New York City - October 2005 Megamail

I know, I know, you all have been waiting patiently for the Brazil Megamail, but that will be finished about the same time as the Sagrada Familia. That is a joke only those who have been to Barcelona would get. Or, those who have read my March 1999 Spain Megamail. Hint, hint.

And I know, I know, I've already sent out a New York Megamail a couple of years ago, but hey, different trip, different Megamail. This time it was part of a Christmas present to my parents.

My parents, it would seem, have followed Sam's and my self's lead and have taken some tepid steps into global travel. First, we shoehorned them out of the country for our wedding last year. Then before you know it, they are jetting off to San Francisco. Well, New York seemed like the next best place for them to go.

But as it was my parents first time to the Big Apple, we did many of the same things that Sam and I did our first time to NYC. Thus, you will spared some detail as you can simply reference that Megamail

As with our first trip, we again took the train as our form of transportation. I didn't notice it last time, but in the future it may be better to drive up to DC and then take the train the rest of the way. Why you ask? Because the train takes a bloody long time to get to DC from Richmond.

In fact, the segment from Richmond to DC takes up almost half the time of the whole trip and is maybe 40% of the fare. It doesn't make much sense to me, but then how Amtrak can lose money year after year and still somehow be around doesn't make much sense to me either so what do I know?

Furthermore, Amtrak has dropped the crappy little White Castle microwavable burgers with something... else. Something else even worse actually. They did not sit well in our stomachs whatever they were.

Our accommodations during our stay were different than last time. The best deal we found was for the Super 8 on 46th street a couple blocks east of Times Square. It wasn't too bad actually. It was well located and included a rudimentary breakfast that many hotels in New York do not. Cab fare from Penn Station to the hotel for the four of us was only five or six bucks.

Sam and I ditched my parents at the hotel after checking in and went out for a drink at the Heartland Brewpub on 43rd street. I had a large Pumpkin Ale which was good, but it needed a little more pumpkin in it for my taste. Sam had the wheat. Poor predictable Sam.

We then went back to the hotel and had the most eventful night of our stay.

Some time, in the middle of the night, there was a loud knock on the door. Well, it wasn't so much a knock as it was a person slamming their body into the door. But it was just that once and so we figured some drunk person took a digger into our door. However less than five minutes later the phone starts ringing.

Apparently the front desk didn't know they had already filled the room and they gave it to somebody else who subsequently couldn't get in because I put the deadbolt into place.

The front desk showed great tact by demanding: Who are you?! What's your name?! Sam bitched them out wondering why this couldn't have been dealt with at a reasonable time instead of a phone call at four in the morning. Ah, New York!

Thursday, which was probably the best day weather wise, started out by us taking a short walk to Grand Central station. After some gawking, we took the subway down to Battery Park for the obligatory ferry trip to Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. Much of this part of the trip was almost identical to our previous trip so I'll only highlight the differences.

The biggest difference is that, unbeknownst to us, they are allowing a few people back into the statue. Well not the statue, but it is at least the pedestal. We didn't know about it and so all those tickets were already gone by the time we got there. Though you can get them ahead of time at If only we knew that before we left.

It was well into the afternoon by the time we left Ellis Island and we walked from Battery Park, catching some very good street performers on the way out, to Wall Street, the World Trade Center site, and then over to Chinatown. The Trade Center site is still just a big hole in the ground, though they have added an entrance to the subway stop since the last time. There is also more touristy/memorial information present.

After permeating our noses with the unique smells of Chinatown, we meandered over to Mulberry St. in Little Italy and enjoyed a much-deserved refreshment. I think we had Peroni!

Prior to our trip, we booked a Broadway show for my parents, Mamma Mia, and Thursday was the night. So we had to quickly return to the hotel via the subway, change, get some dinner and then go to the show.

It was all timed perfectly with us landing at the Hourglass Tavern (another repeat from our previous trip) at a little before 6:30 for a very nice and reasonable meal. I had the salmon, which wasn't nearly as good as I remember the filet mignon being, but it was still pretty good. We left the restaurant a little before 7:30 for the walk to the show, which was at the Winter Garden on Broadway.

The show was as chick flicky as a musical gets and Sam had the time of her life. Fortunately there were some hotties in the cast to keep my interest and so nobody suffered. Actually, it was a lot better than I was expecting so if you are the male persuasion don't worry if you have to go to this some time in the future.

Sam and I once again abandoned my parents back at the hotel and walked back to the theater district to a bar called Social on 8th Street. There we had a few beers until we felt old and then walked back to the hotel for some well earned rest.

Actually rest was few and far between. Traveling with one's parents can be a mistake because they do get up earlier than I would recommend a person on vacation to do. But hey, they're parents, what can they do?

Friday the forecast called for afternoon rain so we figured we had better take in Central Park while the getting was good. This was also fortunate because Central Park was bypassed the last trip due to interminable rain.

Before we left we first heard about the bomb threat to the subway the day before. Then my dad fessed up that he actually heard about it the day before but didn't want to scare us. Thanks Dad! Actually, that probably was for the best. Thanks Dad!

