Friday, July 4, 2008

New York City, July 2nd, 2008

Hi, please find enclosed a description of the second and final day of my trip to NY/NJ. Woke up around 9:00am, checked out of the hotel and took the train once again into Manhattan.

I had a vague notion to head uptown, and that was about it. I took the A Train to 59th Street, at Columbus Circle. I was still a little tired from all the walking I had done the day before, or maybe I was just feeling lazy.

Chris had mentioned the best pizza in New York was at DiFara's in Brooklyn. He said I could take the Q Train from the Port Authority to get to it. As I said, I was feeling lazy. I instead stopped an older couple walking a dog and asked them where I could get some decent pizza. They pointed me to 79th Street and something-or-other. I can't remember what the hell the pizzeria was called. I'm sure New Yorkers will enjoy reading this completely half-assed accounting of me prancing about their fair city. You're welcome, New Yorkers!

The fresh mozzarella and tomato slice was okay, but the pepperoni was dee-licious. While I was eating my lunch, a Coca-Cola deliveryman came in a couple times and encountered numerous impediments to dropping off his dolly full of pop. I admired both his patience and perseverance. And I just love how all the storage rooms in NYC seem to be below ground. It's cute! I really wish I could have taken a peek in one of them.

After polishing off the pizza, I headed one block east to Central Park. I realize Central Park is beautiful and all, but I didn't really feel like wandering about it, as I have grass and trees back in Chicago. I know this is kinda stupid thinking, but there's a grain of intelligence in there somewhere. No, there isn't? Okay, I tried at least.

So, I thought it would be a better idea to have a little tour through the park rather than make my footsies all tired again. I saw some pedcabs and decided I'd go with that. The price was reasonable enough -- $3000.00 isn't too much for a one hour tour of Central Park, is it?

My Guide. It was his birthday!

He said I would need to pay cash, and I didn't have enough on me. Not to worry, we could go by an ATM on the way. We came to the world-famous restaurant Tavern on the Green. I popped in and retrieved some money from the ATM there. While I was there, I used the bathroom. Yes, of course I took a picture of the bathroom!

A Famous Restaurant's Bathroom

The pedcab guide/rider was nice enough. A lot of the information he told me concerned all the famous people that occupied the various buildings bordering Central Park. I got a little creeped out thinking Al Pacino was staring down at me (and you know he was).

The tour finished at 72nd Street and Central Park West, right by the Dakota Apartment building.

The Dakota

I know that John Lennon used to live there, and got shot outside the building, but I think of the Dakota as more of the location used in Rosemary's Baby rather than the site where some piece-of-shit loser killed a decent human being. But maybe that's just me.

It wasn't long before I had my first and only celebrity sighting during the trip.

I headed back into Central Park and walked through Strawberry Fields, a piece of the park dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. I know it's probably world-famous and stuff, but I hadn't ever heard of it. I didn't really have any emotional epiphany there, but it was a nice space.

A field portion of Strawberry Fields

There was a mosaic in a little mini-plaza area that had the word "Imagine". Among the items left on the day I was there was a Happy Meal toy of the Cars hippy van Fillmore. Hey, I just realized that George Carlin did the voice of Fillmore! Sadly, the movie Cars is still terrible. But, who am I to judge what items are left as meaningful artifacts, despite the fact that my mind desperately wants to scream "That's cheesy!" To each, their own. As for me, I took only pictures, and left only footprints. Actually, I'm not even sure I left footprints.

I continued east through the park and saw the lovely Bethesda Fountain.

The lovely Bethesda Fountain

And then I soon came upon Conservatory Pond, with its lovely remote control boats.

Boat with Mama and Baby Duck

The Boat-Rental Dude

Some Boaters

I really enjoyed hanging out here for a while. Quiet places like Strawberry Fields are nice, but for me meditative moments are best achieved by watching tiny boats float around in the water.

I came out of the east side of Central Park on 79th Street. I thought I'd take a little break, as it was kinda hot. I bought a lemon ice from a street vendor and ate it leisurely as I watched people enter and exit the park. There was a sign for the MOMA pointing north. Chris' friend Bowman had told me there was a great exhibit at MOMA, but it had ended Monday. Aw, fuck it. I felt like going back downtown.

I didn't have a lot of time left, so I decided I'd head down to Greenwich Village, walk west to the Hudson, and then walk up back to Penn Station by the river. So, I jumped on a bus and headed south.

