Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In and out of New York City

It started out as a cruddy day. We asked five people for directions to a local grocery store; we got five different but equally unhelpful responses. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t always give the best directions at home, but not being able to find someone that can point you toward a supermarket that ends up being just a mile away is a most frustrating experience. To top things off, after stocking up on food I was the recipient of a most unwelcome gift. After running over a stick in the road I felt something smack solidly against my helmet. Wow, what bad luck - that stick flipped up and landed right on my head, and it felt kind of muddy and gross too! If only I was that lucky. The impact was actually a large chunk of birdy-doo. As you can tell from the picture, there was significant collateral damage. This bird should be overseas fighting terrorism for goodness sake. I’m positive that leading a moving target at that kind of elevation with such a crude weapons system would warrant some type of marksmanship award from the Marines.

Thankfully our luck was about to change. That same day later down the road we struck up conversation with a fellow named Wayne. He was inspired enough by our story to hand us a $100 bill. “Use half of that for your trip expenses and give the rest to charity.” Yes sir! This was our second donation of this kind; can you believe the generosity of some people!? As if our day hadn’t been made already, we stumbled across more good fortune after dinner. It was late and we had just finished our mac-and-cheese feast when a fellow outside of a restaurant asked us where we planned to stay that night. We filled him in on our plan to pitch a tent behind a nearby church. “I’ve got a place for you guys,” he chimed. Turns out this gentleman named Frank was the owner of the establishment were standing in front of: the historic Stockton Inn, a classy restaurant and motel dating back to 1710. He handed each of us our own room key. We would later find the accommodations to be not only representative of the period but also quite lavish. I don’t even want to know what a room like this would cost. Before it was time to hit the hay, Frank insisted we come in for a drink. The bar was beautiful, the drinks cold, and before we knew it the clock struck three AM. We said our goodnights and Frank told us that we should keep one of the rooms all week as to avoid carrying excess weight into New York City. I mentioned this was all free of charge, yes? The Stockton Inn: definitely worth a look.

The next day we woke up and made the journey into the big city. We arrived in Jersey City (right across the water from Manhattan) just in time to witness the shot you see here. What a magnificent backdrop. We quickly met up with our most gracious host, Meg, a manager at Goldman Sachs. She opened her beautiful home to us and took time to map out our first sight-seeing day in NYC. The next morning we woke early, hardly having slept due to the anticipation of exploring our biggest city yet. The NY Waterway ferry took us from Jersey and dropped us off at Seaport on Manhattan Island, resting place of several historic sailing vessels. The ride across the channel was an indicator of things to come - the ferry driver piloted the boat as if he was late for a rescue mission that started an hour before we boarded. Once on land, a few short footsteps had us walking down Wall Street past the New York Stock Exchange. We took a moment to photograph the famous bull statue before continuing on to Battery Park, one of New York‘s gorgeous green spaces. After stopping for a mandatory Bagel sampling we gazed into the void that is “ground zero,” the former site of the World Trade Center. The sight, though cleaned up and under reconstruction, still evokes powerful emotions. From here it was on to the “circle line,” a ferry tour that takes passengers round the perimeter of Manhattan Island. Truly a spectacular way to get a grip on NYC and its surrounding boroughs, the cruise afforded us spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, and so much more. Once back on land we made a beeline for the Empire State Building to witness its towering brilliance; like a needle infusing the heavens, she was a sight to behold. We wrapped up our day by meeting Meg for dinner at a superb Thai restaurant. I ordered the lamb vindaloo, possibly the only thing hotter on earth than liquid magma. What I tasted of the meal was delicious. Check please - and perhaps a borax bomber if you have one available?

The following day we began by exploring Central Park. We had been informed that we would likely get lost just wandering the grounds - yeah right I’m thinking. Just in case, we grabbed a map. After an hour and a decent amount of riding I felt like we had a decent handle on the landscape. That’s when I figured out that the map we possessed was that of only half the park! From castles, to turtle ponds, to countless statues, the space is a testament to New York’s fabulous park land, land that occupies a full quarter of Manhattan! Directly on the border of Central Park resided the Met(ropolitan) Museum of Art. One of the world’s most prolific galleries, I had the chance to lay eyes on Michelangelo’s first painting. So full of wonder was the museum that I created a separate image gallery on our photos page to showcase some of the work. Proceeding onward, we took time to check out the brilliant lights of Times Square en route to Grand Central Station. An architectural marvel in itself, I can’t imagine a more impressive way to start one’s day with public transportation. It was near Grand Central that we had some of the most scrumptious street food imaginable. Five bucks netted you nearly five pounds of heavenly Jewish cuisine - New York knows how to eat, the culinary culture proved that much. Strolling further down 5th avenue, we basked in the limelight of capitalism as we passed by hundreds of luxury shops that make this place the Mecca of retail. I dare say we didn’t fit in with all the pretty people in their Gucci sunglasses and designer jeans. If only they knew what they really needed… I digress. Returning to the topic of food, we found our way over the bridge to Brooklyn where we heard of the legend of Grimaldi’s, the city’s premier purveyor of New York style pizza. We devoured what could be argued the world’s finest pie and made two new delightful new friends in the process, Drew and Alicia. When all was said and done, people told us we had seen more of New York than most residents do in a full year.

In the morning we started our voyage back to Stockton and the Historic Inn. We arrived in time to catch a most exquisite dinner and some of the finest live music we have experienced all trip. The burger I inhaled was possibly the best I have had in my lifetime (but then again that could have been the beer talking). The one man band however, did have the most impressive vocal range I have heard in ages. He played Folsom Prison, American Pie, and a myriad of other songs with the full splendor and passion of the original artists. What memories.


  1. New York sounds like it was a blast! Way to work in all the touristy stuff. Can't believe you guys are in Illinois already. Travel safe and try to avoid the birds. :)

  2. Somehow I sense it's-all-about-food, eh? Could be wrong. Taste treats described are going to be hard to compete with.

  3. Delightful commentary - thanks for the literary treat :)