Two of my New Year's resolutions are to save more money and to travel more. My friends say I can't have it both ways; travel is expensive. But they ignore the entertainment values that can be found in any city.
Take my recent vacation on the East Coast. Some of my friends didn't even want me to go to New York because I might get mugged. I told them that while getting mugged was an experience, it was too expensive for my taste. In New York, I wore my bag under my coat, walked fast and looked mean. No one fooled with me. A few New Yorkers even shuffled to get out of MY way. New York was no problem.I got mugged in New Haven, Conn.
Now, getting mugged in New Haven is a real achievement. It is the approximate equivalent of surviving Salt Lake City and getting mugged in Goshen.
But it was enjoyable, as muggings go. He showed me a knife but didn't use it on me. I decided the show was worth $10. As he left, he walked right past the dumpster where I had stashed my bags and traveler's checks. I shook in my shoes, planning what I would say when my overdue cab arrived.
The cabby felt so bad that the next day he bought me lunch and gave me a two-hour insider's tour of the city.
So for $10, I got to see a knife, and got lunch and a tour. Not a bad value.
I caught a bus to Albany, N.Y., the next day, and was afraid the ride would be boring after New Haven. I needn't have worried.
I settled into my seat, and the program began. The driver and his friend - at high volume - discussed everything from Italian recipes to sports to death. In school, I used to pay professors hundreds of dollars to educate me in these matters; this was free.
"Well, death stinks, but so does life. What are you going to do?" the driver's friend said. "Death wouldn't be so bad if you could die of natural causes, like my pop, who had a heart attack."
"What do you mean?" the driver said. "A heart attack's not a natural cause."
"Sure is, but natural doesn't run in my family. My grandpop died at 115."
"See, there's a natural cause."
"Yep, the summer he turned 60, the temperature hit 115. He went to the Jersey shore to cool off and was eaten by sharks. All they found was his Timex."
"His wife died years 20 years later in her sleep."
"Well, that's a natural cause."
"She fell asleep on her dinner plate at the home and died of Jell-O inhalation. The doctor said it was those little marshmallows that really killed her."
"OK, I give up. A heart attack is a natural cause. I hope you have one."
I left the bus - after several hours of education and entertainment - congratulating myself on having found another value. You have to keep your eyes open. You won't find my mugger, cabby or bus driver in any tour book, but they provided some of the most memorable moments of my trip.
I wish I had space to tell you about the fire alarm in my Albany motel and about asking some missionaries in Troy, N.Y., if Mormons really had horns on their heads.
But you get the idea. Entertainment on the road doesn't have to be expensive if you have the right attitude. I had the time of my life, and what did it really cost me? I mean besides $10 for the mugger and a lingering fear of gelatin with marshmallows.