Friday, December 31, 2010

New York, New York ~ The Voyage Home

Sitting in La Guardia now. Mental note to self. Driver’s license is not enough to self-check in at a Delta Kiosk. My flight is delayed, and won’t take off until about 1pm instead of noon. But that’s okay. It just shortens my layover in Atlanta, without making it so brief as to be worrisome. It’s funny, I’ve been out of the loop a little, traveling and playing tourist. Getting back to the airport and news on television always seems to be a shock. I remember getting into the Spokane airport after a week in Glacier and finding out that back in Houston, Ken Lay had died. Right now I’m hearing that George Steinbrenner is dead. Wow. And tonight is the MLB All Star game. Very sad.

But it looks like they’re working to cap the well in the Gulf, and there’s some hope that this new plan could get things contained quicker than waiting for the relief wells. Fingers crossed!

I’m a little confused, because there’s information for a delayed flight to Atlanta up on the screen, but it’s a different number than my flight. The delay keeps moving later and later, so I should probably check this out.

Well, it’s not quite 1:30pm, and my flight through Atlanta has been cancelled altogether. There’s a flight direct to New Orleans leaving at 8:40ish PM, though, and I’m now booked on that. Here’s hoping that the weather has cleared and that everything goes well. It gets me home pretty late (11 something pm?) but it gets me home tonight. Work tomorrow is going to be decidedly unfun.

Of course, La Guardia is a zoo, because my flight isn’t the only one that’s been cancelled. A lot of people have no option but to go home and try again tomorrow. So I’m not so bad off. The point at which I was connected to a representative, and couldn’t hear her and asked her to speak up, and got hung up on, and then called back and was told that the call volume was so heavy that no calls were being taken, THAT was a pretty low point. I’m feeling much better now.

But it really just means that I have a whole day to sit in the airport and organize my photos and proofread my journals and meditate upon a very fun trip. I saw everything I really wanted to see, while leaving enough unseen for another trip some day. And exciting as it all was, I have to agree with the sentiments of the friends I made on my flight over. New Orleans is MUCH more fun! Definitely glad to visit Manhattan and live in NOLA! Love you, my city! Coming home soon!

New York, New York ~ Day 4, July 12

The last days of a vacation like this always do seem to be like a test of will between me and my feet. My feet have hurt so much, but I’ve still walked as much as I’ve subwayed. There’s just too much to see to spend all my time underground. But I really appreciate the subway. I navigated it more today than any of the days before.

First, I took it down to Rector Street stop to see Trinity Church. I’ve been reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and I believe it appears in the fifth book, which I finished last night. I’ve always enjoyed it when my travels interweave themselves with literature. I read The Da Vinci Code on the way to Paris and Angels and Demons on the way to Rome. I hadn’t known that Memnoch the Devil was set partly in New York, but it’s an apt coincidence, and since the church was said to be at the foot of Wall Street, and I wanted to look around down there anyhow, Trinity made a nice focal point for that wandering. When I got there, it was additionally AWESOME to find out that it was the resting place of Alexander Hamilton. How cool is that? I did not know!

It was a beautiful, ornate Episcopal church, and it seemed fitting to offer a prayer there for the souls that passed and the families bereft through the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, which was where I was headed next.

There’s not a lot to see at the site of the towers themselves right now. It’s off behind fencing and banners because of the extensive ongoing construction, but it does make an impression to see nothing but cranes rising into the sky, so empty compared to the rest of the city. There’s a memorial and a preview for the planned rebuilding set up in nearby offices. The weeping of people around me in these rooms as much as the exhibits themselves were sobering and moving. There are things I will always remember, as those before me remember hearing about the death of John F. Kennedy. I will always remember the Challenger and the shuttle Columbia, and I will always remember watching the towers fall. I couldn’t stay for long. I didn’t want to cry. I cry enough as it is. But it was important to me to go, and I’m glad I went. I will come back when the permanent memorial is finished, and pay my tribute there.

After that I had just enough time to catch the subway back up to Times Square and meet some friends at a really great little Italian restaurant called Sofia’s, a block off of Broadway. The food was wonderful, the restaurant virtually empty, and it was great to catch up with Jeremy and Cindy. (They’re doing well and staying busy and return the hellos everyone sent through me.) After lunch, they joined me in my wanderings to FAO Schwarz, Max Brenner’s for chocolate, eaten on a park bench in Union Square, the Strand bookshop, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and finally Lombardi’s and Ferrara’s in Little Italy for pizza and cannoli, respectively. They walked me to the Bowery subway stop before heading back to their car after a very fun and busy day.

But it wasn’t over yet. My friend Jayna, from New Orleans, was singing at a bar in Brooklyn, at the foot of the Bridge, so I took the subway over to see her. I’d hoped to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but my feet were just too sore. The 68 Jay Street bar is a wonderful little community place. The bar tenders knew everyone there, and everyone there knew each other. One patron’s dog wandered from person to person for attention, and the little toddler daughter of another climbed in and out of laps and arms all around.

And they all LOVED Jayna and her band. One bartender, who seemed like he might also be the owner, took a break during one song to dance with a lady there, another man began singing along and was cheered up to the microphone when Jayna invited him to join her. It was pretty much the ideal Monday happy hour. I could feel the hurry and go of the city draining from me in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, even before I started my slow way through a glass of sangria. I headed back to Manhattan early so I could get most of my packing out of the way, but it was really the perfect end to my trip, quiet and relaxing. Tomorrow is all about the journey home. Tonight, with my packing done, I will rest.

