My daughter, Tricia, spent some time in the Big Apple for business the last few years and mentioned she’d like to show us the city. September 2012 was my 70th birthday so what better time to take a special trip. Tricia took care of the details of transportation and lodging, my son, Greg and his wife, Deb, wanted to give us a Broadway show. What’s not to like about this whole deal? Tricia came down to Tucson for a couple of planning sessions and we organized everything we wanted to see into a four day stay in New York.

I don’t know how I can describe New York and do it justice. The skyscrapers are neck breaking and beautiful, most are all glass. The streets are so crowded with pedestrians it is hard to imagine how people get anywhere, they just walk all over the sidewalk. I guess it’s just me that thinks it would be much easier if everyone walked to the right, but hey, what do I know. I do know you have to be  careful with the umbrellas though, those eye pokers will get ya’, well not us, but the taller people were in serious danger of having an eye poked out when I carried the umbrella. Apparently real men don’t carry umbrellas, so Monty isn’t about to carry one!

Not many people in NY City own personal cars, someone said it can cost $1,000 a month just to park the car and the driving is too congested anyway. Most of the vehicles are cabs, car services, buses or delivery trucks. Watching the dance of the delivery trucks was fascinating. Delivery vehicles pull to the side of the street, blocking traffic, and four or five store employees run out and unload everything in about three minutes and the truck is on it’s way again. Many times they hustle the supplies down into the basement that opens right up to the sidewalk. When the grate in the sidewalk is open (pedestrians beware!) it reveals steep stairs to the bowels of the earth. It is kind of spooky, actually. The whole unloading thing is really a ballet of sorts, men hustle to the back of the truck and start throwing boxes to other men waiting on the stairs. It’s all over in about 15 minutes the truck takes off and the sidewalk closes up. This all seems like a silly thing to talk about but being from out west it is all so intriguing.

Still on the subject of traffic, one thing amazed us, when the light turns yellow vehicle traffic stops, no stomping the gas to hurry through the light. The pedestrians fudge the system and just before they get the green walk light they step out into the intersection, counting on the vehicles to stop. We stepped out once but we almost got run down. We decided it must be a NY thing, New Yorkers must know the secret! I took a picture of a sign warning of a penalty for excessive honking! But even with that in place the noise level is hard to imagine. We don’t realize how quiet it is living out here in the great open spaces.

The first night we went to Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, and oohed and awed at the night lights. It was a beautiful evening, and although sometimes as many as 10,000 people a day come through Rockefeller Center, it wasn’t crowded. We stayed up on the 70th floor and enjoyed the open air view, no Plexiglas, just the night sky and incredible lights. It was beautiful, even better than the closing shots on NBC’s Nightly News. We saw the ice skating rink and the spot where the Christmas tree stands during the Holidays. Our hotel was about three blocks from Rockefeller Center. It was a perfect location.

The ferry to the Statue of Liberty leaves from the dock off Battery Park. After getting directions to the subway entrance, we navigated the rather complicated ticketing system, and we were on our way. The sphere from the front of the World Trade Center is temporarily residing in Battery Park. Seeing it torn and blackened from the attack on 9/11/01 was sobering. The Statue of Liberty was awesome, even more beautiful than we expected. The park ranger gave a great tour of the island and it was a beautiful day. There is limited access to the inside of the Statue and even less access to the very top.

The Ellis Island structure, where so many immigrants entered America, is a beautiful building and the stories of the immigrants were so touching. It is difficult to understand the hardships the people coming over on boats endured to come to America and freedom. Outside there is a garden wall with names of many of the people who arrived by steerage class,. The steerage passengers had to be checked for health issues, and have a destination in America, where hopefully, someone waited for them. Many of their names are on the wall, we found the names of Monty’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother, and great-uncle. It was a moving experience. Those who came first class, had special consideration and went through an abbreviated entry formality. Many of their names were not even recorded. Our friends Sandy and Karl Lorenz wanted us to check for Karl’s ancestors and while we were walking around the garden we met a man also looking for his ancestors. He asked who we were looking for and when we responded Lorenz he just stopped in his tracks, that was his family name. So we searched together. I love this country!

We took a guided bus tour, and our guide was a native New Yorker who spoke five languages, and gave the tour in English, Portuguese and German. I swear he could tell you where every star lived across from Central Park, and there are a lot of them. The stories he told added so much to the tour, he even sang for us. We loved seeing the Brooklyn Bridge and expected to hear Neil Diamond break out in song any minute. It was fascinating to actually drive thru Greenwich Village, Upper/Lower Manhattan, Chelsea, Little Italy, Chinatown, SoHo and NoHo (who knew that stands for south and north of Houston Street), the meat packing district, and the garment district. The financial district held special meaning because Tricia was on the podium at the ringing of the opening bell on Wall Street when RSC went public, a few years ago.

