Friday, September 01, 2006

New York, New York, New York-What, It wasn't so Nice that They Named it Thrice?

Stacy’s brother and his family came into town last week. Between them and my other obligations, recreational time in front of the computer is minimized to slow periods at work, like now.

We suggested a few places to go for sight seeing and such, including a possible overnight trip to New York. Naturally, they waited until the day before to decide on going to NYC. After a mad dash to reserve a hotel room in Manhattan and plan the trip, we were ready.

The drive up to Manhattan is five to six hours long, depending on whether you drive like a bat out of hell or my grandma after she forgot her glasses were propped up in her mass of the blue light-bulb-head hair. We drove somewhere in-between, which would have gotten us to NYC in about five and a half hours. I say would, because that’s not what happened.

Stacy’s sister-in-law has a bladder the size of a baby titmouse’s. I lost count of the times we had to stop on the New Jersey turnpike so she could avail herself of the facilities. In spite of her overactive plumbing, we got to NYC in about six and a half hours. That got us there just in time to check into the hotel room.

We had reservations at a place run by Woo-Go. I’d never heard of them and had a hard time taking any company with a name that rhymes with Yugo seriously. After circling the block umpteen times, we found the building, unnumbered and unnamed. The lobby was clean but looked like it was original 1930s interior. We tried to check in at the front desk but once the clerk found out we were using Woo-Go, we were directed to apartment 14A. Wait a sec, this is an apartment building? Curious and withholding judgment, the four of us dragged the six kids up the elevator to the 14th floor (which, incidentally, was not a renumbered 13th floor.) Apartment 14A was too cramped to fit more than one or two of us. From what I glanced from the doorway, I figured it was a residence apartment, complete with a dumpy galley kitchen and a couple of desks in the living room. Stacy’s sister-in-law checked us in and pointed us to our apartment, 8A. Another quick elevator ride and we arrived at the door to our room.

Behind the door the wondrous land of New York apartments greeted us. We had a three bedroom suite with a fold-out couch in the living room. There were ten of us with sleep arrangements for eight, but the babies would be sleeping with the parents anyway. The entire apartment had bare wood floors complete with unidentifiable stains in every room, doubtless some sort of bodily fluid. The stains were not restricted to the floor alone. The walls were a dingy, marked off-white in dire need of repainting or cleaning.

The concerns about the room ended there, though. The furniture was in moderately good repair and the entire apartment was very clean. I was waiting for the night to set and the famous cockroaches of NYC to make their appearance, but not even a NYC-street-vendor-hot-dog-induced midnight trip to the dark bathroom coaxed them out. Woo-Go may need to find better offices and refurbish their apartment, but other than that, the room was a great value.

Our first day there was Tuesday, which was overcast and drizzly. After we checked in we decided to do a guided tour of the major sights in NYC the next day. With the rest of the day left to us, we decided to go to the top of the Empire State Building. Our hotel/apartment was two blocks over and twenty blocks down. It’s a good walk, but not unreasonable. We bundled the kids into strollers and frontpacks and headed into the city. Luckily, we had the foresight to pack ponchos and three umbrellas. Between those and jackets, we kept the bulk of the drizzle at bay.

Stacy and I have been to NYC a couple of times, so we weren’t too keen on snapping a bunch of pics on the way to the ESB, but her brother had his camera at the ready the entire time. I kept my eye out for Michelle sightings, but sadly, there were none. I don’t know what I would have done if I had seen her. Run up like a star-crazed fan and ask her to sign my boobs? I think we’d both exit that scene embarrassed and slightly ashamed. If we had more time and Michelle was making a comedy club appearance nearby, I would have made a point to go, though.

The Empire State Building was empty. The only people we saw on our trek up to the observation deck were employees. Each of whom made it a point to tell us that there was zero visibility because of the clouds and that we should pay extra for the audio tour so we knew what we were missing. Isn’t that a little masochistic? Stacy and I had seen the view from up there, so we didn’t mind. Her brother and clan still wanted to go since that was their only chance. Go we did. The observation deck was a sight to behold. The top of the Empire State Building was wreathed in misty clouds. Occasionally, the wind would shift just right and the clouds would part enough to reveal a nearby building or the streets below. The rain didn’t so much as fall as hang in the air. The overall effect was very surreal. If we didn’t know we were on the top of the building, we could have been in a deep, isolating fog anywhere.

We stopped by a hot dog vendor on the way back to the hotel and I wolfed down two of the greazy sausages and half a pretzel. I would later regret that decision as mentioned before, but I won’t go into the details. One of these days I’ll have a Papaya Dog when I’m up there. If Food Network is to be believed, they’re one of the best East Coast dogs you can get besides the Coney Island dogs.

Besides the unfortunate trip to the bathroom, the night passed uneventfully. We got up early to pack up the room and check out before our tour. The shuttle parked one block down and three over, so the walk was much shorter that morning. The weather was cool and overcast, but the rain held off. A native New Yorker named Robert guided our tour. Working on eight years of guiding tours, he was knowledgeable about every site we saw, even imparting some little anecdotes from past tours and famous happenings.

There were a lot of highlights on the tour, too many to impart in the limited time I have before I’m relieved today. One of my favorite sites was Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi kitchen. I’ll be back later with pics and a little more on the tour.