Day Six – In The Dough, Harlem Shuffle, Home On The Grange, Divine Cathedral, Celebrating Summer’s End, A Frickin’ Great Museum, Eataly Part Deux, Giving Tom The Bird, Just Wynn Baby, Fore, Smoke Gets In My Eyes and In The Chips
Damn, I felt good this morning (must have been that $18 Manhattan). We awoke knowing this was our last day to see what New York City could throw at us. I looked down at my feet and said, “Get moving losers! This is it!”
Charlie greeted me outside our door, and I met Kim downstairs in the lobby. We had made a date to go back to Amy’s Bread in The Chelsea Market to check out their assortment of delectable-looking creations to bring back for the four of us to try for breakfast at the Chelsea Pines. Obviously, I should have had dessert the previous night, because my sweet teeth (it’s an unusual condition, but I have more than one) began to throb as I looked at the numerous offerings Amy’s had to offer.
In a case of stomach-trumps-brain, I ordered a chocolate croissant, a blueberry muffin and a cherry scone. If that wasn’t bad enough, before anyone could say “heart attack in a bag,” I also ordered a large slice of Red Velvet Cake, the perfect complement to a chocolate croissant. The gigantic latte would help wash it all down quite nicely I rationalized. Kim, on the other hand, ordered a couple of pastries like a normal person would do in that situation.
We approached our wives with our goodies, and as I emptied my bottomless pit of sweets, Tracy said. ”Did we invite another couple this morning?” Mary, forgetting her husband had pole danced on a subway a couple of nights before, turned and gave him a big hug.
We said goodbye to our United Nations’ friends who were aghast by the over consumption of what they had perceived to be normal Americans, and we were bound for our longest subway journey yet to take a gander at the house where Alexander Hamilton lived for a couple of years before that silly dueling thing. It had just reopened in the past few weeks after being moved to St. Nicholas Park and having some restoration work done on it.
We got off the subway and started walking. We moved to the left, and we moved to the right, and we took it kind of slow with a whole lot of soul. Yeah, we were doing the Harlem Shuffle. Not because we were hip (as a matter of fact, we had a better chance of breaking a hip), but because we were old, and our feet weren’t picking up like they were about a week ago. We arrived at St. Nicholas Park and there was Hamilton Grange, so named to remind Hamilton of his dad’s home in Scotland.
The Hamiltons moved into the home in 1802, but only got to enjoy it for a couple of years. Hamilton, of course, was shot in a duel in 1804 by “Awon Buww,” the man who became even more famous thanks to the guy who had consumed a peanut butter sandwich without any milk.
We went inside and saw some Hamilton artifacts and a short clip on what looked like previews of an upcoming movie on Hamilton’s life (which would be fascinating). Sadly, we had just missed a guided tour of Hamilton Grange, and the next one would not start for an hour.
Fearing that some of Aaron Burr’s (Kim set me straight on the name) relatives might show up packing heat, we decided to walk up the stairs through the park (the stairs were become daunting by this time), and then get started on our next adventure of the day.
Nearby Hamilton’s house was a church (or perhaps a building that looked like a church), but we had another church to go to this morning. Getting off the subway at our next stop, I was saddened to see an uphill climb, but fortunately I was excited to visit The Cathedral Church Of St. John The Divine. I was hoping for some divine intervention that would beam me up to the church, but onward we trudged.
Just before we got to the entrance we stopped by a pretty park with some interesting sculptures. We were in the St. John The Divine Cathedral Children’s Garden, and instead of seeing children growing in the garden there were a number of sculptures of Ghandi, Noah’s Ark, Rudyard Kipling and an elephant in the park’s Sculpture Garden.
St. John The Divine Cathedral is one of the largest Christian churches in the world and it has been “under construction” since 1892 (sort of like our living room).
The cathedral has a beautiful Rose Window above the main entrance.
It also had something that looked like it belonged at a Texas Longhorns’ football game. Jumping (well, none of us were really jumping by this stage of the game) on the subway, we got off at Central Park Midi (not its real name) and made one last sojourn through Central Park.
As we had surmised the previous day, the park was full of families knowing that they would not see weather like this unless they moved to California (yes, a cheap shot). I even got a nice shot of Kim carry Mary’s purse (and they say chivalry is dead).
