Thursday, June 16, 2016

New York, New York - The Finale

I caught the train on Tuesday evening to Yankee Stadium. The trip was OK except for a group of boys that looked to be about ten years old that were totally out of control in the train car. Their dads appeared oblivious except for the occasional “Don’t do that!” which of course did nothing. I got off the train car at the Yankee Stadium stop and was at the stadium within a few minutes. I wound my way through the metal detector and handed my ticket over to be scanned. The ticket guy said it was rejected and let me know (quite rudely) it was for Wednesday night. So, I had to force my way against the line to walk back to the Stubhub office. I got there and managed to swap my ticket out for the correct one. I wasn’t offered any reasonable explanation just a “Sorry”. It was partially my fault for not looking more closely at the ticket but this was still the first negative experience I’ve had with Stubhub.

I ran back to the Stadium (literally) and the correct ticket worked fine. I had missed the first couple of outs, but that was it. The seat was really good. I wished Jonathan could be there because I know how much he would have loved it. The Yankees scored in the first on a triple and ground-out. In the fourth, former Cardinal Carlos Beltran hit a solo shot to right to make it 2-0. The Yankee pitcher Nathan Eovaldi pitched well. The Yankees picked up two runs in the 7th and two in the 8th and won 6-0. They have a neat tradition where they play the Frank Sinatra rendition of “New York, New York” when the game ends. I walked back to the train station and caught the train back to Greystone and Ubered back to the hotel. Josh had managed to wrap up his work and would be able to go back early (Wednesday instead of Thursday). His flight out of LaGuardia was at 6am though, so he had to get up super early to leave for that. He left and I hung out at the hotel til checkout time (my flight wasn’t til 3pm). I had a nice time discussing the ins and outs of Uber with my driver.

I got to LaGuardia and for some reason was marked as “Expedited Security” which allowed me to skip the whole body scanner and taking my shoes off. I never figured out why. Just FYI, Laguardia’s security is at each gate section of each terminal. This limits where you can go eat (there are only a few restaurants in each gate section and you’d have to back out of security to go to another section). Plus, the gate areas are cramped and seating is limited. I finally just grabbed a cup of chicken noodle soup at Au Bon Pain and watched the episode of Gotham I’d missed on Monday night while sitting at one of the few empty gates. The flight was on time and we had no issues getting back to Nashville. I did fall asleep and jumped up a bit startled when the flight attendant asked the person next to me what they wanted to drink (prompting laughter from both of us). My luggage showed up within a few minutes and I set a record for catching a parking lot shuttle bus. I got to my car and headed out. I managed to get out of Nashville with little trouble – well when I managed to finally go the right way on the Briley.

My plan was to attend at Needmore church of Christ on the way home. It was quite a bit off the Interstate, but I had been there once. Plus, my friend David Carmichael and his family attend there and I looked forward to seeing them. It had started to rain quite a bit but it appeared I would make it. I had gotten off I-24 and was about halfway there when suddenly my passenger side windshield wiper completely broke loose. This made driving quite the adventure. So sadly my new plan was now to get back to the Interstate. I was a good distance from it and my GPS took me quite the back route. The rain started to dissipate but I had a new issue – I was low on gas. I was worried I might run out but seemingly out of the blue, I came upon a gas station which was open! I filled up and managed to finally get back to the Interstate. When I got off at my exit, I started hearing a thumping noise in the rear of the minivan, but I didn’t have any trouble getting home so I tabled that til next morning. When I got up the next morning, the passenger side rear tire was totally flat! I swapped it out for the spare. That was painful since it was stored under the car and you have to lower it by a screw and cable system to pull it out. Looking back I thankful that a) the driver’s side wiper didn’t come off and b) I didn’t have to put the spare on while on the side of the road. I took it to Plaza Tire and they replaced the wipers and tire – turned out there was a puncture in the sidewall.

I’d had a great time, but I was glad to be home. Would I go back? Probably. I’d really like to take Jonathan at some point so hopefully at some point in the future the Yancy men can make a trip there.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New York, New York - Part 5

On Monday, Josh had to leave to work with the group he’d come there to help. So, I was on my own. I ended up spending most of Monday just resting. My legs were shot from all the walking we’d done. I watched TV and relaxed for most of the day. When Josh got back, we ate the food that the hotel provided that night (chicken enchiladas). We took the train to Grand Central again and headed for Times Square. It was a short walk to get there.

