Saturday, December 27, 2008

My NYC Trip - December 8-11, 2008

Hello, All. Finally a few noteworthy things have happened, not the least of which were a hospital stay, Thanksgiving, Becky's and my birthday, and then Christmas, of course.
However, sandwiched among those was a getaway up to New York City which took place from the eighth to the eleventh of December.
I found out several months ago that an old San Angelo, TX friend - Daniel Devereaux, was living and working up there. So, with the combination of unused vacation time and relatively open flights, I decided to go up and visit him for a few days. And, Daniel offered to let me stay at his place while there. I flew up on the 8th, arriving at JFK airport at around five pm. Hoisting my duffle and backpack, I made my way to the Howard Beach Station, taking the A train into Manhattan. I disembarked at the 59th St/Columbus Circle Station and began walking down Broadway, eventually turning east at 50th St. and arriving at Daniel's place of employment - 30 Rockefeller Center, where he works for NBC as a programming engineer.

We met in the lobby and he got me a visitor clearance at the security desk. It dawned on me at that moment that it'd been nearly ten years since our last meeting.
After stowing my bags in his office, we went on a brief tour of the place.
He first took me to the main control room. It was a little daunting thinking that here was the nerve center, essentially all of NBC - right there, the little man behind the curtain. A pretty big curtain, though, with rows upon rows of monitors and control boards.

He then tried to take me into Conan O'Brien's studio, but they were filming. I knew this because of the hand-written note in marker taped to the studio door. Then we went up a few floors and began turning down various corridors which soon began to look familiar. I soon realized we were headed for the SNL studios via those familiar hallways lined with framed photos from past seasons. We didn't actually go inside, but I was able to look down on the SNL set from a window near the set entrance. It is much, much smaller than I'd anticipated. Nearby, I noticed the following photo op.

These costumes are on display just outside the entrance to the studio set. Left to right are Prymaat the "Mom" Conehead, the Church Lady, and Mary Katherine Gallagher.
Daniel and I then left 30 Rock and ventured over to a place called Ted's Montana Grill at W. 51st and 6th Ave. It's one of a chain owned by Ted Turner. It was nice to sit down to a good meal and conversation with an old friend, particularly after the flight and then my trek into the city. It felt great reconnecting with Daniel after such a long time, and it was pleasing to be able to pick it back up with out any awkwardness. I never had much fear of there being any, nevertheless it was a relief.
The food really hit the spot. Being a grill, they had a menu of mostly burgers and steaks. I went with a burger and fries as did Dan. One unexpected bonus was a complimentary dish of very lightly pickled cucumber slices which were brought out before our burgers. They were quite a refreshing start to the meal.
Afterwards we went back out to Times Square, and Dan took me into that gigantic Virgin Megastore which can be seen in most shots of Times Square. It is composed of about four levels. Among the many diplays of Beatles memorabilia to which my eye was naturally drawn was an incredible sight: several brand-new LP copies of Abbey Road. I was amazed and seriously tempted to buy one, but then I realized it would mean having to look around for a turntable. And honestly where does one buy a turntable these days?

Here is a picture of Dan and I in the middle of Times Square. These self-portrait shots generally don't work out for me. This one came out allright, though.

We went back to collect my bags, then made our way to Grand Central Station to take the train up to Yonkers, where Dan lives. The ride took about forty minutes. Dan's apartment is in one of quite a nice looking new row of apartment building which, I would realize fully the next day, are right on the Hudson shore. Another plus is that the train station is just a couple hundred yards from the lobby of his building. Also convenient is Pete's Waterfront Market, a small grocery and deli on the ground floor and mere steps from the lobby door.

His apartment is quite nice. We flopped on the couch and broke out the guitars as if no time had passed. Soon he had to retire for the night as he had work the next day. He broke out a sturdy air mattress for me and I was quite comfortable. He left the next morning, December 9th, at around eight after speaking to me and leaving me a key. The plan was for me to call him around five, then hang out assuming he was done by then.

