Tag Archives: summer vacation

Blackberries on Steroids and the Mother of All Traffic Jams

Last week I was on vacation in New York (not New York City, though I did pass through – more on that later).

I grew up on the north shore of Long Island. My parents, both now deceased, retired to the south shore. Annual visits to their home — and the area’s beautiful beaches — were a cherished part of my kids’ childhoods. It’s been 13 years since we were there, and so we planned a family reunion with sisters and cousins.

The eastern end of Long Island is farming country, and we enjoyed corn, peaches and big bouncy tomatoes from farm stands along country roads. My daughter and I are big on berry picking, and when we found a roadside U-pick, we had to give it a whirl … even though they were charging $7 a pint for blackberries, which grow voluntarily in Kitsap ditches an byways. Bremerton’s annual ode to the lusty weed is set for Sept. 4 through 6.

Now, I know it must seem absurd to Kitsap locals that we would pay to pick blackberries. But these New York berries were superlative in size and flavor (no offense Kitsap). Big? The berries were the size of small mice.

New York Blackberries

I got a kick out of the sign, “Do not pick the red berries; they’re not ripe.” Who did they think they were dealing with, a couple of amateurs? We were careful to pick only the ones that were jet black and yielded to the slightest tug. Given the high price per pint, we picked an equal number that never made it farther than our mouths.

I have plenty of other sweet memories of my holiday, but one New York experience I would gladly have passed on … lower Midtown Manhattan gridlock.

On our way back to Newark Liberty International Airport on Saturday, we dropped my oldest son off at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. Mapquest, bless its little addled computerized brain, sent us the shortest route as the crow flies over to New Jersey — through the Holland Tunnel.

If I’d been more familiar with New York traffic patterns, alarm bells would have gone off in my brain. But in all the years I lived in New York, I haven’t actually driven in the city. Also, I’ve been with my parents driving through the Holland Tunnel many a time, but that was back in the day, three to four decades ago. There are a just a few more cars on the road now. Also, it was near rush hour … but on a Saturday?

How bad was the traffic jam? Kitsap kindred, this one made the Gorst bottleneck look like the Indianapolis 500. We were moving an average of one block ever 10 to 15 minutes. How slow was it? We had the time to buy pretzels from a sidewalk vendor and carry on a short conversation, all without getting out of the car. The vendor said it’s always like this.

There were no lanes to be seen, or at least none that drivers were observing. There were no rules. I take that back. The one rule everyone religiously observed was, “Do not let any space open between your car and the car ahead, even if if means crossing against the red light and blocking the intersection. Failure to show complete disregard for other drivers wishing to change lanes is grounds for being cut off, honked at and given the dreaded New York glare.”

In summary, I had a great vacation, got a fine tan, had fun seeing the fam, but I’m fine with being back in Kitsapland, where blackberries and traffic jams are of normal proportions.