Saturday, June 07, 2008

NYC Day 1: The Details...

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Pictured above from left to right: The awesome Beckeye, yours truly, Coaster Punchman, and the lovely Poor George. As you can see, the combined powers of blogdacity, PoorGeorgery and New York City had caused my camera to become starstruck.
Where do I even begin? This trip to New York City was amazing and exhausting. I haven't been this tired since I returned from band camp. I traveled with my co-worker, Andy, to this amazing city in order to train a group of lovely ladies at a local hospital on how to use our software. This would be my first solo training as Andy and I would have our own training rooms. I was worried about it because, I had heard, that New Yorkers confined in a small space for eight hours can sometimes equal a tough room. They were tough, but, thanks to years of handling your comments, I believe I was able to handle myself quite well.
We arrived in the city two hours later than expected (Thanks, AirTran!). Andy and I dumped our stuff in our respective hotel rooms and grabbed a subway train to the big apple. Andy was on a mission to procure the world's most awesome cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery and I was on a mission to have the Most Awesome New York style pizza from Lombardi's, America's first pizzeria.
We arrived at Times Square, where Andy, map in hand, took off toward Bleecker Street with a maddened determination, the likes of which I had not since since the Cabbage Patch Kids craze in 1983. This man can haul ass. But I wasn't going to complain. I was going to keep up if it killed me. It was really cool to see that much of the city from street level. I got a bit discouraged when we realized we had walked several blocks in the wrong direction. The last quarter of our trip, it began to drizzle.
We finally arrived at the Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. It was a charming little establishment that specializes in cupcakes. It wasn't too crowed, but still busy at 8:30 p.m. Andy could barely contain himself as he selected two white cake cupcakes. Under the spell of his enthusasiam and moved by the absolute cuteness of the place, I grabbed a box and selected a white and a red velvet cupcake. I didn't know what I was thinking, buying cupcakes. I really don't like them. But I was here for the experience and along for the ride.
We left and I convinced Andy to idle long enough to check his map and mine so we could locate Lombardi's (on Spring Street, near Mott) and plan our route. I didn't want to risk any further wrong turns, as my Speedo flip flops were beginning to give me blisters and shin splints were developing.
We made it to Lombardi's without further missteps and submitted our name and settled in to wait 25 minutes for a table to become available. I seriously hoped they had a restroom, because, and I say this with no offense intended: two hours traipsing through NYC had gifted me with an exterior coating of grime and I wanted to enjoy NYC without actually ingesting any of it. We sat on a bench outside the restaurant and commenced people watching. My throbbing blisters caught their breath and quit complaining as couples, freaks, toursits and hobos drifted in and out of our line of sight. It was quite a pleasurable respite to be sure.
They called our name and we winded our way through the front of the restaurant, past the legendary brick oven and to our miniature table. I found the bathroom and luxuriated in the pleasures of temporary cleanliness as I scrubbed my hands with pink institutional soap. I headed back to the table as Andy and I decided what to order. Our Russian waitress took our order: Caesar salad, a small pizza (14 inches, six slices) with pepperoni and meatballs, water for Andy and Diet RC for me.
Anna Karenina brought us our salad, which was wonderful. And then our pie arrived. It was so delicious.

America's First Pizza

The toppings, of course, were amazing, although after the first couple of meatballs, I decided they interfered with my enjoyment, so I flicked them off, folded my slice and continued. The pepperoni was perfect. The cheeses, mozzerella and romano, were wonderful and the sauce was a bit sweet. But the crust...it was divine. I chewed it thoughtfully, trying to suss out what made it so good. I like to make my own crusts at home and hoped to be able to replicate this. After a few bites, I determined that the x factor must come from 100 year old, 900 degree bricks it was cooked on. And extra salt.

We finished eating more than we should have and I asked Anna for an itemized copy of the bill, which she remorsefully agreed to provide. When she returned with our change, she explained dolefully that she couldn't give us a copy of the it since their copier was broken. I asked her for the bill itself, but she flatly refused. We were momentarily chagrined. At work, we were recently told: no itemized receipt...no reimbusement. So, then, I had a brainblast: I'll take a picture of the bill! So I did. Andy laughed and said, "Only you would think of that."

