[Violet] Takes Manhattan: a Rundown of Mini-Vacay in New York
[Partial] Day One: the Arrival
I'm not sure how smart it was for me to plan my travel the way I did. Nevertheless, I decided to leave on Monday after teaching my two classes. I left Gainesville at about 1 p.m. and got to Orlando at around 3 or 3:30. This was great because Orlando traffic is either much crazier than I remember or has gotten worse. At any rate, dad drove me to the airport with enough time to spare. This was good because they're pretty thorough at the airport. Everyone has to take off shoes and show their collection of tiny toiletries before going through the metal detectors. Believe me—it's a weird bonding moment. Thank God I didn't check any baggage because I might have been late if I'd done so. Anyway, the plane took off for Newark airport at around 6:30 p.m.
Once I got to the Newark airport, the plan was to call Jake and alert him to my arrival. We'd planned to meet up at Grand Central Station. Theoretically, this was a fantastic plan, but, when I called him, his phone went to voicemail. Err... I called again. And got voicemail again. Following the arranged plan, I bought a ticket for the bus into the city and waited for it to arrive. Fortunately, I had Kinya's number in my cell, so I called her as well. She told me that she'd been trying to get ahold of Jake all day and was also getting the voicemail. She offered to e-mail him for me but indicated that he thought I was coming in a whole hour later and was doing his laundry. Oddly enough, this might have freaked me out, but it didn't. Ok, I thought to myself, I'll just hang out in Grand Central Terminal. All night. Yes, all night, if I have to. When the bus picked me up for the 45 minute trip into the city, and I just sat back and relaxed. As we were driving through one of the
tunnels (Holland or Lincoln, I don't remember), Jake called, and we had the following exchange:
Jake: Where are you?
Me: Um... I'm on the bus into the city. We just
went through one of the tunnels.
Jake: (pause) Were you going to call
me? Me: Dude, I did
call you. Twice. And I called Kinya to see if she'd seen you. What's up with your phone...?
At any rate, before long, the bus made it into the city. I almost got off at Times Square, but, after I asked to confirm, I made it safely to Grand Central Station. I hung out under the big clock (per our plans), and Jake took about 15 minutes to meet me. While not a tremendously
long time, this was enough for a plain-clothesed security officer to start eyeing me. (Or, alternately, for my future pimp to scope me out.) When I saw Jake, he'd written out a "chaffeur-style" placard for me..."Meltzer." Ha! We navigated through the subway system, and his place was only a few stops away.
Day Two: All By Myself (but in a good way)
When I woke up on Tuesday, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I was looking through my New York book and finally decided to go visit something close. Since Jake lives in Upper M
idtown (I know the areas now), I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and some of the museums close to it. I figured that I wouldn't have to walk that
far, but this belief was predicated on my idea that Lexington was also 4th Avenue (it isn't). In fact, I had to walk past Lexington, Park, and Madison before I got to 4th Avenue, and, as it was, the museums are located on 5th. So, by the time I reached MOMA, I was tuckered out, but ready to browse. Since I'd been there before, I looked at the visiting collection first. It was fantastic. Then, I had
to hurry back up to meet Jake for lunch. We went to a little grocery shop which also has a buffet where you pay for your lunch by the pound. We sat at a countertop area in the back. It turned out to be pre
tty good food at a reasonable price. After I left Jake, I went back down to 43rd Street to visit the American Museum of Design and the American Folk Art Museum. Both of them were simply fantastic, and I think that my stepmother (a folk artist of sorts) would absolutely love the latter. While I was there, I saw an exhibit on a deaf American portrait artist painting in the eighteenth century. His name was John Brewster, and this is a picture of one of his paintings. Too cool. Also, I talked to a security guard for about 20 minutes. If I lived in NY, he'd be my new fake boyfriend. He was very friendly, helpful, informative, and gay. At around 5, I met Jake again, and he and I went to dinner at a little Italian place around the corner from his apartment. Good day; tired legs; great sleep.
Day Three: In Which I Get to Eat at the Trustee's Dining Room
By Wednesday, I was feeling the burn of all the walking but in a good way. I decided that I wanted to branch out a bit farther from those museums where I could walk, so I decided to go to the Museum of the City of New York, which is all the way up on 103rd Street. This distance meant that I'd have to take the subway. By myself. At about 11 a.m., I walked up to the Lexington station and looked for the correct platform. A train for the right line came along, but it indicated that it was going to Brooklyn, decidedly down
town. After I asked some friendly and helpful cops for directions, I went downstairs, under one trainline, and up to the correct platform to catch the train uptown. I know this reads as really tedious, but the main point is that, for the first time in my life, I navigated and took the subway myself. Squee!
