired also. A bowl with a handle to drink your soup directly out of the bowl. A cylindrically hexagonal mug to drink from, and no cutlery.
You feel like a primordial beast.
The best kind of primordial beast.
Through out the events, the knights will come out and throw flowers out to all the ladies. The our knight through 2 flowers out, and then he had his eye on Bec. He lobs it all the way, 3-4 rows high, and with incredible precision. Bec scores herself a flower from the knight. She is so impressed, I feel as though I might have to get down there and sort this bloke out for trying to come onto my mrs. Bec assures me that it is nothing though. They’re just mates.
Mains come out, and the barrier is set up. The excitement in the room steps up a notch, as we all know that this means jousting is coming. I really was not sure if there was jousting to come. I was hoping that the whole OH&S thing would be overlooked, and that the guys in the arena would let their inner barbarian out, and slay each other with their lances.
My hopes are met.
This is grand.
The jousting commences and the splinters of wood fly across the arena littering the ground below with pieces of wood. Lance after lance they charge at each other until one of the knights leaps off the horse, in a bid to make it appear as though he has been struck down. Its comedy gold. The battle then continues on foot, as the two knights strike each other and literal sparks fly. One after another they are defeated, until finally there is only one left standing.
In typical video game form, once the knight is victorious, a big boss comes out of the darkness to oppose the victor. Did the knight whoop his ass though? Course. He gave him a bloody good spanking. Despite the fact that they are acting and all, there is still a few bloody big hits they take. That impressed me.
The show wraps up, Bec snags a flag as a keepsake, and we head off home.
We leave, and Bec has had the night of her life. She’s skipping and singing the songs, and when people say that they like her flag, she replies “Medieval Times!” haha. If for nothing else, that alone was worth it.
We stand at the train station, and one of the squires named Eric comes down and asks us if we were just at the show, to which, we enthusiastically reply “Yeah man!”. He’s on his way back home. He’s a really laid back and chilled dude and has just started working there since June. He tells us about the pros and the cons and everything in between. Saturday nights are the way to go, because it is massively packed at that point. Literally every seat is full.
He tells us about how he is saving to finish his masters degree in art therapy, and that he wants to go to Colorado. Its really cool to get to talk with him about his ambitions. I can’t stand superficial conversation. I wanna know what makes you tick and what you are about. That is where 90% of my conversations end up. Eric was no different. By the time we left, I got to know a bit about this dude, who just prior was creating this entertainment for us. It was cool to talk with someone about the behind the scenes of things.
On the train, we got to meet Steve. Steve doesn’t use a computer and doesn’t like mobile phones. Mostly, because he didn’t like his mrs calling him and asking when he was going to be home, when what he really wanted to do was to go to the pub with the boys, and not have her asking him about it either. Needless to say, yeah, he’s a bit jaded and very single. Interesting guy. Not interesting enough to write another paragraph about though.
Its been a good day’s overdue catch ups and quality entertainment.
10/10 would do again.
Come back tomorrow,