13 March 2006

OK, so yeah, New York. I went to it.

Well, I really should have posted this right when I got back (last Wednesday, maybe? Geez, week and a half ago!), but unfortunately, I suffered from a few days of fatigue, followed by a few more days of laziness :P .

So, yeah. It was my second trip to NYC. In the mid-1990's, I went on a very ill-conceived day trip with a bunch of folks from my college in southeastern Vermont. It wound up being a four hour trip down there, and a four hour trip back, leaving us with five hours to communally figure out what we wanted to do. We settled on lunch at Hard Rock, which I can't stand, and then we went to FAO Schwartz and a few other places that I can't even recall. It was kind of lame.

But this year, things were different, albeit not without their plusses and minusses. I left Pittsburgh on the morning of the 7th, at about 7 am. This time, I took Amtrak, whereas I usually travel on Greyhound when it's a day or weekend trip. Not sure why my preference. Amtrak was quite lovely. Spacious, comfortable seats, gracious attendants who weren't overbearing. It was quite nice, albeit very long. We passed through Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lewistown, Acton, a couple other Philly suburbs, then on into New Jersey, which was quite...well...brown. Dead vegetation, lots of dirt, and tons of reddish-brown brick buildings. We stopped in Trenton, Princeton, and Newark, that I remember. New Jersey was basically pretty depressing. There was poverty everywhere, especially around New Brunswick on north. Maybe it's just that, due probably to nimbyism, the tracks go through really gawdawful places.

So, without any problem, we eventually make it to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in Manhattan, somewhere around 8th avenue and 43rd street. So, I get out and figure out what my options are as far as getting to Columbus Circle (which wouldn't be too hard, seeing as I had two hours). I wind up spending a good 30 minutes trying to figure out where the busses and subway are, and which would be better for me. The busses were at the surface, and the subway was, if I remember, one floor below me. I say "What the heck", and shell out two bucks for the subway(the A train, to be specific).

While waiting for the next A, I dang near lose my balance near the edge of the platform. My sleepy fatigue, stiffness, and the freeway-like pedestrian traffic patterns are a potentially lethal mix, I found. But no, I didn't fall onto the tracks, thank gosh. :)

So, the A train arrives, and I board. Somebody asks if I want their seat, and I kindly decline, and they give me a look of puzzlement, as I am on crutches due to my disability. So, I had to explain that I was getting off in two stops. Pretty easy ride, just like DC's Metro, if y'all have been that way.

So, I get out, and head on up the stairs to the surface, as the elevators are broken. I get out onto the circle, and find the Shops pretty easily. Borders is at the top of the escalator. I get there an hour early, but about half the seats are already taken. I secure one in the front row, though.

La dee dah de dah. Boy, there's no room between seats, here. That sucks. But hey, I'm only two feet from where Sarah Vowell will be. Wheeeeeeee!

So, Sarah Vowell shows up, and as soon as the lively, artsy Borders people glowingly introduce her, she launches into a reading from her latest book, Assassination vacation. She reads for about 20 minutes, touching upon Canada for some of it, which I find fascinating. Other than that, I'm zoning more into her well-known, teenly voice than what she actually says. I am very tired at this point. More so than I had hoped. That's OK, though.

After she finished reading, she fielded some questions. She was utterly charming in her responses, but I just couldn't think of a good question I wanted to ask. So I let that opportunity go. After the Q&A, the ushers explained the queueing procedure, and I got almost first dibs. I couldn't think of anything to say; I was reeeally tired. So Sarah just opened up the book, said "Hi, Cory" (they post-it noted our names in the books we bought), and I said hello back, and she signed it. She was a lovely, approachable gir...uh...woman. I am inspired to go to another reading of hers next year.

So, I leave, go down the escalator, and head out to the circle, whhere I stand (they really should have benches) and mack on a Nature Valley bar and an MDX or some such drink. Then I just start walk walk walking. For the most part, I wind up accidentally avoiding any tourist spots. Also of note, even though Manhattan is a fairly logical grid, there were at least five instances where I went completely around the block I was on, making no progress. So, I'm walkin' NYC as though it's some ordinary city like Spokane, really having no clue where anything is, but not outright lost, either. This goes on for a couple of fairly quick hours, and then suddenly, without even meaning to, I bump into the Radio City Music Hall. The RCMH is one of those places that I know is all famous and historical, but I have no clue why. Probably has one of those award shows or whatever. I avoid that stuff. Neat building though. And very important-looking.

A little while later, after having completely given up on it, I happen upon the Ed Sullivan Theater, home to Dave Letterman's Late Show, on CBS. It was nicely lit up with it's blue LATE SHOW sign. That was the only site I had dreamed of seeing, but up until that point, my errant sense of logic was keeping me from it. My trip was now complete---with about two hours to go.

So, at that point, I knew I was on Broadway, so I start walking towards the lights. A bunch of theaters, a Twizzler store (didn't know those existed), a McDonald's that delivers (didn't know those existed), and an endless stream of controlled chaos. I just stood with my back resting on the window of some restaurant, and just watched life occur.

Fun stuff. On the whole, not too much emergency action. Only one fire truck (24 Ladder, I think), and one FDNY ambulance. There wasn't much of a police presence, at least not in the normal sense. There were several bizarre occurrences of a long line of maybe ten NYPD cruisers behind an unmarked car barreling through the streets in linear formation with their red and white lights and sirens on. I never thought to ask an idle policeman what that was about.

So, I head back, just deciding to walk---no bus, no subway. Twenty blocks or so, but lots of time to cover it. I get back, and eventually make it downstairs to Greyhound at Port Authority (yes, Greyhound, not Amtrak. I had to settle for an Amtrak on the morning of the seventh on the way to NYC, rather than a bus on the night of the 6th).

Here's one little quirk about me: I have a minor elevator phobia. It's worse when said elevators are slow and creaky and/or jerky, which is the case throughout NYC, IMHO. So, my night wasn't too fun. I had to ride several times because I kept getting lost trying to find the ticket counter. Signage just stinks in NYC.

But, I got my ticket, got myself a meager Greyhound generic dinner of a tuna sandwich, a pretzel, a cherry yoghurt, and I think a bottled watter. Slept a bit, got called to the bus at 3:30 am, on schedule, and slept basically to Harrisburg.

In the past few days, I have slept and otherwise vegged some more. My arms were insanely sore from walking, and my sleep pattern was disrupted pretty badly. I also thought I had caught a cold, but that never materialized.

So, all in all, quite an amazing trip. Not sure whether or not it's my favorite city, but is quite special. Unfortunately, due to a late change in my travel plans, I had no opportunity for photos. It was almost dark when I got there.


Blogger ShoreTurtle said...

I agree that the train ride up the NorthEast corridor through New Jersey isn't much to look at. It's the same as driving up the turnpike, which often is the most that people see of the state.

Sarah Vowell is great--smart and funny. I've read Take the Cannoli, The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Assassination Vacation. She is friends with the band "They might be giants" and she was part of their show last summer in Asbury Park. It was strange to see her as part of a rock show. I should go to a reading.

14/3/06 14:06  
Blogger plods said...

NYC trips are exhausting! io went there for NY's eve a few years ago and slept before the ball dropped :-/

14/3/06 17:20  

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