Morning of December 9th. This is a picture taken just across the street from Dan's building. You are looking south along the Hudson River. There is Manhattan in the hazy distance, and you can just see the tip-top of the Empire State Building peeking over the tops of the other buildings.

This is basically the same shot only zoomed in.

The train journey was enjoyable. The tracks run right along the shore for about the first ten minutes. I was actually looking forward to finally enjoying a day of sightseeing following a good night's rest and a shower for a change, as all my previous days in Manhattan have been preceded by flying all night to get there.

Grand Central Station. I was quite impressed. There are well over a hundred tracks by which throngs of commuters are simultaneously deposited and whisked away.

Here is the equally impressive GCS exterior which, as you can see by the signs, is at East 42nd and Park Ave.

Here is the United Nations building, at E. 42nd and 1st Ave.
I wanted to stop by and see it in person, just because. Now I can check it off, I guess. What kept flashing through my mind was that South African diplomat in Lethal Weapon 2 saying, "Diplomatic immunity!" just before being shot by Danny Glover. There were just a few people on line to take the tour. I couldn't help but think of all the nations who hate the United States with their representatives residing comfortably here. That's right, in the U.S. you can live here and hate it. You can even talk all you want about just how much you hate it. And you will still be free.

Here are some of the flags flying along 1st Ave in front of the UN complex.

As I made my way from the UN area, I noticed that many of the surrounding buildings house the consulates of the different nations. I passed those of Turkey and Peru as I walked.

This is "The Amish Market" at 240 E. 45th St, just a couple blocks over from the UN.
I dug the yellow painted brick. As I passed by there happened to be four or five Arab-looking types out front passing out flyers and saying versions of "Be careful if you get your lunch at The Amish Market" to passersby. I don't know what it could've been, but apparently there was some sort of beef between these fellows and "The Amish Market."

The cost of parking in Manhattan, apparently.

This is one of the buildings which comprise Yeshiva University, or "YU."
According to the website, this must be part of the Beren Campus, since it is located in the Murray Hill area, which conveniently was where I happened to be when I took this photo. I don't remember the exact address, but it has to be at around E. 35th or 36th streets at or around Lexington or 3rd Avenue.

Any DaVinci code fans out there? Then this building, at the corner of E. 34th and Lexington Ave should be of interest.
This is the U.S. headquarters of Opus Dei. The book "DaVinci Code" states that the building is the Opus Dei world headquarters, which is not the case according to the Opus Dei official website. The building itself is unmarked, and, though well-kept and stately in appearance, not in any way ornate.

At this point, by now early afternoon on the 9th, I began to gradually make my way north and west towards Times Square and 30 Rockefeller.

Here is the famous Macy's Department Store, located at Herald Square. I did not go in. Honestly, it never occurred to me to do so.

This is the New York Public Library, whose front has been seen in many a movie.
The Ghostbusters fled in a panic down these steps after being spooked by the spectral librarian. This library, according to one Cosmo Kramer, is full of a bunch of cheapskates "trying to save a quarter."

This skating rink is located at Bryant Park, which is located on the other side of the NY Public Library.
You are actually looking at the back of it there beyond the Christmas Tree. This was the perfect location, at this point of my day, to sit down and rest my feet and legs, listen to the Christmas music playing over the speakers, and enjoy observing people enjoying themselves. It was fun watching the skaters, among whome were several gentlemen in full business attire out there skating with their kids. The holiday vibe was palpable and wonderful. It would get better later that day, however. Located around the rink were numerous temporary shops selling all kinds of craft items, clothing, Christmas decorations, etc. I bought my friend Melissa's Christmas present here - a knit cap which I had observed was quite the fashion among NY women.

Radio City Music Hall.
The three nights I spent in NY I observed the huge line of people waiting to get in here. They appeared to be in the thousands. "It must be pretty big inside," I thought. It's size was later confirmed by my Mom, who said that it is e-normous inside. "Cavernous," she said.

The entrance to 30 Rockefeller Center.

