Monday, August 06, 2012

A Whirlwind Tour

This was Seamus' first trip to NYC, so we had a tightly-packed schedule for our twenty-five hours in the city.  We checked our bags at the Jane Hotel, in the West Village, a short walk from where the bus dropped us off.

The next stop was Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, a little shop on West 10th St. that is crammed with vintage cookbooks.  The owner helped Seamus pick out some good books on chef's technique and told him he could call her with questions.

Despite the cooler temperatures, I felt the need of some extreme fresh air to wash away the horror of the un-airconditioned bus.  We took the subway to the Staten Island Ferry terminal.  I had never done this before, and it's about as much fun as you can have for free.

There were about 1,000 people waiting to board--virtually everybody riding the Staten Island Ferry on a Saturday afternoon is a tourist--but it was an amazingly swift process getting us all on the boat.  It took about three minutes from the time we were allowed to begin boarding until the ferry pulled away from the dock for the delightful thirty-minute trip.  We climbed to the hurricane deck for the trip home.  It appeared that all the spaces by the rail were taken, but suddenly a stream of passengers started uttering little cries of dismay and returning to the cabin.  It was raining, and a freezing wind had blown up, all the better to cleanse us of the memory of the bus.  Tip:  to see the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, you want to be on the starboard side for the trip out and the port side for the trip back to Manhattan.  The opposite of POSH.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  I had planned to do a little exploring in Brooklyn, but our late arrival meant having to cut that bit out of our trip.

Back at the hotel, we rested our legs.  I had made a bad choice of subway line after the Brooklyn Bridge and we'd ended up having to walk from 4th Ave all the way across town to 10th Ave.  Now I know why New Yorkers, whenever you tell them you're looking for a particular street, always demand, "East or west?"  Later, I realized we could have just taken the L train nearly all the way to our destination.  Oh well, as they say, walking is very beneficial exercise.

After dinner we went to the Empire State Building.  I had never been before, and it was a little disappointing.  There wasn't a line, thank goodness, and the extremely long maze of cordons showed just how long the lines can be.  But the very lack of a line was disorienting, because without a breadcrumb trail of other people to follow, it isn't obvious where you're supposed to go.  At one point, we were shunted in front of a guy with a camera, forced to stop and pose, then hurried along.  The staff all wear silly uniforms and they had all clearly had enough for one day.  Not that I blame them.  They must have one of the most irritating jobs, ever.  When we finally got to the observation deck, a flash of green lightening appeared out of the clouds and seemed to circle the building.  That was pretty cool, but I think I'll give the Empire State Building a miss next time I'm in New York.

Seamus really, really, really wanted to go to Times Square.  I didn't think I would like Times Square, but I didn't think I would hate it as much as I did.  Times Square is the source of everything that is wrong with the world.  It was absolutely packed with people and misery.  You had to shuffle along with the crowd and I was perpetually scared that I would lose Seamus.  Noxious gasses rose from the subway grates.  The whole area smells like pee and greed.  Why is this place even an attraction?  It's full of chain stores that you can visit in any mall, anywhere.  Why would I go to the "Lids" store in Times Square when I wouldn't want to go to the one at the Galleria mall in Buffalo?  This was Seamus' "Araby," unfortunately.

At last we made our way back to the subway and were able to sit for twenty-eight blissful blocks.  Before Times Square, 14th St. had seemed seedy and commercial, but now it was Mayberry in comparison.

Back at the hotel, there was a crowd trying to gain admittance to a private party on the roof.  In the corridor near our room, a man stood talking to the crack around a door that I suspect had recently been slammed in his face. "You motherfucker,  you absolute son of a bitch..." he muttered over and over again. Our room was tiny, but comfortable.  I had been up since 4:00am and it was now well past midnight.  Seamus insisted that I take the top bunk and I don't know when I have had such a satisfying sleep.

We breakfasted at the Jane's little French cafe, checked out, and had nearly a whole day ahead of us until we had to catch the bus home.  What we did immediately after breakfast is going to get its own blog post--please try to contain your excitement--but later in the morning we were in Central Park, which is lovely and full of joggers and cyclists. We wandered around a bit, went to Belvedere  Castle to see the view, then shopped our way down Columbus Ave and ate lunch at a disappointing restaurant with servers who all wore twee aprons in fiestaware colors.

The rest of the day was a lot of wandering.  I really wanted to go to the Museum of American Folk Art while Seamus wanted the Natural History Museum.  In the end, we did neither. Lame, I know, but we had already done a museum-y thing in the morning.  At one point we were in a coffee shop in Greenwhich Village, when a woman walked in and asked the baristas to tell her about their roast.  They gave her some sort of answer that didn't satisfy her because she asked them to tell her about their other roasts, at which point they had to confess the shameful fact that their coffee shop used just one type of coffee.  "Nevermind," said the woman, and walked out.  "Have a great day!" effusively shouted the baristas.  Another woman walked in, a much nicer woman, who engaged in friendly banter with the baristas.  I was very pleased to hear her Buffalo accent.  Buffalo represent!

We were both so tired that we were glad when 5:30 rolled around and it was time to catch the bus home.  The bus ride home, by the way, was eventful enough that it's going to get its own blog entry too.  That is, of course, the saving grace of any misadventure:  you can blog about it.


  1. Sounds like a great trip (sans Times Square wich, I agree, hateful). Mostly, thank you for the cookbook shop rec. - can't wait to check it out!

  2. I think you would have to have been familiar with the Times Square of the 1970's to appreciate how much better it is now!

  3. SC, I was never in Times Square in the seventies. I guess I'm lucky.

  4. Patience - glad to read about your trip. Cannot wait to hear more. By the way, Times Square of 1985 smelled like pee, pimp money and vomit. Hard to say which is less repugnant, then or now. :)

  5. Times Square in the 70s was filled with theaters, adult bookstores, male and female prostitutes mostly of the runaway teenager kind, military dudes, hustlers, and such. It is much different now.

    Nice find in regard to the bookstore. I look forward to going.

  6. Really thanks for sharing your experience Jen, you certainly made it come alive.

    I'm a bit intrigued about the two forthcoming episodes, but anticipation is sometimes best.