The line around the World Trade Centers Memorial was blocks long, they are making good progress on the new skyscraper there, it is beautiful, but we didn’t go to the ground level memorial.

The Rockefeller family was a big contributor to the Catholic church and St. Johns was a magnificent ornate structure that the family helped build. The people that had money meant a lot to NY, most were big contributors to causes and events that made the city.

Monty had only one request while in NY, he wanted to eat authentic NY pizza. We checked around and everyone said we had to go to Lombardi’s, our tour guide pointed it out and agreed it was the best pizza in town. We laughed because we took a taxi there and back and it was $25.00 each way. Now that turned out to be an expensive pizza, but Lombardis was absolutely perfect, checkered table cloths with candles in wine bottles on the tables. The original restaurant was on the corner but when the store front next to them became available Lombardi bought it also. To save seating space they didn’t install a doorway, you had to wend your way thru the kitchen to the other room. The pizza and wine were realllllly good. No checks, no credit cards, cash only! They have been serving pizza since 1905, our cute little server assured us she wasn’t there when they opened!

What can I say about Times Square on Saturday night? What a sight, from the throngs of people, huge automated billboards, to the naked (not really) cowboy and his counter part the underwear clad Indian. It is all just so overwhelming it is hard to describe. There is a huge real time screen showing everyone in the square, to the left of the screen is a girl above a dunk tank to the right is a target. A beach ball floats down and as it comes over your head you are encouraged to give it a boost and send it toward the target. When it hits the target the girl falls into the tank. The towering billboards and lights are incredible. How fun is this!!!

We walked down to the Roosevelt tram stop and took the tram over the East River to Roosevelt Island. We had a nice walk down Park Avenue on the way to the tram entrance, stores like Cartier, Gucci, Bloomingdales, and stores we’ve never heard of lined the streets. The UN was in session and there were a lot of big black SUVs everywhere. The traffic was held up in the middle of Park Avenue while one of the SUV’s stopped and security people ran around re-routing cars so the diplomat could get out and shop. We hardly ever see that happen in Tucson. The tram provided a good view down the East River and a view of the city by daylight. We saw apartment buildings with rooftop gardens, trees and lounge seating.

My birthday dinner was at the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever been in. The service was impeccable, we never saw the bottom of the wine glass, and the servers didn’t refer to us as ‘you guys’ even once! The appetizers were deep fried octopus, hmmmm tastes a bit like chicken!! The best deep fried zucchini with cucumber sauce that ever passed these lips. I’d kill to know how they got the zucchini slices so thin and the coating so light. And that was just the beginning, then we selected a fish from the iced table and had it grilled. I didn’t think it was necessary to meet the fish before seeing him on a serving plate so Tricia and I let the guys do that part. Nemo was grilled to perfection and came with melt in your mouth grilled veggies.

Who would have thought we’d be seeing the stage play, Chicago, on Broadway in New York City! Chicago is my idea of a perfect Broadway show. The dancing is great and the music stays with you for days. I’m still humming ‘All That Jazz’. What a fun event! Thanks Greg and Debbie!

We walked thru Grand Central Terminal, passed up the, much touted, oyster frenzy party, in favor of just a quiet lunch at the oyster bar. I took a pass on the oysters, the whole slimy thing bothers me. The Clam Chowder was excellent. Someone at the next table was having the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen. That sucker must have been two pounds (at $27.50 a pound!). A lady at another table near us was seriously concerned that her fish arrived with its head in place. Finally she whacked it off and proceeded to make swimming motions with the head across the table, New York can be a strange place.

Central Park on Sunday morning was everything we’d hoped for. The weather was perfect and the people watching was wonderful. There were musicians playing everything from jazz to reggae, music from the Andes, bongos and saxophones. There was a singer under the bridge singing with gusto accompanied by opera on his boom box. A gal on roller blades danced like a figure skater, there was a Plein Air painting class in progress, a guy making huge soap bubbles, joggers, families strolling around and boaters on the lake rowing away a lazy morning.

Time to get back to the hotel and load up for the trip home.New York was an experience, I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it. No amount to telling could match the excitement, and thrill l of so many people, beautiful buildings and a way of life so different from ours.

 

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