Accompanying photographs here. It's also where my whole photo portfolio for work lives, if anyone's interested.
Things I forgot. On Sunday, we visited the Rockefeller Centre after our hat experience - they had cool paintings.
Random things that stick with you. New Yorkers are allergic to sitting. And two-ply toilet paper. (Probably don't want you sitting there, either.) I don't think I went anywhere ritzy enough to have two-ply TP, and I got asked to get up repeatedly when sitting on the floor. Ugh.
On Monday, we had our first on-subway-car busking experience with a group of guys singing, it was interesting to see people's reactions, everything from smiling at them to completely ignoring the fact that they were there to outright indignation... Interesting.
Side note number three... New York made me want to do illegal things. Like, pull the subway car emergency brakes... Go track-walking to see abandoned subway stations... Sometimes illegal stuff just seems like fun. Didn't actually do anything more illegal than jaywalking deserted streets though.
TUESDAY ( the 26th of April)
We went to the Natural History Museum, which was partially under construction - last time we went, the Guggenheim was, so apparently we can't really escape it. We had just a few hours to enjoy it after a very late start - we slept in a lot, being pretty exhausted. Our biggest priority was to see the Butterfly Conservatory, and Paul's inner 5 year old boy wanted to see some dinosaurs. We also got to see the Space Show in the Hayden Planetarium Theatre. Actually the highlight for me is what I would consider yet another art show. Appropriately named, "Full Moon", a man went through NASA's archive of the over 32,000 photographs taken during the Apollo moon missions (of which about two were public fodder) and created 75 stunning prints, of which I saw about half while we were waiting for the Space Show. They were breathtaking, some of the most beautiful space photography I've ever enjoyed. I felt priveleged and would recommend that anyone with an interest in photography or our space travel history going to the MNH should go through that show. It was one of the highlights of my trip, having been such a space buff in my childhood and teens. Model rocketry and metor-shower gazing are some of my fondest memories growing up, hopefully I'll be able to share the fun with some of my own kids.
Another highlight of the trip was the incredible butterfly conservatory. There's no way to explain how invigorating it was to stand among hundreds of the most beautiful bugs - I've always been a bug person, and butterflies and moths are some of the most interesting of the bugs - they combine some of the coolest things - flight, camouflage, an extendible mouth... =) I stayed in there well beyond my time (Paul's such a patient man!) and got a great many amazing photographs of all the butterflies I could. I even got to watch a pair mating, which was kind of cool, because it made me think that caterpillars were going to result, which I thought was pretty cool. I always liked caterpillars. Their name is so awesome.
Between these events, Paul got his dinosaur wish and we toured some super cool fossils of dino-birds and ancient mammals.
After our time at the Natural History Museum, we went to Toscano's, a place that was rumored to have some of the best pizza in NYC - and it didn't really disappoint. The pizza was GOOD. Our nightly entertainment was even better - we went to Lincoln Centre for a Juliard Jazz Orchestra FREE performance of compositions by bachelors and masters students. Yes, I said Juliard. Most of the compositions were good, but two were spectacular - one building on the softer, more contemplative jazz band classics, and the other on the never-ending ridiculously loud and peppy ending tradition. I really loved both, and hope to hear the writer's names again some day before hearing more of their music. Great end to a fabulous day - I'd go so far as to say it was my favourite day in New York City so far.
WEDNESDAY - The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- Emma Lazarus
This was iconic New York day, and it ended up being even more iconic than we'd planned.
After a super-long Subway ride, we heard an awesome street band in the plaza in front of the Staten Island Ferry doors, and I bought their album. It was a few guys singing with one guy playing upright bass - they call themselves "Select Blendz" and they did one of my favourite Elvis songs, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" while we were sitting there... It was awesome. We went through
At the Statue of Liberty's island, I found myself awed and overwhelmed - I actually started crying almost as soon as we reached the Island - the place had the same feeling as Pier 21 had when I went to Halifax the first time - loss and joy mixed together and inseparable. The audio tour was fantastic. I learned so much. I took time to photograph Liberty from all angles since we rarely see full rounds despite the fact that she's one of the most famous statues in the world - did you know that she's walking? That she has broken chains on her feet? Cool stuff. I wanted to stay all day, but there was more to see and a deadline of closing time... We took the ferry to the second island, Ellis. (On the ferry, Paul had his second pretzel of the trip and I had some. It was tasty.)
