Tuesday, July 12, 2011
TBG in NYC Travel Diary -- Part II: Welcome to New York City
Yo. There's a war going on outside, no man is safe from
It don't matter if you three feet or eight-one
You'll get eight from me, nine and straight blown
Wig split, melon cracked, all that on day one...
-- Cam'ron, Welcome to New York City
Travel Diary Part I
Wednesday, June 22
4:15 PM (New York time) -- I've landed at JFK and discover my phone is once again functioning. Scrolling through e-mails, I open a really nice and thoughtful note from a longtime reader whom I'd never communicated with before this day. He was going to the Mets vs. A's game at Citi Field later that evening and he offered to meet up and buy me a beer if I was at the ballpark. I couldn't make it to that game, but blog-related e-mails like that never fail to lift my spirits. And, while the author of that note doesn't know it, his words made me even more determined to...wait, we'll get to that later in the diary. For now, I've got to get my bags.
4:20 PM -- I hadn't eaten all day, so I slip into a shop for some grotesquely overpriced airport snacks. I wait politely behind the gentleman at the front of the line when another man cuts right in front of me. I see the east coast has gotten awfully uppity since the demise of Death Row Records. Don't make me act out any random song* from the Death Row catalog on some of your citizens, New York City.
* -- Stupid random song generator.
4:40 PM -- Ask most New Yorkers and they'll tell you their public transportation system is the best in the country. (Isn't that right, Portland or Denver?) I, for one, think they should vacate their self-appointed title until someone creates a shuttle from JFK's terminal #8 to the baggage claim five miles away. I exaggerate, of course, but McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas practically fits in my back pocket and they have a shuttle to baggage claim. Some of us have asthma and get winded easily, New York!
5:00 PM -- My bag has been retrieved, so I exit the terminal and proceed to the shuttle bus that will bring me into Manhattan. A digital display just outside the sliding door reads 77 degrees. As most of you know, 77 degrees in New York feels NOTHING like 77 degrees in California. But, it's lazy and cliché for a San Diegan to whine about everyone else's weather. Let's leave it at this: 77 degrees in New York is jimejime. 77 degrees in California is karatto. Tell 'em, Chihiro.
6:00 PM -- The shuttle bus ride ends just a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal. Back in 2007, as a novice, I had to navigate through the pimps and C.H.U.D.s and nattily-attired locals to find a train from New York City to Hartford, Connecticut. This time I'm staying in New York. This time I know what I doing. This time...well, this.
6:15 PM -- I lost my short-lived grip on the city when I satiated my hunger with the first slice I could find. ProTip: There is no greater disparity in the known universe than the 99-cent pizza's gap between "economical" and "edible".
6:30 PM -- I'd wager it hasn't looked this dark above New York since Nino Brown ruled the drug trade from his penthouse apartment in New Jack City. I'm roughly 12 blocks from my hotel and feeling reasonably confident I can beat the skies if I walk with an urgent stride. As I get my bearings, the heavens open. Reinforced rain drops -- reminiscent of water balloons -- unleashed hell upon the streets below. (Too much? I hadn't seen rain in late June in at least 25 years, so my frame of reference is a tad off-center.)
6:40 PM -- My plan to wait out the rain under an awning is dashed when I learn there are actually places on earth where it doesn't stop raining after ten minutes. It's time to flag down a cab -- which, historically, I've been worse at than any of you are at anything else. Let's see...step towards the curb...casually raise right arm...don't look desperate as you stand in the rain -- already soaked to the bone -- in shorts, San Diego State t-shirt and rolling bag. Hey, it worked!
6:50 PM -- For the next three nights, I'll be staying at the Ramada Eastside on 30th and Lexington. According to the hotel's website, it's in "the genteel Murray Hill neighborhood". Ironically, the woman at the front desk seems to be going out of her way to ignore the sopping-wet tourist immediately in front of her. When she finally looks up, she asks me, "Is it raining?" As if there's another way for someone to get wet from head-to-toe while fully clothed in this city. (Wait, is there?)
