Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 9- Eating in Hell's Kitchen

(For the purposes of this post, please pretend it is last Saturday. Blogging has been a little lax recently.)

[A new acquaintance] asked me, in which city, out of all I had seen, I would prefer to make my home. And when I answered "New York," it surprised them so much that I had to explain why, and did so with real enthusiasm until one of them interrupted to ask me, "If you are so in love with your own land, why do you write about places abroad? Why not make a book of all these things you have been telling us?" I told him that I wrote about places abroad because I liked places abroad, but just the same, he had an idea there, and maybe some day I would do something about it.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, Foreword

Last day in New York and it's a short one; our plane leaves at six. But that still leaves enough time for one last adventure, and it just so happens that we have one on tap. There is something called the "Ninth Avenue international food festival" going on today, which sounds like just our thing. Even better, it's walking distance from the hotel. So we checked out, paid the insanely outrageous hotel bill (six nights on my credit card, three on Mom's) left the luggage with the clerk, and headed off to the party.

Which looked a lot like the Solano Stroll, only with more people selling socks. Seriously, socks. Also something called "mozarepas" which seem to have something to do with cheese and corn. Still not sure about that one. There did seem to be a lot of businesses represented which were not exactly local, in the sense of being trailers with Massachusetts plates. But others were, like the booth in front of the fish market selling, among other things, oysters and fried soft-shell crabs. Turns out I really like soft-shell crabs.

Other notable stops: A restaurant which had set out tables within listening distance of the main stage (a really very good high school jazz band was playing) where we bought drinks mainly for the privalege of use their restroom; a booth for a local theater school selling some very cool Broadway memorabilia; and the Clinton Community Garden ("Clinton" is apparently what people who don't like cool stuff call Hell's Kitchen), which also had a booth, where we got some nifty t-shirts and directions to see the garden, not usually open to the public, which was lovely. I could see how having somewhere like that would almost make living in such a densely packed place bearable.

Almost, but not quite. My final, highly original take on New York is, it's a great (if expensive) place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. (Unless I had absolutely vast amounts of money. Then it would be fun.) Too many people, too much pavement, too much rushing around, not enough space. I had a great time, and I'd love to go back and just kind of hang out, instead of trying to see all the sights, but I'm glad to be coming home to somewhere where the world is bigger than one city and "open space" doesn't mean a few acres of heavily-landscaped land with traffic noise from all sides.

Be it ever so full of crazy old hippies, there's no place like home.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Day 8- Of Trains and Family

The architect of [Grand Central} station was Whitney Warren, and the Main Concourse is his masterpiece. This noble room, 275 feet long, 120 feet wide, and 125 feet high, is a model of symmetry. The immense windows at either end are double, and passageways with floors of glass connect the two ends of the building through the windows themselves. If you look long enough you will probably see someone walk casually across. The effect is peculiarly spidery.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, Chap. 5: Midtown New York

What can you do with a BA in English?
-Opening line of 'Avenue Q'

My cousin Ella graduated today, from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, to which one must take a train. The ceremony was at ten am, and about forty minutes away, so we set the alarm nice and early so we would have time to get ready and get there. Unfortunately, the alarm did not see things that way; it had its heart seet on going off at eight. Which made things a little tight, and I didn't get any breakfast, but we made it, dashing on to the last train bare minutes before it left.
The campus was lovely, though damp, as it had started raining again- just misting when we arrived, but by the time the ceremony got underway it was pouring down, complete with enough thunder and lightning to make me wonder if it really was such a hot idea to be sitting in a tent that was held up by two giant metal posts. The fact that no one got electrocuted is probably attributable to the the amazing isulative powers of East Coast WASPs.