Bellies full, we made our way out and to the nearest subway station. Earlier, we had purchased 4 rides on a Metro card, which came with a bonus dolllar fifty on it. Andy swiped the card and went through the turnstile. He handed me the card, but the metal asterisk refused to budge and let me pass. Somehow, it didn't understand that we had more than enough dough on it to get me through. So I went to the machine to purchas a new one with my company card. Inexplicably, it asked for the billing zip code, which neither of us could remember. So I got some, cash, grabbed the card and receipt and went on through.

We had to get back to our Laguardia hotel, and unfortunately, there is no subway that goes there. So we thought we'd head that way, get off at Shea Stadium and catch a cab from there. We wrongly assumed that all places in or near NYC would be bustling and overfull of cabs. We were the only ones to disembark at the Shea Stadium stop and landed on the road which was dark and deserted. I started to think that perhaps we should get back on the subway and try another stop. I turned to Andy to tell him this but he was already fifty paces ahead of me, walking towards our destination.

During our walk, we saw about three cars and one bus, which didn't even pause as it passed us. The stadium (and it's new iteration) glowed spectrally at us as we regretted not stopping in a pawn shop and buying that gun I suggested we get. After about a half a mile, we saw a gas station, that would have been a good place to stop and call a cab from, but Andy, being a man, didn't even consider. Fortunately, there was a Mexican car service not much farther down and I walked right into in order to hire a car.

We startled a man who was loading the little office refrigerator with energy drinks and asked him if we could get a car to our hotel. He considered it a moment, sizing up these two silly gringos who dropped into his life at 11:30 p.m, and then agreed to find us a ride. We waited for a while, taking in our surroundings. It was a small room with a pool table, two skinny kittens, a consul TV perched precariously on a baroque coffee table and a display case full of used CB's, cell phones and flashlights. Spanish television blared the results from a recent soccer match while Andy and I exchanged nervous glances under the glare of flourescent lights.

A driver came in and I think he understood where we wanted to go. As we were getting into the black Town Car, I told Andy we would either make it to the hotel and end the evening or we were on the verge of our own After Hours adventure. We sat in silence as we listened to Mexican radio. Our driver nearly passed our hotel, but we intervened and arrived safely at the front doors.

Andy laughed as we made our way to our rooms, claiming it was all my fault such weird things had happened this night. He said that he had made many trips here with no incident so it must me my luck. I told him to enjoy his cupcakes and we parted ways, exhausted, grime-encrusted and full of the wonders of the Big Apple.

To be continued...

12 comments:

  1. Wait, you went to N.Y. without packing heat? What were you thinking?

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  2. In other words...without you, Andy's life is a total bore.

    I can't wait to hear the rest.

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  3. Sounds like an excellent adventure. Taking a photo of the bill further cements your genius. I can't wait to read on (although I've had a peek at Coaster Punchman's post and Doc's comment there!)

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  4. I knew I hated NY for a reason. This cake was a lot tastier than any ol' cuppy-cake!!

    Waiting for Part II!!

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  5. I just assumed that the slightly blurred, shaky looking group photo was a result of C.P.'s cocktails.

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  6. Sorry your company didn't put you up at a better hotel. You actually wanted the M60 bus, which goes to LaGuardia from Manhattan. If you needed a cab from there, you would find one at the airport.

    I eat up all New York stories and can't wait for the next helping.

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  7. Great story, looking forward to the rest... I have a similar story after hiring a car to drive me and my friend to the base of a Mexican volcano. The senor played the radio loud and kept turning around and yelling to us in the back seat, "musica fantastica, si?!" Every time, we nodded yes.

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  8. Next entry please. Your readers are getting nervous.

    Doc

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  9. "Oh, sorry, you can't have a copy of the bill. But you still have to pay or we'll have you killed." (I'm paraphrasing here.) How New York.

    I so have to have that pizza now.

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  10. And why am I always a foot taller than everyone else?

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  11. SD: I obviously wasn't...

    Elizabeth: You hit the nail on the head, as usual

    Dale: It was excellent, but for your absence

    Capn: It's up now...

    Bubs: I think you're on to something

    Red: Thanks for the tips...more to come!

    GKL: Musica Fantastica! Si! I'll remember that the next time I'm in a Mexican Cab...

    Doc: Done and Done

    CP: You're a giant among men...and you have to carry all those brains and all that wit at a higher altitude than everyone else, lest someone steal them!

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  12. I am so envious I can't even read what you wrote...all I saw was the crystal clear photo and wept that I wasn't there...I promise to read your entries later.

    much crushing to you

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