New York, New York
12 July 2008 | New Y ork City
What is it about this city that makes it different from others? I felt filled up with life last time I was here and I wondered if it was just because it was my first visit, but the feeling was the same again this time.
What a city! So over the top with stores and neon signs and incredible digital images towering above us - so many huge and magnificent towers where the people in suits do their money managing - how many Trump Towers are there?? - so many elegant old buildings with ornamental railings and carvings and steeples - so many parks with children and nannies and strollers - so many people from all over the world strolling and wandering and eating and playing and taking pictures.
There is so much entertainment - formal and casual - in the theatres and concert halls, and on the streets and in the parks. There are the giant office buildings into which people disappear to do their sophisticated work, and the Mom and Pop shops, and the street corner vendors, and construction sites and a gazillion restaurants and cafes.
Our little neighbourhood - Riverside Park - Broadway and 79th St - appeared to be home to many families with children judging by the number of strollers and nannies we saw on the sidewalks and in the parks. Because it was summer time, there were crowds of children in look alike T-shirts at summer programs in the park too.
The grocery stores in the area, the West End Market and Zabars, both had huge arrays of ready to eat food on their shelves. At Zabars, the servers stood behind the counters ready to dish out salads and main dishes and seafood and breads. At the Market, those same salads and entrees were already packaged into hundreds of small plastic containers lined up in colourful rows on the shelves. I wish I had asked what happens to all the containers once past their "eat before" dates. Or maybe I don't wish I'd asked. Plastic and throw-away containers have become pet peeves of ours on this trip. The amount of garbage produced is staggering and totally unnecessary. But that's a rant for another time.
It was great fun to introduce Alex to the city - it was his first visit too. We splurged on several shows starting with The Blue Man Group on Monday night. Jim knew of them; I didn't - and neither of us had given much thought to attending a show, but Alex was very keen to go so we did. Our seats were in the last row of the mezzanine in the small theatre on Lafayette St, but we still felt part of the show, and we all loved it. It was the most creative, entertaining performance art we've seen in a long while - part music, part comedy, part action - all riveting and extremely well done. We would all highly recommend it (even at $75.00 per ticket. We ordered on the phone before we got to the city - I can't remember if these tickets show up at the half price booth or not.)
On the drama side, we were fortunate to get tickets to A Country Girl, starring Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher. I don't know why it wasn't sold out; it was such a strong performance by all the actors, and a good story too. Our seats (purchased at the half price ticket booth in Times Square for $55.00 each) were in the third row - close enough that we could see all the expression on their faces. What talent those people have!
On the third night, we went off Broadway again to see the Damn Yankees - a musical starring Sean Hayes (of Will and Grace) and Jane Krankowski (Ally Mc Beal). It was entertaining too, although not one of the big production musicals that Broadway is famous for. (At $25.00 per ticket, we felt we got our money's worth.) We tried a couple of times to get tickets to the new musical, In the Heights, or the long running Jersey Boys but the tickets (always available) were over $100.00 apiece and that just didn't fit the budget.
We visited the UN buildings and had a tour. This was really worthwhile too because, as Alex said, we all came away with more respect for that institution. It is sometimes easy to think that it just doesn't accomplish enough and doesn't have the teeth required to make things happen. After the tour though, we have a renewed belief that a place where nations come together voluntarily to talk, to make compromises, to reach shared objectives is valuable even without teeth. It started with 52 member countries after WWII and now has 191 member countries. It was good to hear about Canada's vital role - with Lester B Pearson's Peace Initiatives, and Lloyd Axworthy's work on landmines, and to know that we are (I think) the 7th largest dues payers. (Also interesting to learn that the US - the largest dues payers are chronically late with payment.) A couple of things really grabbed our attention - the visual display of the amount of money spent on weapons compared to all the other issues that affect us all - housing, medical care, food and literacy. It was an appalling imbalance. The other display was of landmines - many of them innocuous looking things - children's toys that can maim and destroy. Because of the work done in recent years, the deaths and injuries suffered have gone down markedly, but countries are still producing and selling them by the thousands. Why is it ever, ever, ever OK to make a weapon look like a yoyo or other toy that would attract a child???
We walked all around Ground Zero, looking at the site of so much destruction and dismay, and the pictures of the new facilities that will be there in the future. It continues to draw hundreds of solemn tourists - and there was a different feeling as we walked among them - thoughtfulness, contemplation - that wasn't in the air in other gathering places. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, there is still an awareness of tragedy.
Alex wanted to buy a laptop while he was here, so we spent some time comparison-shopping and he eventually bought one. He figured that even with paying the Canadian tax on the portion that exceeded his allowable amount, he paid less for more. (No duty on computers being taken across the border even if they are not make in the USA or Canada - that was news to us.)
We journeyed back on the subway and bus to La Guardia Airport on Thursday to see Alex off, and returned all the way on the bus - giving us a look at more of New York. That evening was spent on the boat - not too bouncy for once. It was the first slow evening for us in New York - we have always been in "gotta see and do as much as we can" mode. In fact, we slowed down so much that we spent another day there - an early morning walk, haircuts, afternoon strolls through Washington Square and New York University area - so full of interesting stops - and a leisurely evening there too. We ate delicious gazpacho and iced granites at a perfect café with fabulous old paintings on the wall and an original espresso machine on display, and later on dined on well-prepared seafood (slapped on the table by a grumpy waiter) in an Italian place while the two older Italian gentlemen at the next table carried on their conversation at top decibels. It was entertaining!
With regret, but also with an interest in making tracks - or should I say wake? - for Boston, we departed down the Hudson on the tide about 11 am on Saturday.