We opted to walk from the hotel to the park, which starts at 59th street. This allowed us to walk by the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trump Tower, the Plaza Hotel and numerous other landmarks and insanely priced stores along 5th Avenue.

Our tour of Central Park went like the following. We skimmed past the zoo (it didn't look interesting enough to warrant the entry fee) and then zipped up to the Dairy, which is an information center. I was hoping to get a map there.

Yeah, right! They wanted four bucks for one so I passed. Later on we discovered free ones at Belvedere Castle so if somebody wants to sell you a map to Central Park, tell them to take a hike!

Afterwards, we walked back to the Wollman Rink (no ice yet) and then strolled past the Carousel on the way to the Mall. Along the way we investigated the horse drawn carriage rides that were passing us along the way.

As far as we could tell, they were all priced the same however the difference is in the guide. We could tell that some just wanted to get things over as soon as possible and others were pointing out this and that and taking their time.

We then walked along The Mall to the Bethesda Fountain and then tried to get lost in the Ramble. I'm guessing that the Ramble is a place you don't want to be at night. There are a lot of places for unsavory types to jump out at you.

We eventually made it to our destination, Belvedere Castle, for some prime Kodak moments. This overlooked the Delacorte Theater, which holds Shakespeare productions during the summer. It looked like a very nice venue and I would recommend looking into catching a show there.

By now, our bladders were working against us so we headed to The Met to get some lunch in preparation for some serious art consumption. After all, it was going to rain in the afternoon, right?

Once again, we spent several hours in The Met and once again we barely scratched the surface of the place. I am convinced a week wouldn't be enough time to see everything in this huge museum.

We wanted to see the exhibit on the architect Calatrava, however it wasn't open yet. Bummer.

That afternoon rain I was mentioning before, yep, it started the second we left the museum. I am not kidding. How is that for timing?

Instead of walking back to the hotel... our legs just weren't up to the task in the rain, we jumped on a bus and took it back to St. Patrick's Cathedral. There we spent some time investigating the insides of this monster. It is a rather nice cathedral that you shouldn't pass up if you are near Rockefeller Center.

Oh, speaking of Rockefeller Center, the observation deck will be open soon. I was hoping it would be open when we visited, but 'twas not our luck. What excites me about going to the top of the Rock (as the natives call it) is that the observation deck is shaped like a ship... or something along those lines. Thus, you have the feeling you are on a ship, sailing through the high-rises of New York.

You don't believe me, do you? You are probably as skeptical as Sam and Grant when I told them about Mount Trashmore being a former landfill in Norfolk. But this, as was that, is the truth.

Before stopping at the hotel to get a game plan for dinner that evening, we stopped at an Irish bar down the street. There we introduced my mother to Bass beer. She really liked it. You know, there is a certain amount of pride that one obtains when they corrupt their mother :

As we had no theater requirement that night, our plan for dinner was simply to go by all the restaurants on 46th Street between 7th and 8th Streets until we found one we liked. The one we found turned out to be pretty good.

It was called the Bangkok House and as you might infer from the name, it had Thai cuisine at a very reasonable fixed price. They also had a very reasonably priced Rioja Reserva from Spain that was superb.

Although all the food was good, know that the spicy soup is pretty spicy and that you would make a mistake if you didn't get the Basil and Chicken. It blew everything else away, and like I said, everything was good.

Although we tried to lose my parents in Times Square once more, we were unsuccessful and got them back to the hotel safely. Sam and I, showing no personality, went out for a nightcap at a bar down the street.

Saturday was wet, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It rained almost the entire day and thus made it an ideal choice to check out the Museum of Modern Art or MOMA. But first we stopped by Trump Tower to see what the hubbub was there.

Ah, whatever.

A few things about the MOMA: Expect people... a lot of people. True, it was a Saturday but the place was way more crowded than I was expecting. We waited a good 15 minutes, in the rain, just to get inside the building.

The next thing you should know about the MOMA is that it isn't cheap. $20 per person! Ouch! However, if you go Friday night, it is free from 4pm to 8pm. So learn from our mistakes padawon and go to the MOMA on Friday night, then go to Bangkock House for Basil and Chicken and then get to the 42nd Street Brew Pub (to be featured a little later on).

The final thing about the MOMA you should know is that they aren't kidding when they say 'modern' art. The first floors are what I would call 'experimental' art. Meaning most of the time you wonder who makes the decision on what is called art. I think for a lot of this modern stuff, they take the spaghetti approach. You know, throw it at the wall and hope it sticks.

Some of the more interesting pieces are a large room where there is a DVD projection of people watching you... probably with the same dumbfounded and puzzled looks that you have watching them.

Another was a video of a Rube Goldberg type series of events. The video was quite long so I saw neither the beginning nor the end. Somebody, please tell me if there was a point to it all. It is driving me mad!

