Friday, January 4, 2013

Big Apple Bookends

A few years ago I fulfilled one of my biggest travel wishes by getting to go to Egypt.  But before I could go to Egypt, there was Jordan, which we tacked on since it was close by and why the heck not.  And before there was Jordan, there was New York.  My travel companion the PuppetMaster (so named because of how much he loves pulling on people's strings) and I had decided that since we had to fly through NY anyway we might as well take a few days there.  On the way up, getting in a day ahead of our flight was just the smart thing to do as we didn't know what kind of weather we would be encountering in the Arctic tundra that is typically NY in December.  And missing our EgyptAir flight because of bad weather (or any other reason, quite frankly), was simply unnacceptable.  On the way back, we knew that we would be jet lagged and need a few days to recover.  So why not do that in NY?  Am I right?  Am I right?  High-five!  No?  Whatever.

Of course, we were unable to leave even the airport without incident.  That morning, bright and entirely too early, we had dragged ourselves out into the world and after checking our bags with the lovely folks at Ticketing, had plopped down in the food court to slurp down a spot of greasy breakfast.  As we're sitting there, The PM notices a store across the way called Del Sol.  He then proceeds to all but experience the rapture as he describes the products contained therein.  In a nutshell, it's stuff that changes color in sunlight.  Yay.  So after we eat, I say that I wanted to check the shop out, since listening to an adoring thirty minute monologue on the stuff had peaked my interest.  So we go in and I decided to purchase a bottle of nail polish.  I feel the need to mention that the entire time we're in the shop, The PM is grabbing items and shoving them at me like he owns stock in the company and talking about which things his nieces have and how much they love them, etc.  I wave off his attempts to get me to buy half a dozen t-shirts and a baker's dozen of keychains, get my tiny bottle of polish and head out. 

And now is when the story suddenly changes. 

All of a sudden, I'm being mocked for my seeming incapability of making it through the airport without buying anything.  The hell?  I pointedly reminded him of the extensive sales pitch he just went through and how it was ONE bottle of polish, not marble statuary for Pete's sake.  And also?  This was entirely his fault.  I'm not such a crazed shopper that I'm forced to go into every single shop I go by.  I wouldn't have even gone in if he hadn't mentioned it.  But wait, it gets better.  For the entire rest of the trip he continued to bring this up to anyone who he thought would listen!  He's telling people on the phone!  People who don't even know me!  For two weeks straight!  I call bullshit on this one. 

On the plus side though, the polish is really cool and actually works pretty well.  But the initial purchase itself is still wholly and completely The PM's fault.  So there.

So after the Del Sol debacle, we get on the plane, have some juice, get off the plane, and proceed to navigate the chaos that is JFK (slogan: At least we're not La Guardia!), hustling through the bitter cold to a taxi and enjoying the constant sensation of being a split second away from a violent end as the cab rocketed down the grid to our hotel.  We tumbled out of the cab and staggered into the hotel to check in.  The hotel was fabulous and was located on Broadway right next to The Majestic (The Phaaaaaaaaaaaaantom of the Op-er-aaaaa is here........insiiiiiiiiiide my bathroom.....), which was awesome.  Once we were firmly ensconced in our room, we set about making it livable i.e., cranking the heat up as high as it would go, drawing all the curtains and forming a seal around the bottom to keep out the cold with every book we could lay our hands on (thanks, Gideons!).  Now that the room was destined to become a sauna, we proceeded to draw up our plan of attack. 

As our time in the Big Apple was limited, we needed to figure out what the essentials were and plot out how best to move through them.  First up, Chinatown.  An essential for me.  And then I was informed that, actually, that would be second as lunch was an essential for The PM.  After realizing that I hadn't really eaten since breakfast way earlier, I agreed that that was actually a pretty good idea.  We put on every article of clothing that we had and, sufficiently bundled, set out.  Across the street was a little pizza joint and we scarfed down some lovely NY pizza, dripping with thick cheese and greasy tomato sauce.  
Now that lunch was out of the way, we took a deep breath and let the wind suck us back outside and down the street.  After navigating the always scary subway system, we popped up right in the heart of Chinatown.  As it was approximately two degrees outside, I didn't feel like going through my normal routine of poking around in back rooms, ducking behind false fronts and secret passageways and the like, trying to find fun fake Chanels.  When I explained this decision to abstain to The PM with the air of Father Christmas bestowing a particularly wondrous toy on a favored child, he just kind of stared at me blankly.  He clearly has never experienced the joys of shopping with a true fanatic there.  You haven't truly done Chinatown if you've never been snuck into a back room loaded with suspect merchandise before.  I fondly remember one particular trip where I was even ushered through a hidden door in the walls of a subway station.  Seriously.  

