NYC - Day 2 (Saturday)
Monica and I somehow got up around 8:00 a.m. or so (local time). After getting ready, we joined the other 25 or so people in the hotel for the "Continental Breakfast." Most of the other people were from Europe, speaking their native languages. It was pretty crowded, but I ended up getting some cereal and really bad orange juice.
After we got all our packs together and checked out, we walked through the crisp morning air to the subway station, about five or so blocks away. As luck would have it, our subway station was closed due to construction. We tried to make sense of the signs at a bus stop about what to do (something about taking a bus to another subway station). Local people were confused. Every bus that pulled up was packed.
We followed some other people who seemed to know what to do in this situation. After a few minutes we realized these people didn't know what they were doing either -- basically a blind leading the blind situation. We did end up talking to a local guy who was trying to get to work and was as confused as we were. Then we spotted a bus that was miraculously heading to the detour subway station. The bus driver was nice enough to let us on when she was at a stoplight.
There were no seats on the bus, which was a little difficult with my full backpack. I somehow was able to wedge myself in the aisle and hold on for dear life -- because this driver was driving her bus like a Ferrari.
At another stoplight, she opened the door for a man.
"Where you goin'?" she asked.
I heard some muffled response.
"Hell no!" she said, and shut the door in his face.
I thought that was about as New York as you can get.
As we continued driving, I listened to the music of foreign languages all around me -- while I sweated in my full jacket.
Once at our subway station, Monica and I bought our passes for the week and then walked down to the platform and waited. Our subway arrived, and we piled into the crowded car. Many people were dozing in the warm car. I felt like dozing myself, but I was standing. Eventually, enough people got off the car so Monica and I could sit down.
NYC - first thoughts
We got to our destination (42 street Port Authority Bus Terminal), and got off the subway car. Emerging from the underground into the cool morning air was refreshing after being in the stuffy car. Immediately I was struck by the buildings towering overhead that carved out long canyons in every direction. Even though we weren't in Times Square, the amount of visual information that assaulted me was astonishing. There's a density that you don't see in many other cities, with billboards and store signs and other advertisements. This is the reason filmmakers love New York so much: there's so much to look at!
We got to our hotel, the Milford Plaza, topped with a huge "M". (We found out later that the original reason for the M was that the hotel was called the Manhattan Hotel). We couldn't check in, so we left our bags and started walking through the city.
Before we left, Monica and I had compiled our lists of things we wanted to see in New York in an Excel worksheet. On the plane, we prioritized that list in Excel on my Palm Treo, which we could then sort. We had something like 50 or 60 things to see. Most people who saw the initial list said, "There's no way you're going to see all that." I agreed with them, but there's something about setting up an impossible challenge like this that Monica and I both think is fun. We would soon be crossing off many items.
A walk in NYC
As Monica and I walked through Broadway, with its hundreds of theaters advertising plays, familiar and unfamiliar, we ended up almost immediately in Times Square. This is one of the most famous places in the world, and the assault on my senses was about what I expected. Here's a panorama of what it looked like.
We continued walking and found Radio City Music Hall, 30 Rock (GE building), and then Rockefeller Center. People were skating down below in Rockefeller, and there was certainly a wintry chill in the air. In just a few steps, we saw:
- The set of the Today show (dark, as it was Saturday)
- Christie's auction house
- A film crew outside 30 Rock
- The NBC store
St. Patrick's Church
On our way to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), we stopped by St. Patrick's, a Neo-Gothic style Catholic cathedral. Having visited several of the most famous churches in the world in Europe, I have to say that St. Patrick's was on the same scale. There were hundreds of people walking around. The organ blasted notes every now and then from its 9,838 pipes.
I persuaded Monica to go sit in the church pews near the alter -- where I always find you can get the feel of a church. While we were sitting there, Monica told me one of the best jokes of the trip (originally from the Office): "A man who farts in church sits in his own pew." One could certainly afford to do that in this church, as it seated over 2,000 people. (But I didn't, in case you were wondering.)
The Museum of Modern Art had a line nearly a block long to get in. While I waited in the line, Monica talked to one of the employees, who said we could avoid the line we wanted to buy a City Pass. Since we were doing that anyway (to save time and money), we got in almost right away.
Honestly, I hadn't even heard of MoMA before visiting New York. But I had heard of the many famous paintings it housed, including Van Gogh's The Starry Night and Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World (two of my favorites). But we were also treated to work by Cezanne, Seurat, Gauguin, Munch, Rousseau, Klimt, Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse, Chagall, Duchamp, Mondrian, Brancusi, Hopper, Miro, Max Ernst, Dali, Warhol, and Pollack. Having visited the Louvre in Pars, the Uffizi in Florence, the Tate in London, and many other amazing museums in Europe, I have to say MoMA is a North American equal. I was certainly happy I'd taken that art history class in college, which introduced me to many of these paintings. Take a look at these masterpieces:
All that art and walking around had made us really hungry. We tried to find a restaurant on our list of places we wanted to eat -- but we didn't have the patience to try to locate something. We settled on Astro's, a typical New York deli, where Monica and I both had sandwiches (we both thought they were a little dry, but maybe that's the way they like their sandwiches in New York).
MoMA - Van Gogh
After lunch, it was back to the special exhibit Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night, where we were treated to an amazing collection of Van Gogh paintings, including The Starry Night. My favorite part of this exhibit were the sketches by Van Gogh in his notebook or in letters to his brother Theo. Here you could see the first drafts of some of the most famous paintings in the world. (To me, the creative process is almost as interesting as the final result.)
It's a great feeling to see that much great art, but it's pretty exhausting, too.
Buddy Rich Memorial 2009 concert
After we got back to the hotel and rested, we went out to see the Buddy Rich Memorial 2009 concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom, featuring many great drummers, including Neil Peart, the famous drummer and lyricist of Rush. To read my thoughts about this event, click here.
Gray's Papaya Dogs
After the Buddy Rich show, I was starving. As we walked back to our hotel, we spotted Gray's Papaya Dogs, which was on our list of places to eat. We both got a hot dog and ate it right there, standing at the counter. While I enjoyed the dogs, I can't say they lived up to their hype. I'm sure there was an awesome New York hotdog somewhere, but Papaya Dogs ended up being my first and only New York dog.
"Damn it all to hell!"
Later that night, Monica came up with the next best joke of the entire trip. Having just seen Neil Peart perform at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Monica and I both knew he probably hadn't played as well as he'd wanted to. We pictured Neil going backstage and being really upset at his performance.
Monica said, "I can just see Neil saying, 'Damn it all to hell!'"
We both started saying this over and over. "Damn it all to hell!" Monica finally said, "Where is that from? Oh, yeah, it was in The Simpsons."
I said, "No, it's from Planet of the Apes, when Charlton Heston finds the Statue of Liberty and realizes he hasn't landed on an alien planet filled with talking apes -- he's on Earth!"
"Damn you! God damn you all to hell!"
Maybe you had to be there...