Monday, October 29, 2012

Killer Squirrels and ADD Rooms


Today we took it easier. We started out late but well rested and less sore, and headed down to the Strand Bookstore which we had not made it to yesterday. Kirby found a few books (one of which he is reading as I write this). We were going to meet Lena and Daniel for lunch and had time to kill, so we had some tea at a place by the Strand and then headed down to the Financial District. 

Still with extra time we walked down to Battery Park. There, Tech Support decided to sit down for a moment. As he headed toward the bench I saw a squirrel trailing after him, but thought it was a coincidence. It wasn't, the squirrel continued after him, proceeded to get up on the bench and onto Tech Supports lap.

Certainly, it was a squirrel used to people, but Tech Support was not a people used to squirrels, so he shooed it away. Down on the ground a pigeon was hoping to get in on the action and just about got into a fight with the squirrel. At that point a sparrow swooped down and tried to pen him in on the other side and Tech Support abandoned the bench.

Escaping the overly friendly wild-life, we met up with Lena and Daniel at their office, on the 25th floor of one of the buildings in the financial district. We enjoyed a catered lunch while catching up and staring out the windows at a gorgeous view of the bay. They gave us a few tips on things to do in the area.

After that we headed back down to Battery Park and took the next ferry out to the Statue of Liberty. I'd watched Ken Burn's documentary and so turned up my nose to the audio guide, but Tech Support enjoyed it. The observation decks were all closed so we couldn't go inside, but I think I'd done that when I was ten and have no memory of it anyway.

Next we got back on the ferry and went to Ellis Island, which I hadn't done last time I was in New York. The audio tour was an unending series of rhetorical questions and requests that the listener "imagine" that they are a poor immigrant at the turn of the century. I wished they'd been more imaginative in their audio tour. However, I still enjoyed the exhibits and learning about Ellis Island.

Going on a tip from Lena we did a bit of subway hopping in order to see the abandoned City Hall Station, which involved staying on the 6 subway after it's last stop while it did the turn around. There was not a whole lot to see, mostly a glimpse of stairs and dark tile, but it was still a fun little adventure.

We went up to East Village where we sampled some bao and then gorged ourselves around the corner on delicious cookies and truffles. Buzzing with sugar we headed but uptown, were too late to do anymore shopping, but went to the Rockafeller Center to the Top of the Rock. I'm not sure why it's a rock, but we went up 67 stories and looked out at New York City at night. 

Nothing will ever out-do the Sears Tower for dizzying views that had me clutching at the wall, but neither do I need that experience again. I love seeing cities at night, and it reminded me of the time Tech Support and I looked out at Tokyo at night from the Roppongi Hills Skydeck.

It also had this funny "ADD Room" as Tech Support called it, where moving around caused the lights to do all kinds of different things. He had fun running around and claimed there was a way to "win", although the good humored guard explaining it all to us just said that it was set off by our movements.

After spending a while romantically gazing out at the city, we got cold and headed back to the hotel for an earlier night and some much needed rest.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Laundry List Day


Everyday we're doing so much, the days seem endlessly long in a good way, and I could almost write the day out as a laundry list, something like this:

Grand Central Station
New York Public Library
Moma Design Store
Purl Soho
Soba Koh
Tokyo Toy
Video Game New York
Tenement Museum
Forbidden Planet

But leaves out all the flavor of the trip. Such as when we got on the subway in the morning to go to Grand Central Station a very decrepit looking woman ran off lugging a bag that seemed a bit too heavy for her, followed by a similarly decrepit man slurring "Hey! My bag!" Leaving all of us wondering  who was the victim.

So let me continue in my usual fashion.

Grand Central Station is something I will associate with The Fisher King, but alas, none of the busy people hurrying through started to dance. Despite having seen many images of it I was amazed by how high the ceiling was, and entranced by the juxtaposition of the unused space above our heads and the crowd on the floor.

Also, there was an apple store when you went up a set of stairs, for the most part not closed in by any walls. As worshippers of Apple we were required to go... inside? for a few minutes, but this time did not pay for any tributes.

After that we had breakfast at nearby Pershing Square, and then went on to the New York Public Library. The space was so beautiful I was caught between envying the patrons for getting to use such a beautiful space, and feeling bad because of the number of tourists they have to put up with while trying to use their library. Downstairs there was an exhibit on Lunch that was surprisingly interested, and had a section on the automat, something that has always seemed strange and fascinating to me.

After the library we took the subway down to the East Village for some shopping. Here I can do a bit more of a list, as we hit the Moma Design Store, Purl Soho, and Uniqlo. We had fun and managed not to divest ourselves of too much money.

We headed up a bit to go to Soba Koh, a place that had been recommended by someone where I work. The Soba Noodles there are handmade and it's a bit of a splurge, but it was totally worth it to both of us. The noodles were firm and substantial, I got mine with Uni and Ikura (sea urchin and salmon eggs) and Tech Support got his with tempura soft shelled crab. I offered him some of mine but as he said, "I have what you have only I don't like any of your toppings". Oh well, I thought it was delicious.

