Monday, August 08, 2005

Trip Report: New York City

Back in the cold months I took the family to the heart and brain of America: New York City.

Oh, I know. There is a lot for a right of center person to sneer about when it comes to NYC, but I have to admit, even for a Southerner, I love the city. Even if you do not (you can only have a viable opinion if you have been there – if you judge NYC by its major newspaper (yes, it is stark raving Left, but that and ice cream sandwiches are my dark pleasure), its politicians, its schools, its institutions and colleges, and its judges; you do not have the right image of NYC), you have to admit that from politics, culture, economics, and history, NYC is critical to all of it. That is why it is important that we repair, nurture, build, support, and most of all – enjoy NYC.

My first images of NYC are from the nadir of NYC, the mid-1970s. Taxi Driver is a good visual of the era perhaps. There were a lot of movies, even Sid & Nancy, that catch some of the city, but you really had to be there to understand what a mis-governed, neglected, and abused city it was. I won’t go into it here, but if you read right book, you will see how as the home of the New, Old and Wooly Left, the cancer and filth that comes from distilled Liberalism was in full bloom in NYC at that time.

Ah what a difference a election makes. The difference the right leader at the right time with the right philosophy makes.

I started my return to NYC in the late 1990s and every time I go there I love it more and more. I don’t care if you are a sport-o, you need to go. I don’t care if you are an opera geek, you need to go. I don’t care if you are a theater queer, you need to go. I don’t care if all you love to do is drink and all you want to do is play Mr. AlternativeLifestyle, you need to go.

Now that my youngest is old enough to be “travel ready” and can keep up with the Salamander way of travel, Mrs. Salamander and I decided to take the wee-ones with us to Gotham. What a blast.

Lodging: We stayed at the Double Tree in Times Square. Two room suite, great service, impeccable location, and fair price. When it’s time for the wee-ones to go to bed, Mom and Dad have the other room for themselves. The only way to do it. There is a subway stop right next to the hotel, literally next to the hotel.

Museums: I love museums. I rarely care what the subject is, if you ask, “Want to go to the museum?” I am looking for my wallet and keys. NYC is second only to D.C. when it comes to museums.

We only had a few days, so we hit the highlights. Anyone with a young child, especially a girl, knows or should know who Olivia the Pig is. If not, you should be reported to Child Protective Services. As big financial supporters of OTP, we had to start at the Met. There is required viewing. For those who know, know the meaning of this picture.

Needless to say, seeing this in the flesh was a big deal for the wee Salamander. Of note, and much happiness to me, the “modern art” section of the Met was the least popular part with the crowd. The Impressionists were the most popular, and for good reason. My high school art appreciation teacher would be very proud. Monet, Manet, Degas, Matisse; all the big fellas were there. To look at them up close, then to back off slowly lets you see why they are the masterpieces they are. It isn’t hyperbole. When you see it, you understand. It was a challenge for the kids, but for the older one, we had a “light bulb” moment with the Impressionists painters. Cool. While you are at it, you have to eat at the restaurant there. It is truly outstanding. A very high quality restaurant for a museum. Good, quick, quality food with something for everyone. Don’t skip it.

Next, we headed to the Museum of Natural History. The Roosevelt Quotes are just outstanding to read in whole. The museum is about what you would expect. The Animal exhibits were very good, and is has a solid, very non-modern internal structure and construction that made it a pleasure to walk around.

Toys-r-Us: Whodathunk Times Square would have a toy store that didn’t have “adult” in the title? This has a Ferris Wheel inside and a T-rex that scared my youngest out of her Care-Bears shoes…..but is was late when we were there. Must go.