There were a lot of people there, more than anywhere else we’d gone before. It was bright and was a total assault on your senses. There were several people dressed up as various cartoon figures (think Mario and the Cookie Monster) that wanted to take pictures with you (for tips). We were jostled up and down the streets and went into a couple of souvenir type shops. I found one that had multiple stories and all sorts of Yankee stuff. I ended up getting a Yankee onesie and t-shirt for Lucy. We found the M&M World store. It was four stories of everything M&M you could hope to see – except for a Peanut M&M mug with Donna on it. We also visited the Hershey store which honestly looked neater on the outside than inside. We grabbed a snack and just people watched for a bit (they have outside tables you can sit at). Finally, we walked back to the train station and headed back for the night.

I foraged out myself the next day. Josh was going to have to work late, so I bought a single ticket for the Yankee game that night. Turns out the Yankees deal exclusively with Ticketmaster for resale of print-at-home tickets. This however locks the seller into not being able to sell them for less than face value. I went ahead and bought from Stubhub. Turns out they have a location to pick up tickets a few blocks from the Stadium. I had also made a reservation for a tour of the UN at 1pm, so my plan was to take the train to pick up my tickets, then get back on and head to UN. I got to the Stubhub location with no problem but it took the young lady quite a long time to find my ticket. By the time I got out, I’d just missed the train into Grand Central. In order to try and save time (the next train wasn’t due for 45 minutes), I tried Lyft for the first time. I’ve always used Uber and since Lyft didn’t reach out to where we stayed, I’d not used it yet. The trip was fine. However, because of a huge jam coming into the city, I didn’t get there much sooner than if I’d taken the train.

I got in the considerable line for the UN Security office. One member of the party you are in has to get a printed out security badge. They even take your picture for it. You then walk across the street and go through security to get into the UN compound. I got in with no problem and found the area to check in (they give you a sticker to designate your tour) and settled in to wait. Our guide arrived and we headed out. She gave a really good description of what the UN does plus we got to see several displays about various UN initiatives. We also got to go into several of the UN chambers including the main General Assembly. Most of our tour group of twenty was not from the US. One lady spent most of the tour complaining about the US. Her chief complaint was “they imprison children”. I didn’t want to start an international incident, so I kept my mouth closed. I always want to say in these situations (thinking of my Papaw especially) – “If it were not for the US, Europe would be one large country of Germany not once but twice”. Our guide did point out that almost 25% of the costs of the UN are borne by the US (by far the most). Once the tour was over, I walked back to Grand Central and took the train back to Greystone station and walked back to the hotel.

In my next post, I’ll talk about my trip to Yankee Stadium and my trip home. Neither was uneventful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

New York, New York - Part 4

We got up Sunday and took an Uber to the Westchester church of Christ. They were a very friendly group of Christians. We enjoyed worshiping with them. They were in the process of expanding their building to handle their growth which is great for them. It’s always wonderful to meet fellow Christians wherever we go in the world. We took an Uber back to the hotel to change and head for the city.

Our plan for the day was to visit Central Park. We took the train to the Marble Hill Station (as recommended by Google Maps) and walked one block to catch a subway to the station closest to Central Park. Imagine our dismay to find out the station was closed for the weekend. We then decided to walk to the nearest subway station. Each one we reached was closed. We finally found one that at least was attended and he pointed us to the nearest open station. I knew absolutely nothing about the neighborhood we were in and felt a bit apprehensive. Josh told me not to worry and to try not to act like a tourist. We finally got to an open subway station and got to the Central Park area.

We were starving by now. I had scoped out a place called Gray’s Papaya that was close by. It was a no frills hot dog shop that had good ratings. They had a recession special that would give you two hot dogs and a cup of papaya juice for 4.99. On the way there, we passed an apartment building that had several people gathered around it taking pictures. I didn’t think much of it til Josh said “The doormen had ‘The Dakota' on their jackets”. I realized then what it was. It was where John Lennon lived and was murdered in front of in 1980. I made sure we got a picture of it on our way back to Central Park. The hot dogs were great as well as the papaya juice.

We entered Central Park and first got to Strawberry Fields – the memorial to John Lennon. We then walked around seeing various sights including Cleopatra’s Needle (a big obelisk originally from Egypt), statues of Han Christian Andersen and the tea party for Alice in Wonderland. We went inside Belvedere Castle as well. We just wandered about after that then decided to look for the carousel. I haven’t mentioned that the park is huge. It’s funny to see something like this in the middle of huge bustling metropolis. It’s 843 acres in size. We had to wander around a bit to finally find the carousel. I actually even talked Josh into riding it with me.

We knew what time the next train left Grand Central for our station, so we decided we wanted to see two more landmarks before we got there. We ran and got to Rockefeller Center to see the Atlas Statue in front. We also managed to get to Trump Tower and see the front of that. We made it to Grand Central with time to spare (running most of the way). After getting to our hotel (from our uphill walk), we just stayed at the hotel and ordered in.

