Saturday, March 20, 2010
I couldn't have picked worse weather for my first trip to New York. I'm actually surprised that my flight wasn't cancelled or delayed. We landed almost on time, which is great especially after hearing about the ordeal passengers on a Virgin America flight had to endure. The only scary part was landing. It seemed we descended ever so slowly and experienced a lot of turbulence. It was scarier when we actually broke through the clouds and I saw that we were about to land yet the plane was still banking left and right. Sitting next to the wing also didn't help allay my concerns; I'm always amazed how those wings never snap off. Ultimately, we landed safely--or, rather, we plopped down safely much to the delight of all the passengers.
Thanks to the weather I think I got a realistic New York experience. I was going to take the NJ Transit train to Penn Station but was told that the trains weren't running because of lack of power. I had to take a bus, which actually delighted me. I get to go through the Lincoln Tunnel! Along with airplane wings not snapping off, tunnels are another source of fascination, especially when they run beneath bodies of water. Imagine all that water just above your head--it's incredible!
The bus ride wasn't long at all. The train probably would have taken just as long. I got off at the Port Authority Bus Terminal where I could catch the A, C, or E train. At the time it wasn't raining. I bought a weeklong pass since it cost almost as much as buying three individual day passes. When I got to the platform an E train was waiting for me. Lucky me, I thought. I got in and waited. The train just sat there. After a few minutes an indecipherable announcement was made but I understood enough of it to hear that the train wasn't going anywhere. I had to lug my luggage back up the stairs and snake my way through a crowded tunnel, up and down some stairs, to get to the Times Square station to catch the NRQW, which were actually better since it would dump me closer to our hotel. I didn't wait long, but the train was, of course, crowded, which made me wish I didn't have my bags with me. When I got off at my stop, the weather had gotten worse. It was pouring and it was windy. I could have handled the rain, but the wind was too much. It kept messing up my umbrella and just blew water everywhere. The hotel was only a couple of blocks away but having to walk in the wind and the rain made it seem so much farther.
Alice's hotel room was tiny, which I guess was to be expected in New York. She and her friend, Jessica, were getting ready to head out to dinner. I just decided I would stay in my wet clothes since I was likely to get soaked again on the way to the restaurant. In fact, the weather got even worse. It rained harder and it got windier. The restaurant was a tiny establishment with not much waiting room space. We had to squeeze ourselves in the tiny, tented entrance. To avoid having to squeeze between people, Amy, another friend of Alice's, and I stood on a bench and waited. We waited about another hour. The place was tiny, like a small room, and it was crowded. Thankfully my meal was great. We finished at around midnight and we walked down Houston before catching a cab back to our hotel and then we walked around some more and checked out an underground club. I was proud of myself for staying out so late. I hadn't slept much the night before and had traveled all day, yet I wasn't too tired.
We turned in at about 3 in the morning and slept in a little. Jane, whose flight was cancelled, had to catch a red eye and was set to land at 6:30 a.m. However, even that flight got delayed and she didn't land until after 9. When she got to the hotel we headed off to get some dim sum. We were in Chinatown, after all. The dim sum was good, but nothing I couldn't get in L.A. The rest of the afternoon we mainly shopped in SoHo. I hadn't planned on shopping, but I actually did buy quite a few things. No tax! I particularly loved UNIQLO. It's now my favorite store. I got a few shirts, which were very inexpensive. I wanted to check out their jeans but was overwhelmed by the crowds and the lines to try stuff on. I hoped to maybe come back another day but we didn't. We grabbed pizza later in the day at Lombardi's and some delicious rice pudding at Rice to Riches in Little Italy.
In a way, we shopped longer than I would have liked. Alice and I did get to walk around TriBeCa a little and saw the Ghostbusters firehouse. We then took a train up to Washington Square Park and walked around a little until it started pouring again. I wish I got a chance to walk around the area more. I wanted to see hipsters! Then again, I probably should have gone to Brooklyn for that. Dinner was supposed to be Italian but by the time we headed out a lot of the places were closing down. So we went to another recommended pizza place and was a little disappointed by the food.
The next day was the longest day, which was also the best day. Jane and I were out from 9 in the morning until almost 2 in the morning. We started off with breakfast at Balthazar in SoHo. It was a little pretentious but the food was decent. We then walked over to Bowery so I can get a picture of the new New Museum building. Along the way we came across a pile of umbrellas and, of course, we had to get a picture of it. In fact, all weekend it became my habit to take pictures of all the dead umbrellas I came across. Do people just dump their broken umbrellas where they are?
