Sunday, October 7, 2007

The “Sandwich” Day

When I first started planning this expedition, I was fully aware of the magnitude of our 6-day row, and very quickly the Columbus Day Parade because almost equally as important. The 6-day row ended on the 6th, and the Parade is on the 8th, so today, Day 7, was the sandwich day in between the two. We expected to rest and were delighted to have been invited to a wreath-laying ceremony this morning at Columbus Circle. I’ve been by Columbus Circle many times and had never really stopped to take it all in until this morning. What an amazing place. Yes, it’s beautiful, like many other New York landmarks, but it’s the significance that really touched me.

Going back to our planning stage, the team had been invited to participate in this wreath-laying ceremony and we knew that there would be some important people there, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be so grand. For starters, it seemed as though everybody who’s anybody in FDNY and NYPD was there and in full uniform, brass buttons and all. There were a lot of other important people there whose jobs did not require them to wear a uniform. Most of them were in very nice suits. And then there was this group of ragtag guys who had just rowed a gondola down the river. We weren’t wearing shabby clothes, but we also didn’t have suits or brass buttons. All the same, we were treated with great respect and enjoyed meeting some of the most important and influential people in the fight to keep New York City safe and secure.

Yesterday, at Ground Zero, I began to hear words from speakers that reinforced a belief that I already held – a belief that a large percentage of the people who keep New York safe are of Italian descent. This morning it became clear that that was indeed the case. As if this congregation of important New York Italians was not impressive enough, the gondoliers and I were quite impressed to see a 40-man marching band from the Italian Police Division “Guarda di Finanzia” march in and play not only Italian songs, but the US and Italian National Anthems.

After the wreath-laying ceremony, I made my way back to our overpriced hotel and my wife Elisa and I got the rental car out of an overpriced underground parking garage and we made our way out of the city, driving all the way back up to Albany. When the boat arrived in Albany in late September, she had all of her seats and decorative pieces (anything removable on a gondola is referred to as “parecio”). In order to row the gondola, all of the parecio was removed and graciously stored for us at the Albany Yacht Club. During the week, Elisa’s cousin Joe Duffy picked up the parecio and brought it to his house and today, we made a special trip up to the Albany area where he lives. After loading it into the rental car, Elisa and I had a brief visit with her Aunt Maria and Uncle Joe and various family members who live in the area, and I was once again reminded that I am, indeed, 100% Italian by marriage. Homemade Clams Casino and Dunkin Donuts’ coffee were enjoyed by all.

Tomorrow is the big Parade day. We’ll attend a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, dress the boat with all of her parrecio, don our gondoliers’ uniforms, and soak up the experience. Never did I suspect that I would one day be involved with a parade down 5th Avenue. I feel very blessed.

One more thought along the sandwich theme: my mother- and father-in-way have come along with us, lending great support especially in the area of providing excellent babysitting skills for our two daughters. This morning, my father-in-law went to pick up sandwiches for lunch in mid-town Manhattan. He placed his order and then someone asked him if he’d seen the prices yet. He was rather surprised when he looked up to see that a sandwich on Park Avenue can go for as much as $15. He promptly canceled his order and went around the corner where he found them for $4 instead.

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