Park Avenue or Bust!

Chapter VIII – US Customs

The yell was delivered with such force that it nearly ruined my hair. Strands that had been dislodged by the sheer force of sonic waves were promptly put back in pace. My pulse, which had shot up into the three-digit range, resumed its normal fashionable pace.

Ypres, of course, remained calm throughout. As a Londoner aboard, she feels her greatest contribution to the metropolis’s global reputation is resolute Britannic phlegm.

 I composed myself. I maintained the cool allure of the Bond Street fashionista.

Like all Britons aboard, when first arriving at airport customs, I queued patiently. The typical occupant of the French nation would hurl themselves at an available counter with the Gallic passion of a sans-culotte storming the Bastille. Arms would flail. Elbows would be used to their full capacity. Frustration would be on display for all to see. Perhaps a cigarette would be lighted, and quickly extinguished when realised it was in a non-smoking area.

In contrast, the common Briton advances with purpose. In an orderly fashion, she modestly displays the art of the queue to the world. One person behind another in a single file. An appropriate distance between each individual, enough to keep the line compact, but not so much as to unreasonably interfere into others’ personal space. A good guide to the appropriate distance is that one should be able to comfortably sip a cup of tea in the space provided.

And so, as the average Briton, I proceeded with Ypres by my side.

Touchscreens were set up as a method of prescreening. Ypres fingers are the perfect design for all things touchscreen so I allowed her to enter our details. Unfortunately, not all things can be dealt with by computers. Time and time again the human factor must intervene.

Ypres and I advanced to the customs’ counter we were called to. We were greeted by the stone-like nondescript face of an American civil servant used to dealing with the public. She gave the impression of someone who had spent her summers of yore camping out in the financial district as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. As I issued the how-do-you-do, she gave me a look befitting an owner of The Communist Manifesto.

“What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?”

“I’m here to spend a few months enjoying Manhattan.”

The customs officer’s squint revealed that her copy of The Communist Manifesto was well thumbed and resided on her bedside table.

“When will you be leaving the United States?”

“Well, I rather just arrived. I plan on leaving the first week of August. I shall stay three months.”

The copy of The Communist Manifesto was a thoroughly highlighted first edition with copious personal annotations.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I am a conundrum consultant and author.”

A first edition in the original German.

“Who is she?” The customs officer eyed Ypres like a member of the proletariat would eye a portly top-hatted bourgeois smoking a cigar.

“She is my travel companion. We’ve known each other for years.”

It was obvious she had a signed first edition of The Communist Manifesto.

“How will you support yourself during your stay?”

“If you must know, I have savings. You can contact my banker at Coutts, in London, for confirmation.”

It became clear that the German first edition had been signed by both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The inscriptions were no doubt lengthy. They obviously contained mentions of overthrowing the rich. Obtained by some ancestor, perhaps a close acquaintance of the Germanic duo, the copy was jealously guarded. It was no doubt handed down to each new generation with the instruction to keep on the fight. These instructions were taken very seriously.

The customs’ officer dismissed Ypres and me (or is it I? or myself? one gets confused) with a snarl.

We collected our luggage without incident. It should be noted that this is quite a feat for me. Last time I was near a baggage carrousel I was hit over the head. So I was reasonably pleased when my luggage arrived nearly an hour late with nothing more than the usual scratches delivered by disenchanted baggage handlers. Of course, Ypres took that near hour to inform me that I was bending the truth, as it were, in my statements to the customs’ officer. I waved her concerns off. Not literally, of course. I am not much of a waver. Except for the odd regatta.

“To the Taxi stand!” I declared once Ypres had loaded all our belongings onto four carts. Her reply was quick to follow.

“Surely public transport would be more economical.”

“You are not going to suggest that we walk again, are you? How are you going to carry our luggage? We are going to need a cab to transport all of our belongings.”

“In theory, we would need a taxi to carry all of your belongings.”

“Ypres, I do not appreciate when you throw theological…”


“…theoretical examples in my direction. I assure you we will take public transport or walk while on Manhattan. To get there now we must take a taxi.”

“You procured lodgings on Manhattan?”

Indeed, I had not exactly told Ypres where we were going to be setting up HQ during our stay. I was as silent as those animals that stay silent in the jungle (their name escapes me at the moment, but I think their fur was once used for hats). She continued.

“I researched the price of real estate in greater New York. The areas within your budget would be in Brooklyn, Harlem or New Jersey.”

“New Jersey!” I exclaimed with disdain. “I’m not that fond of good old Jersey, never mind New Jersey. I don’t even wear jerseys, Ypres! You know it’s cashmere, merino wool, or nothing for me. I may now have a limited income, but surely the situation is not that bad!”

My heroic defence of my intrinsic values did not elicit the slightest response from Ypres. She merely continued her line of questioning. “Where on Manhattan are we going?”

I chose to reveal our destination in the most dramatic fashion. Not so dramatic as to make a spectacle of myself or appear unseemly. Merely using drama to make a point.

Having secured two taxis to transport our luggage, I sat in the back of the first, with Ypres in the back of the second. When the driver asked where we were going I was given my cue. Windows open for Ypres and the world to hear, I belted out my destination like a starlet on Broadway: “Park Avenue! It’s Park Avenue or bust!” I slammed the passenger door shut and we sped off towards Manhattan.

Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1230 WordPress followers. Should you be desperate to part with your money, and, in the process, fund Uncle Edward’s Vasa Assurances, a donation button is available on the homepage. Donations will help keep the Vasa and Ypres project going.


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