6:55 PM -- I took the picture below with my cell phone as my back was against the door to my room. The online customer reviews for this hotel almost uniformly lamented the size of the rooms -- as if expecting suites for less than $200/night. As a guest in the city that never sleeps, I was fine with the cramped quarters. My adventures awaited outside these walls!
7:15 PM -- Boy, I wish I had something to do. My room's TV doesn't get ESPN or either of the local cable sports conglomerates, YES and SNY. These streets haven't made me feel brand new and the lights, so far, have been uninspiring. Just as I'm ready to declare Alicia Keys full of s**t, my cell phone chirps with a text from my friend and TBG reader "NY Jon". I've met him before, but his unexpected text read: "Be there at 730. Shaved my head from last time but still tall, gay and black. Felt you needed description again after alcohol poisoning in Albany." He's right! I had forgotten.
7:30 PM -- The rain has tapered off, but the A's/Mets game still hasn't started. In our search for a bar where we can drop anchor for the evening, Jon remarks, "I know a spot for you to blog about."
7:45 PM -- We ended up on 42nd Street at a cupcake place called Baked by Melissa. I opened the door and a powerful blast of air conditioning inside hit the thick, sticky air outside -- resulting in a makeshift wind tunnel that nearly knocked me over. The young woman behind the counter recognized Jon and asked, "Is this your friend, the eater?" I have a reputation! In New York!
8:00 PM -- I left my cell phone in my room to charge, so I didn't take any pictures. In the absence of evidence, let's just say I might've ordered and ate 25 coin-sized cupcakes as we walked along Lexington Avenue. The peanut butter and jelly and chocolate chip pancake flavors were superb. Jon's infinitesimal six cupcake order was an insult to me and an embarrassment to himself.
8:15 PM -- We landed at The Whiskey Rebel with the A's/Mets game still in the early innings. Three of the four TVs were showing the Yankees/Reds game, so Jon and I were segregated(!) to the back of the bar. Nearby, we could see and hear three guys simultaneously hitting on the bartender.
9:15 PM -- Even under National League rules, my Oakland A's are able to slow the pace of the game into an American League slog. As a result, Jon and I turn our attention towards the three guys who are still obnoxiously chatting up the female bartender. After an hour, it appears they're going all in:
Guy: "How 'bout this? We'll all put in $50 and try to guess the color of your underwear. If one of us is right, he gets the money. If none of us are right, you get the money, but you have to give us a peek to prove we were wrong."
Considering I paid $20 for 25 mini-cupcakes, perhaps I'm in no place to point out this city's fiscal absurdities. I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit Jon and I spent a few seconds dissecting their bet like television analysts:
Me: "$150? She's gotta be wearing some sort of print or something. No way she agrees to this if they're monochromatic. Too easy to guess."
Jon: "Unless she's not wearing any."
Me: "Good point."
10:00 PM -- Jon had to work the following morning, so we cut our drinking off early. I returned to my room and found a text message from my friend, Tom. I'd never met him, but we'd previously been web columnist colleagues for several years and through Twitter and our respective blogs, we've established a comfortable rapport.
11:15 PM -- Tom graciously made the walk over from his director's cut, extended edition happy hour a few streets over. We took a short stroll over to Brother Jimmy's BBQ and watched the rest of the A's/Mets game which had gone into extra innings.
12:15 PM -- A's lose to the Mets, 3-2, on a bogus hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded. Look at this nonsense. Look at it! The batter makes no attempt to get out of the way -- a CLEAR violation of MLB Rule 6.08(b)(2). LOOK IT UP! Mets fan Tom -- a supposed proponent of fair play -- blithely ignores this miscarriage of justice. After his heel turn on me, how can Tom and I harmoniously attend Thursday's A's/Mets tilt?
1:00 AM -- I take the high road for the remainder of the evening. Tom and I dish on our days writing for 411mania and Inside Pulse. He tells me how many years -- plural -- it took for him to acclimate to life in the big city. I make a point to tell him how I especially enjoyed some of his specific writings. And, we took a minute or two to express our shared affection a certain Twitter feed.
See? The high road. Now, let's hope my A's win tomorrow and take the series so I can shove it in his stupid face.
NEXT: Dunkin' Donuts! Shake Shack! The 7 Train! And, a really long rain delay.