What a fun filled two days. All of it is documented, mostly for my own amusement. I've decided my livejournal is not only for your entertainment, but as a means for me to chronicle my great american adventure while i'm out here in the road. I'm placing it all behind some lj-cuts because it is rather lengthy. Sometime this week I will get the pictures I tookonline as well.
On Sunday I got into Totowa, NJ around two in the afternoon. I quickly hopped a NJ Transit bus on Riverview Dr. and began my NYC excursion. The bus stop there on Riverview is right at the end of the line before the bus heads non-stop for the Port Authority Terminal in Manhattan, so it's usually only about a 30-45 minute ride. It makes one little stop at Willowbrook Mall, for mall customers as well as a large commuter parking lot they have there. The bus is packed when I get on. NJ Transit has really nice buses, the nice coahces like Greyhound would use with the plush reclining seats and overhead compartments. I proceed to the rear of the bus where it appears there is an empty seat, but, alas, someone is just laying down in the back seat. I turn around and scan the other seats, there were some other empty ones, but people who didn't want a riding companion had carefully chosen the aisle seat so as to make it a bit more bothersome. After surveying my choices quickly, I chose to sit next to this cute little mall rat. She was maybe 16 or 17 with nicely styled red-brown hair. She was wearing designer jeans and a baby-tee, with scuff-free pristine sneakers and sunglasses. She was basically a poster child for Gadzooks. Big mistake. As if it wasn't annoying enough that she couldn't keep her fingers from her hair, contantly playing with it, making sure it was straight and in place, she proceeded to douse herself in perfume as we approached the mall. I went into a bit of a coughing fit, nearly gagging, which I probably exaggerated a little just to be an asshole. She indeed got off at the mall and I had the seats to myself... for about three whole minutes. This guy plops down next to me that is well over 300 hundred pounds and covered in tattoos. One of his tattoos even said "Tattoo" ! And he had some very serious B.O. I was wishing the cute mall rat was back with me, at least she was interesting to sneak perverted side-long glances at. The bus became packed again, with at least a dozen people standing in the aisle for the remainder for our journey.
It had been raining most of the day and still was in spits and sputters. When I stepped out of the bus terminal onto 8th Ave. it wasn't raining at all, in fact, the sun was out. I ducked into the subway station on 42nd Street and caught a train downtown. Since it was such a nice day, I thought I would do something outside-fun. I got off the train at South Ferry in lower Manhattan. Lower Manhattan is where the financial district is, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center used to be, where Wall Street is. It's also where Battery Park is, which offers a nice view of the harbor, including the Statue of Liberty. From here are where the ferries embark for tours of Liberty Island and Ellis Island. I thought with it being such a pretty day, this would be a nice thing to do. I wasn't at street level more than 3 minutes when it began to rain. Not relishing the idea of being wet all afternoon, I ducked into the subway station to keep from getting wet and give the rain a chance to die down. I never even made it into the park.
The rain decided it was here for more than a biref visit it seemed so I caught a subway train back uptown. I figured I would go and get some lunch/dinner. I hadn't eaten anything all day and was starving. In the the train, I was sitting besdie the map on the wall they have of all the subway lines and their stops. I noticed that along the line I was on, was City Hall and that it was relatively close to where I was heading on Canal Street in Chinatown. So I got off a couple of stops early at City Hall. What a treat! I was able to walk under the canopy of trees to keep dry and check out all the old marble and granite civil buildings. The rain dissipated completely as I came to Centre Street and I was able to enjoy it that much more. I got to see the big courthouse where they film of the exterior shots on Law and Order. I continued on up Centre Street until it joined with Canal Street in Chinatown and then, a little further up to Mulberry Street and into Little Italy.... which was packed! I have been there on Sundays before but I have enever seen it as busy as it was then. The streets were practically closed off to traffic and filled with pedestrians. They had to, all of the sidewalks were filled with tables that were spilling out of the restaurants. I decided to revisit the restaurant I had just eaten at last week with the great mussels dish, Il Fornaio. Naturally I had the mussels again as well as some rotini with zucchini and a glass of Merlot.
