Slinger's Thoughts

July 17, 2007

People live here? Willingly?!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — slingeronline @ 7:55 am

No link for this one, just personal experience. And what an experience it was…

Went to New York City (NYC) over the Week of July 4th for my honeymoon. Yes, I got myself married, sorry ladies. We will dispense with the airports and the plane ride since anyone with $4,000,000 for a one way fare across the county line can share the same experience, and they are all fairly generic now.

The real adventure starts once we have landed and have retrieved our luggage. While talking to a porter we find out the cost of a cab to the hotel as opposed to using the airport’s hotel shuttle. It is significantly less expensive to use the shuttle, than to use a cab. My personal recommendation is to shoot yourself in the foot and use the ambulance to get where you intend to go, after a brief detour through an emergency room.

So my wife and I load up the 287 pound suitcase we have borrowed from her dad, (and nicknamed “The Herniator,) and we are off. Sort of. The bus can’t go any faster than I can jog, and he’s driving on the interstate from LaGuardia to Manhattan. After a seemingly endless ride, we get to our transfer point, since our current bus is too ponderous to take all of the occupants to their respective destinations. We say so long to the wounded moose, and are coralled to another area where we are able to board a van sized shuttle bus. You know, the same kind that your local Metro transport uses for mentally impaired people. It was appropriate as we must have been mentally impaired to trust this punk kid who was driving it. He gets everybody loaded into the van, and away we go.

Like Mario Andretti he is weaving through Manhattan rush hour with not a care as to traffic laws, pedestrians, other vehicles, strollers, what have you. Unable to regulate his speed he is either all the way on the gas or all the way on the brakes. It turns out that much of NYC is like that; All or Nothing. We finally careen into the driveway of our hotel, which was the same as any other generic hotel in the country, with the exception of the exorbitant rates, since you can almost smell central park from the end of the block that it is on.

We unpack in our room, start to get settled in, and decide that we will walk to Tavern on the Green, since it is only about 15 blocks away. So we walk past the Columbus Circle, and on up to Tavern. We get there a little early for our reservation, so we enjoy some of the surroundings for a little bit, and get some pictures, then we go back. As we are seated outside, the sun is directly in my eyes. We get reseated and enjoy the atmosphere for a bit before we order our food. Enter our first NYC Freak.

Seated at a table about two away from ours, is what looks to be a lawyer, albeit not a successful one, and his “date,” a pre-op transsexual. Trust me, she was a man. The hands, the facial features, the beard, all dead give-aways. “She” was wearing a large choker necklace to cover up the adams apple, and had a very poorly done boob job. We almost felt sorry for “her” escort for the evening but hadn’t the heart to tell him that he needs his eyesight checked. Besides, he might have been into that.

Our food arrives, and my wife’s steak is immediately sent back to the kitchen. It seems that the concept of rare steak to a New Yorker means that it should no longer be on fire. So the food was mediocre at best. In order to counter that, the few drinks we ordered were strong enough to inebriate a herd of caribou. The cost of those drinks will sober you up fairly quickly, however. After dinner, we decide to partake of a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park. This was lovely, pleasant and relaxing. After our carriage ride, we walked back to the hotel, passing beside the Trump Plaza hotel, and through Columbus circle again.

Once we are back at the hotel, we decide that since we still have some energy to get some of our planned sightseeing out of the way. We decide on going to Grand Central station since there is a fair chance that it never closes, and it seems the easiest to get to for newcomers like us. After talking to the front desk clerks at our hotel about the best way to get around, we decide on riding the subway, since it seems safe enough, and neither of us have ridden a subway before. I have ridden “The People Mover” in Detroit, but that is a far cry from this. We walk the few blocks to the 57th street entrance to the 59th street/Columbus Circle station and head underground. We walk up to one of the machines and start our transaction, select our language, and are inundated with a plethora of options to choose from, and none of them are descriptive. There is help available, so we go to the little glass window with an old codger seated on the other side, not too dissimilar from a movie theater.

