On Tuesday, the 14th of January I was in the middle of winter break at Berkeley and took the opportunity to visit, for the first time, Manhattan. During the previous summer and fall semester I was out of school and working at a geotechnical engineering firm as an internship, so for the first time, I had a bit of money. This was to be my first trip to the east coast, and to save $20 I selected a ticket on America West that went from Oakland to Las Vegas where I changed planes before going onto LaGuardia via Columbus, Ohio. It was a red eye flight and I have a vague recollection of being in Columbus at 3 am.
Upon arriving at the airport I boarded the M60 bus headed downtown got off once we crossed Madison Avenue. Clearly I wasn’t paying much attention because I found myself at 125th street, in the middle of Harlem and ended up walking about 100 blocks to Rebecca's office. Our parents have known each other since we were babies and we went to the same high school, so although not close, I was staying with her in her great upper west side apartment during my stay.
My walk from Harlem from Manhattan was uneventful. Piles of garbage gave way to skyscrapers and eventually I found myself on the east side of Central Park and on the “museum mile”. After dropping off my pack with Rebecca I went to the Empire State Building and on the way explored FAO Schwartz, the Trump Tower, and a Bruno Maglio store (OJ Simpson wore these shoes when he killed his wife). For $4.50 I purchased a ticket and saw the best views from three different viewing levels. While on the main viewing level I took a picture for a young Russian woman with snot running out of her left nostril.
Empire State Building (snotty Russian woman not shown for clarity).
Observation Deck #2 was my next destination but it was closed so I took the NYC subway for the first time back to Rebecca's office before we went back to her apartment. On the way, I stopped to watch a dump truck being doused by firefighters as its refuse burned.
For 12 hours I slept, only waking at 11 am, to recover from my red eye flight and no sleep the previous day. First I tried to call a friend from UCSC but had to leave a message. Next I took the #1 subway to Battery Park where I boarded a ferry for the Statue of Liberty. Lines were small to I was able to go all the way up into the crown, a great experience although I wouldn’t want to wait in long lines to do it. As part of the experience I read two quotes that I found moving:
“I am a lover of my own liberty and so I would do nothing to restrict yours.” Mohandas K. Gandhi
“If only I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages.” Isak Dinesen
Spectacular picture, but I don’t like looking at it, for obvious reasons.
After the statue I spent a bit of time at Ellis Island and then took the ferry back and had a stiff drink, on the 107th floor bar at the smaller of the twin towers. Not being a drinker, I ordered a Manhattan for lack of creativity and marveled at the view from my comfortable window side chair. The harmonious sound of the man at the piano wafted easily through the cacophony of the rich, white, power-broker chit-chat. $10 paid for my drink, including tip and I left after the sun had set. On the way out I stopped at the restroom, the first time I had been in one that had an attendant. He turned on the water at the sink for me, put soap in my hands, gave me a towel, and turned off the water. He earned the dollar I gave him.
Sometimes things just happen, in this case walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I saw the sign and off I went. I was around 7 pm and 3 degrees Celsius, a beautiful cold and clear night. What surprised me the most about the bridge was how easy it would have been to climb around it like it was my own personal jungle gym.
Are there any other bridges where you cross above and between auto traffic like the Brooklyn Bridge?
Once in Brooklyn I poked around a bit and then planned on going straight back to Rebecca's, but the N subway would take my right to Times Square, at night no less, so I had to go. Walking around the area I went by a nude bar and almost went in, being curious since I had never been to one before. It was getting quite cold so I started to head back to the apartment when a man thrust a card in my hand. I read it, smiled, and went up the stairs. Two large men at the door checked my ID and relieved me of a $5 cover charge. They originally asked for $10 and laughed at me when I told them that I just wanted hot chocolate or coffee. Once seated a got a Coke for $6 and although the waitress waited for a tip, I didn’t give her one. Next one of the “beautiful woman” sat down next to me and the waitress asked if I wanted to buy my friend a drink, I didn’t. Soon they left me alone and I, along with 3 other men, watched the women dance on the stage. I left shortly thereafter, $11 poorer but richer from the experience.
