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New York City – Day one

We arrived late last night, but today was the first day in New York City with Isaac. Julie went to the Javitz convention center early in the morning, and Isaac and I, not being the types to laze about in the hotel room, decided we’d go out and find ourselves some adventure.
But before I launch into that, let me just say that I am in the strangest sort of cognitive dissonance, where I’m homesick for my boy (Eli) at the same time I’m excited at spending so much time with my boy (Isaac). All in all, it’s a good thing that I get to bond with Isaac like this, but I really wish Eli was here, because he’d totally get a kick out of NYC.
So, we got on our adventuring clothes, and headed out the front of the hotel. I had made tentative plans to go up the Empire State Building, but I was open and if we got there and it was too nuts, we could make other plans. My tether was short on time and distance, since we had about three hours until we had to show up at the Javitz for a feeding, so I didn’t want to roam out of the neighboorhood. I walked a street over to 32nd and found some greasy hole-in-the-wall narrow food trough called ‘salt and pepper’ that served all sorts of fried and buttered and breaded items. I got myself a cup of coffee and a poor man’s egg McMuffin (at their prices, do we really need a ‘poor man’s’ version?), and scarfed it in the back of the restaurant under a poster labeled ‘Choking Victim’ — it was instructions on performing the Heimlich, but I found it ominously prophetic, so I left quickly. Three steps out the front of the restaurant, I see the sign to a much nicer establishment that serves ‘Irish breakfasts’ all day long — note to self, go THERE tomorrow!
So, off we were on our jaunt. I walked up 32nd street to 5th avenue, and then over to 34th and found myself at the base of the Empire State Building. I’ve been to New York City before, but this is the first time I’ve actually been at the Empire State, and it is magnificent. I took lots of pictures, but I didn’t bring the download cord so you’ll have to wait for photos till I get back home. We entered in on the 5th avenue entrance, and proceeded up the elevators to the second floor. (Note to self: baby strollers get you around long lines as if you were handicapped! Rock!) On the second floor, I am not sure what I expected to see, but it wasn’t what I did see, which in hindsight is exactly what I should have expected to see. Namely, a large roped off snake of a line (thankfully empty) to a ticket booth which was much like a movie ticket kiosk. There were all sorts of prices for tickets, but it was $14 for adults and free for baby, and for $30 I could get a ticket that avoids all the lines, but as I was informed ‘there aren’t any lines yet’. While there was a nominal line, I could see that we were probably at %2 capacity, so I took her word and payed my $14, and joined the fray. I was soon confronted with again, something I should have expected but didn’t — a security checkpoint. At said checkpoint I was obliged to pass my bag through the x-ray machine, and take off my belt, but it was no where near the same level of intrusion as the airport. I was, however, taken off-guard, so it took me some time to reassemble and gather all my things (more on this later).
After I made it through checkpoint Charlie, I weaved my way around and through a maze of small-intestine-shaped lines made out of scarlet velvet rope. I was starting to get dizzy, but since I was pushing a stroller, I didn’t have much choice but to keep zigging and zagging. Finally, I made it into a hallway that appeared to be in the middle of a reconstruction, and I found it immensely humorous the juxtaposition of gleaming chrome and aluminum with exposed masonry and wiring. It was as if we were entering the bowels of the building. We were ushered into elevators that were remote controlled by external line operators, and as the doors closed, I glanced at the button panel. This one goes to 80.
For having to go 80 floors, the elevators are really damned fast. The numbers jump in powers of ten, and my ears popped all along the way. I know that there are offices all the way up the Empire State, but these elevators have been retrofitted to only go to the eightieth floor. The last ten floors ticked off one at a time, presumably because we slowed down as not to launch ourselves into the ceiling as we hit floor 80, and the doors opened up on.. yet another line. at this point, we snaked into a room, and I got my first glimpse out of the window to see the Chrystler building — a georgeous monument (and one I should try to go up this week if I can), and though very tall in its own rights, below us. I snapped a quick picture, then posed for the obligator souvenir shot they make you pose for. It’s against a painted backdrop of the ESB, which I really don’t see the point of on two counts. One, it’s a painting, and inside the building, so you’re already looking at a fake. Two, if it’s the empire state you’re seeing in the background, how can you actually be on the ESB? Well, whatever, snap snap, we’re on our way.
We weave around another line and a nice Jamaican man wants to sell everyone in the crown a guided tour, which really is just a walkman with some highlights recorded on it so you can ‘get the real exper-i-ance, man’. Whatever again. We make it to a second set of elevators, that take us up to the 86th floor — this is the observatory deck. I was naively expecting that we’d be going up to the top of the needle, but I guess they don’t take tours up there anymore. We rode up to the 86th floor, and the elevators emptied into… a gift shop. I should have expected it, once again, but I did not. Another thing I didn’t expect, but was pleasantly suprised to find, was that the observation deck was… outside! Not only did we get to look at New York from the sky at 86 floors above the ground, but we also got to breathe the ar at that level, which rocked the free world. It was a nice warm, not too muggy day, with no appreciable wind or breeze at all. It was a bit hazey, but otherwise a perfect ESB day. I got pictures from all four sides, and a few of myself and Isaac. I had a great time up there, and after we had our fill, I got back onto the elevators (again avioding a line because of the baby stroller – yes!), and rode back down to the bottom floor.