But I was on a mission this time.  There were specific items I was looking for so we set off in search of them.  Within a few moments, I had a very convincing Gucci messenger bag and had haggled it down to an extremely good price.  Check one off the list.  While searching for item number two on our scavenger hunt (D&G sunglasses, preferably in pink), The PM managed to get us kicked out of a place that looked promising since he had his cell out and it looked like he was taking pictures of all the illegal merchandise.  Nice.  Very smooth.  But soon we were able to check that off the list as well, despite The PM's unwitting attempts otherwise.  Item number three, which I thought would be the easiest to procure, was proving to be the most difficult.  I wanted some Tiffany that had fallen off the back of the truck.  But Dior, Baby Phat and Juicy seemed to be all anyone had.  We were actually heading back to the dreaded subway when a guy hissed "Want some Tiffany?" at me as we were sludging by.  Why yes!  Yes, I do!  So we skipped around behind the guy as he tried to find a suitable spot, far away from the eyes of the law.  Again, seriously.  That's what he said.  We ended up crouching behind a fruit stand (yes, they still have them in NY.  They keep them around for cars to knock over in high speed chases when they swerve to miss the oblivious lady wheeling her stroller across the street.  It's the law.).  He immediately started pulling little plastic baggies of shiny jewelry out of.....well, I don't want to think too long on precisely where they were all coming from.  Let's just say that he produced quite a number of baggies quite quickly from somewhere inside his trench.  Best not to dwell on details, huh?  A few moments later, I had my "Tiffany" and was a happy happy girl.  

And, most importantly of all, I now had my warm-up lap.  I knew that I was in for quite a bit of haggling once we reached Jordan and especially Egypt and wanted to make sure that I was in top form.  It's been a long while since I've had to bargain for anything so I wanted to make sure I was truly in fighting shape and ready to tackle any vendor I encountered with ruthless abandon.  Hurray for haggling!  A pox on fixed prices!

We subwayed it back and wandered around until we located H&M which was an essential stop for The PM.  And while I love that store, I would like to point out that he spent more than double what I did in there.  Who's the compulsive shopper now, huh?  HUH?

After that, we headed back to Broadway and took in a showing of The Little Mermaid, where I screamed my fool head off for Ursula every time she was on stage.  The villains are always the best characters, especially where Disney is concerned.  After the show, we ducked outside of the theatre and I found myself squinting disbelievingly at the sky.  "Please tell me that's just pollution" I said wearily to The PM.  "No," he sighed resignedly as he looked skyward, "it's flurries."  "Crap."  "Exactly."  Muttering under our breath, we sludged back towards our hotel and somehow ended up back in the exact same pizza place as the afternoon which we received with significantly less enthusiasm than we had that afternoon, then pushed our way back across the street to our hotel and tumbled into our beds.  

The next morning we pulled away the barricade around the curtains, peered out and discovered that thankfully, mercifully, the flurries hadn't become anything more sinister in the night and nothing had stuck.  Thanks, global warming!  We loaded all our crap into a taxi and were whisked back to JFK where we got to deal with the nightmare that is EgyptAir for the next few hours.  And so ended the first half of the NY portion of our trip. 

Annnnnnnddddddddddddd.....................we're back!  Two weeks later I landed back in JFK with the PM and our four travel companions who joined us for the Egypt portion of the trip.  We skate through Customs, who haven't ever met me before since they believed that I spent less than $800 on a two-week vacation, and bid our friends good-bye as they were headed to one hotel and The PM and I were headed to another.  We pulled out some American money since we were pretty sure the driver would not be all that enthused about accepting Jordanian dinars or Egyptian pounds and headed outside to jostle for a taxi.  As we cleared the terminal, I raised my face to the sky, for some silly reason still expecting to see the brilliant crystalline blue that had greeted us each day in Jordan and Egypt.  I was rewarded with a hazy tofu-colored greyish-white, the sun looking like a bulb glowing dimly beneath gently swirling milk.  God Bless America, I guess.  Well, it was good while it lasted.  On to our hotel!  And it is a testament to how the driving situation was in Jordan and Egypt that the cab ride in NY did not phase me one single bit this time.    

