Travel Diary

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  • Dec 29, 2013 - New York City -- Finally!
  • Dec 30, 2013 - Day Two -- Exploring Central Park and the city
  • Dec 31, 2013 - Day Three -- New Year's Eve Proper
  • Jan 01, 2014 - Day Four -- Around Town and Staten Island
  • Jan 02, 2014 - Day Five -- Our Last Full Day
  • Jan 03, 2014 - Day Six -- The Final (and longest) Day
  • Dec 29, 2013

    New York City -- Day One

    Late night flights can work--that part wasn't too bad. Delta has very nice people on the ground and air, but oh, those horrendous policies--which have become the norm for most airlines. It's all nickel and dime now, and even a 5-hour flight includes nothing complementary except peanuts and water. But I guess I knew that going in. The seats hurt though, and that's hard to accept. I don't know how larger people manage without suing airlines for torture and mayhem. I hurt after the first 20 minutes. As well, I couldn't imagine being any taller and still being able to squeeze into those tiny little confines they label seats. It's nothing less than sadistic. Or is it masochistic? I never can remember how that goes.

    My flight took off around 9:30pm. To arrive at that point, I luckily had found a neighbor to drive me to BART as I was prepared to walk. Thus, I had plenty of time. I also had a little vodka before leaving to relax a little. I avoided beer as I didn’t want to consume too much liquid as it was a long flight.

    At the station, I ran into a friend and we chatted for about 20 minutes. Had some time to kill, so why not. Then I took the train to the airport, where the security wait was nearly nil. I made the mistake of checking my bag at the check-in since it was technically too big for Delta's carry-on (I would later see many bags larger than mine). So \$25 gone! But I didn't have to worry about overhead room at that point. At the gate, I requested and received a better seat (never hurts to ask). This was a nice bonus. Like I said, I don't like Delta's policies, but its staff is friendly and helpful.

    During the flight, I slept some and watched a movie on my Macbook since very few were free on the flight. Eventually, I may have even gotten used to the pain.

    At 5:30am, I touched down at JFK Airport in New York. I wasn't sure how to reach Upper West Manhattan, but I knew the subway went there and I had an app for that. I bought a subway ticket and took the air train.

    I then bought ANOTHER subway ticket for the subway. I was starting to learn fast about the tickets and what not to do. It's funny, but I've ridden the mass transit in probably 10 large cities in the world, and still make rookie mistakes in new places.

    The air train went to the main subway station (Jamaica) and I headed west. This would take a long time. It would help if they didn't stop at all those little stations along the way, but I guess people would be angry if the train just missed their stops on my account. I also would learn the value of the express trains later. Hint: they're called express because they're faster and do get to skip the inconsequential stops. I must study that further next time.

    Par for the course, I missed my station to transfer. I didn't miss it because I didn't notice it; I missed it because I hadn’t observed the app carefully enough to know that it was telling me the final stop of my train, indicating the one to get on. Instead of getting off at 59th street, I was well on my way to World Trade Center, directly opposite of where I needed to go. Ugh. Once I caught my error, I got off at the next stop (Spring Street for those that are curious), waited a long time for the next train and headed north, getting off at the southwest corner of Central Park. Our flat was about halfway up the park (87th street); how far could that be?

    Turns out it's a pretty big park.

    You see, distances don't seem as big when you're looking at Google Maps--and you're zoomed out.

    I walked, and walked, and walked. I also had a heavy backpack on and was pulling my luggage. The journey was still fun as I was taking in the sights for the first time. This iconic city was impressive. It reminded me of when I worked in San Francisco and how the Embarcadero would feel early in the morning when the city came to live, buzzing with excitement.

    Finally, I reached the apartment. It was about 8:50 in the morning and I had landed over three hours prior. Sure, a taxi would have been \$75, but it would have saved me a lot of time. Nevertheless, I did need to get used to the subway and the walk was pretty cool. It was money not spent, but well.

    I was fortunate to be able to ring Terry's phone (my phone was nearly dead) and he opened the front door for me. Security was heavy there, with not one, but two strong locks which have to be twisted in unison to open the door. Up four flights was the pad, which also had a sturdy lock on it. They don't take chances in New York City. Crime might be down, but so is opportunity to burglarize in many parts.