Since it was a graduation, there of course had to be several people speaking about Your Future and The Value of Education. The president of the college went the traditional route, talking about how much their school emphasizes original thought and questioning convential wisdom, interspersed with recitations of party lines that date back to 1938 and cliches so tired that they didn't even bother to set their alarm.
On the other hand, Ann Patchett, the graduation speaker was original, relevant and sincere, telling stories about her adventures with the question of 'what next', which can apparently be a real problem when you leave school with four years worth of very expensive education and no marketable skills. Of course, things worked out for her, because she is Ann Patchett. Very few of the rest of them are likely to be so lucky. (Someday I am going to write a post about the difference between dreams and plans. It will be cynical, preachy and self-important, so I'm sure you just can't wait.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Day 7- Daisy and Mom Take On the Town

Fifth Avenue is still the great shopping street of New York, although it is not quite as smart as it used to be. In recent years there has been a steady increase in the number of cut-rate "linen" shops along FIfth Avenue, and the smaller smart stores, and some of the large ones, are deserting it for Madison.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, Chap. 14: Shopping

Our day of glamour in the big city started at the NBC studios in Rockefeller Center. Acutally, technically, it started with us deciding that, as fun as it might be to stand outside of the windows of the Today Show and wave at the cameras, it was even more fun to sleep. Besides, I've never even watched the Today Show. So we had our nice continental breakfast at the hotel, and then toddled on over to take the studio tour. Which we had to wait about an hour to do, as it seems that one of the five things that every tour group does upon coming to New York is to take the NBC studio tour. So we had plenty of time to browse in the gift shop, which was really an attraction in and of itself. Do you want a 'Crossing Jordan' t-shirt? 'Scrubs' scrubs? A keychain-locket with a picture of the cast of 'Friends' on one side and the dates when it started and went off the air on the other? Me neither! And yet they're all here, along with 'Fear Factor' shot glasses, 'The Apprentice' tank tops, and a frankly stunning array of 'Will & Grace' merchandise.
The studio tour was fun too; we got to see where they film their sports stuff and the evening news, and marvel over how small and unimpressive the sets look in real life. And that goes double for the Saturday Night Live set, although that one did have the bonus of being able to watch Nellie Furtado setting up to rehearse for her appearance this weekend. Our guides were actual studio pages, which seems to be one of those thankless, unpaid jobs that you only get in industries where the starry-eyed hopefuls vastly outnumber the available positions.

After the tour we headed across the street to Saks Fifth Avenue- the real one, the Saks on Fifth Avenue, for some intensive browsing. Which was going great until Mom checked her phone and discovered that there had been a minor catastrophe back at work, requiring her to go into crisis-management mode in the jewelry department.
That settled, we headed on up Fifth Avenue, in search of the high life and possibly lunch. We found one in the Cartier store (nice, but I still have issues with the diamond industry) and the other in the form of cokes and giant pretzels purchased from a street vendor, which we ate on the edge of Central Park. (Mom took a couple of pictures; I'll post them if they're flattering enough.) But it was becoming clear that the Problem was something that was going to have to be dealt with, so we took a break from the ogling of expensive goods and Mom returned to the room, while I headed off to Times Square to see what was available at the half-price tickets booth for tonight. Then it was once more into the retail space, with the intention of finding a card and gift for my cousin Ella's graduation tomorrow, and to hear Vespers sung at the Episcopalian church.

Now I am going to break from my narrative and give you some background. All week long, I have been carefully following the weather reports. And all week long they had been predicting 'thunder showers' (whatever those are) for Thursday. But after spending all of last Friday lugging around my completely unnecessary raincoat, and having the umbrella in my purse get in the way every time I went for my wallet, I had gradually lost faith in the forecasters, and so, when I looked out and saw what a nice sunny day it was, I said to myself, 'feh', and left them behind. It was getting on in the afternoon, and we got distracted shopping at Brooks Brothers, so we decided to only peek into the service, because we really needed to get that present. And that must have made God mad, because we had only made it about half a block before it started to drizzle. Then it started to rain. Then it was coming down in the quantities generally described as "cats" and "dogs" and we were soaked through. And we couldn't just go and wait it out, because it was almost six and the play was at eight, and at the very least we were going to have to change and dry our hair. So we made a run for it, squelching on through the crowds, who had mysteriously all sprouted umbrellas, arriving back at the hotel each her own personal river.
By the time we got dry and headed out again, it was a perfectly clear and lovely evening.