We raced to the hotel, checked in and had a bit of time to crank up the heat and attempt to relax before heading back out.  We grabbed some (surprise!) pizza and wandered around until we miraculously stumbled upon Madison Square Gardens.  We had a moment of frenzied doubt when it seemed that the only thing there was a Knicks game, which I could care less about, but then we realized that there was a theatre there too.  We headed over and entered for our viewing of Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk.  I would like to pause for a moment to remind everyone that we have just come back from living seven hours in the future for a whole two weeks.  So, for us, our 7:00 PM show was being held at the delightful hour of 2:00 AM.  After a roughly eleven hour flight.  Plus countless airport time.  Awesome.  I would also like to mention at this point that I am a HUGE Cirque du Soleil nut.  I have seen eight Cirque shows a combined total of 54 times.  I am a Cirque Super Fan.  So I was VERY excited to see this show, even though we were totally mad for trying to do anything at all that night.  

Tragically it did not even come close to capturing my attention.  I actually nodded off a few times during the show and I don't think that was entirely due to the jet lag.  First off, it's just plain weird to hear English being spoken in a Cirque show.  The whole deal is there's this little kid who wants to see it snow.  And he keeps saying that.  Over and over and over again.  By the second act I wanted to shout "Then move to Vancouver!" after he said it for the umpteenth time.  The first act was like X Games Lite and even that is being too kind.  The second act was better but still not great.  And there were these giant weirdo dog-like puppet thingies that kept coming onstage.  At times they would bark or mime words, other times they would speak and/or sing in perfect English.  Odd.  The boy, in a flash of creativity, decides at one point to name the smallest one "Puppy."  I can't believe that kind of witty writing didn't keep me at the edge of my seat, but I guess I'm just jaded or something.  And then there were the lampposts.  Out of the six of us that saw the show, 4 loved 'em, 2 thought they were creeptastic.  I truly am dumbfounded that I am in the minority on this one.  The first scene is supposedly on a rooftop somewhere in NYC yet people keep bicycling in and there are these six lampposts there.  They must be very tall.  The lampposts also make appearances throughout the show, including in an Arctic setting.  I guess they keep them around for that whole 6 months of night bit, huh?  Anyhoo, about twenty minutes into the show they swivel around and OHMIGODTHEYHAVEFACES!  And ventriloquist dummy hinged mouths!  And giGANtic eyelashes!  And then?  They started to sing.  In the creepiest crawliest softly slinking female voices I have ever heard.  They sang in the voice of the thing that hides in your closet when you're six years old and wants you to open the door and come in and play.    They were awful.  I have nightmares that feature the hairless zombie-vampire things from I Am Legend and these lampposts.  

When Wintuk mercifully ended, we let the crowd carry us out and realized that unfortunately it had started to snow.  And not just little flurries this time, either.  Great.  We were so tired that it barely mattered at this point, though.  We somehow made it back to our hotel and I can't even remember the journey outside of the fact that it was frigid.  We collapsed into bed and let Morpheus immediately drag us down.  Fade to black.

5:16 AM.  I've already been up for quite a while and figure I should probably wander over to the bathroom.  I tiptoe over, careful to not disturb The PM on the off chance that he was still sleeping.  I needn't have worried though.  As soon as I opened the door back up he had rolled over and was looking at me as he said "Can't sleep either, huh?"  Gotta love jet lag.  At 7:00 AM we headed down to breakfast and were greeted by another family with a sprightly "Buenos Dias!" which was more than slightly jarring after hearing nothing but Arabic for two weeks.  Welcome back to America.  I was tempted to reply with a chipper "Sabaa al-khayr!" but somehow managed to restrain myself.  We headed back up to the room and braved a peek outside only to see piles of snow and ice on the streets below.  Drat.  And it was still coming down!  Crapola.  And the wind was actually visibly blowing people down the street.  Dammitdammitdammit.  It was going to be one of those days.

