On a recent summer sojourn to New York City, Edgar and I decided to tourist it up a bit, so we hopped on a ferry and chugged it out to the Statue of Liberty. I had been there before, but Edgar hadn’t and though I do think it is something all Americans should see, his adventure was probably somewhat dampened by my continual moans of disappointment in the overly policed process the entire experience has become. Somewhere along the way, it seems that our national landmarks have morphed into turn-style money makers instead of the revered physical locations of our collective history which they celebrate.
Simply seeing the Statue of Liberty from a vantage point slightly closer than the Battery Park bank, requires a good chuck of cash and a trip through a security circus more stringent than White House screening. After standing for what seemed like eons in a snaking, winding line underneath dirty white tents, we arrive at the metal detectors only to have Edgar turned away due to his key ring pocket knife. Upon further inspection, it turns out, he had also brought along another blade, considerably bigger, you know, “just in case”. So we were given two options: surrender both “knifes” immediately to the NYPD never to be returned (even though one of them was small enough for a cockroach to use as a butter spreader) or go hide them somewhere in Battery Park. So we chose the latter. Afterall, nothing screams NYC like a 6 inch bowie-knife hiding under a bush.
Finally on the ferry, we cruised through the bay before docking on Liberty Island where we were ushered through yet another security screening in an even dirtier tent. We were instructed to gulp down any liquids we might have and judging by the torrent of water rushing down the ramp towards us, many people simply dumped their drinks out. Couple this with the tower of water bottles heaped in the corner, the impression that America left on many of the foreign tourists was undoubtably one of filth. When we were finally allowed access to the statue, our tickets took us up the winding stairs to the pedestal where we could gaze at the lucky few who were able to afford the crown tickets and had had the fortitude to buy them 5 months in advance.
They have signs around the island explaining that visiting the statue of liberty is actually free and that the ticket prices are simply to cover the ferry boat expenses and such. However, I would argue that is not the case at all as was evidence by the hundreds of people whose tickets denied them even pedestal access. So clearly, there is a class system being run at our national monuments, where more money gets you a better experience and exclusive access to something that is, by rights, for all of us. Needless to say, as I watched hordes of Chinese tourists push past me with their special crown badges swinging about their necks, I took a bitter breath and we bee lined it down to the ferry dock, where the uncrowded and unhurried Ellis Island awaited us. The rest of the afternoon went off without a hitch, with Edgar even patiently sleeping on a bench while I read every single display at Ellis Island, and when we returned, lo and behold, the knives were there and we went on our merry way, fully armed.