While we are waiting our turn in line, I glance over and there it is. Weighing in at no less than 10 pounds is a rat the size of a terrier. He was minding his own business keeping to the walls, and paid no mind to the people milling about. Granted there aren’t many people at 10:30 at night, but still. NYC Subway rats? Not a myth. I’ve seen one, first hand. As has my wife. When I pointed out that it was not in fact a small dog she nearly screamed. Kudos to her for not doing so. We go back to the machine since the helpful man couldn’t take credit cards, and we each get our MetroCards to use on the buses and subways. We now have a way around. Sort of. We figure out that we need to take the “C” or “E” train to Times Square station so that we can transfer to the “B” or “D” train. Okay. Sounds easy enough. We take the train down to Times Square station and then walk through a maze of stairs, and escalators, over the track and through the tunnels, to grandmother’s house we go. We find the platform we need to be on eventually, and a train has just pulled out. Incidentally, the one we need. So we wait for about 20 minutes, downtown, underground, at night. Yeah, aren’t we the bright ones? The next train comes along and we ride that one to the next stop. Grand Central. Really? This looks just as trashy. We decide that we need to head up and see what it’s like above ground. As we rose up from the depths the station began to transform. We eventually found our way into the grand hall of the station.

This is the one that you see in movies. The glistening, glittering paradise that the tourism board shows you. It is a wonder. It’s a beautiful sight, even at 11:30 at night, when it is only dimly lit. We get pictures and decide that it is time to head home. We head back down into the caverns, and it seemed like we went the same way we came, but we were in a completely different area when we got to where we needed to be. And we wait again, as the train that we needed has just left, again. We get to Times Square station, eventually, and again do the up, over, around, under, beside and through, until we find the platform we need, as the train we needed has just departed. I’m sensing a pattern. It’s another 20 minute wait. The train finally comes along and we get back to the 59th street station and head back above ground to where the civilised people are. Where the hell are we? Apparently you don’t come out of the ground in the same place that you went in. See, because if you did, that would make sense. It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, but I get it figured out, and we stroll back to the hotel. We are exhausted and call it a night.

Day 2
We decide that we do not want to go back underground, since my wife now has a kickin’ sinus infection from the air quality in the subway. We’ll take the buses from now on. (Yeah, that was a brilliant plan.) We decide to go visit Ground Zero and pay our respects. We have a mini-map of the bus routes, so we figure it out, we can take the 31 bus from near the front of the hotel for 3 stops, and then pick up the 20 and take that all the way down. So we get dressed and off we go. 31 Bus, no big deal. We hit the 20 Bus and we’re doing great, we ask the bus driver how far and he points it out in front of us. We walk around ground zero, which is sobering by the way, and say our own little prayers for those departed. On the side nearest the little church that was used as HQ for the rescuers during the disaster, we purchase some propaganda coffee table books. (We probably funded terrorism with our purchase, who knows.) Well, we have a 4:30 dinner reservation so we need to get back. We find the right bus stop, and wait for the 20 to take us back. It’s supposed to come by every six minutes. It’s been 30 now and the bus still hasn’t come by. Well, after finding a McD’s for my wife to use the facilities, we decide that we know where the damned bus dropped us off, we’ll just pick it up and follow it down to the end of the line and then back up. After all the bus doesn’t just stop and disappear. Well, it doesn’t disappear at least. But it does stop. The bus driver called out last stop, kicked us all off, then he himself got off, and just left the bus sitting there. Waiting for it to be towed, drive itself away, I don’t know, but the bus driver was done.

Well shit. Here we are at the bottom of Manhattan at Battery Park and we need to be in Midtown. 60 blocks away. 30 minutes ago. At this point my new bride is ready to leave me on the side of the road and hitchhike back to Texas. I don’t blame her. I was a typical male ass, not asking for directions and counting on a map of Manhattan the size of a playing card. We ask for directions and the quickest way back. The subway. Shit. We’re headed back underground. We need to take the “C” or “E” train. Anything but the “A”. And we need to take it in the right direction. I’m not sure that we did, and it’s a long ride off of the island to the next stop. Brooklyn. We really don’t need to be in Brooklyn. Fortunately we have taken the right train. We get off at our stop, the Columbus Circle station, and head back above ground. Now where the hell are we? We came up at yet a different location. Right in the middle of Columbus Circle as a matter of fact. Who puts a subway entrance in the middle of a traffic island? Apparently New Yorkers did. So now we have to figure out what direction to head off in to get back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. At this point a compass would be nice. I’m not a boy scout. I don’t have one. I do however see a familiar landmark, so I finally get my bearings, and we’re trudging off again.