"The" Tree. And it was every bit as impressive as I thought it would be.
Here again the holiday vibe got to me, but on a much larger scale. First of all, on the plaza surrounding the ice rink, it was wall-to-wall people. Everyone was so festive and cheerful. Folks were invariably obliging whenever asked to snap a picture for someone else. I was no exception. I think I took two or three.

Luckily one of them reciprocated and snapped this one of me.

A couple more shots of the skating rink.

By this time it was around 6pm and I was seriously gassed. I called Daniel and told him. He said he would be at it for a while yet, and for me to head on back to Yonkers if I wanted and he would be coming later. So I caught the train and stopped at Pete's for something to eat. I grabbed a Diet Coke and some Doritos. Something familiar, you know? Then I approached the deli counter and ordered a 1/2 pound of a salad that looked tasty. Turned out to be calamari salad, and it was good. At the cash register, I noticed a container of cookies. But not just any cookies. These were the infamous "Black & White" cookies featured prominently in the Seinfeld episode entitled "The Dinner Party."

"Oh look Elaine, the black and white cookie...the trick is to get some black and some white in each bite...nothing mixes better than Vanilla and Chocolate. And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us...Look to the cookie, Elaine, look to the cookie."

So I bought a couple, intending to bring them back as souvenirs - one for my nephew Stanley (a huge Seinfeld fan) and one for my sister Judy (fond of Seinfeld).

Daniel arrived home around eight and we again relaxed and watched television, talked about stuff and played his guitars. And the next morning was a replay of the previous one. Daniel took off to head into the city around 8am, and I followed suit a couple of hours later.

My agenda for December 10th was to spend the first few hours in Central Park, scouting photo ops.

Here is a picture of Old Yankee Stadium which I took from the train on the way into the city.
The new stadium is out of frame to the left. I was a bit annoyed, frankly, at how well this picture turned out. I was on a moving train, and I had about three seconds to frame and take the picture. I had the previous night tried about thirty times to take a non-blurred shot of the neon sign at the 30 Rock entrance. I was standing still on solid ground and couldn't seem to manage it.

This, O Man, is the Grand Central Market - about one hundred yards of the tastiest looking produce, baked goods, and other eatables that you'll ever see.
There were about a bajillion things I would've liked to have sampled, but I limited myself to a half-pound of salmon salad - the cashier obliged by handing me a fork and a napkin.

Back in Times Square.
Here are some faithful theatre afficionados braving the elements to line up at the TKTS kiosk, some perhaps hoping to score tickets for...

GREASE! Remember this guy? Yeah, it's that guy from "Idol." I'm sorry but that is not 50's hair. Perhaps Ace has a "Sampson" complex.

At this point, to hasten my way to the Park, I hopped a train up to W. 72nd St., where the Dakota is located. More specifically, W. 72nd and Central Park West.

This is the infamous entryway on W. 72nd where John Lennon was ambushed upon arriving home from a photo shoot.

To date I have done many of the things which comprise my "New Yorky things to do" checklist. Some of which were: ride a subway, use a subway station restroom, eat a hotdog from a sidewalk vendor, eat a NY slice, wander around the Port Authority Bus Terminal, etc. I had not yet checked off "Eat a pretzel from a sidewalk vendor." And, since there was a pretzel vendor across the street from the Dakota, right at the entrance to the park, I took the opportunity to get one, along with a soda.

This is a shot of the Dakota Building, taken from the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park.

At the heart of Strawberry Fields is the mosaic pictured below.

This is the "Imagine" mosaic which, like the entire Strawberry Fields area, is dedicated to the memory of John Lennon.
The mosaic itself is located just a few steps into the park. I took a seat on one of the many benches along the path, and began to eat my pretzel along with my salmon salad.

As I sat there I observed the people trickling down the path to the mosaic for picture taking. There were no throngs of people, just a steady trickle. Every five minutes or so an individual, a couple, or a small group would happen along, stand for a bit looking at the mosaic, then take their photos. I heard several different languages being spoken by the various groups.