The spreadsheet was dwindling down to a precious few as we headed toward the Frick Collection (1 East 70th Street). In the tradition of “saving the best for last,” this became the consensus number one spot we visited on our six-day New York City sojourn.
Tickets were $18, and the very informative audio guides were free. For the most part, our favorite types of museums are the ones where you can gain knowledge not only about the art contained within the museum, but historical knowledge about the actual structure and, more importantly, the person behind it.
In addition to the audio guides, there was about a 15-minute film on Henry Clay Frick that presented great historical background on the man and is a must for people to get the utmost knowledge about his collection. Frick was an “industrialist, financier and art patron” who was, at one time, the chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company. The man had some bucks, so, voila, a hell of a collection. There’s no photography so I got these from their website. Kim went downstairs afterward to see a Picasso exhibit and exiting he said that there a couple of pieces he found interesting, which were two more than either of us had ever seen before. Sorry Picasso, you do not move me.
Instead of eating inside the crowded Eataly, we scampered (OK, we’re not scampering by now either) across the street and grabbed a table outside at the Flatiron Plaza on a day that was now approaching 80 degrees. Located at the table next to us was an unusual couple, a lady sitting down with a rather sizable green and yellow bird attached to her arm. Looking at me, she said, “Come on over and put him on your arm. He won’t hurt you.”
Forgetting all the prednisone and other drugs I have been taking for the past year that makes my skin easier to tear apart than a flaky croissant, soon there was a bird (a rather heavy bird) sitting on my arm.
He wanted to be there just about as much as I wanted him there (as you can tell, even he was giving me “the look”). After about 20 seconds, Tracy removed the bird from my arm, and sure enough, there was blood from his nasty, little feet (or whatever birds walk on).
Always one to be serious in a crisis, Kim yelled, “Bird flu!” Luckily, there were no Federal agents around to take him into custody for alarming the public (who happened to be laughing at Kim’s humor). Before you could say “Dr. Mary,” our own Florence Nightingale had reached into her purse and deftly pulled out some anti-bacterial ointment and a band-aid. The potential Parrot Parasite epidemic was nipped in the bud (although I have had a craving for crackers ever since this incident).
Since we had seen so many people from so many different parts of the world, it put us in the mood for a quick trip to the United Nations. Some of the subway lines were down for maintenance but by subway and shuttle, we were soon at Grand Central Station and got one last look at The Chrysler Building.
We walked over to the U.N. For the second time today, we were told we had barely missed the last tour of the day.
For a moment I was going to go into my best Adlai Stevenson Cuban Missile Crisis impersonation and say, “I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over!”
We did walk over to the Marc Chagall Peace Window that was a 1962 memorial to the Swedish U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjøld who perished in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1961. The Peace Window was quite beautiful.
“Who do you think you are,” I answered, “Rush Limbaugh?”
Kim replied, “No you idiot (obviously he had been hanging around Tracy too long). “Let’s get out of the U.N. and get back to Chelsea.”
I was done walking unless it was straight to a watering hole. We walked across the street; hailed a nearby cab and about 12 bucks (this city ain’t cheap) later we were back in Chelsea sitting at the La Bottega Trattoria Bar sipping a well-earned martini and other libations.
As we chatted at the bar with Heather Sellers, author of the book You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, Tracy looked at me in a peculiar fashion (not uncommon), because someone she didn’t know was closing in on me. Standing directly behind me was a rather strange fellow who for some reason was wielding a golf club. I knew I wasn’t at a Bob Hope USO Show or at The Masters, so this was shaping up to be a weird moment in travel, even for this crew.
Before I could ask him what his handicap was or if he wanted to play through, he said to me, “Buy Wynn on Monday morning.”
I’m guessing the guy was a stockbroker (or Steve Wynn’s crazy nephew), and he kept yammering on how I should buy Wynn stock the first thing on Monday morning. A few days before we had seen an Occupy Wall Street march, and now I was in the middle of a Wall Street Occupies My Bar moment.