Ellis Island was a fascinating historical exhibit, and the audio tour for it was great as well. I particularly enjoyed the places where people had signed the walls, or drawn things. I was particularly horrified at the medical tools for lifting up a person's eyelid or the cold metal tool that skeeves me out for stretching women's... you know. Ugh. Poor immigrants.After our very informative historical tour, we walked down past Wall Street (which is EXTREMELY narrow) and the church at the end with the display of the root system of their tree that got uprooted during September 11th, then finally hailed a taxi the old fashioned way with waving of arms. He asked us where we were going and then shook his head no and took off. Paul was non-plussed but I just shrugged it off. After walking down the business district a bit more, we finally did manage to hail a taxi for our first taxi ride in Manhattan. It was... iconic. Paul called it a "an entirely horizontal rollercoaster" and it was totally that way. We saw two things we hadn't expected - our taxi driver took us past Ground Zero (which is a chain-link-fence covered in white plastic emblazoned with the news that it had been the site of the Twin Towers, beneath empty space, which is conspicuous in Manhattan's skyscraper district) and through New Chinatown to our destination - a little hole-in-the-wall tapas restaurant called Xicala. We proceeded to find the place ridiculously awesome for both food and atmosphere (the tables were big chunks of odd-shaped shellac covered wood!) and, since it was our agreed-upon special date night, we spent over a hundred dollars on sangria, chorizo, deep fried goat cheese with honey and crispy onions, and a bunch of stuff with weird names that tasted amazing. Paul declared that we had reached "food nirvana" and I agreed wholeheartedly. We talked and flirted and laughed, it was a memory to treasure.
But that was not all. We found the nearest subway and and went uptown to our final destination on Iconic Day - the Empire State Building. I had mentioned that since I'd already been up in the daytime, I'd like to go at night. I was a bit disappointed that it was cloudy, but I wasn't going to lose the opportunity to
After that particularly awesome experience we both had to go to the bathroom, but given that the building didn't have that many washrooms and none before a security check, we ended up crossing the street to visit... da ta da DAH! Wendy's. Where the chicken nuggets are WAYYYY cheaper than in Canada and we consequently pigged out on them. The washroom smelled gross though. Ugh.
We got home at about 2am and crashed.
I actually wrote this one that day.
We were really tired today, so I stayed in bed well into the afternoon. Paul and I cuddled on the couch for a bit, and then when I couldn’t really get up because I was just too tired, I told Paul to take the Anne book to the Cloister gardens, which he had wanted to explore. He managed to be there just in time for a thundershower and a big rain dump, which fortunately he was able to go to the lobby of the Cloisters to weather. During this time, I slept and awoke to rain and thunder and had a brief hope that Paul wasn’t stuck out in the rain. After he came back I took a shower and got ready to go, and our host took us on a slightly meandering and quite long (for us non-New Yorkers) walk and Subway ride to where the play was that we had wanted to see.
The original vegetarian restaurant that our host wanted to take us to for breaklupper (we hadn’t eaten yet but it was like 3pm, so it was like three meals in one) was closed, so we had awesome fruit smoothies at a nearby health food store. We then went with Ashanti to a “Soul Food” buffet which involved pretty much every heavy food you could think of paid for by the pound. There was excellent meatloaf with green beans (a southern thing I hear) and nearly everything I ate was awesome, including a flavourful lasagna. Then we kept walking and Subway-ing (with a few mishaps that nearly got us separated because the subway path was a bit complicated) to “One Third of a Nation” an off-off Broadway play about housing issues in New York (written around the 1930s but with some truth to this day) and the general history of tenement housing in the big American cities of the northeast. It was really cool, with I think about eight actors playing different roles, from landlords to immigrants, to tell the story with a bunch of facts from newspapers and reports. Superb acting, and our host had been the set builder and had done a great job of creating a set that worked well for the ideas of rundown housing that the play discussed. We particularly enjoyed the skill with which they switched characters, using hats, masks, and mannerisms to great effect to play hundreds of characters in short order.
Our host, like us, has a penchant for conversations around issues and is currently obsessed with A Clockwork Orange, which I still want to read at some point - it needs to join the ranks of the dark issue books like Slaughterhouse 5, Orwell’s classics, Modest Proposal and others. We discussed a lot of issues during our travels today.
Our host is a fan of authentic swordplay, and he’s going to teach Paul some broadsword techniques tomorrow (which ended up actually being Sunday afternoon) in a park nearby. I may come by and take some photos too, but I might just sleep in, I’ve been pretty exhausted the whole trip and I’m coming back to what amounts to a brutal week of work. Paul and I are are hoping to go to the New York Aquarium after because Paul loves aquariums and I’ve never been. There will be penguins, yay!
We didn’t realize that the Aquarium was on Coney Island! It was cool to see the rollercoaster, though sadly it was still closed for the season. We saw a wedding party come for photos there too, which was kind of cool. The Brooklyn Aquarium was awesome. I was enamoured of the pengiuns. There was a very fun sea lion show, too, which Paul was really impressed with and so was I, though I didn't really have much for comparison. Creatures are super awesome. I was especially fond of the amazing jellyfish and the cute-as-a-button seahorses! (There are pictures, just use the link at the top of the page...)
