Pop was a good teacher about spontaneous travel


I INHERITED my fondness for spur-of-the-moment travel from my grandfather, Edward Jacques Monaghan, who demonstrated his get-out-of-town technique when I was 4. He took me downtown on his chores, and maybe a lunch at a tavern he favored.

It was a good idea to evacuate the house on Guilford Avenue, with its ever-increasing membership, as a means of preserving sanity for a part of the day.

I think we were near the Shot Tower on Fayette Street when a car pulled over and the driver asked for directions to New York City. Pop Monaghan loved people. A stranger became a friend; so, on the spot, we were off to New York City, with my grandfather acting as navigator.

He was an engineer, and I think the then-newish New Jersey Turnpike fascinated him. And why not show off Manhattan to his first grandson, too?

By the end of the day, I had been on the Staten Island Ferry, observed the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Stanford White's old Pennsylvania Station, where we caught a train home.

A few weeks ago, I tried to adopt the Pop Monaghan role for my sister Ann, brother-in-law Chris and their children, Paul, Katie and Mary. And while this pilgrimage was rehearsed, I gained insight into 2005 family travel.

I opted for the Circle Line tour boat to Liberty Island. In hindsight, I should have re-employed Pop's Staten Island Ferry, a quick and effective sail-by method of seeing the Statue.

I did score big on our PATH train ride and a visit to the World Trade Center site; the children are young but this yawning cavity in Lower Manhattan cemented their attention right away; their voices grew hushed. They were wide-eyed.

When my sister and the girls went off to Beauty and the Beast, I suggested we meet up at the stage door to meet the actors -- once again, sans appointment. The character of Belle came out and shook hands, talked and scored major points.

We stayed in the Jersey City Hyatt, on a much-rebuilt waterfront similar to ours. My niece Katie agreed to ride along on the light rail line to Hoboken; she laughed when the car climbed an elevated structure and shot over the Holland Tunnel. I thought of that 1954 day when Pop and I had traveled through this subterranean tube into New York. There's nothing like learning from a good teacher.

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