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.