Friday, September 4, 2009

I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my baby brother (who isn't so much a baby anymore) in, of all places, New York City. From the time of my birth until I was 18, and again from the age of 22 until 26, I lived about 75 minutes from the city by train, and as far as I was concerned, that was close enough. Trips to the city were limited to museums, planetariums, many baseball games (mostly Mets, and 1 Yankees game on a work-related outing) and exactly 1 circus. Never, until last weekend, have I ever spent a night in the city.

I expected to be kept up all night long with sirens, horns honking, gunshots, etc. Amazingly, the only thing that kept me awake was the hum of the air conditioner in the room. Due to the location of the wedding, we stayed in the Radio City Apartments, which is right near Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, and Times Square, which is not the Times Square of my youth (strip clubs, porn shops, peep shows, etc). It's the Times Square for my kids' youth (a large Toys R Us, an M&M's store, a Hershey's store, Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, etc). This was the first time I actually got to walk around the city and just look, as all other previous visits were for a specific destination and then a trip back home to Jersey, so I actually got to do more people-watching.

Between the trip up and the wedding itself I have a lot of thoughts to put down, so I just want to touch on the unusual things I saw or experienced:

-Each morning, outside our hotel, sat a homeless Native American, with a sign that read that he was trying to get back home to Arizona. For the first time in years, I gave money to a homeless person. 10 feet away from him, my daughter found a dime and a penny on the ground, and I made her give the money to that guy, along with whatever change was in my pocket. I probably would've ignored him except all I could think of was the Crying Indian Commercial from my childhood. Remembering that guy crying guilted me into helping out this Indian in NYC.

-I left my cell phone charger in NJ. There was a Verizon store right next to the hotel, and my phone was running low, so on Saturday morning I walked down there to see if I could buy a charger. It was closed. The city may never sleep, but God help you if you need to buy a cell phone or pay your bill on a Saturday.

-My brother works in the Empire State Building, so he was able to get us specially-priced tickets that also enabled us to skip the line and go right to the elevators to the observation deck. I immediately noticed, west of the ESB, Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden, where the NY Rangers play in the National Hockey League. When I pointed this landmark out to Thing 1, from approximately 2 blocks over and 1058 feet up, she proceeded to boo Madison Square Garden. That's my girl! (Suck it, Rangers!)

-While sightseeing on Saturday morning, during a steady rain, in Times Square, a Latino guy wearing shorts and a t-shirt crossed the road, near 47th Street. I should point out that all he was wearing were shorts and a t-shirt. He was pushing a double-decker hand cart that had cases of soda on the top, and underneath was a boom box playing a Def Leppard song. He pushed it towards the crowd, and when he came across an obstacle, he would hop around, change direction, and move to avoid hitting people, always hopping, like he was the happiest guy on earth. He almost looked like Frogger, trying to avoid hitting people with his cart. All the while with Def Leppard blaring. Barefoot. It was possibly the most surreal moment of the weekend.

-But, the absolute strangest sight of the weekend occurred while I visited the lunch counter right next to the hotel. It had a short-order counter for breakfast and lunch foods (eggs, bacon, home fries, sandwiches, etc). A short Latino behind the counter would take orders, and had fairly good English. Better than most of the people ordering, who were literally from all over the world (I heard Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Hindi). After I placed my order, for a couple of bagels and some scrambled eggs with bacon, an Indian (Hindi) guy next to me ordered. He asked for a bagel, with cream cheese, and eggs. Now, normally you put one or the other on a bagel. But combining the sweetness of cream cheese with fried eggs is, for lack of a better word, disgusting. It's like cheese on Chinese food. So, the Indian gentleman places his order, and the Latino behind the counter wrinkled up his face, and said, "bagel...with cream cheese, and eggs?" And the Indian confirms this order. And the cook again says, "with eggs?" With even more disbelief. Meanwhile, my stomach is just twisting at the thought. And the Indian says, "yes, with eggs." and one last time, the cook says, "EGGS?" Just to make sure he heard him right. And the Indian nodded affirmation. The cook shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and went to prepare the order, and undoubtedly a part of his soul died at the thought that he came all the way to America to put that piece of shit food order together. I almost wanted to ask that guy if he was sure he wanted eggs on a bagel with cream cheese.

Next up: Emergency tuxedo repairs, Princess Bride quotes, shitty NY pizza, open bars, and shit for which people will pay $118.


  1. Sounds fascinating Steve. One day I might make it there for a look myself.

  2. Now if the cart pushing guy had one arm I'd be super impressed!

    Love hearing about New York. Thanks Steve. I expect your pizza entry will be about the guy who had seven types of cheeses on his pizza and then proceeded to shake grated cheese on top!

  3. I think I have done the cream cheese with eggs things before.....

  4. Lou, I would recommend just reading travelogues and avoiding the place, especially in hot weather.

    Nat, let's put it this pizza commentary will once again likely use the phrase, "yet another thing done better in Jersey."

    Lerm, it was raining most of the time, so the camera stayed tucked away and dry. But when the photos of the reception are published, I'll see if there's a good one of me taking advantage of the open bar.

    Indy, please tell me you were extremely drunk and didn't know what you were doing.

  5. Did someone say open bar?

    It's hard to imagine living so close to NY and visiting so rarely!

  6. Naut, there was indeed an open bar, of which I took full advantage.

    When I was a kid, NYC was a dirty, nasty, filth-infested shithole, and the area where I stayed was a haven of the adult entertainment industry. Mayor Giulianni (sp?) cleaned it up a bit in the 90's, and it became a tourist destination, but other than cultural excursions we avoided the place. I think I went into Manhattan proper about 6 times as a kid, and made maybe 8 trips to Mets games in Queens over the years. New Jersey has professional sports teams, museums, and excellent shopping, so there was no point going into NYC for us (I knew others who went there monthly, and many of my neighbors commuted into the city....outside of NYC proper, my hometown in Jersey lost more residents on 9/11/2001 than any other town).

  7. And there was I hoping that the punchline would be that the English word “eggs” was Hindi for “pigs’ testicles”, or something like that.

    Or perhaps it is, and the Indian guy was too polite to point out that he hadn’t been given what he’d ordered.

  8. "I wanna buy a mobile phone charger at the Verizon store in a city that nevers sleeps..." doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily.

    Sorry to hear about your brother.

    What? Getting married is a happy event? Oh... I mean, "congratulations to your brother."

  9. "Or perhaps it is, and the Indian guy was too polite to point out that he hadn’t been given what he’d ordered."

    That's hilarious, Simon. An Indian guy being polite...

  10. Man I was just saying N.Y.C. will be my next trip. Never been, pathetic. Anticipating the rest!