After dinner I waddled back out onto Mulberry Street and retraced my steps back to Chinatown. The sun was completely out now without a single cloud in the sky, so I caught a train downtown again to Battery Park. There was some sort of festival going on in the park, with a stage setup in the middle and bands playing. They sounded Latin and there were lots of people dancing and having a good time. I walked down to the water front and saw a line for a ferry and, it didn't seem terribly long so I got in back. After standing there for a few minutes the ferry pulls up and let's people off. Before they proceed to let people board they announce that this is a non-stop harbor tour. Well that sucks, I want to actually get out on the islands and then I remembered from a time before when I was down here that they sold Liberty Island tickets in Clinton Castle. I got out of line and headed down to the Castle. Clinton Castle is an old British fort that was ceded to America after the war of 1812 and is one of several old forts in the harbor area that have been restored and used for other purposes (the old fort inside which the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty stands being another prime example.) The, fort however is all closed up. I guess they weren't doing anymore tours for the day.
Kinda disappointed, but not that much. I decided to go for a walk up Broadway through the financial distrcit to ground zero. I had gone there once on my very first trip to New York but hadn't been back since. The walk was pleasant enough. This is the section of Broadway where they throw al the "ticker tape" parades. Embedded in the sidewalks are metal strips every 15 feet or so. The metal strips have engravings commemorating each of these ticker tape parades, in chronological order, beginning with the first at the southern end near Battery Park through the most recent as you move north. Unfortunately they have been doing a lot of street repair in the area and a lot of them were missing. I approached the area of ground zero a block east of its eastern edge, which is slightly elevated and gives you a nice overview of the property. A lot of the damage to the surrounding buildigns still haven't been completely restored, but the general "tone" and atmosphere has changed a lot since I last came. The first time I came there were flower bouqets left in the fence and banners draped all along the fence around the church across the street. None of that was here now, it just looked like any other construction site, except for that cross constructed of steel girders that still stands inside.
I caught a train back uptown to the theatre district in hopes of catching a broadway show. I first tried Chicago, but their rush tickets were sold out. Next I tried Rent, but the theatre wasn't even open, even though it plainly read on the schedule that they did Sunday performances. By now I was aggravated and tired of walking. I had just walked 7 blocks to check on Chicago then backtracked 8 blocks to check on Rent. I wasn't walking anymore and I was really thirsty and needed to go to the bathroom so I went into a McDonald's and achieved both. Then I grabbed a copy of the New York Press and sat down to try and find something to do. Wow, Ricky Powell has a photo exhibit going on in Brooklyn called "Eyejammie". Ricky Powell has long been closely associated with my heroes, the Beastie Boys, directing some of the their vidoes and, in general, documenting their history on film, in addition to other New York hiphop artists. This exhibit I guess was a collection of a lot of these pictures. Too bad the gallery closed at 6pm. Other options? Hrm, well there was Grandaddy playing at the Warsaw, but that was all the way down in Brooklyn. By the time the show was over I wouldn't have enough time to catch the last train out to Totowa at 12:30am. I gave up on trying to find anything interesting to do and read The Straight Dope on the back page.
I headed back up to 42nd Street and wasted some time in the internet cafe. Afterwards, I strolled back down to 8th Ave to the bus terminal and headed back to Totowa. Hardly an action packed adventure, but I enjoyed it none-the-less. I just love being in NYC, even if I'm not really doing anything at all.
The next morning I got up around 8am and unloaded my trailer full of cabinets. It went rather quickly and we were done by 11am. Upon receiving my load information for the next trip, I discovered that my load wouldn't be ready until tomorrow morning in Beavertown, PA (about 3 hours away) and that it didn't have to be in Illinois until 3pm on Wednesday. All of thismeans, another day in the city! So I caught the bus and napped. No cute mallrats or smelly guys this time. When I woke up I was in the Bus Terminal.
When I stepped out onto 8th Ave it was beautiful. The sun was shining and there was nothing but blue skies. I immediately headed for Battery Park and got in line for the tour. Roughly an hour later I was on the ferry pulling away from the shore and headed for Liberty Island. I will admit, I wasn't expecting to exactly be thrilled by this adventure. I mean, I had been putting it off forever. I have been to New York now probably a dozen times in the past 7 months and had never even considered going out to the island: there was always something else I wanted to do. Plus right now, there are no actual tours inside the statue. That has been discontinued ever since Septemeber 11th, indefinitely. Supposedly they are evaluating evacuation plans in the event of any future, similar disaster. So I wasn't really expecting anything special. I thought it would be the kind of thing to do, just to say I have done it. Imean how can you go to New York and not visit the Statue of Liberty? It was about 2:00pm when the ferry left Battery Park. I thought I would go out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, look around for a couple of hours then have time to make it down to Brooklyn and check out the Ricky Powell exhibit. Boy was I ever wrong.
