At the Freedom Tower
We dropped our bags off at the Roosevelt Hotel at 45 + 5th Streets about 10 am. It's a reno from the mid 1920's. Quite grand in a period piece fashion. Our 16th floor room was typically New York sized; small but quite adequate, and the price was right: 2 nights for about $800 [Cdn] each, including round trip air flight. We enjoyed the better part of 3 days in NYC, so it worked out well.
The Empire State Building
Our first stop was the Empire State Building. It was built shorty after the hotel. Janet has always wanted to go up to the top but there's been a huge crowd, with maybe even a two or three hour wait. I can't stand that. It would give me a big anxiety attack. This time since it was very, very cold and windy we walked in and went straight up.
It was a crisp sunny day. Peer over the rail at the top and you will see it is quite a long way down. There's a forest of sky scrappers on every side. The river. The boroughs. All stretching out to the horizon for as far as one can see. Yup. This is New York all right. It should be renamed Skyscraper National Park. I think so.
Empire State Building view of Manhattan
Next we took a cab over the Williamsburg bridge to the first music store on my list; Rough Trade NYC. It just opened here recently. I've been to both London England locations. Rough Trade usually has a pretty esoteric collection. I found a whack of reggae and dub cds I've been looking for. Shopping in New York was not exactly cheap, even discounting the drop in the Canadian dollar compared to the last visit in Summer 2011. It's too bad that the Rough Trade Cafe wasn't open. However, they have free in store internet so Janet surfed the net while I did my music thing.
We caught another a cab to Deadly Dragon Sound. It's in Chinatown back on Manhattan island. The shop is really just a hole in the wall, with lots of vintage 45's, mostly reggae, soul and funk. The owner was friendly and helpful in between busily working on the computer listing his inventory onto the store website. It might do well to visit the store online. Otherwise there's just dusty boxes of records stacked everywhere, and a couple of racks of music books to see. I bought a very hard to find used copy of "Dub: Soundscapes + Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae" by Michael E Veal [like in the sandwich!], an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Yale. Nice score!
From the Empire State Building looking towards the 9/11 site
It was dark by now as we cabbed over to the World Trade Centre 9/11 Memorial Site. The new brightly lit Freedom Tower loomed far overhead in the dark, quite the site to behold. It's open for business during working hours, but sightseers won't be allowed in until next June or July. I ate a huge pretzel I bought from a street vendor. Munched on it while I yapped with a conspiracy theorist who had his placards spread out on the ground, was eager to explain all. Quite intriguing. Pleasant. Logically consistent whether one believes his theory or not. I left with some of his pamphlets to look over later. Tossed the pretzel in a garbage can. Way too much salt!
We took another cab back to the Roosevelt hotel, then walked over to Grand Central Station looking for the Record Mart, the next music store on my list. Regretfully, it was inside the subway station, so one needs to pay to go in. If I lived in NYC I'd probably drop by from time to time as I was travelling about on the subway. It's fairly small, but stacked with used dvd's, cds and records all along, up and down the crowded walls. Quite busy. Kind of grimy. I'd suspect that's no fault of the shop owner. Let's just say the store had a subway sort of ambiance about it. It mostly stocked Latin music, salsa, and some reggae.
Janet and I had planned to go out and do some fine dining. However, we usually just ate on the run. There are lots of good pubs and neighbourhood diners close to the hotel. Our regular haunt blasted rock music way too loud. I do enjoy my rock, so that was okay, all things considered. Janet was just too tuckered out to say much I'd guess. Knows my idiosyncrasies only too well. There was football on the big t.v. screens. The food was strictly pub fare with a touch of greasy spoon but good and hearty. We both liked the club sandwiches, steak burgers and fish n' chips.
Officer! Please arrest the mad man in that car .... that one too!
That night the heat was cranked up high in our hotel room. There was little we could do about it. I sweat it out on top of the sheets. Quite ironic. There wasn't much time for sleep anyway because Saturday morning we were up and at it early again. Janet wanted to go to Macy's. It's billed as the world's biggest department store.
This is Black Friday Week, as it's now called. There's supposed to be all sorts of bargoons at Macy's though we didn't see many. Everything was pretty much just expensive but there are all sorts of discounts if you sign up for a Macy's card. They wanted photo i.d and to ask all sorts of personal questions. We don't walk around the streets of New York with our passports. No way. However, I had my Ontario driver's licence. It took a long time to verify. Then they wanted to know how much I earn at work. By now I was getting pretty p.o'd and wrote down "0" which did not go over well even though It's true. I'm retired. I don't work anymore. I was definitely getting into a snit.
We only qualified for a 10% discount as Canucks, not 20% like a registered visitor with a Macy's card and so on. I left Janet to do the shopping while I went down the street to chill out at Starbucks. Surfed the internet over another wake up coffee or two. To make a long story short, Janet found a very nice pair of Rayban sunglasses for the beach. Okay price, but nothing to dance in the street about. Suffice to say neither of us was overly impressed with Macey's.
Mid afternoon we went back to the hotel to rest up a bit. Grab dinner at the pub again. Then we headed to Times Square for the evening. It's extremely glitzy and commercial. The lights very overpowering. No doubt there's a certain hypnotic "wow" factor to it all. The very heart of the modern day American Babylon.
