New York Diary

I'm about the last person that you would hang the label of "sophisticated" on, so I expected to experience some culture clash when I descended upon the Big Apple for the Big East Tournament.

As I packed my small bag (in anticipation of a small hotel room) I actually began to have a bit of trepidation about heading to New York. Upon reflection, that struck me as odd, because I like going to new places, and I like most big cities. I love Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and a number of other large cities I've traveled to, so what was the deal? Hard to say, but it prompted me to keep something of a running diary as I teamed up with Blue & Gold News publisher Greg Hunter for the trek from Morgantown to Manhattan.

Tuesday, 2: 00 p.m. We head out of Morgantown, discussing everything from St. Bonaventure (immediately termed "St. Bonaquitters" to the recent crime wave in New York (two policeman shot and five random murders, as well as a nightclub gang war in Times Square). It does nothing to ease my state of mind.

4:00 p.m. Greg produces the "Road Whiz", which is not, as you might guess, a euphemism for roadside relief when there's no restroom in sight. The Road Whiz is actually an electronic device that asks you to input your current state, highway and driving direction. From there you can query the device for nearby food, gas and hotel information, driving distances, etc. I like it, but immediately note that it's an unfortunate product name.

4:05 p.m. That trend continues when Greg notices a Mexican restaurant with the name "Montezuma". That's one place I'm gong to avoid.

4:07 The unfortunate name triad is completed moments later when a sign for the ONo Travel Plaza is spotted. Oh No, you bought our gas? Oh No, you don't want to eat here? Obviously the marketing division was not conuslted when these names were selected.

4:40 p.m. We often play a game that doesn't have a name, but could be titled "Mountaineer MapQuest". The rules are simple – when you see a town name on a sign, you have to name the WVU athlete that hails from that locale. Usually I'm pretty good, but as we roll through Newville, Pa., I draw a blank. Offensive lineman…played recently…good player…worked on a farm…named to some sort of Farm All-America team…who the heck is it?

All I can come up with is Randy Dunnigan, and I know that's wrong, because he's from Virginia. Hunter finally has to tell me it was Rick Gilliam. This is not a good omen.

6:00 p.m. I start worrying about the hotel. Did I book us into a fleabag? I've read the horrific reviews of some Manhattan hotels on the Internet, and I'm afraid I've dragged the boss into a combination of the Bates Motel and Hot L Baltimore. It must be the darkness.

My wife, of course, stays at locales like the Marriott Marquis when visiting NYC. Fortunately, I don't have to pay for those trips.

6:40 p.m. We roll through Bethlehem, Pa., and speculate on the whereabouts of WVU quarterback signee Adam Bednarik.

7:15 p.m. We stop for gas at a New Jersey exit. The sign says gas stations are two miles away. In a righteous huff, we decide we aren't driving two miles off the Interstate for gas. The New Jersey Department of Transportation has other ideas, as there is no way to get back on the Interstate without driving at least three miles down the road, which takes us pass the gas stations. We stop.

To cover up, we speculate about the New Jersey laws that don't allow for self serve gas stations. Is it an attempt at job preservation? Greg speculates on the difference between standing outside pumping gas and sitting inside a booth collecting money for pumping gas. Did I mention it was a long trip?

7:40 Being the navigator, I decide to recommend a detour through the Holland Tunnel, which I believe will be less crowded at this time of the evening. It also offers a more direct route into southern Manhattan. Greg, being a nice guy, agrees.

7:42 p.m. Greg says "thank you" to the toll taker at the Holland Tunnel. She doesn't even look at him. Strike one for civility.

By some stroke of luck, we come right out on Church Street, and find a parking place close to Ground Zero, which we've decided to visit before going to the hotel.

I can't describe the hole in the ground, the hole in the skyline, or the hole it creates in my heart to look at the former location of the Twin Towers. The last time I was here I was about 12 years old, and I took a photo lying on my back and looking up between the Towers. It gives me chills just to think about it. It's one of those things that can't be described, even after seeing thousands of images on TV. We look at the pictures mounted on the fence around the site, and try to imagine what it must have been like. It's just about unimaginable.

As we leave, a plane flies over lower Manhattan. Although that's happened about one hundred thousand times since September 11, 2001, it's still enough to set off another round of chills for me.

8:30 We depart and head in what we think is the direction of our hotel on Lexington Avenue. Of course, being cocky after arriving at our first destination so smartly, we immediately get turned around and find ourselves driving through Chinatown.