It is a somewhat amazing experience to stand on the deck of the ferry as it heaves with the waves in the harbor and approach Liberty Island. The statue grows larger, then begins to loom over you. I consider myself to be somewhat cynical and certainly less-than-patriotic, but it's hard not to be moved by the experience, approaching her in a manner not unlike millions of immigrants did in the early 20th century. She is such a powerful symbol for the ideal of liberty. Sure the ideal has yet to be achieved, and the path has certainly been strife with setbacks, hypocrisy, and questionable policy, but she is there to remind us of what we set out to do with this grand experiment and that we have a long way to go. As long as she stands in that harbor there will always be hope for liberty and justice for all. I spent a good two hours on the island, just staring at her, listening to Park Services officers tell their stories and fill my head with lots of information and watched the multimedia display. My favorite quote was of a WWII G.I. who had returned to the States via New York. He summed up his thoughts on the statue when he saw her by saying "It's like leaving the light on. You know someone is home waiting on you."
Around 4:30 I caught the ferry again for the trip over to Ellis Island. It is a sprawling island comprised mostly of landfill that has been added over the decades. It started out as a small 3 acre island and now boasts over 27 acres. The entire island is covered with buildings, all but one of them completely abandoned and closed to the public. Only the main building has been restored and contains the Immigrant museum. Unfortunately, I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to explore the grounds and take in all of the exhibits, but the main registry room was breathtaking with it's large windows, one side overlooking the statue, the other side with an amazing view of Manhattan. The stories of people who had crossed the Atlantic with virtually no money in their pockets and everything they owned in their luggage and on their backs in hopes of having a better life than they one they had were inspiring. Being a native of this country, I know I take for granted the freedoms and lifestyles I enjoy, but it becomes glaringly evident when I cannot fathom the kind of desperation and courage it would take to embark on such a life altering and dangerous endeavor. I was on Ellis Island until 6:30pm, when they kicked everyone out and returned to Manhattan.
When I got back to Battery Park, I decided to get dinner. Yup, Little Italy, but this time I decided to try a new restaurant called Paesanos. It was a couple of doors down from the afore mentioned Il Fornaio. Whereas Il Fornaio has a very stripped down,plain decor and atmosphere, Paesanos felt more intimate. The lighting was dim and the interior was decorated to resemble an Italian villa, with dark wood beams and brick painted white. The green tendrils of hanging plants were everywhere and bright, rural landscapes were painted on the walls. For an appetizer I had the hot antipasto which was absolutely yummy and had linguine pescatore for my meal. I adore seafood, period. It was all good but not exactly memorable (read: i doubt i'll eat there again). Il Fornaio still #1.
After dinner I stepped back out onto Mulberry Street. It was beginning to get dark and all the festive lights in the neighborhood had the street swimming in varying shades of red, white, and green. I decided then I wanted to go back down to Battery Park and see her at night. The financial is really pretty at night. The last of the business men were hailing taxis and hustling toward the subway station as I made my way into the park. Along the sidewalk in the park, the antique lamps were aglow with amber lights and I could hear music coming from the restaurant on the eastern edge of the park. At a picnic table, an old man and his younger opponent were contemplating the pieces on a chess board. Down by the waterfront, a few people were fishing and a kid was practicing his rollerblade moves on the benches. In the distance, I could see her light green figure against the cobalt sky. Behind her, the lights of Staten Island twinkled on the horizon. High above it all, her torch, golden fire, shone brighter than anything else in the harbor. Earlier in the day I had heard her torch could be seen from as far as 12 miles out to sea. I can believe it. They have those coin operated binoculars on a swivel stand and I couldn't resist. I shucked my 50 cents into the coin slot and gawked at her until the viewer went dark. I sat on a bench and enjoyed the cool evening. The salty breeze blew in off the harbor and over in the restaurant the band was playing Peggy Lee's "Fever". I sat there for a good while watching her and the kid on the rollerblades, resting my blistered feet and aching legs.
And I didn't want to leave. I wanted to go back to my modest apartment on the lower east side. I wanted to go to sleep with the noise of the city as my only lullaby. I wanted to wake in the morning to the sound of honking horns and people talking in dozens of different languages I didn't understand. Instead I went back to my truck in Totowa.
Princess Superstar = (Bongwater - Kramer) x Kool Keith / Eminem
Do acid and beer and trip out on how your queer little beard looks so weird in the mirror, man
Guitar noodlin and patchouli let me teach you Ital-go Fongule
When I was in high school I'd a thought you were so fuckin cool