The next several shots were taken as I made my way through the Park, first eastward to Bethesda Terrace/Fountain, then southward through the Mall, then westward again as I made my way eventually to Columbus Circle.

The Lake

In the Park, there is always a bench handy.

The Bow Bridge, seen in many movies, most recently in "Enchanted," I believe.

Bethesda Terrace. The Fountain is just out of frame to the left.
Like Bow Bridge and many other areas of the Park, the Terrace and Fountain have been featured in lots of movies. Enchanted, Home Alone 2, Ransom, and Godspell are just a few that come to mind.

The Fountain. Empty. Perhaps to prevent folks from trying to skate on it.

This is a shot from underneath the Terrace with the Fountain visible through the arches. I like this one.

The Park in a rainy haze.

This is the section of the Park known as The Mall. If you were to walk in the other direction from the way you are facing, you'd end up back at Bethesda Terrace.

Another view of The Mall.

Some berries on a tree.
A zoomed-in shot of berries on a tree.

Tavern on the Green, which is the only restaurant located in the park, unless you want to count the hot dog stands at the Central Park Zoo.

Columbus Circle in the rain.
Before I had exited The Park, it had begun to rain for real. There was also wind strong enough to blow my umbrella wrong side out. The above shot was taken from under the awning at the entrance to Time/Warner Center - an office building with a kind of high-end shopping mall making up the first three floors. The building and mall incidentally are also featured in 'Enchanted.' Many other people had also taken shelter in the lobby. Near the entrance was an "umbrella bag dispenser," a concept unheard of in the Valley of the Sun. Apparently you put your umbrella in it so that the floor does not get dripped on.

One practicality to be dealt with while walking around Manhattan all day is finding a bathroom. Here is a tip: Time/Warner Center, third floor. Magnificent facilities.

"Shrek, The Musical - Bringing Ugly Back." This was the one show I was tempted to see while in NYC.

The Hello Deli. It is located on the side street which runs just south of the Ed Sullivan Theatre.
Owned and operated by Rupert Gee who became, and remains, a fixture on Letterman ever since the show moved into the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Though I did not on this trip, I have previously gone in to order food. The space inside is enought for about five people to stand. Tiny.

The Ed Sullivan Theatre.
I didn't intend for this to be in b&w. I must've inadvertently set it that way. Looks cool, though.

The same shot in color.
I took both shots while in the standby line to get in to see Dave. I actually tried on both tuesday and wednesday to get in. The ushers would from time to time pass by and offer encouragements such as "Stay positive! You've still got a chance!" only to dash our hopes moments later by bluntly declaring, "Sorry folks, theatre's full. Enjoy New York."
After failing on Wednesday, I wandered down around the corner. As I was passing the Hello Deli, a black Suburban passed by, stopping at the curb next to the Theatre's side entrance. I then began seeing camera flashes and hearing voices shouting. As I neared, I saw that the person causing all the commotion was Keanu Reeves, who was arriving for his guest spot. I was not able to get a shot of him before he ducked inside. Some of the folks crowding there clearly made it a routine to show up every day to try for pictures and/or autographs. One or two old ladies knew the security men by name. After I had returned to Arizona I became retroactively bummed upon finding out that Amy Adams had been the other guest on that taping. I would've liked to have seen her.

This is, as the sign says, Mendy's - a kosher deli. It is one of many shops and eateries located in a kind of mini-mall one floor down from the lobby of 30 Rock.
Any who consider themselves Seinfeld fans are free to comment and tell how Mendy's relates to the show.

Well, it was a very enjoyable trip. An exhausting one. I walked probably four or five miles on both full days I was there. I'd always wanted to have a stay in NYC longer than seven or eight hours, and thanks to the hospitality of my friend Daniel, I was able to. Plus I got to reconnect with Daniel who, as I said previously, I had not seen for several years.

If you ever get the chance to be in NYC during the holidays, even if only for a day or two, take it! You'll love it.
Peace out.