Our two family summer trips to Maine were followed by a visit to New York. It was 1954 and I was all but swallowed, mentally, by the immense buildings. It is interesting, when looking back, how one’s young perceptions remain vivid, even though time has proven some false, or at best imagined. It was the middle of the cold war, In Canada this was not played out as passionately as in the USA. The closer we got to New York City the more I noticed signs on bridges advising what to do , "IN CASE OF AN ENEMY ATTACK". In most of the big buildings, such as department stores, signs on stairs told clients what to do  , "IN CASE OF AN ENEMY ATTACK". The attack never came; but, I was totally paranoid. Truth in advertising comes to mind . We were staying on the 12 floor of a hotel , when my parents went out to shop or sight see, my brother and I would stay in the room and watch TV . Outside it seems that there was a constant cacophony of sirens from police cars or fire engines. I was expecting the worst at any time. I had memorized the route to the hotel shelter. So ‘IN CASE OF ENEMY ATTACK", I was ready.

As an added bonus US TV had many more channels than we had in Montreal at that time. It seemed to be on 24 hours a day. So while my parents took in the "adult" things my brother and I regaled in the variety of shows.

New York was and still is an attraction to me. My parents were very keen on the automat diners. Food was presented in small wall "vaults" and the proper coins would deliver the treat of one’s choice. I also liked the various "gourmet items" that street corner snack bars offered. Hot dogs, French fries, ice cream...did I mention many flavours ? It is strange what one remembers.

I was excited by the prospect of going to the top of, the then, world’s tallest building. The Empire State building was an icon. Before I went to New York, some friends told me that if you tossed a penny off the top it would hit the ground with the effect of a bullet. I didn’t try because I was afraid of what the consequences might be,. A recent article on the internet quashed this long time urban legend. But, I didn’t test it myself when I was there.

Times Square was a sea of wonder for me, people dashing about, horns honking, people hustling about quickly. There was a multiplicity of languages that I found intriguing. On a Sunday "family" TV show, someone once said that an accent is a sign of a person who can speak at least two languages. So instead of looking askance I took it all in, with admiration. Years later this attitude would make my travels all the more enlightening. By then I was in the French school , in Montreal, and fairly bilingual. In adult life I studied German in the vain hope that the Military would transfer me to our NATO base in Germany. I also learned Spanish, as many Ham radio stations were from Latin America and I felt it would be a bit of fun to communicate with them. These languages were an asset in my future travels.

The "must see show" on TV at that time was the Ed Sullivan show. One of the sponsors was Ford Motor Company, for whom my father worked in Canada . He was able to arrange four hard to obtain tickets. It was an exciting experience. Before the show, the audience was prompted. One thing I felt was unusual was that we were to applaud rapidly so that it sounded louder and more enthusiastic. This struck me as being a bit "phony"; but, I guess that is show biz for you. The main guests, as I recall, were the Ames Brothers. They were on a Ferris wheel on stage. The wheel had a loud squeal which we were told would not be heard on the air. Looking back I wonder if they were lip syncing. But, despite the little 'diffies' all in all it was a memorable evening

As we left New York on the drive home, my dad got lost and we ended up in Harlem. It is kind of sad to think that a decade or so later that might have been a bad move. But we stopped to ask people directions and were given a nice smile and shown the way to go. They also commented on our Quebec license plates being "neat"

About a dozen years later I returned to New York and mentally revisited some of the places I had seen and in fact I took in many of the same sites . It was the weekend that EXPO 67 closed. We had a long weekend off from classes , in Dental School at McGill, and we were expected to attend a three day dental conference. But the closing of EXPO was a "Downer" for me, in the parlance of the day. So I took a bus to NYC. That in itself was fun. I shared a seat with an Israeli who had, of course, served in the Army back home. The fact that I was in the Royal Canadian Dental Corps and had undergone basic combat arms training kind of opened a door and we had wonderful discussions along the way.

Seeing New York alone is at once daunting, yet adventuresome. I stayed at the internationally known "YMCA", a series of such low budget; but, practical domains which would be the corner stone of my international travels. Being alone can be a challenge but I tend to be able to talk with people and this proved an asset. Mind you one has to be aware that not all conversations are for conversation purposes. I went into one bar and a cute gal came over to chat. Being a tad naïve I figured it must have been my out of town look or something equally charming on my part. I of course bought her a drink and in short order I discovered she was a bit more commercially oriented than I had foreseen. I don’t hold moral judgment on people and prostitution is not objectionable to me. Although I didn’t fall for the bait, as it were. Curiosity got to me and I asked her out to lunch the next afternoon. She again came across with exotic promises but I told her my budget was limited etc..,She didn’t go for the bait; but, it was an interesting afternoon "rencontre". I must add that in my travels my search for experiences did not include any walks on the wild side; but, it was interesting talking to her…

Later in the visit ,at a subway station, I spotted a cute blonde having a hard time with a few suitcases. Being a bit cautious after my first encounter I did offer an erstwhile offer to help. She was an airline Stewardess back from a flight. She was from Florida and living in the Big Apple for the past 6 months. Her roommate eyed me with suspicion; but, I made sure they both knew I was a student on a weekend trip, all above board etc. I got her number and bid adieu. The next day I was walking by the NBC Studios. On a whim I wandered in and asked if they had tickets for the tonight show. I was dressed in a nice McGill Crested blazer, a shirt and tie and grey slacks. I am not a clothes horse but I imagine I looked fairly presentable. The girl at the counter gave me a look and a smile and said "You know we do have two tickets." Apparently same day tickets are very rare, I later found out. Clothes do make the man after all.
I called my stewardess friend and we went to the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson was off that night but a favorite of mine, Bob Newhart, was the guest host…It is interesting where we were seated .On the way in I noticed the ushers giving each other a sign as we progressed forward… I like to think it was my fine clothes; but, it was likely the cute blonde…regardless we were shown to a second row seat behind Ed McMann’s wife. And during the show they introduced her. Later I called my parents and had them check out the show. This was before VCR’s ; but, I "Was on the tonight show" in a manner of speaking. The main guest was Warren Beatty. A pretty presentable man himself , even if he didn’t have a McGill Blazer …It was interesting to see the show’s female staff checking him out from around the curtains as he went on. Women, so shallow.

