penn station

Um…This Might Be Controversial. But Not On Purpose

My sister Jaime was in town this weekend and we had a great time hanging out. I told her to bring her walking shoes, and it’s a good thing I did as we covered a lot of ground. When I showed her a map of how far we actually walked, she couldn’t believe it.

I picked her up Saturday morning around 10:30. Her bus arrived at the Port Authority bus terminal which is only about 3 blocks from my place. We dropped off her stuff and began our journey.

We took off for Times Square and from there headed north. We did a quick walkthrough of Toys R Us and went by the Letterman theater. We walked all the way up Broadway and into Central Park. We only got about a third of the way into the park and then turned around (I’m not extremely familiar with the rest of the park and didn’t want to get turned around). We headed back south and stopped for lunch at the Jekyll & Hyde Club near 57th. It was a good time, the characters were amusing (almost to the point of being annoying) but all in all it was a lot of fun.

We continued to head south, this time via 5th Avenue so we could pass Trump Plaza, 30 Rock, and get a good view of the Chrysler Building. We zigged to go by Radio City Music Hall on 6th and made our way to Bryant Park. We circled around the park so we could go by the Historic Library and also the home of the original Soup Nazi place.

We continued south and soon made our way to 34th street. We got a great view of the Empire State Building and also went by Madison Square Gardens. We hopped on the subway at Penn Station and made our way south to go to Ground Zero, the former home of the World Trade Center/Twin Towers.

And this is where things may get controversial, depending on who’s reading this. Just a disclaimer to let you know I’m not being funny or sarcastic or trying to be controversial. This is just the way I (and it turns out Jaime) felt.

I’d never been to Ground Zero before. A lot of people from out of town ask me if I’d been to see it and to be honest I never had an inclination to go. I’m not a native New Yorker, I’d only visited the city a couple of times briefly before, and prior to my move here in July really felt no connection to the city. Yes, September 11 was a tragedy, but it didn’t affect me the same way that it would have had I lived here at the time or if I knew someone who was directly involved.

When Jaime and I arrived at Ground Zero it…well…it just looked like one of a zillion construction projects going on in the city. Had I not known where we were, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed. Needless to say, it wasn’t an incredibly moving experience. It was just a bunch of bulldozers and cranes and without trying to be crass, I see that on my walks in the city every day.

Is that cold to say? Maybe it would have been different had I been there right after it happened and the rubble and debris was still there but as it was, I just felt guilty. When people would ask if I’ve been to Ground Zero it would make me feel guilty that I hadn’t. And now I feel guilty that I have and, for lack of a better phrase, it didn’t do anything for me.

I can’t help but feel it will be different after they have finished completing the memorial buildings and structures. I’d like to go back after it’s finished where I can learn a little more about the history, read stories, and feel like I experience it a little more.

Jaime (who was in Iraq in the Army just a couple of months ago) and I talked about this and we talked about the fact although it was a terrible day, things like this happen all over the world every day of the year and we (Americans) could care less. But when it happens to us, then it’s important. We weren’t belittling people whose lives were lost on 9/11 but found it a little dreary that most Americans only seem to care about it when that happens in the US. I don’t know. I would probably have to babble on for much longer than this to really express everything, but I’m already bored, I can’t imagine how you, Dear Reader, must feel.

After that we walked South to get a look at the Statue of Liberty and then returned back to the apartment, eager to get out of the rain for an hour or so. That night Jaime went to the theater with me to watch the improv show and she had a great time. She said during the intermission of the first show the guys in the seats next to her were talking and were convinced that we were performing memorized scenes, so I guess that’s a pretty good compliment.

All in all, a fun weekend with Jaime. It was her first time in NYC and I asked her what the biggest surprise was about the city. She said it was a lot cleaner than she expected. I don’t know if she meant the city or my apartment.

Even though it rained pretty much the whole time she was here, it didn’t dampen our spirits or keep us from cracking each other up the entire time. Today she and her family are moving to Seattle so I am glad she was able to visit before they end up on the Left Coast. Good times.

Me & the McBobs

Yesterday was a great day in New york indeed. I’d been looking forward to it for some time now, as my buddies Justin and Amy from San Francisco were in town. They’d both been to New York before, but since they’re always on the road traveling from one gig to the next, they never had time to stop and see the city the way they wanted to.

