Saturday, November 11, 2006

New York, Day Two

Day 2, Saturday

(Written by Misha with guest contributor, Deb)

Well, we slept in. Each of us woke up on the hour, every hour starting at 7 am; however, we neither of us could manage to muster the energy to get up before 10:00. Through the night,
I made continual attempts to spoon Deb and squish her out of the bed- as I do to Mr. Misha, but Deb was totally unaware due to the combo of a cocktail, jetlag and Ambien.

OK, back to the day.

By noon, we were out of the hotel and ready to face the day. We were definitely groggy and somewhat puffy due to lack of H2O.

***Note, I had bought a liter of water yesterday, but did not drink a drop until 9:00 pm last night***. However, lugging the frickin' bottle around was a great way to fit in a workout for the day!

We bought bagels with schmears, coffee and water (hopefully to be consumed throughout the day) and were off to Times Square. We were heading back to Times Square to be total tourists; we bought the all-inclusive sightseeing package of double-decker bus rides around NYC. With cameras on and maps in hand, we boarded the bus anxiously awaited the tour to begin. We were off! Our tour guide was a redheaded, New York accented woman named Claire. She had a plethora of advice for us and threatened to kick us off the bus if we did not follow it. We were told not to eat in Times Square (Oh crap, we had already screwed up)

The Downtown Loop is just what it sounds like, a loop taken around the downtown area of New York City. It was a beautiful bright and sunny day and Deb and I were perched atop a red double-decker bus, Tourist Style. As we went through Times Square we were told about it's past. How it used to be filled with crime, strip clubs and porn shops. (The garish commercial space that now resides there cannot be less vulgar than it's previous inhabitants) The lights are really pretty at night, but it does make one a little nauseous during the day. We then crossed over Broadway and saw the Veteran's Day Parade. My favorite parade marchers were the All-Male, Purple-clad, Marching-Band with Rainbow Flags! So much for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell!" We then continued through the Theatre District, Madison Square Garden and onto the foot of The Empire State Building.

This is where I began to feel stupid. Claire, the tour guide, kept saying there is the building and for the life of me, I could not see it. She went on and on about why they change the colors of the lights that illuminate the top of the Empire State building, what colors for which occasion, etc. I still had no idea which building she was talking about, so I asked Deb. She pointed out the HUGE, but non-descript building directly in front of me. Then I realized my mistake, I had thought the beautiful Art Deco Style building I had seen in a million movies and pictures of NYC was the Empire State Building, it is not. It is The Chrysler Building. The Empire State Building sucks, it is just tall with colored lights on occasion. I was both embarrassed and disappointed at the same time.

The bus then took us to The Flatiron Building, now that is a cool building! I took some pictures of it and we were on our way again. Through Union Square and into Greenwich Village, then to SoHo. We stopped in Chinatown and bought did some shopping. I did a little bargaining for our stuff and it helped rebuild my self-esteem that the Lame-ass Empire State Building had left in a shambles.

A quick pee and we were back on our bus. Off to City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge. I saw where a lot of the exterior shots of all of the Law and Order episodes are shot. I took more pictures. No sightings of Jack, Elliot or Munch!

The next stop was St. Paul's Church and World Trade Center. We de-bused and headed toward the church. First, let me say that it is a really pretty church. It is also were a lot of the 9/11 rescuers went for a nap, a meal or moral support when they were looking for bodies at ground zero. I didn't realize how much it would get to me. Within the first 2 minutes of being in the church, I was tearing up. The church has been turned into a museum/memorial and the exhibits were tasteful and touching. There was a photographer/firefighter from the FDNY and he was talking with people as they left the church. I felt like a dork, all teary eyed, so I just headed out of the church after taking one quick picture of the church's altar.

We walked through the church's courtyard and then on to the WTC site. The site itself is just a big construction zone, but the exhibits, pictures and memorials were moving. Especially since in the background a man was playing a flute (first vagrant sighting). He played Amazing Grace, God Bless America and the national Anthem as hundreds of people read the names of those killed that day.

Given the current political state of our country, I had not been feeling very "Gung Ho America", but at that moment, I forgot that our president is an retard, we are slowly losing all of our civil liberties and that judgmental, hypocritical, bible thumpers are trying to brainwash the entire nation (being led by a pudgy little troll named, Karl) into drinking their particularly putrid flavor of Kool-Aid. I felt patriotic and sad, all at the same time.

Well, we got back on the bus. But this time, instead of our New York accented tour guide, we had this indiscernible Chinese woman on the loud speaker. Deb and I were in the back of the bus with a bunch of rowdy Welshmen. All of my work in high school at Robert's China Garden was finally about to pay off! I became the Chinese ESL to English translator for our area of the bus. It was hysterical. She would say something and I would then translate it. Deb was about to pee herself. The Welshmen were thrilled; they had been on the bus for over an hour and had no idea what the hell the lady was talking about. We went through Battery Park, South Street Seaport, and then the Lower East Side, all the time I espoused the history of the particular area.

