Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Poor Neglected Blog Tells The First Part Of My Recent NYC Trip

Yes, it has been some time since I've posted anything here. Two whole months, as a matter of fact. Life has been an incredibly busy adventure lately. I spend a large amount of time working, as I constantly sign up to be on the Overtime Desired list. But there have been other things going on as well.

I spent just over a week in New York City in early October. I stayed with my parents, who have lived out in the suburbs of Long Island for the past 14-plus years now. I got something in the area of 3 hours sleep a night while there, due to running around and trying to see as many friends and events and things as possible while there.

I worked on Saturday the 2nd Of October, so I was up at around 4AM (I like to get up early so I have time to exercise, shower, have a nice breakfast, and not feel rushed while doing it). Getting out of work around 5:15PM, I came home, showered, ate, took care of some things, and then some friends came over to get me around 10 to take me to the airport for my midnight red-eye flight to JFK. I'm not really able to sleep that well on planes (I just can't get physically comfortable enough in those seats to pass out for an extended period of time), so my trusty iPod kept me company as I drifted in and out of consciousness while we made our way across the country in the dead of night. With the 5 hour journey, plus the 3 hour time difference, coming in to NYC at around 8AM made for a nice early morning landing.

Picked up by the Mom Taxi outside, we made our way out to Yentaville (as I "lovingly" refer to Long Island), where I started taking pictures along the way. While I'm not overly fond of a lot of the upper-crusty people of Long Island, it is a rather nice looking part of the world. We must have gotten to the house around 9AM, which afforded me enough time to sit and chat with Vlad for a while, something I don't get to do in person very often. While my Mom will fly out to me in Las Vegas about once a year, my father is not a traveler, so the only time I get to see him is when I get back to NY...and this was my first trip there since April 2008. So I hadn't seen him in 2 & 1/2 years.

We talked about this and that over breakfast, but around 11AM I was out the door in Mom's car, off to get my friend DB Borroughs, the Overlord Of Unseen Films, so we could go take in a Mets game. Mind you, due to the insane salaries the crybaby ballplayers get, the free-agency and lack of loyalty, along with all of the drugs and other things (oh, don't get me started...), I haven't paid any attention to baseball in years. When I was a child, I LIVED for it. The Yankees were the most important thing in the world to me. But I'm a wiser, more cynical...more disappointed man now. So I just don't waste my time following it. However, I do enjoy just going to a game occasionally, and not having a major league team in Las Vegas, whenever I travel, I look into seeing one.

Now, I ordinarily would not have pretty much gone straight from the airport to a game, but the way my trip was scheduled, this was the final day of the regular season. I have no desire to be giving the type of $ that playoff tickets would require to the overpaid idiots... but thankfully, as far as the Mets are concerned, that is apparently not an issue anyway. The biggest reason I wanted to go was to see the new stadium. Growing up in the shadow of Shea Stadium, I went to many a game there in my youth, so I was very interested in seeing the new Citi Field. It didn't disappoint.

I had picked up 2 tix in the cheapest section quite a while before the trip, just so we could be in. We only used those seats for an inning or 2, and then started wandering around, checking out as many different vantage points as possible. Shea was built in the early 1960's when the cookie-cutter pre-fab stadiums were all the rage (for whatever reason I'll never know), and this is the antithesis of that. Lotsa little nooks & crannies, lotsa great sightlines from all over, including the concourse areas. You can see where it was modeled after the new throwback ballparks, like SafeCo in Seattle and whatever the one in Phoenix is called now. Like those, you can walk 360 degrees within the ballpark, still seeing the field the entire time...although there are plenty of di$traction$ within the concourse.

It's a nice facility outside as well, and it didn't hurt that it was a beautiful, if a little chilly, day. There was also a nice Mets museum on the lower level in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, which is the main entrance to the stadium. Nice bits of baseball history, with, of course, more things for sale. It was really hard to turn in any direction anywhere in the stadium without seeing SOMETHING up for sale. This is one of the things that turns me off about pro sports, and modern American society. But I'm not getting onto the soapbox today...

On the way home from the game, I drove by the house I grew up in, which is only the second time I've seen it since my father sold it in November 1996. Both the house and the streets surrounding it looked remarkably small, confining, and crowded. Everything seemed much bigger as a kid...not an earth-shattering observation, but still true.

