Friday, June 19, 2015

Back home in Indiana

My SO and I visited New York City recently and ran ourselves ragged. For one thing, the city radiates energy, so it's hard to act laid back. Also, people walk really fast on crowded sidewalks, so you either keep up or get out of the way. Then there were the steps in the subways.

In three days, we put 92 flights of stairs on our Fitbits. Not for the faint of heart. The walking and stairs also explain why NYers are so thin. Not sure why we saw very few tattoos.

Getting there:

Our flight out of FW was delayed, but Delta automatically booked us on a later flight out of Detroit. Our original flight from Detroit was also delayed, so we made it to NYC almost as expected. We were happy to leave the driving to the professional cabbie who got us to the Hampton Inn Manhattan/UN in one piece.

This was Midtown, not as swanky as other parts of the city, but plenty busy and lively. After a nap in our tiny but nicely appointed hotel room, we started walking south, toward the Strand. LOTS of places to eat (we ate at the Shake Shack), plus street vendors selling fruit. We didn't make it all the way to the Strand, which clued us into the fact our idea about walking across Manhattan to the Highline was just crazy talk.

Although we've never had a bad experience at any Hampton Inn, the service at this one was above average, presumably due to the diplomatic clientele. It also had the smallest footprint of any hotel I have been in, just eight (smallish) rooms per floor, 21 floors, no 13th.

Except for the construction next door, the neighborhood was relatively quiet, populated mostly by foreign missions. In previous visits to NYC, I've had to sleep with earplugs to deaden the nightlong sounds of honking cars and garbage trucks in reverse (BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!) This time they served to muffle my bedmate's snoring.

Day 1:

After sleeping in, we ate breakfast at the Comfort Diner. I had the red flannel hash breakfast, made with corned beef and sweet potatoes (vegetables ARE for breakfast). It was very good especially with fresh squeezed orange juice. There were lamps made with sports trophies, like a tennis trophy and a bowling trophy; I could make something like that with my bowling trophy. There were also these weird children's book covers on the wall, like Little Bobbby's Drunk Again and It's Not Going to Get Any Better when You Grow Up. (These are for real.)

We decided to do the Whitney before the Highline, which was a smart move. There was a lot to see there. I did not like that the descriptions of the sculptures were on the wall instead of near the works themselves. The Vietnam Era work brought me to tears; wasted young lives. My favorite piece was constructed of handmade stuff like crocheted afghans, macrame, yarn octopus dolls, etc. It reflected my life in crafting, and made me want to go home and make something with my old afghans. Photos here.

My SO was really good at knowing which artists did what. We also discussed how I could turn my pile of old computer equipment into a work of art: my career in IT. We were sitting under the stairway to the Highline at the time.

We walked part of the Highline, but SO's feet gave out because he bought new sandals for the trip too soon to break them in. I was disappointed that we didn't do the whole thing, but we went back the next day, primarily to see the the sculptures. I liked how they incorporated the old rails and the idea of rails into the design. There were lots of places to sit.

We were also stopped by a tiny (presumably) Buddhist nun who (for a donation) gave us malas. They smelled like sandalwood. The malas proved useful for waving off similarly dressed monks.

Once we were off the Highline, we stopped at the Empire Diner for some dessert. I had the Dulce de Leche, which was WONDERFUL. Then back to the hotel for a rest. Then out again, to see the UN building. We ended up walking north to 50th Street, then west to Fifth Ave. Lots of tourists.

Day 2:

Breakfast at Pershing Square, right across from Grand Central Station. The place was busy, but FAST. The food was not as good as Comfort, but perfectly adequate for breakfast. Then we (well, mostly SO) took photos in the train station.

We expected to spend the day in Brooklyn, but it was a bit of a bust. For one thing, neither of us slept well. For another, it was school field trip day at the Botanical Gardens. And it was HOT. We did take in their bonsai collection, plus wandered the Japanese garden a bit.

Since the Green-Wood Cemetery (another planned destination in Brooklyn) was too far to walk to, we came back to Manhattan and went to the NY Public Library to see a photo exhibit. We got there in time for the lecture, which was useful. Then we pooped out and grabbed some sandwiches from Fresh & Co to take back to the room. Time for a nap.

Up and at 'em to return to the Highline. This time we worked our way from north to south, seeing all the neat sculptures. Then back toward the hotel. We were getting tired of restaurant food, but we ate at Scotty's where we could order pleasantly bland pot roast and chicken pot pie. It wasn't all that great, but at least it was quiet.

Day 3:

We decided we were trying to do too much, so we skipped the Frida exhibition in the Bronx (too difficult to get to and too expensive) and went to the Guggenheim (which was between shows, so not much to see there), then hung out in Central Park.

We even visited Strawberry Fields, which was more meaningful than we expected. Everyday there are flowers and music.

To get to the Upper East Side, we gave the bus a try, thinking we would see more besides subway tunnel walls. Big FAIL. It took a long time for the right bus to arrive at our stop, then we had to stand up in the back and couldn't see out the windows very well. We were traveling up Madison Ave, so I watched designer names roll by. To get back, we took the subway.

Home sweet home smells like dirty cat litter:

We really liked the hotel. We were able to print the boarding passes in their business center. We used their car service to get to the airport (nice but a bit pricey). I left a note for the maid requesting coffee sleeves, with a drawing of a coffee cup in case they couldn't read English. They left lots of coffee and extra cups, but no sleeves. Must be my lousy artwork.

The trip home was uneventful, just the way we like it. If I hadn't been so tired, I might have tried to negotiate an earlier flight, as we were at the airport in time to catch the Detroit bound flight before ours, but I just could not summon the strength.


When in NYC, I carry what I call "bum money" (I know - not very PC). It's for when someone is sitting on the sidewalk with a cup or is playing music with an open instrument case or is explaining their plight to a captive audience in a subway car or is offering a mala in exchange for hopes for peace. The money is folded and stacked individually in my pocket so I can pull out a single bill without effort. I know some (all?) of those requesting funds are not homeless or even in need. I consider it performance art, for which I'm happy to drop a buck.

Never on any of our trips to NYC have we been mistreated by the so-called locals (there are so many languages and so many people speaking in accented English, the city feels almost exotic). Unlike here, where strangers make eye contact and smile and say hello on the street, NYers ignore each other with aplomb. Yet we saw random, anonymous, impersonal acts of kindness. NYC really is a wonderful city to visit.