The play, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", was completely hilarious. The next time I come here I am definitely going to devote more time to going to plays, even though I may go broke doing it (even at half off, the tickets were pretty ruinous). Afterwards we went across the street, to the bar at the Palm restaurant, where I had a drink strong enough to more than make up for last night's, plus some. But the great part was that a couple of the actors from the play came in and sat down at the next table over and we got to (discreetly) stare at them, Mom by just looking and me by turning around and pretending to be interested in the episode of 'Law and Order" playing silently on the tv behind the bar. And if that isn't glamour, then I don't know what is.

Seriously, I don't. What is it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 6- Panoramas of New York City

So, I didn't post yesterday (see below), because I was grumpy. And even I know that when I'm grumpy, the best thing to do is just to leave me alone and wait until I get over it. Anyway, moving on:

The Empire State Building is the tallest structure yet erected by man. It is 102 stories high from the street to the top of the so-called mooring mast, 1,250 feet above the street level... There are two observation galleries, one with an open terrace on the 86th floor and another completely glass enclosed on the 102nd floor, at the top of the mooring mast. A visit to them costs $1.10 for adults, and 25 cents for children, and if you go up on a clear day you will find that it is a bargain.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, Chap. 5: Midtown New York

My theme for today was Grand Vistas. I started with the Empire State Building, the source of my only memory of my previous trip to New York (it was windy). I had meant to get an early start and beat the crowds, but what with one thing and another (translation: I am a very lazy person) I didn't get there until about eleven. And there was a line, but not as bad as it might have been, judging by the roped-off maze in the waiting room. Passage to the top cost a lot more than a dollar ten, but then a room at the Ritz-Carlton doesn't cost seven dollars a night anymore, either.

What was annoying was that the entire time you're stuck there in line, they're trying to find other ways to separate you from your money. There was a movie, an audio tour, and even- and this was my favorite- the opportunity to purchase a picture taken of yourself in front of an actual backdrop depicting the Empire State Building. For only twenty dollars! It seemed to good to pass up, but somehow I managed.

Fortunately, it was worth the hassle, because the veiw from the top (86th floor only- tickets to the 102nd were extra) was really spectacular. I took my time, stopping every three feet or so to peer out through the metal safety grate and blowing a dollars worth of quarters on the coin-operated binoculars. Around here, buildings are their geography, so it seems like they put in a lot more effort than other places to make them interesting. There was also a kind of voyeuristc pleasure in seeing the roof gardens and fancy penthouse patios, and realizing just how little living space people have around here. And I think I must be the only person in the history of ever to visit the top of the Empire State Building and not take a single picture.

I was kind of windy, though.

Next stop in my tour of Looking at New York From a Distance was Brooklyn. I had been meaning to see something outside of Manhattan and it was a nice day, so I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I took the subway across (intentionally this time- see below if I ever write it) and wandered around the Brooklyn Heights and downtown areas, did my typical get-kind-of-lost-in-a-vaguely-industrial-part-of-town thing, then got an ice cream cone and walked back across the bridge. It's a vey nice bridge. And I know this is the part where I say all kinds of good things about the Manhattan skyline, but I've run out of adjectives, so let's move on, shall we?

Once I got off the bridge, I decided to walk back through Chinatown and catch the subway in Soho, because I am insane. Really, if I'm going to keep hiking all over the place like this, then I really need to just embrace my touristness and wear a big honkin pair of white sneakers, because even my lavender suede Converses aren't cutting it, distance-wise. Anyway, Chinatown was nice to see, if not that terribly different than Fremont, only with more street vendors and fewer strip malls. I stopped a store I had read about and got a bunch of fun, cheap stuff; including some chopsticks, because I needed new chopsticks. Then I got back on the subway and went to see the New York Public Library.