This was also the day that “Just Win, Baby” Al Davis (owner of those “evil” Raiders) passed away. Wynn and Win? Could it be a sign? The dude just kept on talking, and really the only thing I hoped for was that he would leave before putting a divot in the top of my head. Finally, he and his three-wood departed. We all thought he was just a drunk, crazy guy, although Tracy had an inkling he was trying to pick me up.
Digression: Two days later, on Monday afternoon, I was at work when Tracy called and said, “I wonder what Wynn did today?” I checked on my computer and the stock had climbed more than 10 points. “Just Wynn, Baby!”
After our episode, Kim and Mary went looking for a beer while Tracy and I went looking for another martini and a potential spot for dinner.
We stopped in at the bar at Pastis (9, 9th Avenue), a French bistro we had all walked into a few nights earlier to check out. We had all liked the space, so Tracy and I made reservations for 8 p.m. for the final dinner of the trip.
There are outdoor tables at Pastis that are hard to come by, but we were seated right next to open French doors (well it is a French restaurant), which I thought would be great because (1) this place is deafening so we might be able to hear each other and (2) it was rather warm inside so we might catch a breeze.
The place was loud and the food was good. Tracy started with the Fresh Arugula salad with Parmesan and Lemon ($13). I had the Soup du Jour, which happened to be Lentil ($10). It was a rather strange choice for me, however when I was hospitalized last year, for some reason Lentil Soup was one of the first things that tasted good to me on my road to recovery. I decided to thank the oft-forgotten Lentil here in NYC, and the soup was quite good.
For dinner, Kim went for the Steak Frites with Béarnaise sauce ($37) and a side of Gratin Dauphinois ($9), otherwise known as scalloped potatoes. All at the table shared his Béarnaise sauce as we dipped our Frites (which is legal in NYC and a few other places in America).
However, it was Tracy who would be in heaven with her choice.
It doesn’t sound like a dish that would “wow” you, but Tracy said her Fish and Chips with Tartar sauce ($19) was one of the best thing things she has ever tasted. Taking a bite, I had to concur that these were the best fish and chips I had ever tasted. The fish basically melted in your mouth.
However, by this time, I also had other things on my mind (and in my lungs). I don’t know if someone was smoking out on the patio or if it was just people walking by, but the smoke was getting to me. Before my little ordeal of last year, cigarette smoke never bothered me. As a matter of fact, sometimes it even smelled good to me in a bizarre way.
However, thanks to some lungs that aren’t quite back to snuff, now cigarette smoke is totally annoying to me. By the time, we had paid our check (a little more than 200 bucks after cocktails and vin rouge), we were on the street and I looked like I had just seen Gretel tell Julie Andrews that she hurt her finger in The Sound Of Music. My eyes were tearing up, and I was coughing. Not even a rendition of My Favorite Things could help me now.
The trip was all but finished. Finito. Kaput. Over. Back at the hotel, we petted Charlie good night just in case we didn’t see him in the morning and started packing.
I will list our Top 15 New York City rankings.
15 – Fraunces Tavern – I have to include a place where such an important event in our nation’s history took place. That I was able to partake in a cocktail afterward only made it that much better.
14 – Ellis Island – If you think my ranking is low, Ellis Island doesn’t even make Kim and Mary’s Top 15. I know that many people who come here are quite moved by going to Ellis Island, but obviously it did not have the same effect for us. It was an interesting experience, and it was cool we could look up our relatives who came over more than a century before, but I thought the immigrant experience hit home more at the Tenement Museum.
13 – Cathedral of St. John The Divine – My favorite church of the trip, although St. Paul’s 9-11 connection (on Kim and Mary’s list) was compelling.
12 – Walking The Neighborhoods – And walk we did. Although my feet at times felt like they would give out, walking so much of NYC gave us a great perspective of this great city. From Greenwich Village to Park Avenue, we got a wonderful feel of NYC.
11) Riding The Subways – Whether Kim was pole dancing, or we were just getting a heads up from a knowledgeable local, riding the subway system of NYC was a blast and a great way to navigate the city. Thanks to so many New Yorkers, we never missed a stop
10 – Walking The Brooklyn Bridge – It was made even better by being able to walk it on such a beautiful day, although we all agree it would have been a good idea to subway to Brooklyn and walk back across the bridge. Now if they could just upgrade the sound system so visitors could know exactly where to get off without bothering anyone (although it’s a great way to meet locals).
