New York City
April 2006

Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday

We got a bagel in the morning from Bagel Stix, a bustling place serving a variety of bagels and toppings. I’ve heard countless Yankees complain that bagels elsewhere on earth aren’t as good as ones in New York. Something to do with water. I tried a plain one with plain cream cheese so no other flavors might interfere with the intrinsic superiority of the Yankee bagel. I couldn’t find any distinguishing characteristics that would make it different, much less better, than bagels made here in Atlanta or anywhere else I’ve been. I suspect it’s just another case of “They don’t make ______ as good as they (used to and/or do back home).”

As we hadn’t done any of the regular touristy things one expects in a trip to the Big Apple, we decided to get a look at Central Park. For those of us that grew up surrounded by lush greenery, or live in places like Atlanta where almost everyone has a yard and you can barely see the city for the trees, a park is not impressive.
But I imagine living in the concrete boxes of New York would make a large green space almost breathtaking. It also failed to impress because spring had not yet sprung up North and the park was more brown space than green.

We took an elevator to the 34th floor of a random skyscraper to the lobby of The Mandarin Oriental, a swanky hotel where SW had stayed on a recent business trip. The view from the lobby was worth the trip, and the décor itself was impressive.

As the weather was perfect, we decided to skip museums or other indoor attractions in favor of a walk across Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge itself is a marvel, built in the 1870’s with a storied history.

This is one of the most interesting bridges in the world, artistically speaking. The gothic arches are simple - elegant yet strong in appearance. The cables make spider webs holding the platform below, making it seem as if the view of the city beyond has been captured in a cage.

The views from the bridge are nice as well. Check out the panorama I put together. Note: some browsers may automatically resize the image to fit the screen. Put your cursor on the image and a box may appear allowing you to resize it back to normal. Then you can scroll across it as if you were there!

I like how the Statue of Liberty mimics the shape of the cranes in the background.

SW wanted to meet with one of her work friends who lives in the city so we headed around the corner to a dock-side outdoor mall, South Street Seaport, for lunch at Heartland Brewery. I had “the city’s best barbecue” just to compare it to all the cue I’ve loved before.

Compared to the open space of the bridge, walking around the streets reminds me of walking at the bottom of a canyon of concrete and glass that can stretch as far as the eye can see, or suddenly stop in a wall of buildings.


It's an odd sensation. It's intimidating in a unique way, and overwhelming to think people made this environment. Not millions of years of erosion or tectonic plates pushing against each other to form these masses of granite - instead, humans stacked these stones one atop another until they almost blot out the sun.

We headed through the outskirts of Chinatown, stopping to shop at random. I have discovered over the years that anything I really like is 9 times out of 10 the most expensive thing in the store. This is yet another reason I shop only at thrift stores and ebay.

We returned to the East Village. SW had wanted to visit a museum down there so we kept heading that direction, only to get distracted with shopping, bars, food, etc. This time we specifically headed down there for shopping and ended up staying for food and drinks as well.

We passed a Catholic church that had set out candles for the anniversary of the passing of Pope John Paul part deaux.

We stopped in The Big Bar, perhaps New York’s most misnamed bar, for a round, then continued shopping. At one stop the super friendly lady behind the counter said if we were hungry we shouldn’t leave the neighborhood since it was the cheapest, best food in town. She recommended a couple of places down the block so we stopped at Yuca Cuban Restaurant.

I had roast pork that was delicious, served on a bed of some starchy Caribbean fruit which I never got around to identifying.

SW had churasco, a grilled flank steak that was out of this world, served on a pile of mashed potatoes.

We had a few mojitos and margaritas and caipirinhas and left, everyone glowing happily.

We decided to stop by New York’s oldest bar, McSorley’s Old Ale House, a few blocks away for a quick drink before meeting the gang back at the hotel for a change of clothes and our next adventure. I walked in the door at McSorley’s and felt like I was visiting my great-grandfather’s cabin in Kentucky. A coal-fired iron stove stood in the middle of the room, low flames visible through its open door. The wood floor and bar were worn bare. Framed photos and articles from the mid-1800’s forward decorated the walls. The place was mostly empty early on a Sunday evening, which was fine by me as I was in the mood for a relaxing sit down.

(Later in the evening the crowds trickled in.)

I walked up to the bar and looked to see what they offered. Generally I scan the rum and whiskey selections in detail and glance at the beer on tap just to see what they offer. But McSorley’s had nothing on display behind the bar – no line of liquor bottles lit from below. No shelf of bottles of beer. No line of taps in the shape of animals and product logos. No list of specialty drinks. No chalkboard listing the latest imported microbrews from Belgium.
The bartender walked over, “You want the light ale or the dark ale?”
“I guess I’ll have the light,” I said.
“How many?”
I counted heads in my entourage, “Four.”

The ladies wandered though the door, taking in the surroundings. By the time they caught up to me at the bar there were 8 mugs of beer there. The mugs were a bit small and half full of head, so I figured a pair was equivalent to a single beer. I took them to a table, giggling.
The beer was really good. In the small glasses, it stayed cool and went down alarmingly fast. But a round of them was affordable so we kept them coming thanks to the quick service of the rookie waiter, Michael, a fine Irish lad who’s only been working there a mere 16 years.
We met the folks at the next table, members of the “bridge and tunnel crowd” – people that live outside Manhattan but commute in on weekends to party. Anthony and Mark were from Long Island, with Anthony's lovely Chilean girlfriend, Veronica, in tow. Soon they joined us at our table and we all had a swell time.
Or perhaps it should be a "swill" time with the amount of beer we guzzled. Some time later, one of our members was heard to say, "I will flatten you!", half-jokingly, to one of the Long Islanders. Later she performed a few Kung Fu moves to show her talents (I snapped this picture at another bar later, just to give you a sample of her Fu.)
Not long after, she was giggling so hard she fell out of her chair. The folks at the table next to us helped her up, so introductions were exchanged. They were a group of half New Yorkers, half Los Angelinos, and fully as obnoxious as us, so pretty soon we had a crowd of rowdy people cracking jokes, which soon degenerated into shouts of “Show us your tits!”

I know you’re probably assuming such an outburst came from our table, but no, it was the L.A. crowd.

I showed mine, but the girl wouldn’t show me hers in exchange. She offered the hairy chest of one of the males at the table and I told her she was completely sexist. Things escalated from there with their table claiming Atlantans had no balls, followed by shouts of “C’mon, show us your balls!”
There are very few things I feel competitive about, but I will not let any man or woman out-obnoxious me so I responded with “Show us your clit!”
By then it was 1 AM, closing time at McSorley's on Sunday night/Monday morning. As we assembled our crew to head out the door. The neighboring table accused us of cowardice, so I took the change off our table and put in on theirs, “Here, since you Yankees are probably too rude to have left a tip, here’s $2.”
That got their goat and we slipped out the door giggling with shouts coming from their table.

SW whipped out Let’s Go and found a place nearby that had later hours so we stumbled around the block to Swift’s Hibernian Lounge. It was almost empty, but our large party filled a corner of the room and we continued chatting until late in the night/early in the morning. I didn’t get many pictures of the place and it’s hard to get a mental picture since things get pretty blurry about then.

The Long Islanders swore they’d be in touch and we got invitations to visit Chile and piled into cabs to head back to the hotel. Alas, one of our members had to be helped to her room. The art and science of maintaining a good, steady buzz has taken me some two decades to master yet even with weekly practice I’ll make the occasional mistake, so I made no insults as to her ability to handle full-on all-day all-night drunken debauchery.

Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday

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