You’d think we’d seen enough of New York City? Not by a long shot. In my next post, I’ll let you know what famous place we went next and then what I got to see when I foraged out on my own to the city.

Monday, June 13, 2016

New York, New York - Part 3

Saturday morning came early for us but we got up and ate breakfast and headed for the train. We walked from Grand Central Terminal to the Ferry Landing at World Financial Center. I had bought tickets for an Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty Tour. You could depart from either New York or New Jersey. I could only get tickets from New Jersey. There was a ferry that would take us over there though plus it would add another state to our “states visited list”. We got on the ferry and got some great views of the city skyline. We landed in New Jersey and walked over to catch the ferry to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island as you probably know was the immigration center for the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the US. They have an extensive museum. We got to check out the great hall where the immigrants arrived. It was very interesting to see the preserved items plus read the stories of what people went through to come to our country. After we finished touring that, we caught the ferry to Lady Liberty. We made sure and got on the top outdoor deck of the ferry. We had amazing views of the statue. You don’t realize how truly big it is until you get up close. We landed and walked around the statue. I’d never seen anything but the front. Once we went around the back, I realized the statue is actually wearing sandals. We then entered the pedestal. You can buy tickets to either just tour the island, go up in the pedestal or go all the way up to the crown (you can’t go up to the torch any more). You have to get Crown tickets months in advance so we did the pedestal. There were several stairs to climb just to reach the top of pedestal. I cannot imagine climbing to the crown! The views were nice and there was another museum – much to my pleasure and Josh’s dismay. It was interesting to see how the statue was built and to be able to look up and see the structure inside. We took the ferry and landed on the New York side this time – at Battery Park.

There were a few more things we wanted to see. The first we’d come to (after Josh wanted to stop at Starbucks) was the large bronze bull a few blocks away. The “Charging Bull” was literally dropped in the Wall Street area years ago by its sculptor. I wanted a picture with it but I was shocked at the crowd around it. You’d have a though a UK basketball player was there :-) . I finally managed to squeeze in for Josh to take a picture of me with it. We strolled by the New York Stock Exchange and the Trump Building and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across that – it’s about a mile each way. There were a lot of people (which was the case at most everything we went to) and there was the additional issue of people stopping right in front of you to take pictures instead of moving to the side. We made it back across and then got on the subway to go back to Grand Central.

By the time we got there, we were starving. I wanted to visit one of the Original Soupman restaurants. His original location in downtown was no longer open. It’s considered to be the inspiration for the “Soup Nazi” on Seinfield and the owner didn’t appreciate the comparison. There was one near the station though, so we went there. There was no Soup Nazi (although they sold T-Shirts with his phrase “No Soup for You!!). The soup was excellent along with the bread and banana (of all things) that was included. By this time, I was pretty well worn out so we took the train back to our station and I struggled up the hill to the hotel.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about the friendliest part of the trip plus the part that gave me the most concern. I’ll also tell you about the famous site I almost missed – which would have upset me had I done so.

Friday, June 10, 2016

New York, New York - Part 2

After Josh got in from work, we headed on to New York City. I had already bought tickets for us to go to the observation deck on the 86th floor. We walked to the Greystone train station and caught a train into the city. The trains on the line we were on all terminate at Grand Central Terminal (formerly known as Grand Central Station). The place is huge and busy with all sorts of train lines and subway lines terminating there. There are also multiple places to eat there. I had already scouted out a place to eat and found Shake Shack. I’d heard from numerable sources how great it was, so we tried it out. The burger was really good. Honestly though, I didn’t feel it was any better than a burger I get at Five Guys or Culvers.

After we ate, we headed out of the station onto the streets of New York. My first impression was how the city is intense on your senses. From the large buildings, to the number of people, to the traffic - it feels really intense. We walked to the Empire State Building. When we got inside, there was a huge line. I’d been to the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) years before. There was little or no wait there. We waited well over an hour in line to finally get on an elevator to go up. There was a big crowd at the indoor observation deck. We were able to see out and see to whole area of New York including many of the iconic buildings of the city.

We took an elevator up a few floors to the outside observation deck. The view was amazing. I had Josh film a video of me there so Donna could see how high up we were. We took an elevator back down to the ground. Even though it was late at night, there were still a lot of people on the streets. We got back to Grand Central and took a train back. We had a mile walk back. It almost all uphill and we were already tired but we got back to the hotel and went to sleep.

In my next post, I’ll relate how our Saturday went when we visited several iconic locations in New York City.