Afterwards they gave us the water from boiling the soba to make a soup with our dipping sauce, and tea. It was a beautiful meal and since we were the last people there before they closed, we enjoyed it mostly to ourselves.

Next we went to Tokyo Toy and Video Game Store New York. On the way to the second we encountered the sound of bikes revving and bagpipes playing. Curious, we went to watch as tough men on bikes and firefighters seemed to be rehearsing in front of an Irish Pub. It wasn't until I got a text from Mom reminding me it was September 11th that I realized it was probably a memorial of some kind.

Video Game Store New York is practically a museum of video games. Thanks to Game Center CX (where a Japanese man in his mid-late thirties plays retro games of his/our childhood) I recognized many games I wouldn't have otherwise. Tech Support and I enjoyed going through our own childhoods and sharing which ones had been important to us. He picked up a few games for an antiquated system he'd recently rediscovered.

We were low on time and the bus didn't help, but we managed to make it to the Tenement Museum in time to go on the last tour of the day. It was more interesting than I expected and we got to see up close how tiny their apartments were, how dangerous and bad for health, but also learn about how people persevered in those situations despite children dying and husbands disappearing.

We still had a little time to kill before meeting Catherine for dinner, so we went to a comic book store and then met up with her early. We hadn't seen each other in forever and enjoyed catching up on the past half-dozen years. After eating sushi she lead us to a secret bar that you entered just by going through an unmarked metal gate and down some stairs. It felt awesome and sophisticated.

After that we were finally done with the day, we took the subway and then I got my first good night of sleep.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Didn't Sleep To Well


Yesterday was a very, very long day. But it was also amazing.

Still didn't sleep too well, and the sun is coming in through our window like a giant spotlight early in the morning. After tossing and turning for a bit we got up and headed out. Our breakfast plan was the uber-health conscious dunkin' donuts, and despite it being literally across the street from us, it took us about 10 minutes to find. In our defense, it was down by the subway and not at ground level.

We walked down 53rd street to Moma, but were 40  minutes early and rather than wait in line took a stroll around the neighborhood, through the Rockafeller center and past the fifth avenue shops. 

After killing time for a bit we went back to Moma where the line seemed long but moved fast. I knew which floors I was interested in, so we started at the very top, 6th floor. There were two special exhibits, one on Alighiero Boetta and another on design for children. Both were interested but not what I had really come to Moma for.

What I had come for was on the 5th floor: Magritte, Dali, Modigliani, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Malevich, Miro, Tanguay, and all that good stuff. We went through room after room of modern painting. I didn't use the audio track much because I didn't want to be distracted from the actual paintings.

I was familiar with many of the paintings, but nothing compares to seeing a painting in person, it just evokes a different feeling in me than seeing photographs in books or on the internet. Moma has one of my favorite Magritte paintings, Empire of Light 2, and it was like running into an old friend. I spotted a Modigliani from across the room. Salvidore Dali's Persistence of Memory was much smaller than I expected, as a lot of famous paintings have been. Andrew Wyeth's Christine's World casually hung in one corner near the elevator, as though she couldn't get herself into any of the main rooms either.

We had lunch at the mid-range cafe, discussing the art we'd seen and what famous painter we'd want hanging on our walls. I've discovered that Tart's and Quiche's and things with warm cheese are always the safe choice at museums.

We went through most of the rest of the museum at a fairly rapid pace, checking out the Warhol and etc. There was a special exhibit on the Brother's Quay which was very interesting, and we did slow down for it, but it left them as enigmatic and unknowable as ever.

Though a bit sore from all the walking we headed out to do a bit of shopping, but I didn't find anything I loved. We searched for food in the Times Square area but it was a bit too touristy, and after fussing tiredly at each other near our hotel we grabbed some snacks from a nearby convenience store for dinner. It was a marked difference from lunch.

After that we rested a bit because we were about to go see Sleep No More -- the most anticipated part of our trip. For months we weren't even sure we'd be able to see it, because it was scheduled to close before we'd get there. All my relations and friends were subjected endlessly to descriptions and eager hopeful proclamations. Nervously we'd log onto their website and watch the dates eek closer to our vacation days until finally they were extended through September. So, putting it mildly, we were very excited (and nervous) about seeing Sleep No More. 

Getting there on the subway was easy, and we found our way to the McKittrick hotel with no trouble, joining a long line of people ready to go in. It wasn't too long before we entered.

It's the kind of thing that's hard to talk about, because it feels like it should be a secret. It's hard to even describe the feeling, an adult play land of dark hallways and mysterious rooms, dancers and nudity. Trying to define it would take away the magic, and trying to leave it mysterious would make me sound like HP Lovecraft, full of indescribable and unnamable. And of course, pictures were not allowed. That would ruin the experience. The few people talking when they shouldn't annoyed me for breaking the atmosphere.

Here's what I can say:

Before even donning our masks, Tech Support and I got split up and I was terrified at being alone but also okay, because I wanted us to have separate experiences. Still, when I found him 10 minutes later I took the opportunity to startle him. We explored together for maybe an hour before I lost him in a room full of people. I kept an eye out for a tall guy in a light shirt, but there were quite a few of them. (Later he told me there were a lot of short girls too). 