I met them at Penn Station and then it was off to Times Square to pick up a friend of Amy’s she hasn’t seen for a few years who would be hanging out with us as well.

Our first stop of the day was The Met. Good night, this museum is huge!! At first the “suggested” admission price of $15 might seema little steep but by the time you’ve gone through the place (or at least attempted to go through it) you find that it was more than worth the admission price. They had an amazing Van Gogh exhibit there. Absolutely huge. You have to understand that the last art museum I was at was the one in Nashville, where a Van Gogh exhibit might be two actual pieces, so it was nice to be blown away by an actual real museum. We spent a few hours there and also visited the displays of art from Prague and by then we were starving and just trying to find a way out. I felt a little guilty rushing past paintings by Monet and sculptures from ancient Asia and Egyptian mummies and sculptures by Rodin and medieval stained glass without giving them a second look. “Yes, yes, I know you’re steeped in culture and history and probably worth millions of dollars, but right now I just need a burger.” I’d like to go back and see everything I missed. I could try to go on about how huge this place is, but you get the point. If you’re in town, check it out.

From there it was on to Central Park. It was an overcast day yesterday, a little chilly, but not even close to what I would call cold so not a lot of people were out and about which was fine by me. The park wasn’t very crowded at all and we were free to walk side by side wherever we wanted and hog up the entire walking path. We took some fun pictures and bought some nuts from a street vendor and saw a Japanese woman in an ugly outfit being photographed on some steps and a film crew filming a dog and a lady in an ugly multi-colored 70s shirt talking to what looked like a Jawa.

We managed to come a good way and Amy realized she had forgotten her camera case further back in the park on a bench. Justin and I went after it, not knowing if it would still be there or not since almost an hour had passed. And it was! So thanks for that New York City!

We stopped at a Cosi diner for lunch/dinner and then the girls were distracted by an H&M store. Justin and I went down to FYE while they were shopping for clothes and then we waited inside for a while and were told we could’t sit where we were sitting so we went back outside and commented about the passers-by and then went back in and wondered some more how long they were going to be.

Finally from there we went back to the Upper East Side to a little club called something like BT-UT. It was pretty cool. We had S’mores and Rice Krispie Tootsie Roll treats and drinkns as the evening drew near to a close. We made our way back to Penn Station (saying goodbye to Amy’s friend at Times Square along the way) and I made sure Justin and Amy got to their train safely at 11:14pm.

What a great day it was. Laughs abounded. Random references to earlier occurances in the day were shouted out at the appropriate times (Segway! Gant! Ever so lightly! No touching!) and there was much laughter and taking of pictures.

Nothing like a good day in the city with friends.

Subway Etiquette

I’m still pretty new here in the city and the thrill of the subway hasn’t yet worn off, although I do have a question about rules of behavior while riding the train.

Let’s say I’m on the subway and it’s crowded. I am sitting next to strangers on either side and on my merry way. Soon, though, we are bound to come to a main stop like Penn Station or Union Square and it always happens. Everyone gets off the train except for the person sitting on my immediate left. So all of a sudden it’s like I have myself a new buddy. We’re just sitting there, complete strangers right on top of each other, our shirts touching, and there are like 20 open seats all around us.

Am I supposed to scoot down or sit on the other side of the train? The times this has happened it’s not like I was sitting next to a smelly bum or a Scientologist. They seemed like regular people. I don’t want to appear rude. I would sit next to you, but I’d really rather not. I loathe your body. That’s not nice to send that message, is it?

But on the other hand, am I seen as a creep if I don’t move? Who the hell is this guy and why is he still sitting right next to me?

But what if I was sitting down first and they were the one to sit next to me? Isn’t the burden now on them to move if they so desire? That wouldn’t offend me but I don’t want them to feel like they are obligated to continue to sit next to me.

So far it hasn’t been too bad, though, because I usually travel with a book and I can pretend that I am so engrossed with what I am reading that I don’t even notice them. But one of these days I’m going to get up, sit on the opposite side of the train, and just glare at the person. And when they look up at me I’ll just say,

“Nice fart.”

Who’m I kidding, I won’t do that. But man, I wish I was the sort of person who would.