    I also had to meet a friend to buy tickets for a show. Thus, I was back out the door in 30 minutes. I took the subway again and had better luck with it the second time around. A few blocks from 42nd street, I met my friend Bong, who was already in line to buy tickets. We picked up four tickets to see “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a comedic play that was Off-Broadway now but had just been there a while back.

    Tickets acquired, we trolled around the streets looking for food. The choice was Carnegie Deli, where I pondered trying the Woody Allen Sandwich, until I saw the price: \$24. That much for some meat and a couple slices of bread? No, thanks. Sure, I could have afforded it, but I make it a point not to throw away money when it's not necessary. If I were a huge food connoisseur where I could appreciate the fine taste of all the ingredients or if I had a large appetite, then sure, I could spend and indulge, yet I don't taste food all that well, and don't eat all that much. I was just as happy with a scrambled eggs breakfast.

    Plus, there was plenty of leftovers of that.

    I then got to walk around places such as Times Square, 30 Rockefeller, 5th Avenue, and other cool spots, even spotting the Apple Glass Cube Store. I did not go in. No need. My current iPhone will be my last. I now can expect maybe half a day of battery life, which also hindered my direction finding and picture taking. In fact, the awful battery life of my phone would burden me my entire trip. At this point, the word battery is somewhat of a misnomer. And yes, all phones pretty much face that problem now. I also don't like SIRI. I'm just done. The relationship is over. The love left long ago.

    When I returned back to the flat, I took a long, long nap. I needed sleep. Once rested and ready, we all headed downtown. The idea was to visit a great pizza place and we soon found it, but it was a to-go place and we needed to sit down. We quickly found another great pizza place, though the seating was full and it took a great deal of time to get seated. No matter. The bar had wine and we drank--not the kids of course--they could settle for beer (joking). The meal was pizza and it was darn tasty. But soon, it was time to head over to the theatre. Terry and Lesly would do their own thing and me and Bong took Bri and her friend to see the show. I had a sangria before seating, hoping my bladder would last until intermission--soon praying there would be an intermission.

    “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a great show with a good deal of comedy and clever humor. There's a lot of adult innuendo, but it flies over the heads of the younger audience members so it's all good. No harm, no foul.

    Our seats, on the other hand, were not (Yellow flag for unsportsmanlike conduct!) Being nearly first in line earlier that day, we figured we'd have great seats, and we were in face in the first row, but on the very end. We saw about half the stage, and a fair deal of the backstage. I even had the girls trade with us to give them the second row so they would have a slightly better view. While it didn't ruin the show, it was irksome to have to miss many parts of the upstage action.

    At intermission, we asked the usher about moving to the center back and he allowed for it. This made a huge difference. The view was great there, and it turned out that the second act is where most of the better comedy lied. There were many guffaws and side-splitting laughter in that half of the show. They got a well-earned standing ovation--and I even stood up too (which isn't something I do often in theatre).

    After the show finished, we waited for Bri's friend's parents to pick her up. Luckily, we could remain in the theatre and stay warm. When they did arrive, we were offered a ride back to the flat. Warm car versus the cold subway? Um...okay, sure! This was a very nice gesture and saved us a good deal of time.

    Once back home, it was late. Another great day was in front of us, so we certainly didn't want to stay up late, but of course we did. I also realized that for the first time all season, I had missed every single football game. I was okay with that. Just checking the scores once in a while was fine with me.

    On the more “challenging” side, the rain was frustrating. I didn't think to bring an umbrella and bought a \$5 on the street. It broke apart fast--in fact after opening and closing it twice. That said, it was pretty cheap and did still mostly work.

    I had dressed warm enough for semi-cold weather, but my shoes had soft tops and the rain eventually got in and my feet became wet. Luckily, I was able to use my jogging shoes for that night, but yeah, I needed to solve that potential problem. Trench foot for a week would not bode well.

    On day one, I also learned to buy a week-long subway ticket right away. I lost a few dollars that way, but that was fine. I also learned that you pay the same rate everywhere to get in and it's \$2.50, whether you're going one stop or one hundred. It's not a bad way to do things and saves the hassle of inserting a ticket a second time upon exiting. Now, if they would just join the 21st century and figure out a phone payment system, then we're cooking with gas.

    I also quickly learned that the average New Yorker is a nice, good-natured person. Man, Hollywood is one big lier. Don't trust it! They lie!