I Only Like New York As A Friend - Part 2
April 19, 2011
And so our tour of New York City continued on Thursday, April 14th...
6:00 AM. Alarm goes off and I stagger out of bed to shower.
6:30 AM. I'm knocking on student doors to make sure they're awake. Our group, spread out in 3 rooms, are, for the most part, already up. Some want to go down to breakfast early - it's a continental breakfast - and I tell them to go ahead.
7:00 AM. Get breakfast.
By 8:00 AM we're on the bus and rolling toward NYC, where we promptly get stuck in commuter traffic into the Lincoln Tunnel. Now, a moment to mention clothing, because I brought it up yesterday. Today is the most intense day in a lot of ways, and we won't be returning to the hotel until we're done around 11:15 PM or so. AND, not only are we wandering all over the city, but we're going to a broadway show, so dressy clothes were either worn or brought with us (or both, as I wore Dockers and a dress shirt, but wore tennis shoes and brought dress shoes with me).
Around 9:00 or so we picked up Jane Marx, the tour guide for our bus. Jane is a professional NYC tour guide, writer, actress, standup comedian, and I would highly recommend her to anyone who wants to see NYC with a tour guide. We were all over the damned city, starting with the Dakota and Central Park.
From Central Park we took the bus around the city a bit and landed at Ground Zero and the Winter Garden of World Financial Center. What's most disconcerting about this - for me, anyway - is that it's basically a construction site. There's no particular memorial for September 11 and, as I mentioned to Jane, I wonder what business wants to set their offices on the site where 3000 people were murdered. Not to mention that they're building an enormous skyscraper that might as well have a bull's-eye on it for future terrorists. I totally understand that in this case the high price of Manhattan real estate trumped (no pun intended) sentimentality (or common decency), but it's quite disconcerting. There will be some memorial space within the site when it's done. Anyway...
From there over to St. Paul's Chapel, which overlooks Ground Zero from a different perspective and is where the firefighters staged body retrieval. We spent a chunk of time there, then regrouped and drove around Soho, Hell's Kitchen, etc., landing in Greenwich Village, where we parked and scattered with our groups for lunch. Most of my group was interested in seeing the pizza place where Peter Parker worked in the second Spider Man movie. Conveniently, it was next door to a deli, so some picked up pizza and others of us hit the deli. Also conveniently, there was a little park across the street and the weather was nice enough that we could eat there.
Then we wandered a bit more checking out the stores that sold water pipes (hookas), a bakery (where my sons got cheesecake and I chose to skip dessert), etc., then went on the always popular search for a public restroom, which we never did find in Greenwich Village. (The Barnes & Noble didn't have one). Jane commented that she had a book about public restrooms in NYC titled "Where To Go" and it was a very slim book. No kidding.
After lunch we got back on the bus and did more driving tours, getting off in China Town to do shopping. Leanne bought a sword in a store, which prompted a couple of our kids to buy one, too, the caveat being that we would keep their swords in our room until we got home (thus preventing mayhem). This is where we briefly lost a student, who got caught at an intersection, and, being a very sweet spacecase, was probably texting her mother instead of paying attention to where she was. Also, I might argue, her chaperones did a piss-poor job of checking that all their little ducklings were on the bus before we started rolling again (something I was fairly obsessive about. Most of my boys were high school juniors and seniors, so it was less of a problem). We found her quickly, although she was freaking out, and it got smoothed out. And I would add that she did everything right, actually. On our badges we had to wear all the time was an 800 number for emergencies, and you called it to contact the tour providers, who would communicate with the tour host, etc. As it turned out, she was only about 40 yards from us, but the buses had to move because of parking issues, and she got confused.
Canal and China Town are kind of fun - sort of like institutionalized flea markets from Florida and Arizona... hey, come buy our cheap chunk and bargain us down - fifty dolla!, no?, get outta sto'... fifty dolla!, and they had the advantage of being within the kids' budgets. Leanne bought a sword. Sean bought a gilt frog statue and a hat, Ian bought a hat and I bought a pair of $5 sunglasses to replace the pair I lost earlier in the tour.
Then we drove down 5th Avenue (where we would spend too much time on Saturday), then over to Rockefeller Center (public restrooms!) where we wandered around a bit. We also changed clothes for a dressier evening. By that time we said goodbye to Jane, met up with the other bus (who had a different guide), then went over to Broadway and Times Square where we went to Dallas BBQ on 42nd Street for an early dinner.
Dallas BBQ is a chain and it was fine (french fries sucked), but it was loud and large, which it had to be to accommodate 112 or so people in our group, and we all had BBQ chicken and ribs, and relaxed.
After an hour or so there, we walked into Times Square to the theater where we would be seeing WICKED. This was a headache, primarily because it was the first time we took 100 or so kids into crowds and tried to keep them semi-together, which is almost impossible in Times Square, even early. The theater was on 56th, I believe, and we got totally separated. (A tip for anyone who has never been to NYC. Take the Walk signals seriously. If you don't, you'll get run over. New Yorkers don't stop (or even slow down) for pedestrians. I suppose if they did the city would be entirely gridlocked, but walking is a contact sport in the city). It worked out in that everyone made it where they were supposed to get. Then, we laid out a strategy of where to be around 7:30, and our groups were sent back out into Times Square to wander around.
We did all the usual gawking and hit the Hershey's store, the M&M Store, etc., wandered around for a while, bought some overpriced tourist crap, then got to the theater around 7:30 or so, got our tickets from the tour guide, went in and watched the musical (which I've seen before), which was great. Good seats, too, on the main floor with a surprisingly decent amount of legroom (a miracle).
Once the play was done we regrouped outside, walked to the buses which were around the corner, did our headcount, then drove back to the hotel. I did a bedcheck, then went to bed around midnight or so. A very long day and almost physically grueling.
I would say I liked Greenwich Village a lot, wanted to spend more time in SoHo, thought Times Square, though fun, is wildly overrated (totally touristy), and wanted to spend more time on the piers, which we basically just drove by. Also, I liked Central Park a lot, although, really, it's probably smaller then the location of the 2 or 3 subdivisions I routinely walk around near my house. But in a city filled with noise - really, I think all the background noise explains why New Yorkers all seem a little nuts - Central Park is a little bit of an oasis.