At this point, it's pretty clear that I have completely departed from my theme but, in the immortal words of Aristotle: whatever. Actually, that's just one word. Anyway, I wanted to see the library. I said hi to the lions, saw two special exhibitions (one, on some high-concept illustrated books, was kind of pointless; the other, on letters written by a young woman in a Nazi work camp, was not), admired all of the marble and the painted ceilings and sat down and read my guidebook in the reading room so I could pretend to be a regular patron. There were a lot of people there, reading or working on their laptops, and I could see why. I think if I lived in a tiny, stuffy apartment with a couple of sometimes-obnoxious roommates, I would really value a place that was big and airy and quiet, with a good internet connection.

Oh, and I saw their Gutenberg Bible. It was cool.

Mom got in at around seven-thirty, after some confusion with local workers over whether the hotel actually existed. We went out and had a lovely dinner and a couple of lovely drinks, which don't seem to have been nearly as strong as the one I had at the Met, because I'm not even tipsy.
Oh well, better luck tomorrow.

Day 5- Patriotism, Tragedy and a Dirty Puppet Show

Okay, I'm over my crankiness now. Unfortunately, I've also forgotten most of my brilliant observations, so we'll have to make do with whatever I can come up with at this point.

Today I finally decided that the weather was nice enough for my planned trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It started out gray, but not actually raining and this week that seems to be about as good as I'm going to get.

I took the subway to the Wall Street stop, got off with all of the suits and came up into a landscape that has been called a canyon so many times that I refuse to use the term on principle. Unfortunately, I can't seem to think of a better one.

I may or may not ever actually finish writing this post. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

By the way

What do people think about the quotes? Fun? Annoying? Flagrant copyright violation?

Not that I'm likely to change anything, I'm just curious.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day 4- Nature: Dead or Alive

[The American Museum of Natural History] is decidedly one of those things that must not be missed... Be sure to visit the Asiatic Hall, the collection of dinosaurs (unique), the exhibit of the life and art of the American Indian, the new exhibit of bird life and anything else your time or your tired feet will permit.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, Chap. 11: Museums

The weather finally made good on its threats and came through with the rain today. So it was a good thing that I had already decided to go to the Natural History Museum today. And it was cool, especially the dinosaurs, but I don't know if it's museum fatigue or just that I'm getting too old for interpretive displays, but I'll admit that overall I was kind of underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong- I'm glad I went; the new space hall was all shiny and interactive (though oddly skimpy on the exhibits) and, well, dinos. But I really am just not all that interested at looking at hall after hall of displays of dead, taxidermied animals. Because I know that, once upon a time, this was the only way for people to see them, and you could make the argument that zoos are no better but, well, ick. Various native cultures get a similar treatment, to less disturbing results. It is interesting, though; there were exhibits in this science museum on the primitive peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas, but not of Europe. I wonder why that is?

Even the gem exhibit, which I thought was some kind of marquee attraction, turned out to be a dark, dingy room way down in a corner, with various (mostly not very valuable) gemstones displayed against badly faded pieces of crushed velvet and an interpretive display that must have been cutting-edge in 1952. I went all the way around the place looking for the good stuff before I realized I had already seen it.

But like I said, it was all for the best. It kept me indoors and out of trouble for most of the afternoon, and I saw some cool skeletons. (I also managed to get the hiccups in the Hall of Prehistoric Vertebrates, alarming some of the other patrons. That place sure is quiet.)

By the time I was done with the museum, the rain had cleared up and the sun had come out, so I set off to explore Central Park. Given the choice, I prefer my nature alive and well and digging through trash cans. thank you very much. I have to admit, I set off with a certain agenda in mind: to find ways that this park, so effusively praised as the most awesome, terrific, super-fantastic park in the world, really wasn't a patch on our parks back home. And in a lot of ways it isn't, but about ten minutes in I realized that I was being stupid and missing the point, and I needed to cut it out. So I had an excellent time there, making wrong turns, totally missing key sights, and wandering off towards equiment sheds, but also finding little pockets of beauty so perfect it made me wish I had brought my camera. But then it made me glad I didn't, because beautiful spots never come out very well on film, and later on you look at the pictures and wonder what the big deal was, anyway.