I did the usual NYC things. As with my first visit with my family I went to Central Park I also took a boat trip around the lower part of the Island. But, as I found out in subsequent travels ,it was the man in the streets encounters that made it different and fun. One night I met a young guy who had been in Viet Nam . As a guest, I never talk politics in a foreign country; but, he had some ghosts to get rid of so it was nice to let him express his views. In a nutshell , he was not sure about the mission in "Nam". We wandered over the Greenwich Village. This was a Mecca for people of my generation. We didn’t run into a Bob Dylan or a Joan Baez; but ,the aura of the "Village" imparted a sense of the surreal, at least in my imagination. We went into one bar and we noticed there were not many, in fact there were no women. It was a first for me , a gay bar… I am open to all lifestyles so I was not offended in any way. But, I was aware that I didn’t want to be gawking about too obviously . In later years I would see more gay bars, such as in Amsterdam. My thoughts remain that it is nice to see people live their lives without intrusion. Years later, when there was more legalization of gay marriages, I asked my then 90 year old father what he felt about that. He said, without hesitation, "You know they were all over London when I as there during World war II, they never hurt anyone." Dad was a devout practicing Catholic and he showed that religion is not about condemnation, but about acceptance. I was very proud of his open and "Christian " attitude.

We later took in a folk music show. It was a small club so I got to speak to a few of the musicians. I can barely keep time tapping my feet so it was something outside my realm of participation; but, again a great experience…

I am a ham radio operator and electronic gear tends to be less expensive in the USA. I found a store in the Times Square area that had some walkie talkies. What I had found out was that a price marked on an article, in some stores in NYC, was a starting point. He wanted $30 for the two of them, so I offered $15, much laughter on his part and even a cry for pity, "I have to feed my family" etc. So I told him all I had was $20 and was about to walk out (Bring on the Academy Awards for.... Walking Out) . He relented and accepted $20. But there were no batteries, which he told me were $2, a tad expensive but I wanted to play with the sets. So I bought them. He said "I thought you had no more money" and he turned to the other salesman and said , with feigned pain in his voice "Who can you trust these days ?" I took that as a sign I had arrived.
I also wandered about the streets. People seemed to be rushing about not really looking at anyone. I tend to be a person who looks at people, not out of malice; but, more curiosity. Now and then , by so doing, I encounter people I know. Later I ran into the same classmate in both Greece and later in Paris . People at times seemed to be dressed in "costumes" to perhaps show their status. One time I almost ran into a tall black person, he was wearing leather pants, and a leather vest. A pretty fit looking fellow so I imagine he might be a footballer. On 42nd street there were a number of movie theatres running the usual fare but out of the corner of my eye...okay I was looking for it...I spotted a Russ Meyer soft core "skin" flick. These were not quite into Montreal's market yet so I wandered in ...out of artistic curiosity of course ☺. Not much of a plot ; but, hey who was following the dialogue anyway.
After this brush with the 'arts ' I was hungry so I went to an outside cafe. It was around 2 PM and the place wasn't too crowded. The waiter sat me in a seat with a street view. I ascertained that he was French and I began a small talk conversation with him. A lady at the next table seemed impressed and said "Oh you speak French !" I explained I was from Montreal and on a student break. She was a secretary at the Julliard school of Music. I was quite impressed, as this school has a reputation far beyond the shores of NYC. She invited me to come back to check the school out. This was one of those special moments that one looks for when traveling. I met several students and they were indeed a serious and hard working group. Show business is in fact a constant challenge regardless of one's talents and I could feel a discernible tension among the students. Any hope of a social encounter of any sort seemed out of the question, as they were up to here in work . But, it was an hour or so well spent and beyond what I had contemplated

Later I was going on a bit of a river tour and was waiting for a cab, one came along but I spotted a woman behind me and I said , "Oh I’m sorry are you waiting for a cab ?" She seemed genuinely pleased and thanked me for asking, then said she was waiting for a friend. And on the way back to the "Y" I saw a man almost fighting with an older woman for a cab. Some bystanders luckily helped her. New York is a tad more sullen than Montreal but amusing for a visitor.

On my next to last day in NYC I skated at Rockefeller Centre. I rented some skates and took some good turns around the ice. My first skate, outdoors on artificial ice. Some kids at the rink asked me to help them skate and to pull them around the ice. All good fun, Later one of the attendants asked if I was from out of town. I asked how he knew this. "People from here would not play with kids who are strangers". I was taken a back a bit; but, he said not to worry. He invited me to a party that night and I figured it was out a great way to meet some locals. He said it was a good crowd and "never knock it till you try it "I became a bit suspicious and was later told that this is gay code. Hey don’t knock it but I was not too keen on trying it ☺ Hmm had he seen me in the gay bar the night before ? ☺

The bus trip home was great, I can nap anywhere and arrived refreshed from my trip and all set to finish the first term of that school year. This was a great start to my out of Canada travel bug.

NYC from Empire State Building
Me Wayne and mother on sightseeing cruise
NYC Street Corner
Ed Sullivan Show
Rockefeller Centre
Art Cinema at its' best
Times Square 1967, Yesh Mish Moneypenny
Statue of Liberty
Central Park