My favorite was a room full of maybe four or five dozen speakers, each one representing a singer in a choir. You can then walk around the room listening to the distinctness in each voice and wonder in amazement at how they combine to the harmonious sound of the choir as a whole. Another piece that caught my attention was the dog named Ray-O-Vac who was very smart.

As you go up in the museum, the artwork gets more typical: paintings and sculptures. They have more Picasso than I have seen anywhere else. I should have wrote this immediately after our visit because there were a number of things I learned at the MOMA as far as what I liked and what I did't like and my theories on the evolution of art in contrast to the de-evolution of the human experience in post-industrial democratic societies.

OK, that was all crapobabble. But the one thing I still remember from our trip is that Matisse was a hack!!!

During our time at MOMA we also had lunch there. Take my advice and avoid this if possible. It costs too much and they have a bizarre way of serving the food. But that wouldn't be so bad if the cafeteria wasn't sooooooooooooooo small. In fact, it is smaller than the word 'sooooooooooooooo'!

Afterwards, I seem to remember it was raining still, but that didn't stop us from shopping on our way back to our hotel. Nor did it stop us from stopping by for a beer (or two) at some bar.

I remember in my last New York Megamail that I complained about the presence of bars, or lack thereof. We didn't have that same problem this time. Or maybe we just remembered where they weren't from the last trip and didn't go to the same areas. Who knows?

Now hungry, we jumped on the subway towards Little Italy for some dinner. We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the host of the Da Gennaro Ristorante. It was pretty standard Italian fare. The waiter was a little shocked at our request for additional cheese and the amounts for which we asked. What buddy, haven't seen anybody from Wisconsin before?

For the final time, we ditched my parents at the hotel. But this night it was kind of early and as the Wallace and Gromit movie came out that weekend, so we decided to run down to Times Square and take in a movie. There are two theaters on 42nd Street just off of Times Square.

We found a show time to our liking and had about an hour to kill so we walked over to the Times Square Brewery (also on 42nd Street). The signs of this place make it look like a Spy vs. Spy themed restaurant... but on the inside it was a pretty sleek and modern establishment with no obvious spy paraphernalia

The bartender tried to push the Stout on me, but I was really in the mood for an Octoberfest, which they didn't have. I think I settled for a Dunkel. Or, I may be mixing up that with a different bar. Well, we had a beer and it took just enough time before we went to the movie.

The movie, if you haven't seen it, is pretty good and you should rent it when it comes out. C'mon... Wallace and Gromit dude!

The final day certainly got off to the latest start. The train back to Richmond didn't leave until 3ish though, so we still had some time to spend. We pretty much just did a lot of walking. We walked down to the Empire State Building. It was so overcast however that we couldn't even see the top of the building so I can't imagine the observation deck was open that day.

Then we walked over to the United Nations Building. But along the way we got distracted for quite a bit of time at a market/festival on Lexington Street. I wonder if that happens every week or if it was just that day? Pretty nice, regardless.

In fact, during our stroll past all the food and clothing booths, I came to the stunning realization that one could survive in New York without spending a whole lot of money.

For instance, around Battery Park we saw a souvenir stand selling T-shirts for $5 each. "2 for $10" I believe was the advertisement. Sam made a comment that they would be cheaper later on. And sure enough, we saw 3 for $10 and then 4 for $10. Heck, that is pretty darn good.

But wait! 5 for $10. Now things are getting a little ridicul- 6 for $10!!! Oh... my.... God! Can the Chinese make these any cheaper? The answer is yes, 7 for $10! I'm not lying. I think this was at a shop on 8th Avenue north of 46th Street. Of course they are all I New York T-shirts from the 1970's, but who cares!

During our trip a guy on the corner was selling new suits for $30. And then some of the sidewalk stands sold a lot of food for pretty cheap. All this led me to believe that all the hype about New York being an expensive place to live is all a bunch of hooey.

OK, so where was I? Oh, yeah, the market. So this market pretty much went all they up to the Chrysler Building. So at that point we walked over the United Nations Building for our Kodak moment and then back past the Chrysler Building and then through Grand Central once more on our way back to the neighborhood around our hotel.

There was a parade on 5th Avenue that day, for Columbus Day I think. We had some time so we watched. It was very colorful and had troops representing most of the Central and South American countries. Chile really didn't have their act together though.

We loaded up with a late lunch at the Heartland Brewery. I had the ravioli... a mistake. It wasn't bad... it just didn't fill me up. I should have got the special like my dad. Huge!

And then finally we picked up our bags and walked to Penn Station for the return trip to Richmond. The ride back seemed better than the ride up though. But the section from DC to Richmond was once again painfully slow.

So... for those still waiting for the Brazil Megamail... wait some more suckers. If you're nice I will send you yet another Spain Megamail and then we'll all forget about Brazil, won't we?


The Gracyalnys and Lady Liberty.


Manhattan skyline on a mostly sunny day.


Eric's parents in Rockefeller Center.


Sam and Eric's parents in front of Belvedere Castle.


Damn tourists stare at Empire State Building.