Battery Park: This was the only place in this trip where we ran into part of the NYC that I remembered from the 1970s. “Vendors,” scam artists, and mildly threatening free-range loonies known in polite circles as “homeless” adorned the entrance to the ferry going to the Statue of Liberty. At the park, there is a dramatic monument made up of parts found at the World Trade Center site. I’m not a great fan of “modern sculpture,” but this works. It is a much needed reminder. From another era, there is a monument to the sacrifice of merchant seamen from WWII that came from many countries and operated out of NYC. There are also great views of the Statue of Liberty, and this is a superb place to watch the sunset.

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center: This is required, absolutely. A must do….if you do it right. There are times as a father that you want to keep forever, to never forget. This was, for my oldest daughter and me, one of those times. If I could bottle this father/daughter moment and could put a value on it, I would be the richest man on earth. A military background comes into play here for a successful trip. Show up 15 minutes early to opening; you’re first in line. Show up on time and you’re in single digits in line. Real busy 1 hour after opening, though. The memory of a lifetime came about because on this clear, cool, bright morning, for awhile my daughter and I were two of six people on new ice on this picture-postcard day at Rockefeller Center. A few side-bars here: when we made our first lap, we noticed some of the workers searching the shrubbery and area surrounding the gold statue, Prometheus. They were a friendly bunch, so me and the elder wee asked what they were looking for. It seems that the night before, right at closing time, the unluckiest guy in the world proposed right in front of the statue. The soon to be Mrs. Darkcloud just went all, well, all girly about it, got hyper, stated screaming and flapping her arms all over the place; just making a scene when, you guessed it, the ring (the soon to be Mr. Darkcloud was said to have mumbled later that it cost him 2 white-color months NYC salary-you do the math) slipped out of her hand, flew through the air, bounced off the statue, and then everyone lost site of it. Even expecting the best out of New Yorkers, I don’t think that someone is going to turn it in to the lost-&-found.

World Trade Center Site: While Mrs. Salamander and the junior wee went back to Doubletree to rack out, the elder wee and I took off on another dynamic duo adventure. This time to the WTC site. Let’s be blunt. This is a disgrace.

The “leadership” of NYC have failed themselves, the people of NYC, the Nation, and all those worldwide that are out there fighting the Forces of Darkness (I like that term. I am still in my “not liking the GWOT naming habit” funk). In the time it took for us to crush Hitler and bring Imperial Japan to its knees, we still have an open wound in NYC.

Donald Trump is right. Make it higher and build it yesterday. Anything else is a form of cowardice and defeat…and don’t get me starting on their “museum.” Don’t have time for the pain. ‘Nuff said. BTW the most sublime thing at the site is the cross. Wow.

Empire State Building at night:
A trip to ”Windows on the World” used to b a a required pilgrimage just for the view, but is no longer an option. Thanks to the 19, Congress, the old INS, and Norm that is no longer an option. If you are blessed with a clear night though, you owe it to yourself to make a trip to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. The elder wee and I did something that just would not have been done when I was a kid. At 2130 we left our hotel, got on the subway uptown to the ESB. It wasn’t crowded and before we knew it we were at the top. It was so windy that half the deck was closed off, but that didn’t matter. The view. Crystal clean night. You could see everything to the horizon. It was so clear it was surreal. The elder wee got a big kick out of the strung wind more than anything. On the way down, we received a special treat, a cable broke on the elevator. No kidding. A abrupt drop. Doors opening between floors with an automatic opening on the wrong floor. We could hear the cable landing on top of the elevator-the whole 9 yards. You would have been proud of the 8 or so folks on the elevator. No panic. No screaming. Just some very wide eyes and graveyard humor. The Elder Wee simply said, “Cool.” That’s my girl. Then at 2300 or so, we got back on the subway and returned to Times Square and the Doubletree. No way 25 years ago you could walk down Times Square at 2300 with a child and not scar them for life. That I think says a lot. Good stuff.

Executive Summary: You owe yourself and your kids a trip to NYC. Go early, go often.

One last note, they have cleaned up Times Square a lot, but one night I was walking down to a bodega to get some stuff for breakfast when what nasty site was looking down on me. To this day, I get shivers.

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