As I was walking west on 8th Street, I passed a storefront that had some brochures about Greenwich Village. I knocked on the door and asked to have one. After reading a bit of it, I saw it. EGG CREAM! I had forgotten about egg creams. Egg creams were a mystery to me. I'm guessing they're probably not nearly as popular as they once were, but I was always intrigued by the name. According to the guide, the best egg cream in NYC could be had at the Gem Spa, which was unfortunately several blocks east of me (and away from the Hudson River, my initial destination). The possibility of an egg cream won me over. I turned around and headed back east.

It took me a little bit of time to find it. It was just a skinny little sliver of a store, selling newspapers and magazines. I opted for the vanilla egg cream. From what I could tell, the man making my egg cream put in milk, vanilla flavoring and carbonation. It was delicious! I really enjoyed it.

As I was taking a picture of the store's exterior, a man walked out and approached. It turned out he was the owner. He was actually a very nice guy. He spent most of the time explaining about how many TV stations, newspapers and books had covered his store, and how iconic a place his newsstand was. He was proud of his store, and he was happy to talk to me about it. I tried to cajole him into letting me take a picture of him in front of his store, but he wouldn't. He was extremely pleasant, though, and wished me to enjoy the remainder of my stay in NYC.

Gem Spa

As I was walking back west, I spotted an old, funky-looking bar called Julius', with a despondent man staring out one of its windows at me. I thought I'd pop in for a quick beer. As I walked in, the lack of women, the abundance of rainbow colors, and the two flatscreen TV's dialed into the Food Network all told me that I had stepped into a gay bar. Apparently it was not just any gay bar, but a very august and respected gay bar, that figures into the history of the Stonewall Inn and the emergence of the gay rights movement. I talked up the bartender a bit, who was very nice. I sort of embarrassed myself by saying "Hey, so, we're like right in the middle of Greenwich Village, right?" Ah, the eloquence of the ignorant tourist.

After I finished my beer, I decided I didn't have time to continue walking to the river, and thought I'd better start walking towards Penn Station to take my train back to Newark Airport. I zig-zagged on some smaller streets and came across a really cool-looking old synagogue.

From my days of reading Marvel comics, I know that the character Dr. Strange had his homebase in Greenwich Village. To me, this synagogue bore a very striking resemblance to Dr. Strange's abode.

Anyways, I walked back to Penn Station, and after a little flight delay, wound up back in Chicago. It was a fun trip. I Heart New York in a big way.

Here's a few more pictures for your viewing pleasure.

An old-school side-of-building ad I fancied:

Mysterious building, the current/former purpose of which I could not ascertain:

Just a nice-looking building. Is this what one would call a brownstone?

A guy painting a gate.

An amusing contradiction.

Chained-up fake ice cream.

Saw this outside a hair salon in the East Village. I assume the name of the place was "Sad Haircuts".


Fran said...

Oh Splotchy- this is one of the most beautiful love letters to NYC ever.

Ever ever.

You really write very beautifully and evocatively.

There are so many things that I would like to say but this will have to suffice in the name of time...

As a kid, the egg cream was a way of life. A promise of an egg cream meant nothing but good behavior for me. (which explains some later personality disorders and weight issues...)

I worked a few blocks away from Gem Spa from 2003-2007 and somehow never knew about the goddam egg creams!

Must run - thank you for this, it is beautiful.

Angela S. said...

Super cool post . . . having never been, feel like I just took my own guided little tour, which was a welcome respite from working online in my kitchen, which is what I'm actually doing.

AND I, too, have always longed for an egg cream! In New York City. There's something about that moniker -- Egg. Cream. Why that's appealing, I have no idea, but now I want one even more . . .

Oh, and the ice-cream-on-a-leash image is one I will not soon forget. Made me laugh.

Thanks for this!

Distributorcap said...

next time you come to nyc -- you can be my tour guide -- you saw places i have never seen -- and i have lived in manhattan for 25 years

2 tbsp chocolate syrup
6 oz whole milk
6 oz soda water

instant egg cream (no eggs, no cream)

i am so glad you had a great trip -- please come back anytime

and any of your readers as well, i make a nice tour operator


Manx said...

I wish I had more time when I was there to sight-see like that. Looks like an awesome trip.

I especially liked the Dr. Strange house find.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Great trip report. I'm glad you didn't flip off the Imagine stone, even as cheesy as it was.

The fake chained up ice cream cone with graffiti was the best!

Splotchy said...

GKL, I was thinking the McDonald's Happy Meal toy was the sorta cheesy thing, not necessarily the stone itself. Besides, I *would* have gotten my ass kicked by some hackysackers if I tried flipping the stone off.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Great photos!

Falwless said...

Wonderful post.