It was good people-watching too: all the New Yorkers with their tiny little dogs, tourists looking for the bathrooms (one school group asked me twice) and just a lot of people just being outside. I still don't think it's the most fabulous place in the world, but I do see how, if you lived here, you would.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Day 3- The Good, The Bad and The Cupcake

In the back of my mind is always the feeling that I am unrestricted- that I never have to ask what I can do, but only decide what I shall do- and that no matter what diversion I may prefer at the moment- whether it be Wagner or Whoopee- the best of it in the world is waiting for me just around the corner.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, Introduction

-Today I got up bright and early and went to Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Okay, nine-twenty. But that's early in Pacific time.

-I'm not usually one to go to church on vacation (or at home, for that matter), but how often do you get to hear an Archbishop lead a Mass in a massive gothic cathedral?

-After Mass I went to Times Square, which was quite the contrast. When you require that every new building in a neighborhood have a massive video screen or display of lights, it does interesting things to the general ambience of the area. Specifically, it attracts lots and lots of tourists, plus a guy in underpants and a cowboy hat getting his picture taken with them.

-I went back for the shoes. They are good shoes. They were sixty percent off. This is not a bad thing.

-On the same block as the shoe store is the Magnolia Bakery, famous for its cupcakes. It is a tiny place, and there always seems to be a line out the door. It's probably the only bakery in the world with it's own bouncer. Anyway, I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I stood in the line and got myself a cupcake and a cup of cocoa, and went to the park on the corner to eat it. It was a good cupcake, a tasty cupcake, but not an earth-shaking cupcake. But somehow, from all of the people lined up to fill their boxes with them, I got the impression that it was not the physical properties of the pastries that were drawing the people, it was where you got them. These were status cupcakes.

-I really do have an almost magical ability to always choose the exact wrong direction whenever I am given the choice. Seriously, I did it about five times today- didn't get it right once. I really should carry a compass.

-Eating at the bar in fancy restaurants is my new favorite thing. Today it was the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern, with less entertaining but very solicitous bartenders and the best fish stew I could ever imagine having. Plus, if you have a coke, it gets refilled constantly.

-The World's Biggest Macy's is a lot like a Macy's, only bigger.

-Why am I such a sucker for skin-care product salespeople? I need to work on that.

-Despite the highly confusing map and schedules and the faint but pervasive smell of urine, the subway system is really quite handy.

-Three straight nights in New York City spent in my hotel room! I'm going for the record.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Day 2- Shopped Until Dropped

Although it would be possible to go on indefinitely, I think that I have listed enough places to make a devastating gap in all but the most unlimited budget. And if you will only window shop a little while you are doing your sightseeing, many other things will suggest themselves to you. . . So tuck aside enough money to get home on, and have a good time.
-Cue's guide to New York City, chap. 14: Shopping

My stated plan for today was that I would go to Soho and see the art galleries. Only it happens that my information was a little bit outdated, and most of the galleries have relocated to Chelsea, and Soho is now mostly the home of high-end stores. Tragic, I know. The only art exhibition I ended up viewing was the display of skirts through the ages (really, I have the program) at the Prada store. I was not technically shopping there, even at my most shopping-crazed, I am not a Prada customer, but I did try on a dress, if only for the thrill of seeing the dressing room walls go from clear to opaque with the push of a button. Lacking the five grand, though, I had to pass on the outfit.

What I did purchase was a purse. This was not an impulse buy- I needed (okay, wanted) a new purse and I had my mind set on getting one here. And I found one that was absolutely perfect for me. It was a very sensible purchase, as long as we don't bring up the price. Seriously, don't even mention it. Besides, we have to consider price-per-use here. It will be very economical as long I never buy another purse for the rest of my life.

I got lunch at an apparently very popular bistro called Balthazar, by being by myself and sitting at the bar. Really, I wouldn't have had it any other way- the bartender was so entertaining it was like lunch and a show. The food was pretty good too.

The shops in Soho were fun, but I as I was not the only person who was aware of this, the place was absolutely swamped with tourists. So I took the advice of the lady at the Marc Jacobs store (it's amazing how friendly people are when they're making a massive commision) and walked over to the West Village.