At least I was smart enough to not schedule anything much for Monday, other than to hang out with the parental units. We went to a late lunch at a small little bar/restaurant nearby, called the Locust Valley Inn. My folks are regulars there, but it's such a small place I think ALL the customers are regulars there. Good food though, and definitely a nice way to relax for a couple hours talking about life's vicissitudes.

I then headed into Queens in the early evening to go see my New York adopted Mom (I have adopted Moms everywhere). This was the mother of a guy I went to grammar school with, who now lives about an hour or so north in NY, and was unfortunately not going to be able to make it that evening. But the older of his 2 younger brothers was there, along with Ma Cole, neither of whom I'd seen...probably since I moved away over 10 years ago.

A man who has been a friend of mine since the 3rd grade also was able to turn up while I was there. He was also a friend of the Coles, as the oldest Cole son, him, and myself all went to grammar school together, and still keep in touch to this day, even though we are somewhat scattered about now. This guy was the older brother I never had, introducing me to a lot of the things that would be very important in my life, chiefly among them music. Him, the 2 oldest Cole boys, and myself also all took the NYC Firefighter test together in the early 1990's, although only one of us would eventually follow that all the way thru.

The middle Cole son, who was there, has been a NYC Firefighter since the events of 9/11 left a lot of job openings that needed to be filled. He once told me that the letter that he'd been so looking forward to, saying he was a fireman, almost made him sick to his stomach when he finally got it, because of WHY he got it. But he went ahead, and it's the best thing he ever did. He loves his job. He actually enjoys his work. Of the 3 Cole boys, he was the most troubled as a youth, and yet he seems to have turned out the happiest and most well-adjusted. It doesn't hurt that he's also a good looking guy, and keeps himself in terrific shape. He's actually in the City Of The Brave: Firefighters Of NYC 2011 Calendar(proceeds go to charity) if he didn't have ENOUGH trouble beating the women away with a stick... It was really good to see both of them.

Tuesday was the only day with less than stellar weather, and even so, it was still nice. A light mist of a rain, but nothing worse than that. The biggest drawback is the overcast sky makes for less than interesting backgrounds in pictures. But this was my first venture into Manhattan in about 2 & 1/2 years, so nothing was going to get me down. My mom and I took the Long Island Railroad into Grand Central Terminal, and then slowly meandered north. We headed uptown along 5th Avenue, going thru Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, and stopping at Trump Tower for a bite to eat.

We eventually reached our goal of The Frick Collection, a nice, relatively little (compared to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art about 10 blocks further north) art museum. She had wanted me to see this since the last time I'd made it to NYC, as I usually get to The Met, and always enjoy looking at artwork. An excellent private collection/museum, set inside of a beautiful mansion, which has quite a front yard (that would be Central Park...).

Upon leaving The Frick Mansion, we wandered thru Central Park, heading over to Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, and making it over to the West Side, wandered down Central Park West for a bit. We took a break at Dante Park and Lincoln Center, then stopped in the Time Warner Center, because it affords an excellent view out over Columbus Circle & Central Park if you go up a few levels. The basement cafe was insanely crowded though, so we made our way further down Broadway until we stumbled across the Applejack Diner on 55th. Excellent food, and a real friendly staff, coupled with the fact that we were tired from walking all day, and rather hungry, made this the perfect place to be. Would recommend it to anyone...and as usual with New York, never eat at anyplace you recognize the name of. If it's a big chain, avoid it like the plague. The little hole-in-the-wall places are where the best food is to be had.

All this, and I'm not even halfway thru the trip...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Booker T & The MG's, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, The Bakerton Group, The Fratellis, Primus, Pearl Jam (live), Ozzy Osbourne, Janis Joplin, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Martin, Eric Idle, Flat Duo Jets, Beck, Rollins Band, The Chemical Brothers, The White Stripes, John Lee Hooker, Bill Bailey, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Faith No More (live), Face To Face, The Misfits, Blondie, The Doors (live), AC/DC, Diamond Head, A Perfect Circle, Johann Strauss, John Connelly Theory, Aerosmith, Django Reinhardt, Personality Crisis, Mr. Bungle, Bjork, Unida (live), Queens Of The Stone Age (live), Black Flag, Royal Crown Revue, Sid Vicious (live...there's irony), Joy Division, Danzig (live), Alice In Chains, Pink Floyd (live), Motorhead