Saturday, October 28, 2006

The streets are paved with diamonds and there's just so much to see*

What was that I said about a full New York trip recap? Did I say I was going to do that? Right. The best laid plans, and all of that. It's now been more than three full days since my return, which means that any good stories I may have actually stored up to tell you have likely blurred into hazy memories in my brain. Seriously, one day after I got back, a friend asked me what the highlight of my trip was, and I drew a total blank. I tried skimming through the various memories in my head and realized I had no idea what we did for a full four hours or more of our Saturday afternoon/evening. See? Even when I'm on vacation, I can't escape the alien abduction-like time warps. Sigh.

Anyway, in lieu of any coherent and well-structured stories, I do still have some photos for you, which I shall attempt to caption and segue between, photo-essay-style, as though something so half-assed was actually my plan all along. Lazy and half-assed... it is, as Homer says, the American way, and far be it from me to betray my heritage. So here we go.

Our story begins in Brooklyn, as it's where Darren's apartment is (or was, as I believe he is probably moving right now as I type). I wasn't planning to write about how Darren kindly offered up his home so that I wouldn't have to spend a full month's mortgage payment on my lodging for the weekend... I respect the man's privacy, and I thought perhaps telling the Internet about this arrangement would be akin to inserting messages in hobo code in his comments or sidebar to direct other free-loaders his way. Since he told everyone about it himself, however, I think it's safe to mention. Therefore, this is Brooklyn. Darren's street. Nice, right? Yeah, I thought so too.

I'm thinking of getting some gargoyles myself, to spruce up my own front steps. They'd look quite nice beside my generic, shoebox-styled 1950 rambler, don't you think? I'm all about being regal and classy, don't you know.

From Darren's place, it is just a quick subway ride to the edge of Brooklyn. Or, it should be a quick subway ride, if you know how to ride the subway and understand that, during construction, the C train becomes the F train and you will, in fact, veer on over to Manhattan far earlier and via a different path than you intended to. But that's probably just me and Lisa. I'm sure the rest of you would have understood the whimsical route-shuffling just fine and would have ended up at Grimaldi's without back-tracking and changing trains three times. Right? Yeah. Anyway, this is Grimaldi's.

They have what both Lonely Planet and Fodder's identified as some of the best "authentic New York pizza" available, so of course, we decided to try it ourselves. Apparently everyone else read the same books, because the line stretched all the way down the block. It moved surprisingly quickly, however, given the fact that the tables inside were approximately four inches apart from one another and the fact that our food arrived approximately six minutes after we ordered it. The only explanation I can provide for this speedy service (other than a miraculous, space-aged, nuclear-powered brick oven that bakes pizzas in one-third the normal time) is that the cooks have telepathic powers and are somehow able to predict each table's order even before they sit down, giving them a bit of a head start to get things moving. (What's that about an overactive imagination? Yeah, I seem to demonstrate it a lot.)

Grimaldi's is located just beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, so after lunch we found the entrance and made the scenic walk across. It was, incidentally, one of the few times all weekend when we managed to successfully stack together two consecutive plans that were entirely geographically convenient. I was rather proud of us for that one, I must say.

Grand Central Station wasn't on our list, as it's one of the few places Lisa and I had both already seen on brief, earlier visits to New York, but when you end up at that station by chance, you might as well look around again, right? And so we did.

The lighting was really strange in there, presumably because they were filming something at the ticket booth about twenty feet away. We didn't get a very good look (we actually got a better look at the catering table for the crew on the way out of the station, though our obvious scoping didn't score us any free snacks, unfortunately), but I don't think there was anybody famous involved. Still, if you see me as an unintentional extra in an American Express commercial or a random transitional scene in a movie in the coming months, be sure to let me know, OK? I'll be the girl in the green sweater and black jacket (and, of course, the new nerdy-girl glasses).

Next on our agenda was the United Nations tour. Or, rather, I should say next on Lisa's agenda. It's not that I didn't want to go there; I actually learned quite a bit and enjoyed the tour a great deal. I just wouldn't have thought of it on my own as something worth doing while in New York. Lisa dreams of a life where she regularly hob-nobs with foreign diplomats, however, so this was perhaps the most excited face I saw on her all weekend.

This next picture doesn't really transition well from the Lisa smiley-face one, but since it was taken outside the UN building, it fits here nonetheless. Mainly I just like both the photo and the sentiment.

Since the UN was Lisa's choice, it was my turn next, of course. To prove I am just as big a geek as Lisa, I chose the public library. Word of advice when you're traveling with friends: if you're a tremendous nerd, it's best if your traveling partners are, too. I don't know what I would have done if Lisa had wanted to spend the full trip following shady characters into alleyways to check out designer knock-offs. In other words, I said, "Can we go to the library?" and, rather than raising her eyebrows at me, Lisa simply said, "Sure."

Since we got to the library only shortly before closing and I didn't even have time to properly peruse the gift shop (I may not have gone to NY for the shopping, but I still enjoy a good gift shop, of course), we made the next destination a literary-minded one as well. Well, literary plus alcohol, which is a fine combo, if you ask me.

This is the Algonquin. Dorothy Parker drank here.**

And now I did as well.

Following the most expensive (but bookish!) cocktail I've ever had, we did some more wandering around Manhattan with no clear goal. Here are just a couple of the many notable landmarks upon which we stumbled.

Can you believe it? Skating in October already! Cheesy and ridiculous and overpriced as it was, I totally wanted to tie on some skates and join these folks. Unfortunately, we never made it back for that, for reasons that were entirely my fault and shall be detailed later. Someday, I will skate here. Next trip, I suppose.

Sunday was perhaps my favorite day of our trip. We went to MoMA and then Wicked. I took about 73 pictures at the former, but I'll spare you and share only four.