Satisfied, I launched on a brisk walk from 5th and 34th to my final destination at 11th and 36th. At about 8th and 34th I realized… Crap! I had forgotten the baby bag at the ESB (btw: I love that Empire State Building and Extra Special Bitter have the same initials. But strangely the Empire State was a Czech style lager– more on this later). So, I called 411 and got the ESB and asked them about the bag, because I suspected I left it at the security checkpoint. They said if I left it, it would still be there. I told them it might be over an hour until I can collect it, and they assured me this was fine. So, more than halfway to the Javitz, I just kept on walking. Eventually I got to the Jacob Javitz convention center (which I saw from the ESB and said ‘shit, I have to walk all the way over THERE?!) and called in to Julie. She met me out in the main hall (I couldn’t get onto the exhibit floor because of the stroller and baby) out by the 20-foot-tall Yoo-hoo! drink, and the Meow Mix song context. Ugh. don’t ask. Anyhow, we found a good spot to do the feed, and soon I was back on my way in the streets. Whatever adventure plans I might had were now superceded by the need to retrieve the diaper bag, if it still existed. Either I left it at the security point, or it got nabbed on the observation platform. I couldn’t remember which.
In any case, I got back to the ESB and went to the security checkpoint, and after answering a lot of questions about the bag, I did indeed get it back. The most excellent comment from the security guard was “We don’t lose anything at the Empire State.”
After this harrowing adventure, I was hungry and tired and thirsty, so right next to the main entrance inside the ESB was a brewpub called ‘The Heartland Brewery’, which I found out is a chain in Brooklynn and Manhattan. Anyhow, I went in and had two pints of their ‘Indian River Light’, which was totally awesome — it was like a nut-brown but lighter and had both orange and coriander in it, but so faintly as to not really be identifiable as such. It was a damned fine brew. Oh yeah, I also had lunch — a chicken caesar, which was palatable but not really the best I had ever had. Many patrons cooed over Isaac, because after all, he is damned cute. All but this weird couple right next to me. They were too young and hip to care about babies. Damned them. heh.
Anyhow, after a brief stop at the room to change Isaac and pick up a spare shirt for Julie, off I was back to the convention center. Stop two, feeding two, and off again I was into the fray. All through the morning, Isaac was wonderful. Even as we passed a full siren blaring get-out-of-my-way interchange between two cops, a fire engine and an ambulance and the mad throngs of NYC drivers, Isaac was nonplussed. Fageddaboudit!
This was not to be the case in the afternoon. Upon getting back to the hotel room around 3pm, Isaac entered into a fuss that was closer to hysterics. It sounded as if I was gouging him in the eye with an ice pick, and nothing I could do would distract him for very long. He passed out and napped for about 10 minutes, but woke up again and screamed bloody murder. Eventually, I packed him up in the stroller again for the last trip to Javitz of the day (I found out on google it’s one mile each way from the hotel to the Javitz, so today, including the empire state, I’ve walked about 7-8 miles), and of course once on the road, he quieted down and eventually passed out. Navigating the streets was a different animal at 5:30pm — everyone was totally crazy. At one point I nearly got hit by a racing bus that ran a red light even as pedestrians were walking across. At another point, the mass of pedestrians on the opposite side shot the gun on a turn lane, and screwed up traffic so bad that cars were turning against the light just to make up for the fact that they couldn’t turn when they were supposed to. Utter mayhem. By the time I got to Javitz, I was fried. Julie came out after a while, fed the boy, and she, myself, Isaac and her co-worker Heather made the long haul back to the hotel room.
Julie and Heather both had their own respective dinners to attend. I was left with the need to eat, and the only place to eat was the downstairs restaurant that served grossly overpriced food. I had had one of their new york steaks the night before, and while very price, was decent, so I went downstairs to the actual restaurant to trim off a few dollars from the room service bill. I ordered the salmon bisque (yummy) and the Barbecued Ahi (which was supposed to be served medium rare, but was medium, and which was NOT fresh despite what the waiter had told me) which I wasn’t all that fond of (however the black bean risotto that it was served with was quite nice), but since I had about 20 minutes to order and consume, I wasn’t going to send it back to the kitchen for something else. Note to self — dont’ believe the waiter when they say that fish is fresh. I’m spoiled by good fish, and just coming from Hawaii, I’m doubly spoiled.
So, I scarfed, made it back up, and julie ran off to her dinner, just in time for Isaac to have another hard hour as he tried to negotiate sleep. he finally went down at 9:30pm, and I got a chance to play some Civ III and to read some email. I have been blogging and reading blogs and IM’ing all evening long, but since it is now 1:30 AM NY time, I’m going to crash. I’ll chat with you all later with further details as the week progresses, and eventually backdate the last week posts to keep my ‘at least a post PER day’ record. I will also eventually answer everyone’s emails. I have to stop playing Civ III, because it saps my creative time away. Damn nasty game, we hates it forever.

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