New York, New York ~ Day 3, July 11

Today I thought I’d jaunt across Central Park and finish the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then come back and do the Natural History Museum. Well, I set off across the park, munching on some rolls I’d bought for breakfast and sipping a tasty, low calorie, caffeinated beverage. I walked for about the time it should take to cross, and I saw buildings up above. I came up out of the park and found myself… on West Central Park Drive. Somehow I’d looped around and ended up about seven blocks south of where I’d started, sweatier and dustier, and ready to just forget the art museum all together. So I went to the Natural Science Museum. It’s on the west side.

And I actually saw ALL of the regular exhibits and two special exhibits!. I didn’t end up reading many plaques or looking at everything in detail, of course, but I did scan a lot, and I looked more intently at things that interested me. I was excited about the Lizards, Snakes Alive exhibit, because I hoped it would be interactive and informative, but it ended up being a zoo reptile house with some pretty poor habitats, so that was disappointing. I felt especially bad for the huge python who had nothing but a ten foot by ten foot concrete floor to curl up on, and seemed to be trying to sleep his way through the entire ordeal. I can’t blame him. I intend to write a disappointed letter. I’m not much of an activist for any cause, but we can and should do better.

Other halls were much more interesting, though the taxidermy animals are always a little sad to see. I enjoyed the halls of indigenous artifacts much more, especially the displays showing art, clothing, and tools of the Tlingit and Haida of Souteast Alaska. After my cruise there, I’ve felt a nostalgia for the huge trees of the temperate rainforest and the bold native iconography of eagles, ravens, bears, beavers, and whales. The halls of fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals and such were fascinating as well. I took photos of a lot of things from reading Jean M. Auel novels. I’ll have a much better frame of reference now for some things I was having trouble picturing from the textual descriptions. Still, it wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the art museum, to be honest.

In spite of my poor feet, I tried again to walk across the park and finish seeing the Met. I stuck to a cross street this time, and it worked. I spent the two and a half hours from arrival to museum closing finishing out my photos of things I saw yesterday and seeing a few more new things. I’m glad I managed it. Then, to get back to my hotel on the West Side… I took a cab. I definitely needed a break. I soaked my feet in hot water and sorted through my photos some. I was debating a quiet dinner close to home, but after a good hour’s rest I felt much better, and decided to go find CafĂ© Lalo, recommended by a friend.

After a first glance at the menu, I was disappointed. The food seemed lighter and healthier than the substantial portion of beef I’d be hoping for. That’s how I get when I’m tired. But then I found the rather mouth-watering cheese menu. I ended up with a dinner of toasted bread with herbs, three delicious cheeses, and a tiny cordial-sized serving of cranberry wine. It was the sort of place your expected to take your time, so I read and looked out the window and ate my cheese and drank my wine and had one of the most relaxing and delicious dinners that I’ve ever had this side of the Pond.

I decided I was rested enough to see if Midsummer Night Swing was on at Lincoln Center, but apparently Sunday night is not a dancing night. Still, I got to see Lincoln Center at twilight. One of the halls has paintings on the Mezzanine level by Chagall, the same artist who did the new rotunda mural in the Opera Garnier. It was lovely, and I wished a little that I’d arranged to see a show, but, really, I could sit inside a concert hall for three hours and see one thing, or I could walk around a museum or the city streets and see hundreds of things. I think I spent my time wisely.

After Lincoln Center, I went to Times Square. For the first time I saw the New York I’d anticipated with just a little bit of fear. People, lights, ads, cars, sound everywhere, waves and waves of it all. I had to laugh, there were signs that said “Subway” and I couldn’t see why they needed a sandwich shop on every corner, until I realized they were actually entrances to… the subway! I went by Birdland see if I could have a drink there. But there was a show going on, and I couldn’t go in, though I could hear a little from the vestibule, and it was wonderful. At least I tried, and got a tiny listen.

But mostly today was the day of friendly New Yorkers. I didn’t really expect anyone to be rude, but I didn’t expect so many people to be friendly! One older man I passed on my way to Birdland saw my red hair and said, “You’re just like orphan Annie! Hah! You’re beautiful!” Two people spontaneously complimented my hat, one of them a docent in the art museum who also very patiently gave me directions twice when I got lost trying to exit the museum at closing and ended up back in her hall, and the other a young man at a snack cart near my hotel when I stopped to see if he had any bottled sodas. And in the subway outside Times Square, an older gentleman joked about cooking an egg on the sidewalk down in the stifling tunnels, which started a conversation about Houston where he’d worked once and New Orleans where I have a friend who once did cook an egg on a black car hood.

The subway tunnels were warm, for sure, but about like any of the outdoors back home. I was really fortunate to miss the triple digit heat from last week. The weather has been gorgeous, and I hope it keeps up tomorrow, because I’ll be out wandering in it all day. Better get some rest now!


Just realized I never finished posting New York trip journals, and now I have Big Bend journals on the way. Also Just realized I haven't been posting much at all.

New Year's resolution... be a better blogger.

To that end...