When I got out at the 103rd stop, I realized that I was in the proverbial "wrong part of town." What I'm saying is that this isn't the part of town that tourists or quasi-tourists frequent. The area houses a lot of working-class tenants partially in older one-to-three-story walk-ups and a few higher rise buildings. Stores are fewer and farther between with much less panache. I'd say "down at the heels" moreso than "squalid." At any rate, there isn't really much to "see" there. I walked quickly up to 5th Ave. and actually got a weird look from one guy. Yeah, I was thinking to myself, I know, I know, I keep moving.
Once I hit 5th Ave—and saw my first bit of Central Park—I found the museum. It's a great little treasure—the sort of museum that's wonderful for teaching. What drew me to the museum was the exhibit on the history of New York commerce, but I thoroughly enjoyed the visiting exhibit was African-American fashion as well. I took my undergrad electives in the Harlem Renaissance and African-American Women Writers, so it was great to see how fashion fit into this time period. While the New York commerce exhibit was thoughtful and thorough, I liked the 30 minute movie on the development of the city just as much.
When I left the Museum of the City of New York, I knew I wanted to walk down to some of the other museums on 5th. Fifth Avenue is also called "Museum Mile," so I'd put myself in a good place. The Neue, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the Met are all along this route. By this point, I was in dire need of coffee, and I figured I'd run into some coffee shop on 5th Avenue where I could sit down and phone Jake. Not so. Y'see, since this area is a well-established museum area and
right across from Central Park, realty is at a premium. They're not going to open a Starbuck's
fronting 5th Ave—it just won't generate the revenue. I didn't think about this as I walked, though. All I could think was coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
Finally, having no real plan, I reached the Met. Jake had planned to take a half-day off and tool around with me, but we had no firm arrangement of how to meet up. Any
desperate for coffee, I went into the Met looking for a coffeeshop. I asked the woman at the admissions desk, and she informed me that they had a cafeteria, but that I'd have to purchase a ticket to go in. I stared. Or give a small donation. Listen, I said, I just need some freaking coffee and to sit down. She let me in for free. When I got to the cafeteria, I bought coffee, a hard-boiled egg, and some whole-grain raisin role. I was so hungry it was like I'd never eaten before.
When I went back upstairs, I called Jake and arranged to meet him in front of the museum. As I was waiting, I experienced a few "New York" moments—listening to one guy's harrowing story of his urethra and watching a man with a can almost take a header. Jake got to the Met pretty quick, and we decided to eat lunch. His company got us in free and also...gave us access to the Trustees' Dining Room. Well! I was all excited about (almost) getting into the Met free based on coffeeneed, but the Trustees' Dining Room was something else. When we got on the (guarded) elevator to go up, another museum patron wandered on and was accosted by a guard who demanded to know where she was going. She was summarily hustled off said elevator. At any rate, can I just say that this dining room was...to die for. We had a great view of Central Park, and I had some simply glorious salmon. After lunch, Jake and I looked around the Modern Art wings and checked out some statues. Then we headed home.
Day Four: Thanksgiving, Yay!
Thursday dawned rainy, windy, and cold. Which was kind of a bummer, since we'd planned to go see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We talked back and forth with Kinya about the plans for Thanksgiving Day dinner, cooking times, travel plans, etc. Finally, we decided we had the time and fortitude needed to go see the parade, so we suited up and grabbed some umbrellas. I had my little black one, and Jake brought his huge golf umbrella.
Let me just say that these umbrellas proved no match for the weather that we ran into. It was RAINY, WINDY, and COLD. I know that I already mentioned that, but it bears repeating. My umbrella wiped out before we even made it to the parade. I shoved it down in the closest available trashcan, and, believe me, it wasn't the only one we saw. In a few more blocks, I was reconsidering our plan. I'd worn the new hat Kinya gave me, but it didn't cover my ears, which were freezing. As a quick fix, I devised the headgear seen in this photo. Note the look of fear in my eyes...complete and uncontrolled terror. Regardless, we soldiered on and actually got a few good shots of the parade.
Here's Mr. PotatoHead. They kept the balloons on a rather short leash where we were standing since the wind was whipping around a bit. In fact, a few of the candy cane balloons that came later looked rather ominous as they swayed over the crowd. By the time the parade was over, we'd lost Jake's umbrella to the elements as well. Another umbrella in the garbage. We trekked home as fast as possible, and, during this walk, I experienced an epiphany of sorts about coffee and non-coffee drinkers. Non-coffee drinkers have no idea what we caffeinated sorts go through for "the beverage." I told Jake that we needed to look for coffee, but I didn't end up procuring the bitter nectar of the gods until after
the parade had passed. Bad idea.
