Sunday, December 18, 2011

Escape from Randall's Island

To begin this story I have to go back to last year when I was visiting NYC in the fall. Chad Allred and I decided to spend a lovely Saturday visiting Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens. We swiped our subway cards and made our descent to the subway flat which would take us under the East River to our destination. On the way Chad asked me, "Have you ever seen Shutter Island?" I replied that I had not and he briefed me on the plot involving a US Marshall investigating an island, home to a prison for the criminally insane. Maybe it was the deep, sinister tones of the story, the descent into the bowels of the subway system, or simply my inability to stomache sinister story lines that led me to wide-eyed worry, but by the time we re-emerged on Roosevelt Island, I had the feeling something was wrong. Just as we stepped out of the subway terminal, we found ourselves surrounded by amputees pan-handling for spare change. To properly express my feelings, I have provided a graph below.

As you can tell, there comes a point where a lacking of limbs no longer produces greater sympathy within me. This is usually the point where I am so terrified that I completely surpass compassion and go straight to fear. I believe at this point I turned to Chad and said, "Why do I feel like something evil took place on this island many years ago...and that we shouldn't be here." Needless to say I was terrified.

Fast forward to last week...

After purchasing bell peppers, hummus, and a slew of fashion magazines, my good friend Ashley Sadler and I were on our way to meet up with a couple other girls (Karen Zelnick and Kim Blatter) to watch our friends play in an intramural football tournament on Randall's Island. Randall's island is another island in the East river, just north of Roosevelt Island, so you can be sure good times will ensue!

On the way to Randall's, I told Ashley about my experience with Chad last year. The cabby didn't know where we were going, and frankly neither did we, but once we spotted the field and realized we were driving down a dead-end, we told him to drop us off. The football field was on the other side of a chain link fence so while Ashley paid the cab driver, I glanced around for an opening in the fence. As the cab turned around in the dead end, I noted a shady looking man walking towards us from an ally. I grabbed Ashley and we began walking the other way. As the cabby passed us, he rolled down the window and said, "Hey girls, keep walking this direction, there's a guy back there that looks up to no good". We thanks him and continued on.

We walked north along the east side of the fence until we passed the field and found an open gate just 30 feet north of the field. Twenty yards in front of us was another drunken looking man and I remember thinking, "Are we being herded?" But seeing the opening in the fence I shrugged it off and turned left. We were now walking along the north side of the football field fence still looking for another opening. Around this point Ashley and I started joking (nervously) about the crazy men we had just witnessed. The fence seemed to go on forever and began bending to the right pulling us away from the field. We were walking in between trees, by old buildings, all while walking further and further away from our destination. amongst the crunchy leaves under our feet, I found the soul of a rubber boot. While Ashley was asking me if I thought the buildings around us looked a little run down, I thought, "Yes....yes....someone died here. This is their shoe. There is a dead body under my feet right now I just know it."

Just then I heard a door creak open and as I was about to scream and run I heard Ashley say, "Can you help us get to the field?" Wide-eyed and incredulous, I looked at Ashley wondering why she would admit to this man standing in the doorway that we were lost. Then I noticed his name-tag and realized he must know how to get us out. My frustration shifted instantly to admiration and I mentally shook hands with Ashley for her actions. However the man replied that he had no idea what we were talking about...I mentally flipped this guy off...

As we made our way we saw two men taking pictures of each other in some sort of a courtyard. I considered asking them for directions but when one of them started making kissy faces at us and the other one referred to me as Angel, I was OUT OF THERE! At this point I remembered that Randall's Island was actually two island's at one point: Ward's and Randall's. Ward's island received it's name because it is the home of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. The two islands were connected years ago by a land fill. So naturally Ashley and I have wandered into the complex.

The fence turned again and was leading us the complete opposite direction of the field by this point. We hit a dead end and beginning to feel the ever increasing sting of fear, decided to turn around. Just as we did we saw a stalky looking woman darting straight for us. She was slightly out of breathe as she was yelling, "What are you girls doing here? You are trespassing!" Keep in mind that when I get nervous and uncomfortable, I tend to giggle uncontrollably. Ashley responded, "We don't know where we are; we'd be happy to leave if you would help us get out." Meanwhile, I'm smiling like an absolute idiot; chuckling even harder as I think about how it must look for two blond girls from the Upper West Side, to be wandering through the trees carrying bell peppers, hummus, and Harper's Bazaar. The lady asked us, "How did you even get in here?" and just as Ashley explains how the gate in the fence was open, this lady screams to another guy 30 feet away, "Michael! WE HAVE A GATE OPEN!!" I almost screamed with laughter.

And lie...this lady says this to us...

"When you come to the Island, never go through open gates. We didn't know you girls were in here. You could have been assaulted and we wouldn't have even known. You need to go to the police station so they can escort you to he field. This is no place for you girls."

For real? "When you cooooome to theeee IIIIIIIIIIIsland"? OK listen up troll-woman! Don't speak to me like I should have known the ins-and-outs of Randall's island. Just get me out!!! I thought I was going to watch a football tournament Kennedy's style complete with pretentious East Coast dress attire, sweaty men, and frivolous conversation on the side-lines while I pretend to care about our team and secretly check out the QB on the other field. I didn't think I was hansel and gretel-ing it to the witches house! What am I doing here? Why do I feel like I'm losing my mind? Why don't peppers and hummus do as well as bread crumbs when you leave them on a trail?

As we walk come to the doors at the front of the complex, this guy leans out to me and says in the creepiest voice, "Hope you ladies enjoyed your tour".

Long story short we make it to the police station and finally managed it to the field. We busted out Vogue, checked out our man 'Q' on the other team, and got to work. But I think it will be a VERY long time before I take another trip to another island off the coast of Manhattan.

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