I spent the next two hours or so wandering on my own until the climax of the show, when we were all shuffled out of the hotel. Tech Support and I found each other and rather than fight the crush of people, headed back out into the real world.

It was a surprisingly gentle transition. It was now after ten and dark and moody outside. We took the opportunity to walk over and sit on the high line. We felt safe even though it was late and we were in a strange neighborhood, and sat and talked about the different things we'd seen. Tired and foot-sore, I pushed us to head back to our hotel. While walking down the high line we heard a strange voice from underneath, a recording, say "Bad Animals. Tapeworm. Rats. Cockroach." And in some way it felt like we were still in a performance art piece. (Of course it was another bit of art we'd stumbled across.)

In our room, we made reservations to do Sleep No More again on Friday.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New York, New York


I always expect packing to take more work than it actually does. Maybe I remember too many childhood trips taken with four people, when my brother was a baby, and lugging what seemed like a dozen (although was probably more like four)  bags around.

Instead I toss as many clothes as I can into a suitcase along with Tech Support's, and it only fills one suitcase, and we're done. And I wander around the apartment trying to find what I've forgotten.

Still, I don't sleep great before flights, and the night before last was no exception. As a result I was pleasantly out of it for the ride to the airport, breakfast at McDonalds, and most of the flight too. 

We took off a little late and Tech Support and I were sitting in a front area with massive amount of legroom and no place for our bags. The single window was covered up by our third row-mate, so the entire time I kept pretending that we weren't actually in the air, but in a strange vibrating room. Frigid air was blasting from the emergency exit, making our poor row-mate who sat next to it miserable, as well as bewildered and upset that no one could do anything about it mid-air.

So for about 5 hours we read, fussed, got hungry but didn't pay for expensive food, dozed, and then landed.

It was raining in Jamaica (where JFK is, which did confuse me). We actually were late getting in because of a "weather system" which we later discovered to our extreme surprise were tornados in Brooklyn. We missed all of it, and took a cab into Manhattan. Traffic was slow at first but eventually we saw the bright lights.

After checking in and changing we headed out to meet up with Erica. Not sure how to get a cab Tech Support kinda flailed in the air until a driver took pity on us. We met up with Erica and her beau and enjoyed good company, good conversation and chianti. Afterwards we split up, tried to find the subway, gave up, and took the taxi back to the hotel.


Neither of us slept too great. In the morning I dozed poorly, my body bewildered by the way the sun blasted through the windows at 5am (it didn't know about the time change). Eventually we dragged ourselves up and out to breakfast.

We enjoyed our breakfast thoroughly, and almost as much enjoyed watching about two dozen well dressed New Yorkers poured into the restaurant. There was a lot of hugging and chatting and near as we could figure a large group of family and friends had just come from service and were enjoying some kind of occasion together for breakfast. Envelopes kept being passed to one member of the party. Tech Support and I speculated on what was happening.

After that we figured out the subway system without too much pain and took two short jaunts to get from near our hotel up to a corner of Central Park. 

Of course we had to go to the Apple Store there. Tech Support got himself a diminutive magic gizmo for taking credit cards which seemed to make him happy about a future of charging people. Rather than going to the park we went further down 5th street, checking out all the fancy stores. We found Uni Qlo and checked out the clothes but weren't ready to shop yet, so turned and headed back to Central Park.

Under orders from my mother to go to Strawberry Fields we went entered the park. We'd been discussing Law and Order and the high chances of finding a dead body in the area, so I took every opportunity to go under bridges (the best place to find a body). Unfortunately my zeal lead us far afield of our actual goal, and even took us directly under Strawberry Fields. Thanks to Tech Support we finally ended up in the right area, where dozens of tourists were gathered around the imagine mosaic. A man with a guitar kept singing "Let It Be" over and over again, possibly not even using any other lyrics. I wondered why he didn't sing Imagine.

After that we meandered through the park a bit more, enjoying a perfect day too much because suddenly we were out of time and rushing back into the city to meet with Erica on time. I almost got us lost but then we found her and her guy in time for "Avenue Q".

"Avenue Q" made me feel very different about puppets. It was also an excellent way to relax after walking all over the city. Afterwards we had a few more minutes to catch up with Erica, though it didn't really feel like enough, as they walked us back to our hotel. We shared awkward hugs and waved goodbye. Unfortunately, it wasn't until later that day I realized I'd failed to take any pictures of us together.

Tech Support and I weren't really ready to retire to our room, but since we were at the hotel we went inside only to discover the hotel wasn't ready for us either -- the elevators weren't moving. We left and went down the street to a restaurant in our guidebook where we enjoyed a long romantic dinner together.

Tech Support had some romantic New-York-Notion of staying out late doing more things, but by the time we were done and it was nearly 8pm we instead were ready to collapse into our bed. Luckily this time the elevators were working and we got to our room without trouble.