No time for a shower anymore, and my wife won’t let me forget it. We get back to the hotel, and she requests that I arrange for a taxi to meet us once we are ready. I call the front desk and they say that the bell staff will get one quickly for us once we are ready and to simply ask them. We get ready and head downstairs. We talk to the bell staff, and they do indeed hail us a cab. We are on our way, a whopping block. Our cab driver, the first Muhammed Hassan, has no idea where the restaurant we want to go to is. So we are out, and having trouble. We are not likely going to meet our reservation time. Crap. We find the address that we need, and hail another cab. This time our cabbie is Jewish, and he knows exactly where we are going. We give him the block coordinates anyway, just to be safe. We make it to Gallagher’s, supposedly the premier restaurant in NYC, just in time for our reservation.

The atmosphere here is the same as if we were eating at a Big Boy restaurant. We both order steak, and again we have the same experience with what the definition of “rare” is. My medium rare was charcoal. I had given up trying to get my food right and was satisfied to drink the $11 beverages in the hopes that I would be blissfully unaware of how much my food sucked. It didn’t work. After my wife and I had eaten, her shoes, it turned out, had not been the right ones to get for her evening gown, and her feet had swollen painfully. We needed to get her some different shoes. She asked the Maitre’D and he told her about a shoe store that was about eight blocks away. As we were about to set off, he recommended that we walk a block to pick her up some five dollar flip-flop sandals, and use those to walk to the shoe store. “You don’t want to walk barefoot in New York.” We would find out later why he had said that.

So we head off to pick up the flip-flops. Five dollars turned into fifteen. But that’s ok. We walk to the shoe store, and my wife finds the perfect shoes. So we buy them and we are off again. We take another cab, driven by Muhammed Hassan, not back to the restaurant or the hotel, but to the theater. We get there and get seated in time for the show. Now, I have seen Les Miserables at the Fox Theater in Detroit. My wife has seen Les Miserables at the Jones Hall Theater in Houston. At both shows we dressed up. It’s a big event, and that’s what you are supposed to do. Now we are both going to watch Les Miserables, on Broadway, at the Broadhurst Theater. We dressed like we thought we should. I was in a suit and tie, and she was in a gorgeous evening gown that we had purchased before our trip to NYC just for the occasion, those errant shoes as well. And we were extremely overdressed. Shorts, flip-flops, tank tops, I’m halfway surprised that we didn’t see a woman in a robe and curlers! Where we go to the theater, you would be kicked out for dressing like that. Here, the dress code is pajamas. It was a beautiful cozy theater, and although the cast was small like the theater, it was a good show, and we were delighted.

After the show, we are parched, so we walk to Planet Hollywood. The theater was just off of Times Square so it was not far. We head up to the restaurant and head to the bar to get a drink. Again, we are not tired so we decide that we want to do some more sight seeing. We discuss going to the Empire State building and a local at the bar suggests that we avoid the three hour wait and do “The Rock” instead. Alcatraz is not in NYC. She was referring to the Rockefeller Center. We’ll give it some thought. We hail another cab, driven by Muhammed Hassan, and make it back to the hotel.

While we are changing out of our fineries, I’m obliged to call the Empire to see how late they are open, and how long the wait is. They are open until 2 a.m., and the wait is only 45 minutes. Perfect. We head downstairs, and catch a cab, driven by Muhammed Hassan, and we’re off on our way to the Empire State building. While we are on our way, we pass Saint Patrick’s cathedral, which catches my wife’s eye. We make it to the Empire State, and head right upstairs.