We left the ESL tour guide and took off for Katz's Deli. It is well known for the fake orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally" and it is also famous for it's PASTRAMI. I am not particularly a pastrami fan. But this stuff kicked ass! It melted in your mouth. They hand-slice the meat, no slicing machine to be found in this joint. Our "slicer", Eddie, was an aspiring actor (surprise!). He wanted Deb and I to take him back to California with us. He even gave us his card, yikes!

Thoroughly sated, we got back on the bus in the Lower East Side. Much to our elation.......It was Claire! We were so excited to tell her where we had been. (It had been one of the commandments of Claire, ..Thou shalt eat a pastrami sandwich from Katz's Deli..). She made Deb and I part of her tour and had us speak, on the loudspeaker (like we needed one), about the culinary delights we had just partook of at Katz's.

Still on the bus, we toured the East Village. We went past the United Nations, the Waldorf Astoria and Rockefeller Center. The Christmas tree had arrived that day, but was not lit up. The skating rink was filled with ice skaters and the surrounding ginkgo trees were covered in white lights. We passed Central Park but couldn't see anything because it was now DARK. Finally, back to Times Square and off the bus.

WE HAD TO PEE! This is a nearly impossible task in Times Square. We also decided that we needed some coffee to keep us alert for the Nighttime Loop. "Why not kill two birds with one stone and pee @ Starbucks?" We thought we were so smart, but the Times Square Starbucks has no bathroom. After obtaining our lifeblood (Coffee), the Barista kindly pointed out a few places we could find a bathroom, but upon arrival to those locales, we found them to be out of order or a line as long as the Prime Meridian.

***Light bulb***
I bust out with my "Irreverent Guide to Manhattan" book and went to the section titled "Where to Pee" (No Kidding). The guidebook tells us to just pop into the lobby of a hotel and use their facilities. We stroll in to the Marriott Suites Times Square and cool as cucumbers make a beeline for the potty.

***The light bulb dims***
My first thought is to hold Deb's stuff, including her coffee, while she goes and then have her reciprocate. My bladder gets the best of me and I just get into the stall next to her. I hang my bags on the hook and place my brand-new-completely-full Starbucks coffee on the convenient little shelf (BIG MISTAKE). I do what I came there for and as I reach to gather my things, CRASH! Down goes my coffee and EXPLODES onto the floor. (This is almost as bad as the loss of my TIDE pen, see: day one) I wash my hands; lay some paper towels on the floor and out comes Deb. She starts to create this big lie to tell the hotel staff. I, on the other hand, decide to go the Mea Culpa route. I go out to the desk, smile, and say, "I have a confession" to the desk clerk. She thinks I am about to tell her where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, but instead I calmly say, "I dropped my coffee in the bathroom, I am really sorry." The desk clerk says no problem and calls housekeeping. Deb and I casually stroll back out to Times Square. I felt so frickin' smooth! Deb was impressed. I have almost recovered from the Empire State Building moment.

Back to Starbucks for a replacement coffee and onto the bus, AGAIN. This time for the Nighttime Loop. Our tour guide is a furry, cute little guy named Dave. Dave has an endearing charm and very dry sense of humor, but for a tour guide, not too chatty. For approximately 2 1/2 hours, we FREEZE OUR ASSES OFF as we travel, in the dark, past my nemesis, the Empire State Building and through Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown and Rockefeller Center, ONE MORE TIME. It does look different at night and you get a different perspective with Dave. Then, we go over the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. Why? I am still not sure. What I do know is that the residents of Brooklyn wave to the bus. This struck me as odd, but then, it is Brooklyn. After a few minutes, I start to get nervous. Dave has taken us to some sort of industrial park. I am pretty sure we are about to get WHACKED. Why in the hell would someone want to see a Brooklyn industrial park in the dark? Then the bus comes to a slow rolling stop and I am trying to figure out if the untouched litre of water in my purse will deflect the bullets. After all, I have a husband and cocker spaniel to go home to. I contemplate saying the rosary, just then, Dave comes on the loud speaker and says; "This is the best nighttime view of the Manhattan skyline." Ahhhhhh, a photo op! I stop looking for rosary beads (not) and bring out the camera. Up until this point, I have chalked up my blurry, somewhat Avant Garde night photography to the movement of the bus. It is at this point that I realize....... I do not know how to take a flipping picture with my camera. I feel like I am back at the Empire State Building all over again.

We get back to Times Square, get off the bus and head for the Subway. The plan is to go back to the hotel, drop off our stuff, freshen up and head to this late night noodle place for some Udon.

When we get off at our subway stop, a man has taken refuge in our exit way. He is all curled up in his green sleeping bag in front of Credit Suisse. We take the other exit and note that this in only the 2nd vagrant we have seen in over 24 hours.

Upon arrival to the hotel, we realize it is after midnight and the noodle house is closed. We go down to the front desk and ask where we can eat close by. He sends us three doors down to the "East Side Diner". It is empty, save for 2 drunk, pimply face guys making assess of themselves. Deb and I take a seat at the counter and order food. The two drunks provide the dinner entertainment. Deb and I get our food and that is when I realize...THIS IS THE BEST GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH I HAVE EVER EATEN!

We go back to the hotel; bellies full and hit the hay!

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