Times Square was jam packed with folks walking up and down the strip, just hanging out, even in the bitter cold. Most of the trashy souvenir stores are gone. It's now jam packed tight with big box stores, open to all hours in the city that never sleeps. The hustlers were trying to sell show tickets. Who knows if they are real? Other then that they were posing in goofy costumes to try to get our attention. And of course if you should want to take a picture you pay. Very overdone by a factor of at least 10. Rather dull and irritating.
Time for a new act!
There was a lot of construction. For reasons unknown they are digging up the centre of both the street and square, packing everyone very tightly onto the crowded sidewalks. Meanwhile the cars where trying to drive through and getting absolutely nowhere. Backed up for god knows how long. Honking like crazy. Lots of hotheads and street rage. It all seemed totally pointless if not fascinating. They weren't going to be going anywhere anytime soon. The end result is total gridlock. It reminded me of downtown Toronto. Or vice versa. Very much so.
Our highlight Sunday was a visit by cab to the 9/11 site again. We tried to use the subway maps, token machines, Iphone apps etc. etc. etc. Found it too overwhelming. We've used the New York subway during the summer and it was okay. But not when we are all bundled up in the freezing cold. No. No way. It's not for us.
The World Trade Centre 9/11 Memorial site is quite peaceful and pleasant. I am quite fond of it. Many of the surrounding buildings have been torn down and rebuilt in a late post modern style, I'd think. Lots of reflective glass and different shaped buildings. The nearly finished Freedom Tower resembles a sheet of mirrored glass stretching up, pointing to the sky. I saw a fairly low flying jet arc overhead, leaving behind a ghostly smoke plume silhouetted against the tower in it's wake. It's odd when things like that just happen eh? It took on a whole other significance that made me wince. Anyway, the new tower is a few stories short of the old Twin Towers, but the rooftop antennae cone makes it taller. It's now the tallest building in New York.
I really like how the Twin Tower foundations remain as just 2 gaping holes, surrounded by sidewalks and open green space. There are waterfalls pouring down all four sides. The outer edges have the names of the dead stretching the whole length of the walls. One just mentioned a mother's name and "her unborn child". Thinking about it still chokes me up.The names are carved deep into the metal ledges and people stick little flowers in them. I saw a small Canadian flag flapping over one in the stiff breeze.
Janet wanted to go shopping at Century 21. Like a souped up Macey's it is pricey and vastly overrated. She didn't buy much. There is a record bar downstairs. It's called J+R Express. The old J+R was a really excellent block long discount electronic, camera, dvd and music store, not far away. A sales clerk told me Century 21 bought them out and this is all that remains. Too bad. Like in most of the music stores, the record albums are now quite decidedly pushing the CD's aside and taking over. I bought a stack of classic rock titles. Not exactly cheap nor unique, but there are lots all in one place. I think I do better in Toronto to be quite frank. Especially down in the new record ghetto down by Queen St West, Bathurst and Spadina. Still I did okay.
On our way back to the Roosevelt we asked the taxi driver if he knew anybody who had died on 9/11. He said he'd had a contract to drive business folk back and forth from the Twin Towers. Lots of them, every day for many years. Then he never saw any of them again. Wow.
Janet wanted to take pictures of an architecturally unique skyscraper, the former 1904 Breslin Hotel which is being incorporating into the design of a building in Toronto. She wanted to see what it looks like with people using it and so on. I walked around inside a bit too then went across the street to a retail/ wholesaler at the corner of Broadway and West 29th who specializes in E-vapourizers and other groovy related medical paraphernalia to cool the nerves or whatever ails you. Nice stuff. The prices are about the same in Toronto although there was more variety than in most stores.
Roosevelt Hotel Lobby
We relaxed in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel just enjoying the splendour for a bit. Watching folk come and go. Then we took a cab back early to LaGuardia, just in case it was busy, so as to try avoid the rush. We were quite pooped from our whirlwind adventure and ready to go home. There weren't any crowds in Terminal D. We sat and used the free internet.
I was surprised at how relatively good the airport food was at the take out counters. Seriously, I don't expect much if anything at an airport when it comes to food. I had a nice fried chicken dinner; a meaty leg with two sides; potatoes and corn. Nothing fancy but well prepared and quite cheap. Our airplane arrived on time, but was then late getting out onto the runway where we got stuck in a long queue of jets. I watched as they took off, one after another outside my window. Saw the lights of New York stretched out as far as I could see as we took off up into the night sky.
The flight between New York and Toronto is only an hour or so. I slept. We were still home in time for Walking Dead, quite tuckered out but happy with our trip. I'm always quite glad to be back home in our old familiar setting and routine. Now I can relax, space out, just listen to my new records and read my dub book for the next few days. Our trip was lots and lots of fun, though we don't plan to return during winter again. Still, I'd definitely give our New York City adventure a big two thumbs up!
There's no place like home!
PS: I didn't include any addresses. If interested you can easily Google them. Everyone's got a website these days it seems.
Some thoughts @ Remembering 9/11
A review of our 2011 NYC trip @ Canuck's Guide