Monday, June 06, 2005

roadtrippin': the sidewalks of new york

Newark, NJ - New York, NY - no driving
Started day 3 early with the continental spread at the hotel. Travelling through the States the past few years, the hot trend in continental breakfasts is the waffle maker with Dixie cups full of batter. They also had a better than usual selection of single-serving cereals...slipped a couple of boxes of Total for the trip home. Took a cab down to Newark Penn Station - I could have walked, but it would have meant navigating heavy traffic, heavy construction and few sidewalks. After spending 10 minutes figuring out where to pay the fare for the PATH train (a glorified subway connecting Newark and Hoboken with Manhattan), it didn't take long to reach 14th Street.

This trip to the Big Apple broke the pattern. Every other visit has been on a three-year cycle, with a few days to soak up the anger around me. Past highlights:

1995 - First university bust trip. First met EC, who's great at remembering the details of that trip (maybe she'll chime in with a comment about '95, hint, hint). I just remember it was a fun time. The nightime view from the Empire State Building was spectacular.

1998 - Second university bus trip. Caught a lot of one-act plays, including one where I was the only person in the audience who didn't know anyone on stage. Had a relaxing trip, except for being grumpy to a fellow passenger who wanted my window seat to sit with a friend (semi-sleepy me had to see the route the bus took). The trip back was notable for being the last time I ate non-liquid/"dairy" food at McDonald's, as it was the only option at the service centre.

2001 - Flew down with EC. Both of us brought the wrong types of shoes. Stayed in Greenwich Village. Felt too pooped to do much late-night wandering, though we did have fun wind up listening to jazz in a tiny cellar downtown after grimly staring at each other in another bar with Saturday Night Live in the background (mostly my fault, due to an exhausted brain). Got lucky on our return as Newark was the only airport not shut down due to a snowstorm.

2004 - Took the train with Amy. Check the March 2004 archives for that story.

My first stop was going to be Academy Music on 18th Street, but since it opened later than expect, I hit stores close to Union Square. My sister will be happy to know that the 6th Ave Daffy's is as tacky as their Herald Square store (her eyes popped last year at this remainder chain - imagine if Winners wound up with the ugliest, somebody-actually-commissioned-this? dregs of the designer clothing world. Hit the newly expanded Strand bookstore - the art books were moved to a reconstructed, roomy second floor. Walked out with the first volume of Sandman. Their claim of "18 miles of books" is an understatement.

Some signs are best left to describe themselves, like these banners on 19th St near 6th Ave.

The market on the west side of Union Square, great for organic drinks and baked goods. A four-pack of oatmeal raisin cookies provided fuel for most of the afternoon. I grabbed lunch at a snadwich shop across the street. From here, I hopped on the subway to head over to the East Village, to stroll along St. Mark's Place.

A healthy chunk of cash disappeared at Kim's Video. I restrained myself to two more discs in the Educational Archives Series (Social Engineering 101 and Drivers Ed) and Volume 6 of the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 box sets. A stop at a new branch at Bleecker and Christopher resulted in a dirt-cheap used copy of the Criterion Short Cuts box, which will make Amy happy.

Walking down 6th St, between 1st Ave and Ave A, came across this bashed-up beauty. Let's take a closer look on the sticker on the window...

Remember kids - if you bash your car and abandon it, the only person it will cause any grief for is the street sweeper.

Here's the beauty in front of it. One bashed, one burned. Perfect symmetry.

Adding to the atmosphere was a guy standing along the walkway to a public housing complex, yelling loudly at bypassers, mostly about eternal damnation. I think the front car was past the point of salvation.

I headed down to 4th St, then headed westward towards NYU and Greenwich Village. Lots of people relaxing or listening to jazzy buskers in Washington Square. Criss-crossed Bleecker several times, picking up the odd used CD and drooling at displays of pastries. New CD store discovery: Other Music (across from the Tower Records at 4th and Lafayette), a great place to look for reasonably-priced new and used indie and foreign titles (picked up a copy of Caetano Veloso's second album from '69, which I've never seen before).

Also passed lots of people yelling or singing by themselves in full religious fervour. Last year, Amy noticed everyone in NYC was busy yelling into their cellphones. This year, God has taken over.

Dinner was at Lemongrass Grill, at Bleecker and 7th Ave (technically on Barrow St, according to their website). Killer chicken coconut soup, with huge chunks of chicken and sweet peppers.

My feet were starting to ache, but I pressed on, hopping back on the subway for a quick stop at Macy's, then a trip further uptown.

Yes, it's one of the tackiest places on Earth...but who can resist spending a few minutes in Times Square? Thought about checking the TKTS booth, but it was sold out.

Notice the simple anti-PETA billboard. I checked out the site, then checked Wikipedia for the organization behind the site. Go ahead and chuckle.

After heading north along Broadway, I crashed at the Borders at the new Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. Among the other attractions to separate tourists and their money: the opportunity to have your picture taken on the Friends couch and a tour of CNN. I might have gone on the latter if I'd had an attack monkey with me to punch any right-wing pundits babbling away in the gonads.

Heading back to Newark was an adventure, accidentally winding up in Hoboken twice. Finally reached the hotel around 10, crashing in front of HBO with a pineapple soda on the rocks. - JB

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