My return exploratory trip to Manhattan had me and Mary covering a great deal of territory in a 3-day span. The more we saw, the more we wanted to stay (especially since the day of our departure dropped more snow on NYC and New Jersey than you could shake a stick at (I don’t know if that metaphor works so well there…)). Alas, we’re back home now and sharing our pictures and impressions.
Day One: 12/23/2010: Reading: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
The decision was made in March. I would be spending my 30th birthday in New York City. And while life changes may have happened in the time between that decision and Christmas 2010, the goal never wavered. So here we are in Bethlehem, PA, the night before Christmas eve and in approximately nine hours, we’ll be bound for Port Imperial for a ferry ride that will deliver us to pier 79. Friday and Saturday, will be spent wandering the streets of Manhattan, until we can’t stand the soreness of our feet. Perhaps adventure will be in our future, perhaps boredom (doubtful), but I hope to get the views of an outsider down here no matter wheat the outcome.
We have cameras to catch the visuals, pen and paper for the mental, a recorder for the audio. Prepared as we are, New York has the capacity, like London and Paris before it, to throw some game changers at a moments notice. So we’ll need to stay open to those opportunities and hope that they lead to an experience that will be remembered for years to come.
Day Two: 12/24/2010
Port Imperial: I’ve taken boats as a method of mass transit before. From the ferry that delivers cars and pedestrians across Lake Eerie and dumps them onto the shores of Kelley’s Island, to the hydrofoil that took me from Japan’s Hakata to South Korea’s Pusan, this method of travel is no stranger. But I’d never taken a boat into NYC. Something about this particular choice—to take a boat into the city that had received so many throughout history the exact same way—seemed poetic. And once this option was made available, there wasn’t really any other option that would suffice.
The Belvedere Hotel: If you want to stay near the heart of the island, but would also prefer the feel of a non-chain hotel, the Belvedere on 48th St & 8th Ave. might be a good fit—even if it does take a chunk out of your wallet. The staff here is fantastic and most have a damn good sense of humor. The rooms aren’t anything a seasoned hotel frequenter hasn’t experienced before. The standard two bed, dresser, television, writing table set up still applies, though most of the rooms have a nice view of a skyline—as opposed to the view that has you simply looking into the windows of the building across the street from you. The one exemplary feature of the Belvedere is the showers. My God, the showers. The flood of hot water pouring from the shower head was just what we needed after a long day of exploration. Would I stay at the Belvedere again? It’s quite possible, especially if you were in the market to catch a broadway show. The only thing that would get me away from staying at the Belvedere would be the opportunity to explore different parts of Manhattan more thoroughly, but that’s not the fault of the Belvedere; merely the fault of distance and space.
Times Square: The hustle and bustle of Times Square is legendary, but from my own experience, I knew I had to visit TS with Mary, but I didn’t know exactly why—other than maybe to see the hustle and bustle of TS. If that’s the case, then the location has simply become popular for being popular, which makes it about as gratifying as a cheese sandwich. Sure, there are stores and people and lighted signs, but at the end of the day, it’s just a big advertisement that shines into the night.
FAO Schwarz: Want to buy a $5 toy car or the $250,000 floor piano from Big? FAO Schwarz has you covered. What is essentially two floors packed with materialism, this shop is something to behold—even if the sight of it makes you ill.
Central Park: Walking through the bare trees and frozen dirt of Central Park at Christmas, one might think that here—more than many places—the holiday spirit might lift you up and do cartwheels on your heart. And while I will say that there’s something special about the park on a daily basis, on Christmas Eve, there’s nothing magical added to its inventory. There is ice skating, an abundance of street carolers, dressed up carriage rides, and the Loeb Boathouse is decked out in festive cheer, but for the most part, Central Park has been set aside as a place where the idle roam in the cold.
The Guggenheim: Due to our lazy stroll through central park, we were only allowed access to the Gug’s gift shop before they kicked us back out into December. Ah, well. Maybe next time.
Jekyll & Hyde Club: I’ve often pondered on the applicability of theme in modern business. Would it be possible to have a horror-styled theme park, where each group of guests is assigned their own stalker who will follow them about the park? Using that line of thought, the makers of the Jekyll & Hyde Club have taken theatrics and literary horror to the next level, quite possibly creating the cheesiest thing I’ve ever given money to. The club was recommended as a curiosity that I just had to see first hand, and while there was more humor than horror to this experience, the pursuit of a strange evening was certainly accomplished. Everyone, event the waiters, stay in character, and those characters are often subversive and insulting.
“Look at you with your beard and hoodie,” said the agitated butler to me. “Stop being the king of the hipsters and do something productive with your life!”
Oddly great stuff.
Empire State Building: Here’s a useful travel tip. Don’t show up just before the closing minutes of the Empire State building on Christmas Eve. Though you might see the city from a great height, the speed with which the staff will push you through the intestines of this great building will make you consider that $20 per person you paid at the teller’s station a waste of funds. Granted, I couldn’t hold it against them. Working on Christmas Eve must be a bitch. Still, we froze in the open air of the 80th floor observation deck, got some good pics of the city and hurried our asses out of there as fast as we could.
Day Three: 12/25/2010
NYC on Christmas: The city that never sleeps takes one hell of a siesta on December 25. We traveled from 48th St. W to Battery Park and the only things we found open was a Baskin Robbins, an electronics store and an international grocery mart. Luckily, we stumbled onto Chinatown at the end of the day and found that it was busy with open shops. One that stands out in particular is Yellow Rat Bastard, a clothing shop filled with some rocking shirts, clothes and other novelties. We ended the night there and went back to the Belvedere for our Christmas dinner, which was prepared for us by Amadeus Pizza (formerly Ray’s Pizza). Season’s Greetings.
The Financial District: The history of this section of New York is rich, and if I wanted to go further and make a pun on that opening, I certainly could.
Day Four: 12/26/2010
The Strand Bookstore: With the little time we had on Sunday, we decided to hit all those shops we found that weren’t open on Christmas. we picked out a select few to drop by and set out. Our first stop, a bookstore—but not just a bookstore. The Strand bookstore just east of Union Square is what all bookstore hope they’ll grow up to be, but so few actually come close. Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the Strand claims to have 18 miles of new, used, rare and out-of-print books. Since I didn’t have enough to buy out the entire shop, I settled for David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System.
Forbidden Planet Comics: Amazing comic book store just east of Union Square. Great staff, great selection and organization. #1 comic shop in NYC. We ended up with Neil Gaiman’s The Dangerous Alphabet, some Steve Niles stories, and a sonic screwdriver.
Washington Square & Greenwich Village: One place in New York that feels comfy and familiar. Probably my favorite area in New York simply because I always seem to gravitate in that direction whenever I’m there.
Little Lebowski Store: We actually began our trip to Manhattan with our minds set on visiting this shop, so it was kind of fitting that it was the last placed we hit during out stay. The Big Lebowski has ruled large parts of my life and formed not a little of my philosophies and stances in the world. So when I heard there was an achiever that had put up a store completely devoted to the film—and that it was near Washington Sq.—I had to make my pilgrimage and pay my dues. I was not disappointed. Note the shirt. [Note: More pics of the Lebowski store will be put up in an update to this post.]