That night, after the show, we had a lovely dinner in SoHo at a place my pal Guinness Girl recommended. My meal came with fancy-schmancy macaroni and cheese (a crazily priced $6 side dish had I ordered it on its own), and Lisa's came with some tasty French Fries served in--I kid you not--a terra cotta pot. Upon detailing her diet for the day later, she exclaimed, "I just ate a whole flower pot of fries!" It was, I think, one of my favorite quotes from the trip***, and I'm very sorry I don't have a picture of the pot to share with you. We did photo-document our food, as we generally do, for some reason, but those pictures are locked away on Lisa's camera, and I suspect I may never see them again.

After dinner, we enjoyed two more fancy cocktails at Pravda, a few blocks away.

They have 79 kinds of vodka on hand. So, of course, I ordered something with gin.

And then, we had even more drinks at an Irish pub down the street. Are you sensing some foreshadowing here? If so, you are smart. More on that in a moment, when I'm done showing you these.

Every bar should have a live band with a baby, don't you think?

Every bar should also have tasty spiced apple martinis. That is, unless the bar is serving people who want to get up and enjoy some sight-seeing and ice skating on their last day of vacation. In that case, the spiced apple martinis are a bad, bad idea.

Perhaps this is a good time to show you our hotel's bathroom, as I spent a bit more time in it that night than I did the rest of our trip. Our hotel may have cost us significantly more than our lodgings at Darren's place did, but it was kind of fancy, actually, too.

Not just fancy, in fact, but phone-in-the-bathroom fancy.

Unfortunately, no one I could have called on that phone would have been able to do anything about the poison I'd foolishly let into my body. That had to work its way out on its own, in ways I won't detail for you right now. Seriously, there is a story behind this that would rival one somebody once told on his blog but that I won't hunt for and link to out of respect for the story teller. My story involves vomit and the unfortunate location in which it occurred. His story involves things that occur at the posterior end, but already I've said too much. Suffice it to say that perhaps I'll tell this story some day, but this is not that day.

I will say, however, that New York is, as far as I know, quite possibly the worst place in the country to have a hangover. Aside from the constant standing and walking and the jerking, swaying trains you have to take in between the standing and walking, there are crowds and jostling and a new smell every seven feet. And not just good smells, like bakeries and coffee shops or even roasted chicken or duck dangling from a wire hook in a window. No, there's also sewage and bus exhaust and, my favorite (since it comes with a visual as well): raw seafood.

Did I mention that some of this seafood wasn't even really quite dead? Yeah, clearly Lisa said "No thanks" to the martinis a bit earlier than I did the previous evening, because she was entirely more fascinated by the wonders of Chinatown than I was at that point.

Luckily, by the end of the day, the hangover was on its last legs, and I was feeling brave enough to enjoy dinner and margaritas with Darren and Miss Peach. In case you missed Wednesday's post, that looked something like this.

And that about sums things up, I guess. All in all, it was a great trip, and I can't wait to go back again someday soon.


* In case you're not Nabbalicious and you don't have a tremendous, searchable mental database of every lyric ever written, I will help you out and admit that yes, I just titled two out of my last four posts with lyrics from the same damn song. It's a song that's been on near-constant loop in my head for approximately four weeks now, though (ever since Lisa and I booked our trip and pretty much whenever I thought about it from that point forward), so perhaps that explains why it's still coming to mind. There are, of course, more annoying New York-related songs that could have embedded themselves in my brain, so I'm going to count myself lucky this time.

** This is both a fact and a Gilmore Girls reference. Kudos to you if you got both.

*** Maybe even slightly edging out the culturally insensitive comment I made when Lisa asked me how my feet were holding up in my impractical pointy-toed shoes: "I'll just walk like my feet are hobbled. Like a little Chinese girl," I said.


guinness girl said...

Oh dear, Stefanie. I did not realize that you made the fatal mistake of choosing Chinatown as your hangover location. GAH! I have made that mistake before, as well, and the smells are horrendous. Poor you!

Red said...

I actually wasn't blown away by Grimaldis. I liked it, but I didn't totally get why there's a line out the door, you know?

Darren McLikeshimself said...

Every bathroom should come with a phone. Every

And, Red, that's because New Yorkers know dick about pizza. Oh, they act like they invented the stuff, but a piece of card board with watery tomato sauce on it, a few burnt pieces of pepperoni, and greasy melted cheese over the top does not a pizza make.

-R- said...

A friend who will indulge your nerdy side is the best kind of friend!

lizgwiz said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip, and an excellent travelling companion. Sadly for me, the last time I went to New York was with a co-worker who turned out to be the worst possible choice. She didn't want to eat anywhere but McDonald's or Wendy's, didn't want to see plays or go to museums, disappeared for a day when her brother (with whom we were staying, and who was great fun) smoked a joint in front of her, and stole $100 out of my suitcase. Good times.

stefanie said...

GG--Yes, that day was pretty much the worst day we could have gone there. Live and learn, I guess.

Red--I'm with you. It was good, sure, but best-pizza-ever? Eh. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I'm not sure it's worth the hype either.

Darren--Every? Hmm. Interesting theory, I suppose... (Personally, I don't really want to call or be called from a bathroom--hotel or otherwise--but maybe I'm just not thinking outside the box enough here.)

R--How right you are. How right indeed.

Liz--Oh my. That does sound pretty much like worst-trip-ever. On this trip, Lisa was actually the one to say, "Let's not eat at any chain places all weekend!" And then it was Lisa who veered into McDonald's Monday night for a late-night two-cheeseburger meal. For the rest of the trip, however, we avoided the chains, and I don't think I ever have to worry about crazy thievery with her, either! Whew.