BEST QUOTE EVER
Two small boys of about four years peer through the glass at a Caiman, or miniature crocodile:
Boy #1:WHOA! It's a shark!
Boy #2: No it's not, it's a DINOSAUR!
So, needless to say, that was awesome. I especially love the weird flattened out fish. And puffer fish. And seahorses. And manta rays... okay, fine, I loved everything.
After that we went for a walk down the boardwalk along the beach. Coney Island's arcade atmosphere, with some open rides/vendors despite the off-season, was kind of cool though we didn't stay long. Paul liked his hot dog from Nathan’s, the famous first hot dog vendor in New York. Which is something because normally Paul despises hot dogs and refuses to eat them. Naturally, I had a corndog because corndogs are amazing no matter how bad they are, just add mustard. We weren't wearing good beach shoes, but we did see the ocean and families playing and flying kites. Well, trying to fly kites anyway. Kids seem to think that running, in any direction, will make a kite fly. Post-running, there is the looking back and disappointment in the obviously defective kite. We enjoyed this from a park bench on the boardwalk.
We went to a somewhat ritzy Italian restaurant in New Little Italy after walking from the rather distant subway stop through a discount clothing and shoes type area in the mild, but cold and annoying rain. The place Paul had wanted to take us to was closed, so we settled for a little place that I was happy with because they gave us bread and cheese. Not just any cheese mind you, cheese they dug out of an entire WHEEL OF CHEESE in front of us and that crumbled up into tiny pieces of... well, food nirvana. We had three helpings, and then giant plates of excellent pasta. We even ordered dessert - I had some sort of custard-pastry combination and Paul had some unusual New York Cheesecake - Pistachio Cheesecake in fact. Then we asked them to call us a cab home since it was still kind of windy and inclement outside. They called us one of the blue, business-class taxis. The drive was totally smooth and relaxing and cost pretty much the same amount for a ride that was about as long. Who knew?
Brooklyn day! We finally got out of Manhattan to a borough. We spent lots of time on the subway and finally ended up at our destination - the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It was very busy, and I was annoyed and saddened by an obviously angry and bitter man shouting at people about their sins during our time in line. *sigh*
There were a lot of people dressed up for the Hanami festival in anime and other Japanese inspired costuming, but the plants were my favourite - especially the bonsai and of course the cherry trees. A picture's worth a thousand words, so here's a thousand blossoms.
And, just in case there weren't enough flowers at the Botanical Gardens, we visited the Flower District (26th to 29th along and off Sixth Avenue) where we enjoyed signs proclaiming rental trees and orchids of unusual colors.
On our way to the musical our host had put us on to, we found decent mexican food at a little place called Cantina, and an obviously latina family was having a party for their daughter graduating from elementary school, which was cool. We were in a hurry, so we didn't stay long, and we got to Oliver at the little Gallery Players theatre just in time. Despite being an off-off-Broadway theatre, the talent was Broadway-caliber and we were treated to a rip-roaring bit of entertainment.
We went to mass at the Church of Notre Dame, and then because of my stupid mistake of not reading the ticket because I thought I knew when it started, we were a half hour late to see Stomp. Despite that, I think we only missed about 20 minutes of a 2 hour show, and Paul was enthralled. Theater seats? Still incredibly uncomfortable. Guy with dreads? Still with the show and an incredible physical comedian. Stomp? Still the coolest thing EVER. I will seriously try to see them every time I go to New York, and trust me, I'd love to go again. It was an evening mass and we really didn't do anything else, though I know Paul went out and swordfought with our host and his friends in the early afternoon and I took a leisurely shower and enjoyed the much-missed time to myself while they were gone before heading out.
I'm pretty sure that night we ate at the little pizza place directly outside the elevators that went down to our subway stop - the cheeze pizza we got there, over and over again, was cheap, tasty, and greasy. Mmmm. Also, the beef pockets were good. It's at the 191 St #1 line stop, if you want cheap pizza or mango-on-a-stick (a couple blocks away to the left of the pizza place was where the vendor was for that), or in the evening if you want to witness Dominican men playing SERIOUS mah jong - a Chinese tile game - on the street and folks gossiping in hair salons.
This day can be summed up pretty simply - we finally ate a mango-on-a-stick from the street vendor in our area, and then we took two planes home and found out about the groundbreaking Canadian election results from one of Paul's school friends who had graciously offered us a ride. Our riding has the only NDP candidate elected in Alberta! She seemed pretty cool to us. What a crazy election though, with two parties that used to be so popular losing so much ground.
And now that it's stupidly late at night and I've finally finished this (for my sake and yours) it's time to get some sleep!