I think if I lived in New York, and had the money, I would like to live in this part. Strings of pricey boutiques aside, it had a nicely laid-back, almost Californian air to it, only with more brickwork. I didn't make any purchases here, expect an iced chai at a coffeeshop, purchased mostly because I wanted to use their bathroom. I'm going back tomorrow for the shoes. (After another day of walking my feet were too swollen to get a good idea of fit.)

This entire time, the weather had been gorgeous. I was about to decide that New York forecasters are just hopeless pessimists when, as I was on my way to visit Washington Square park before going back when the skies opened up. Fortunately, one of my requirements for purses is 'big enough to hold an umbrella', so at least my head stayed dry. My feet, not so much.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day 1- Around the World in Eight Hours (give or take)

While other museums may have a finer collection of some particular specialty, in general value and interest the Metropolitan is supreme. There is almost nothing imaginable of worth or beauty, from paintings through sculpture to early American furniture and antique jewelry, that is not worthily represented and well displayed.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, chap. 11: Museums

My original plan was to go and see the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan today, but I changed it because it was going to rain. The forcasters were very clear on this point, from the Weather Channel, to the local stations to the CNN website: major rain on Friday. Having interpreted the tone of the last sentence, you, dear reader, know exactly what happened. It didn't rain. Normally I would not consider this cause for alarm, and I am glad that my feet are not wet as well as sore; I'm just worried that I may have spent most of the nicest day of my trip indoors.

Of course, I didn't spend it indoors just anywhere; I spent it indoors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But first I did some shopping. Not a lot of shopping- not major shopping, just a little looking around at Rockefeller Center, which seemed like the right thing to do, seeing as how it's about half a block from my hotel. And actually, I saw some art there too, in four shipping containers that had been converted into a display area for some very modern artists. I kind of liked the one who made flower motifs on the walls out of monkey bones, and the small figure dressed in childrens' clothes that periodically pounded its head against the wall with jackhammer force was certainly arresting, but the video installation had crashed and the giant wall-hangings made of Spongebob Squarepants toys was just confusing.
I am, perhaps, not the ideal audience for the truly cutting edge.

Since I had already blown a good chunk of my morning before I realized that it was not going to rain, I decided to stick with my new plan and hit the museum, which I reached via subway. And I would like to point out that I was able to successfully purchase my metrocard (unlimited rides for seven days), make it through the gate on my second try and figure out before I got on that 'downtown' was not the direction I wanted to go.

In case you weren't aware, the Met is an impressively large building, and one good way to look like a total tourist dork is to stand in front of it with your head tilted back, looking up and squinting. I am a total tourist dork.
Once inside, I paid the very aggressively 'suggested' donation and got a map of the museum. Which I promptly left in the bathroom, so I went back and got another. I knew coming in that I wasn't going to be able to see everything, so I took the advice of my guidebook and focused on the things that were of the most interest to me: ancient Egypt, nineteenth century European paintings and sculpture, and the gift shop. I was getting a late start, it was almost one by this point, but the museum is open until nine on Fridays, so I figured I'd have enough time to see a few things.

Hitting the Egyptian wing was a no-brainer; you could not keep me away from that stuff with a stick. Except for the mummies. I don't care how long they've been dead or how interesting their preservation process was, putting someone's dessicated corpse under glass for morons to try and take flash photos of is Not Cool. Displaying miniature models of daily life in ancient Egypt that were recovered from the tombs of said mummies, on the other hand, is Very Cool, as is having a complete tomb (sans mummy) which one can enter and examing the hieroglyphics first-hand (behind plexiglas, of course). There was also a special exhibition about a woman who declared herself pharoah and served as co-ruler with her nephew/stepson, which was also cool but my feet were starting to get sore.

This was when I discovered that sore feet=art appreciation. By the time I got to the Impressionist galleries I couldn't walk another step, so I plopped myself down on one of the benches and appreciated until my feet felt better. Then I moved to the next gallery and did the same. There really was a lot to appreciate. Seriously, it was almost an embarassment of riches- wall after wall of Monet, Van Gough, Degas, Manet, Seurat... it was like a Great Impressionists screensaver come to life.