9 – The Tenement Museum – The story of the Irish immigrants living in such a cramped space was brought to life by our knowledgeable guide.
8 – Climbing to The Crown of the Statue of Liberty – Although the view from the cramped Crown is kind of anticlimactic, especially after huffing and puffing up those 354 stairs, knowing that not many people were allowed to do it in a day, made it special for us. For me personally, I was just happy that I was healthy enough to accomplish the feat, something I thought impossible only nine months before.
7 – Eataly – Yeah, it’s commercial. Yeah, it was built to make money, but so what. Capitalism has its place, and this is one of them. We were all blown away by the use of space in Eataly, and if I lived in NYC, I am sure it would be somewhere I visited often (sipping vino on the rooftop) and would be a highlight to show out-of-town visitors. I hope they put one in Los Angeles some day, although I don’t know if L.A. would support it like NYC does. Next time, I am going straight to Gelato and then grab a huge plate of prosciutto and sip wine in the center (yes, I often do things backwards).
6 – High Line – Speaking of a great use of space, the former elevated freight train tracks, now an incredible urban park and walkway, is something to behold. Walk it at sunset as you look out over the river and as lights go on throughout NYC. Marvel at its ingenuity. Bravo!!
5 – Metropolitan Museum Of Art – I rank it much higher than Kim and Mary, but that’s because I am now a serious MET member and dedicated art aficionado, while they are just freeloaders who don’t appreciate the nuances of great artists. Seriously, the museum is amazing and is a place, like many great art museums, that you could return to time and time again to see many of the paintings and sculptures you missed before. Tracy and I would definitely rent an audio guide the next time we go. I’ll wear a tie now that I am an important museum member.
4 – The Morgan Library & Museum – We all agree on The Morgan Library. History, art, great pieces of literature all on display, and an audio guide that helps the place come alive. This was a big surprise for me, as I rarely went to the library in college.
3 – Central Park – Central Park was another big surprise. I had not been here since I was about 14. It didn’t hurt that the weather during the couple hours that we spent in the park was perfect. It’s funny, but the whole Strawberry Fields/Imagine Memorial did not make me want to sing All You Need Is Love, but the entire experience of walking in Central Park was enjoyable.
2 – The Vibe Of NYC – “Electric!” That is the one word that sums up NYC to me. As I have stated time and time again, every person we met, whether on the subway, on the street, at our hotel or our many servers (although Tracy might disagree on my imaginary lover at Plunge) were helpful and pleasant. People in NYC move fast, they talk fast and get straight to the point. If there is a stereotype of a “gruff New Yorker,” we never met one.
1 – The Frick Collection – Incredibly a museum takes top honor for Tracy and me. From the audio guides to the informative movie to the pieces in the collection, this place was our favorite
We didn’t quite have time to fit into our busy schedule. We did not get to The Cloisters, The Whitney Museum, and we did not go to the Top Of The Rock or Empire State Building. We all think that Hamilton Grange probably would have snuck into the Top 15 if we had taken the tour, but yet again that is a reason to return.
My only food regret is not getting to a typical NYC steakhouse or The Shake Shack. I guess I wouldn’t have minded returning to the Stage Deli, but I’m not sure if my mouth opens as wide as it used to.
Finally, our hotel, the Chelsea Pines Inn, is a place I would reserve when we make it back to NYC. It might not be your choice if you’re a big hotel-type who likes lots of frills, but for price + location + quiet + incredibly friendly service, this place cannot be beat. Not to mention, we still miss Charlie (but don’t tell our cats).
On a personal note, this entire trip was a very big step (well, lots of steps) for me. Although I had nine months of physical therapy, this was my first major venture back into the real world of travel for me.
I knew New York City would throw everything it had at us, and I was somewhat wary that I might not be able to handle the fast pace we are accustomed to on past journeys. However, we all survived the long walks and 1,000 Stairs-A-Day, and I lived to write another too long trip report on our six incredible days here.
Looking back on the entire ordeal of the past year, there was certainly a point when I believed my days of travel (not to mention my days on earth) could be finished forever, so this trip…even more than any of our previous adventures…exemplified what I always truly believe:
Enjoy The Journey! Attitude Is Everything!