After paying an exorbitant fee, we are on our way up 80 floors. Now, my wife needs to be given all due credit here. She is afraid of heights, and she weathered this excursion like a champ. We paid the extra, so it’s on up to 102. It’s also about midnight, so the city is lit up. The city is peaceful and beautiful from up here. We head back down to 86, where the outdoor observation deck is, get some more pictures and video, hit the gift shop, and are on our way back down. On the way down my wife decides that she would like to go look at the cathedral. Fine with me. We remembered it only being about 5 blocks away. It wasn’t. It was more like 12 blocks, but that’s ok. We are not in a hurry, and we have nowhere else that we need to be. So we take a leisurely stroll along 5th Ave. We pass by the NY Public Library, and get a few snaps of the statues out front. Nod to the police officers out front, and continue walking. There aren’t many people on the streets, and we would likely have made some easy targets for a mugging. We didn’t get mugged.

My wife did get visually assaulted though. About two blocks past the library a gentleman passed us walking the other direction. “Did you see that,” my wife asked me. “See what?” I seriously didn’t. “The guy jacking off!” “What? No!” “Walk faster!” Apparently, the gentleman was stroking his goods while out on a stroll. On display for all the world, and my wife to see. I missed it. I got some clarification later, and yep, she could tell what religion he was. Now we know why you don’t walk barefoot in NYC; you might step in someone. We decided it best not to report him, as he is walking towards the officers in front of the library anyway. Onward to the cathedral. We get some video, some pictures, and admire it for a few quiet moments. We catch a cab, driven by Muhammed Hassan, back to the hotel and again call it a night.

Day 3
Well our plans for today are simple, we have no reservations, no appointments, and nowhere that we have to be. We take the 31 bus and head over to F.A.O. Schwarz, and get some souvenirs for my son. (I have since been informed that he is ours, since she is officially his step-mom now.) We get a picture of her under the sign in front of Tiffany’s. It was a holiday so they were closed, which probably saved me a good bit of money.

We take the 31 bus back to the hotel, and drop off our spoils, and then decide on the best way to get to Times Square so that we can go eat at Planet Hollywood. Back out from the Hotel, and back on the 31 bus. We got off a stop too early, and walk about 5 blocks before we realize that we have miscalculated catching the 20 and walk over a block to catch the bus down into the square. By this time, buses are becoming a pain in the ass. We hop off of the 20 about a block south of the square and start walking back north. It is a miracle of commercialized chaos and madness. We join the throng of people milling about and suddenly we know exactly how fish in a large school feel. We were tuna. We stop into the Toy’r’Us. 5 stories tall, and visit a few things, like the pet T-rex.

We head back out into the slowly migrating horde, and make our way up to the restaurant. We head upstairs, and are delighted to be sitting down. The atmosphere was cheerful and pleasant. The food was incredible. So for anyone keeping score, Tavern; decent atmosphere, mediocre food. Gallagher’s; mediocre atmosphere, lousy food. Planet Hollywood; good atmosphere, great food. We have a Planet here in our hometown though. It’s not like we couldn’t go whenever we want. That was kind of a let down. We leave from there, and walk back down to the theater we visited the night before, so that we can get some pictures, of at least the outside. We were going to depart from here to go watch the fireworks on FDR drive, but it has started to rain. We catch a cab, driven by Muhammed Hassan, back to the hotel.

We change into some warmer clothes, (suddenly I’m not insane for packing a long sleeve shirt, which my adoring bride is now wearing,) pick up some umbrellas from the hotel gift shop, and figure out our bus route. My wife has decided to choose the bus routes for us, since I’m not really good at getting us back. So we figure out that we need to take the 31 to the 20, the 20 to the 16, and the 16 to the 34. We rode the 31, picked up the 20, and while we were waiting for the 16 it started pouring rain. We decide that we are not going to endure rain just to see fireworks that we could just as easily see on T.V. So we catch a cab, driven by Muhammed Hassan, back to the hotel.

