Welcome to New York

Saturday morning started very early for me.  I’ve turned into more of a morning person over the last few years, but getting up at 4:15 is something I can never adjust to.  It does help to look forward to the reason you’re getting up so much earlier than the sun, and I had a great reason.  I was about to board a plane for New York to meet up with my girlfriend Samantha, meet her family, and spend the next eight days experiencing the country in and around The Big Apple.  Even on just four hours of sleep, I was tremendously excited!

My flights were uneventful (just the way I like it) and I arrived at the regional airport in White Plains just before noon.  Seeing Sam’s smiling face was like getting a shot of adrenaline; we embraced each other for what felt like forever.  Once we got my bag sorted, we walked outside and I met Sam’s mother.  She is a charming woman and it was immediately obvious where Sam’s generous spirit came from.  I was welcomed with open arms as we loaded into the family van and drove out to Brewster, the small town where I would be staying.  Although the drive was only about twenty minutes long, I already had a feeling for the countryside.  Trees and water reservoirs were plentiful and the houses all had that northeast charm I’d seen in books and on television.  When we turned into the drive to Sam’s grandmother’s house, I was immediately in love with the place.

The house is across the road from a canal that connects several water reservoirs, nestled in a forested area.  The three-story structure sits on three acres that are also populated with several small buildings, farming implements (both for decoration and practical use), and an assortment of old trucks in various states of restoration.  Walking into the home filled me with an immediate sense of belonging.  I met Grams and Sam’s four year old niece, Avery, and toured the lovingly cluttered rooms that all spoke of several generations’ worth of accumulation.  Weathered furniture sat in the spaces unoccupied by family crafts, World War II memorabilia, and the living needs for a space that regularly housed six people:  Grams, Avery, Sam’s brother Caleb and his wife, Uncle John, and cousin Jason.  This didn’t count others, like Jason’s fiance or Sam’s mom, who regularly spent a significant amount of time here.  It was a house of controlled chaos.  Sam’s room was at the top of the staircase, and that’s where I put my bags…right next to the husk of an old .50 caliber gun.

I mentioned earlier that I felt an immediate sense of belonging.  Not only did I get hugs when I walked in, but in a grandmotherly tradition I was offered food instantly (and constantly thereafter.)  Cookies were baked, snacks were purchased…they even got pizza for lunch so that my first meal was authentic New York Style pizza.  I took a short nap and was greeted afterwards with presents and a stocking from the family.  As the evening wore on, dinner was prepared (breakfast for dinner…a choice specific to me) and I met everyone, including Sam’s father.  I had been pretty nervous about this meeting, considering our backgrounds were vastly different, but it actually went rather well and we found a few things to talk about.  We ended the evening by drinking and playing dominoes, another family tradition.  I lost miserably, but that hardly mattered.

Sunday was much less busy, but I got the chance to walk around the property and see some of the artifacts up close.  It was raining, so I didn’t get a lot of good pictures, but I look forward to taking my camera out later in the week.  Tomorrow will be my first day in the city proper, and I am prepared to be overwhelmed.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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