It was cold the next morning, 10 to 20°F below freezing cold, so I decided that it was an excellent opportunity to go for a jog around Central Park. Her apartment was only 1 block from the park, and like seeing the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, I felt that it was something that I had to do. Not being in any rush, I left at 9:00 am and returned 75 minutes later, having circumnavigated the entire park and acquired quite red ears. I had a wonderful time.
After a quick thaw and change at the apartment I rushed down to the Ed Sullivan Theatre to get tickets to see David Letterman. With 15 minutes to spare I arrived, but alas, it was Friday and he only taped Monday thru Thursday. Disappointment gave way to renewed optimism as I was directed the NBC Studios and Conan O’Brien but alas, he was not taping that week at all. I ended up boarding the N line towards Coney Island. It was run down, deserted, and biting cold. Rock dikes extending from the shore into the water had thick layers of ice on them and I had to walk sideways and backwards to keep my face out of the wind.
Upon returning from the land of roller coasters I landed at the Guggenheim Museum where I was introduced to the work of Ellsworth Kelly, for its upper floors where dedicated to him. I don’t get his art nor do I really like it nor think that it is stimulating. I did, however, quite enjoy the works of Picasso and Van Gough.
“Blue Green Yellow Orange Red” by Ellsworth Kelly. I drew it in 2 minutes using the drawing tools in Microsoft Word.
Rebecca and I finally were able to spend sometime together after I got back as it was Friday night. We went to an I-Max theatre and saw “L5: The First City in Space” with 3-D glasses. Following the show we went to Café Lalo and had a bit of time to chat. I would later recognize it in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Saturday morning found me calling, without luck, trying to obtain theatre tickets. I was getting discouraged when Rebecca told me about the half price tickets sold at Time Square. Out in a flash, I came back with 2 tickets to Miss Saigon; they turned out to be box seats at the Broadway Theatre and were only $20 each. The theatre and show were fantastic and I felt like a VIP as we were led to the seats by an usher. After seating us, he closed the velvet curtain and then it was just the two of us, our own space for the show.
After the show Rebecca went back to the apartment and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was totally OVERWHELMED! So much to see, I was totally unprepared, not knowing what I wanted to see, and just ended up wandering around for most of the time.
Prepare to be overwhelmed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; it is good training for the Louvre.
Sunday was my last day in the city and I made it memorable. First I headed through Central Park, towards the Museum of Modern Art, when I happened upon an ice skating ring. I crossed it in my shoes and marveled at the people gliding around and thought that I would like to try. Alas, no skate rentals to be found. After much anguish I asked a man who had just removed his skates if I might go around the pond once, this being may last day in the city in all. To my surprise he let me and for about 90 seconds, with my feet stuffed into one size to small skates, I was flying high. Not so much from the skating but more for making myself, normally very introverted, apply very small extrovert part of myself. It was great way to end the trip.
Ice skating on a sunny winter day in Central Park.
But their was more, my favorite painting, “Starry Night” was waiting for me at the MOMA and it doesn’t disappoint. What I most remember was the thickness of the brush strokes, something I never could have appreciated without seeing the original.
My favorite painting must be seen in person.
With some time to kill I next went to Grand Central Station and the United Nations. The former was impressive but in the process of being restored and the latter was closed. Subway line #1 took me back to 66 West 88th Street, Rebecca's apartment where I said goodbye and headed out. Not wanting to spend my last bit of time underground, I walked about 30 blocks before boarding the subway I wanted. Soon I was on a Port Authority bus that dropped me off at the airline terminal. After another redeye flight and I don’t know how many transfers it was 4 am and I was asleep on the floor of SFO. At 6 am I woke up, caught a bus, then BART, and was back to Berkeley at 8 am.