After the New Museum we took a train to City Hall so we can walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. I would have liked to walk across the whole thing but we only got halfway. It was just too cold and windy and we had a lot of other things we needed to do. I had a list for the day and not surprisingly we didn't do all of them.
Next after the Brooklyn Bridge was the Museum of Modern Art. Alice was given free passes, which was a godsend. Jane and I didn't have to wait in a long line. We wound up staying at MoMA longer than scheduled because there was so much to see. I really liked it but as usual I got tired and raced through some of the galleries. The Tim Burton exhibition was crowded but interesting. There was also an exhibition of Marina Abramovic's performance art--naked people galore! I loved seeing the Jackson Pollock pieces. We stayed so long at MoMA that both Jane and I complained of feeling cramps in our calves.
We were starved afterwards and we were behind schedule. We headed out and grabbed lunch at Grand Central Station so we can kill two birds with one stone: eat a good New York lunch and take pictures of the station. I went with a gyro and Jane got a chicken plate. I think the lunch did the trick because we were both rejuvenated and no longer felt the weariness in our legs. After taking pictures of Grand Central we hopped back on a train to the Upper East Side to walk around and take pictures of the Guggenheim Museum and then walk through Central Park. It was drizzling a little and definitely cold. Central Park was muddy but we walked through the middle section, around the reservoir and along the Great Lawn and cut across to the Upper West Side. We were going to hit up the American Museum of Natural History next but by that time it was near closing time. We still went in and spent about a half hour. We decided to come back the next day.
At 6 we were supposed to meet up with Jane's brother-in-law's brother. I don't know if that makes him a stepbrother-in-law. We met him for Happy Hour at a sushi place in Midtown not too far from the theater where Jane and I were going to see "Next to Normal." My friend Corey was also able to meet us there and we enjoyed some drinks. The sushi, though, was terrible. I'm sure there are better places in New York.
We then walked over to the Booth Theatre, an old theater built in the early 1900's, to see "Next to Normal." It was a great, powerful show. Jane was crying through most of it, and I could hear sniffling throughout the crowd. I definitely recommend it. After the show Alice met up with us and we grabbed another slice of pizza and walked around Times Square and checked out the sights around there. It was late, so everything was closed. But we walked by Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the Empire State Building. The best vantage point to see the Empire State Building is really from a few blocks away. Standing next to it, it didn't seem all that tall. It's not until it's in the context of the buildings around it that you realize how tall it is. We also walked through Koreatown but it really pales in comparison to L.A. Our Koreatown beats their Koreatown!
The next day Jane and I still had a few things that we wanted to get to do, and we had most of the day to do so. Jane wanted to go shopping and I wanted to check out Chelsea and the High Line. Unfortunately we got a late start and had to rush through things. We grabbed bagels at H&H Bagels and walked over to the Museum of Natural History. We again had to rush through it because we needed to get back to the hotel by 1pm to check out. We were hoping to get some shopping in before then but really didn't have time. After check out we went to get lunch in Chelsea. We went to a place recommended by Amy, a place called Elmo. My chicken fried chicken was good and some of the waiters were pleasant to look at. It was after lunch that Alice, Jane and I separated. They had to head back to catch their flight at JFK. I had a couple of hours until I had to leave so I walked around Chelsea a little. I really wanted to see the High Line but my guide book misdirected me. It marked its undeveloped terminus at 31st Street as "the High Line" but the part I wanted to see was all the way down on 14th Street. Realizing the goof, I hopped on a train to 14th Street and had about 45 minutes to walk around. I was really hoping I would have time to just soak up the sun like the other beautiful people there. After two days of rain and gray that last day was actually gorgeous. However, I only had time to walk up and down and take some pictures. It's definitely a great use of space and already a popular attraction. Los Angeles needs to consider doing something similar with unused public areas.
Finally I had to head back to the hotel, grab my bags and catch the NJ Transit back to Newark. It was all very convenient, but by the time I headed to New Jersey it was rush hour. I had to squeeze through people in suit to catch the train.
I wish I had an extra day to do some of the other things I wanted to do. I really wanted to see and walk around Brooklyn, and I didn't even get to check out Greenwich Village or Columbia University. They will have to wait until my next trip. Actually, I just realized now that I didn't even think about seeing the Statue of Liberty. What a bad tourist am I, not to mention a bad American? It was an excellent trip nonetheless. Next time I'll try to go on a nice spring or fall weekend.