At any rate, after we got back to the apartment, we got to work preparing food. Jake made this vegetable casserole that our aunt used to make for Thanksgiving, and I made some spinach turnover things because the spanikopita that I'd planned to make takes t
oo much time. Kinya was busy making pumpkin pies at her place. After we'd put together our food, we took it to Kinya's to cook. As a treat, we caught a cab to her place in the Village. It's a great place, well-decorated and newer looking and feeling than Jake's but smaller, too. Our food took a little longer to cook than expected, but we weren't the only ones running late. By the time we made it to her building at NYU, though, everyone was there or just arriving. Here's a picture of all her fellow grad students. Let me just say that Thanksgiving was pretty freakin' fun with these guys. We talked, ate, drank a bit, and then got down to some games. We played some sort of game which required two teams to shout out hints for a word that one's team needed to guess. My team missed winning by a nano-point. Then—and, I might add, after too much alcohol consumption—we played Balderdash. Though we did
finish the game, there was a lot of grumbling. It took a long time. My team came in second. After the game-playing (around 11:30), people decided it was time for more alcohol. Jake and I were sent to find a liquor store, but it was closed. Our taxi-guy took us to Kinya's apartment and waited for Jake to bring back rations. Suffice it to say: Violet's still too friendly for New York. This guy chatted me up and then some. The rest of the night was good, if a bit off for me. I realized that no amount of alcohol will make me appreciate Dave Matthews.
Day Five: Feeling Groovy. Ok, Admittedly, Not That
Kind of Groovy.
I didn't really know what to expect for Friday. Both Jake and Kinya were off, but they were really dedicated to doing whatever I was interested in. First, we went to a place called the Mud in the Village. It's a really small restaurant and coffee bar, but it had some great food. I had a frittata. Then, we went across the street and checked out what turned out to be a toy store before making our way down to the Strand. I'd been wanting to go to this bookstore since I got to town, and it was just as fantastic as I thought it would be. We spent about an hour browsing, and I bought some great used books. From there, we walked down to Union Square (I think) where we encountered a big outdoor craft show, which is totally "my thing." We looked around for quite awhile, but I couldn't find anything that I had to have.
At this point, I was getting a little hungry, and we decide to go into this restaurant called Max Brenner Chocolate. I'd seen another of these earlier and was really curious. Ohyeah, and I wanted a brownie. Turns
out that Max Brenner Chocolate doesn't have brownies
. For those of you with really specific sweet- teeth, you'll know just how much distress this caused me at the time. I settled on some kind of chocolate cake-like dessert and a cup of joe. Kinya and Jake had drinks and helped me with the cake. We took some pictures.
By the time we left, it was getting near time for dinner. We went back by Kinya's place to decide where to eat. Jake wanted to take me to get the best pizza in New York, so we either needed to go somewhere in Brooklyn (I forget) or to Lombardi's. Since I wasn't too keen on going far, we ended up going to Lombardi's. There was a huge, huge wait, so we looked around in the nearby shops while we waited to be called. We finally were seated, ordered, and received some good looking pizza. I wouldn't say that it was the best pizza I've ever had, though. Jake was disappointed as well—he used to work in a great pizza place. Oddly enough, at this point, Kinya started feeling ill, so we left and headed down to her subway station.
From there, Jake and I decided to head down to Macy's and then on to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. Macy's was packed. We looked around but only stayed long enough to use the facilities. I was more interested in the windows. The ones at the front of the store
all had animatronic characters, and I took a lot of great photos. As we walked to Rockefeller Center, I started to feel a little sick myself. By the time we got there, I was feeling a lot sick and told Jake we'd have to cut the sightseeing short. I don't even remember how we got back to his place. This was just as well because I'd arranged to leave on Saturday on an 8:30 flight, and I needed to pack up.
Day Six: Homeward Bound
On Saturday, I got up at the crack of dawn (6 a.m.) to head out. Jake went with me to the corner to catch a taxi and gave me a bit of money for the ride. We figured that the taxi would be the easiest way back to New Jersey, especially given the fact that I needed extra luggage to carry all the books I'd purchased. I was sad to leave Jake and all the fun I'd had. Even so, I had a really smooth trip back to Orlando and then (after a nap) Gainesville. I can't wait to see Jake and Kinya at Christmas, and I'm already thinking of what to do and see when I go back to New York.