While gawking at all the ideograms on the storefronts, we miss our next turn and end up on the Manhattan Bridge headed for Queens. We proceed to circle Queens for the next 15 minutes trying to get back to the bridge. Along the way we see signs that say "Do not blow horn, except in emergency." There must be a heck of a lot of them in Queens this evening.

Greg finally solves the question of how to get back to the bridge by banging a U-Turn right around a traffic sign. I believe it said "No U-Turns", but I'm not sure.

This is only the second best driving move I witness on the trip, however. At one point a taxi turns left from the right hand lane of Sixth Avenue, crossing five lanes of traffic to do so. What's more impressive is that he did it against a red light.

8:45 We finally arrive at the corner of 24th and Lexington. No hotel. We have to call the hotel to find out that it's actually on 24th and 3rd. Dumbass tourists.

8:50 p.m. We arrive at our hotel, and to my immense relief it's fine. The desk clerk is helpful, the bell captain is nice, and our room, though small, is clean and comfortable.

Except for one thing. It's just a tad warm. We turn off the heat, and the room doesn't cool down. We open our window. Immediately the sounds of New York roll in, although the cool air stubbornly remains outside. I'm reminded of the scene in the movie "Big" where Tom Hanks' character is frightened by everything he hears outside. I obviously have a New York phobia, but it doesn't prevent us from strolling up 3rd Avenue for dinner.

11:30 p.m. The room amazingly stays warm, even with the window left open and an outside temperature of about 40 degrees. It's like a Star Trek force field has been set in our open window. If someone could license this technology for insulation, they'd be millionaires. How is it that no cold air comes through an open window, but an insulated room in your house over the garage gets ten degrees colder than anywhere else in your home?

Wednesday 10:30 a.m. Showing my increased Gotham comfort level, I walk to the corner and hail a taxi. One stops immediately. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this New York thing.

10:45 After our arrival at the Garden, we discover that we have been issued only one photo pass, which we will have to share. Greg, being the boss, elects to take the first half.

11:50 I predict that St. John's will be a tough out for Notre Dame. The writer next to me, who covers the Irish, disagrees. I stick to my guns – the Red Storm in the Garden at tourney time are difficult to count out.

2:10 I'm justified when the Red Storm pull the upset. Unfortunately, it's the last thing that goes right all day.

2:40 The Mountaineers just don't have it today. Maybe my New York fears were based on a hidden fear of our play. The team is trying, but Providence is hitting their shots and jumping over our front line for rebounds.

2:55 Feeling upset, I have to have something to blame it on. I settle on Greg – if he had let me sit on the floor for the first half, WVU would probably be winning. It must be his fault. My mood is not improved when I discover that someone has stolen my phone cord during the first half. Guess I should have chained it to my computer.

3:20 I finally get to the floor for the second half, after Greg and I swap credentials. I have to admit, the atmosphere in the Garden is different than anywhere else, especially from the floor. I've been in a lot of stadiums, arenas and coliseums, but the setting here just has a different feel. There are more people here in suits and ties than at a Virginia football game.

4:05 As the game is winding down, a couple of Syracuse fans begin ragging our bench about dropping down to a lower league where, in their opinion, we'd have a chance. A reply comes flying out of the WVU section "what about football?" The Cuse guys have no response. Score one for the good guys.

4:45 Interviews. You can go into the locker rooms after a short wait, and the WVU one is a downer. Anyone who thinks the players don't care is just wrong. There's more than a few tears and heads under towels. The players, to their credit, answer questions politely. WVU may have lost the game, but I'm proud of how everyone handled themselves.

7:15 After writing articles, posting them, doing the radio shows, etc., we decide to bail out and head for home. Yes, we're morons. But we both hate sitting around after a loss.

8:00 Checking out of our hotel, we see a sing in the elevator that limits the capacity of the box to 13 people. Since the elevator is about the size of a coffin stood on end, we wonder about the type of people you'd have to have to fit 13 inside.

8:30As we exit Manhattan, we decide that radio in New York and New Jersey is a bigger wasteland than Qatar. No one is broadcasting the tournament game, WFAN is obsessed with hockey, and the local ESPN affiliate fades in and out like Casper the Friendly ghost.

2:15 We arrive back in Morgantown after a record breaking 97th consecutive trip stop at a Sheetz convenience store. No matter where we go, it seems as if Greg always manages to find a Sheetz. I'm beginning to think he owns stock in the place.

Now that my warmup trip to New York City is over, I'm ready to go back next year. And this time, like the team, I'll have more confidence, and be ready to bring home some wins.


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