Speaking of which, is there anything more pointless than taking a photograph of a famous painting in a museum? You know it's not going to come out very well, and anyway, if you wanted a copy you can get it on a print, t-shirt, mousepad or mug at pretty much any yuppie-supply store. Then there were the people who were taking turns having their pictures taken next to one of Monet's waterlilies paintings, like it was the world's largest ball of earwax or something... I'm ranting again, aren't I? Sorry about that.

One of the reasons I had kind of wanted to go to the Met today was that on Fridays and Saturdays they have live music and a bar on the balcony over the Great Hall, which sounded pretty cool. It was. I got a fancy drink and a duck terrine (which ended up being my dinner) and sat for a while, watching the people and listening to the music. Then I went and looked at a special exhibition about Tibetan arms and armor, but since by that point I was very tired and just the littlest bit drunk, I'm afraid it didn't sink in very well.

All in all, a great day, which could only have been made better if the A's had actually managed to score some runs against the Yankees.

Photographic memory

I can never leave for a trip without forgetting something. This time it was my camera. I'll get a disposable one for the time being, but I won't be posting any pictures until I get back.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Day 0- Arrival

Although flying is steadily on the increase, passengers arrive in New York by rail in thousands to the air line's tens. The finest trains from the West arrive at either the Pennsylvania Station or the Grand Central Terminal...
- Cue's Guide to New York City, Chap. 1: How to Get to New York

I don't know what the great rail terminals of the forties looked like, but I think it's safe to assume they were pretty much equivalent to the Jet Blue terminal at JFK.
It was after ten when my flight got in, so I went contrary to my upbringing and actually took a cab from the airport. Because, yeah, it's expensive, and yeah, there's a train, but there are times when my usual habit of getting hopelessly lost in strange cities seems slightly less charming. Besides, something just seemed right about arriving in Manhattan in a real, honest-to-god yellow cab. Even if he didn't find the hotel on the first try.

I can't really blame the cab driver for that, though, seeing as the hotel itself, while nice, is not technically finished, in the sense of having actual signs or anything. But they did have a banner up on the awning, and it didn't take too long to find. It's really quite a chic place, very modern and boutique-y.
My room is, shall we say, cozy, and smells very faintly of paint. The good news is that it's on the twentieth floor, with lots of window to look in in the other buildings, and it has free internet at chocolate. (Yes Mom, I checked- it really is free. I got the Cadbury bar, I'll save you the Hershey's.) It also has a nice, soft-looking bed, which I think I am going to take advantage of right now, because I have a big day coming up tomorrow.

Cue's Guide to New York City

Sooner or later all the best and the worst of the world will gravitate to New York. And it is so easy to choose the best if you want it. Surprisingly enough, too, it is usually inexpensive, provided you stick to a particular type of best. It is up to you whether you choose the best of nightclubs for twenty dollars an evening or whether you choose the best of symphonic music at the Lewisohn Stadium for fifty cents. And when you arrive at the point where you can enjoy both, New York has become truly yours.
-Cue's Guide to New York City, George W. Seaton c.1940

I found this book in the travel section at Pegasus the other day. I think it will be very helpful on my trip.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ready? Set? No.

My plane leaves tomorrow at 1:30. So far, my preparation for leaving has consisted of getting out my suitcase and watching everything on my tivo to clear up space. As much as I enjoy planning my trips, when it comes down to actually getting ready I'm not quite so dedicated.

No, I'm flying

It has happened a few times now that I have told people I am going to New York and they have asked me, "Are you driving?"

Apparently, I have developed a reputation.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hot Damn

Well, it seems a little early in the year for best-of lists, but Booklist has done just that. And the cool thing is, one of their choices in my fellow writing-group member Cornelia Read's first novel, Field of Darkness (in stores everywhere, May 8!). I admit, I have not read this book, since I joined the writing group after she finished it, but I will say that reading the first draft of her second book caused me to wonder why I even bother, because there is no way I am ever going to be that good.
My point is, if you like books, you should read this one.