Now for those of you who just delightedly clapped your hands together and squealed "Ooooh, SNOW!!!  Hurray!!" I will now pause for a moment to let you have your little Norman Rockwell fantasy.  Everyone got images of rosy-cheeked children making snow angels or perhaps grabbing brightly colored sleds and throwing themselves down perfect white slopes firmly in mind?  Remember making the perfect snowball--3 parts snow, 1 part slush?  Being the first to tromp across a glittering lawn, hearing the crunch of your boots as they leave their mark on the pristine crust like you're the first explorer to conquer some distant ice planet?  Trying to catch a snowflake on your tongue?  Running breathlessly inside and cupping a steaming mug of chocolate, letting the steam gently bathe your face in its warmth as you slowly thaw and enjoy the hot liquid melting a path through your frozen innards?  Everyone got that?  Okay, back to reality, kids.  This is New York City and it's not a bit like any of that.  So snap the hell out of it.  Snow in NYC is gray, dirty and salty.  And if you open your mouth to catch what is falling from the sky on your tongue you are an idiot.  It's crap and it's disgusting and if you aren't careful, you will slip in it, fall and die in the middle of the street and no one will help you because that would involve stopping and it's simply too cold and miserable for that sort of nonsense.  

Our immediate response to the winter wonderland (HA!) below was to swear.  At length.  And pretty much keep up a steady stream of it all day long.  We finally extricated ourselves from the room and stepped into the wind tunnel that was Broadway.  For the next two days we visited every single Starbucks in that area of Manhattan and thank the maker that there is one on every other block.  I've never had so much caramel apple cider in my life.  I kind of wanted to dip my toes in it since they were like little wet blocks of marble.  But my fingers were so cold they didn't work well enough for me to take my shoes off and besides, as The PM mildly informed me, that might cause a scene.  

As we walked around, I kept having snowflakes fall on my eyelashes and I'd like to take a moment to reference "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music which, as pretty much everyone knows, is one of my least favorite songs in the universe due completely to its mindless ridiculousness and inanity and whoa.  I started to lose myself for a moment there.  Saw the red cloudin' over my eyes, if you know what I mean.  I'm back now.  But the fact of the matter is, I'd just like to point out AGAIN that snowflakes sticking on your eyelashes is gross and annoying and not at all fun and whimsical regardless of what Ms. Andrews would have you believe.  NOT.  FUN.  

Okay.  Better now.

We did some shopping (miraculously, I still had some room in my suitcases!) and saw some shows and events, all of which were wonderful since they all featured the "indoor" option.  Well, except for the tree at Rockefeller Center and Macy's holiday window display.  But they were both worth it and we got to duck inside warm places right afterwards.  We ate at Sardi's but unfortunately weren't very hungry so it wasn't as good as I remembered.  That and The PM was complaining since our waiter didn't check on us within two minutes after our food arrived.  Not that there was a problem.  That's just apparently the rule.  And The PM didn't appreciate the whole historical aspect of Sardi's, it was just kind of lost on him.  But I was glad to be in there again.  

As far as shows go, Xanadu was incredible--totally self-aware and hilarious.  Just a really well put-together show.  Even The PM loved it, so that was good.  Any show that gives you glow sticks to wave around for the finale is a great show in my book.  It also featured the third show in a row with roller skates since Wintuk and The Little Mermaid had used them as well.  And the first of two shows (Spring Awakening being the second) to feature seats onstage which I guess is the next big thing for Broadway shows.  Spring Awakening was amazing and intense and I can totally see why it won so many Tonys.  Plus, any show that features songs like "Totally Fucked" and "The Bitch of Living" is my kinda show!  It was also one of the last nights for one of the actors so it was a great crowd and the cast was sobbing at the end as he took a moment to say his thank yous and good-byes.  You could tell that both shows had a lot of repeat guests in the audience, which was fun.  Both shows were totally worth freezing to death in NY for.  Well, that and the opportunity to constantly visit Starbucks.  That was AWESOME.  As was NY.  For all my snarking, I do love visiting that city.  I can't imagine ever living there but still eagerly look forward to every visit.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'm with you on the snow and I live in Canada.. go figure. Speaking of snow on eyelashes, I got some on mine yesterday while walking Gimli. I had to close an eye while trying to keep the other one open so as to avoid an icy patch on the sidewalk. I thought of you, then cursed the song and then started singing, "so long, farewell..."

    I do love the blog and reading about your adventures!