Now, by this time you are probably wondering how we have had such incredible luck to get the same damn cab driver nearly every single time we needed a cab. We didn’t. They were all named Muhammed Hassan. I shit you not. This last one decided he was gonna take some tourists for a ride. This probably should have been one of the shortest trips, and instead it costs us more than any other cab ride yet. He picked us up on 42nd, at 8th Ave, drove over to 6th Ave, up to 46th St, over to 8th Ave, down to 44th St, over to 7th Ave, down to 43rd St, over to 10th Ave, up to 57th St, and to our hotel. He could have taken 42nd St to 5th Ave, up to 57th St, and over to 9th Ave to drop us off, but instead we got a pleasant drive through Hell’s Kitchen. Not really a part of NYC we wanted to see. Although we did get to see how they park in NYC. On top of each other, literally. You drive in, and they lift your car up on a jack, then someone drives in under you, and both cars are lifted on the jack. This continues, up to 5 high. And parking costs in excess of $800 a month. That shouldn’t be parking, that should be rent.

We get back to the hotel, and we are done with everything this town has to offer, almost. We pick up a couple of drinks at the hotel bar. Two drinks, mine’s a double, and that’s $40 gone. We decide we will brave a NYC pizza, look in the hotel directory, and call the rudest people on the planet. They deliver, but not to our hotel, and can’t seem to figure out why. We call the front desk and they recommend another place that they know does deliver. We call Ray’s pizza, who are all too eager to help, and order ourselves some of the best pizza we have ever had. We watch the Macy’s fireworks on the tube, and are glad we didn’t make it. All of the smoke from the bursts is drifting over the viewing area. Remember, my wife has a sinus infection from the damned subways. We decide we made a good call, and call it a night. One more night in this hotel and we can go home.

Day 4
We get all of our things packed, including our souvenirs, and head down to the lobby to meet our shuttle back to the airport. At this point we don’t know what to expect. We find out some interesting tidbits of information about the cost of living in Manhattan. It’s expensive. No sane person would want to pay that much to live in squalor. For what one bedroom in a 3 bedroom apartment with a community kitchen costs, I have a 2 bed 2 bath with a garage and grass, in an incredible school district.

The shuttle, an extended van, shows up. We are loaded and are off again, all over Manhattan with a vengeance. This is a familiar feeling. Psychotic driver. We go careening around NYC again, with little care or caution to any other individual, be it someone walking, driving a cab, a bus, whatever. We witnessed how far this would go when this shuttle driver cut off some of New York’s finest. And not just any squad car, or a meter maid, a S.W.A.T. van. The only repercussion was the WOOP-WOOP of the siren as they let our driver know exactly what they thought of him. We came skidding to a halt, and grabbed our luggage. We were so happy that we were not in the thick of it anymore. Now it was just a simple wait to get on a plane to come home.

So, for anyone who wishes to visit the “Big Apple,” I have this advice. Take the subway, once. Then never go back underground. Take a bus, once. Then throw away your MetroCard. Take a cab, twice, (there and back), tip Muhammed, and then buy a backpack bike, because that is truly the only way to get around NYC. At every intersection, stop. Watch out for cabbies, buses, cops, pedicabs, and airport shuttles, as they do not stop for pedestrians. If you go to visit a landmark, go at night, when there are no crowds. Or better yet, look at it all online, and just skip the city altogether.

We did have some fun, and we will definitely remember it, but NYC is not a place for a honeymoon. We will likely go someplace quiet and serene for our next vacation. Someplace like the Czech Republic. It’s probably safer than NYC.

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  1. I’m not a big city kind of girl – I guess I’m more of a suburb chick. I could easily get into quasi-rural life, too. I wouldn’t mind passing thru NYC, possibly spending a night there, but ugh – not much more than that. Too busy, too much happening for me.

    It would have been interesting though, to find out just how far “Jack” went… Wonder if the cops apprehended him, or just yelled at him to take it somewhere else, ha ha ha…

    Comment by Steph — July 17, 2007 @ 9:28 am

  2. Too damned funny! Love it and more importantly, love that y’all went through it, lived to tell about it, and did it all before I booked a trip there!

    Comment by Amy — July 30, 2007 @ 11:47 am

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