CAM:NYC Part 1: Break Yer Neck!

The obits section of the Tuesday New York Times read in smallish bold print: Young Man's Innocence. Beneath in smallish regular print it read: Died in the lights, in the middle of the night, washed up on shore, there are no survivors, just a grainy photograph of the Harry Potter characters made of Lego and half a tube of sunscreen (SPF-7 and a half). In lieu of flowers and chicken noodle soup please send your kids to camp.

29 June 2007
1730: Work ends.
2000: Line forms for bus. No reservations necessary despite being told reservations necessary.
2100: Arrive for bus one hour later, see long line, cry a little on the inside, take medicine.
2130: Get on bus.
2144: Bus driver angrily screams "I ain't waitin', I'm leavin'" at the woman who's husband of 27 years couldn't hold it anymore. He sounds what I imagine Texan bus drivers sound like. She sounds what I imagine Turkish refugees sound like. Her husband made it back. Just in the nick of time.
2145: Depart Monty Hall.
2230: Arrive US border.
30 June 2007
0030: File off the bus in a stupor and sweat way through Custom Officer's interrogation:
"Where ya goin'?"
"Um...New York City."
"What for?"
"Enjoy your trip."
0100: Depart US border. Driver's demeanour takes a complete U-turn now that we are on native soil. "Welcome to the USA, we'll be stoppin' in Albany so you can take a break, then we'll be headin' on to New York City. I'll try an' make up fer the long wait at the border."
0321: Arrive Albany truck stop. In America they have vending machines in truck stops that vend ice cream bars. The three we had were rather over-frozen, but ice cream nonetheless.
0345: Depart Albany.
0645: Arrive Port Authority Bus Terminal, Times Square (we find out sometime later) New York, New York.
0649: First encounter with New Yorker:
"Excuse me ma'am, where is Times Square?"
"Dis is Times Square!" (said with a peculiar "no-shit-sherlock" mystified look of disgust/disbelief/indignation)
0652: Find rear exit and set off south for Times Square. The maps of our minds place Times Square on 34th Street, 8 blocks south of the the 42nd street Port Authority Bus Terminal. Indubitably the New Yorker was wrong, was a dishonest lout like those we'd seen in comic books. We are in a rush to make it to the NBC studios in Rockefeller Plaza (near Times Square we imagine) by 0700 to get tickets to a live taping of SNL, the hit drama Sunday Night Lights.0704: Arrive 34th street. Madison Square Gardens. Definitely not Times Square.
0705: Suffering first defeat we turn around and return from whence we've came.
0717: Whudda ya know? Times Square! If only that dishonest lout gave us better directions.
0725: Whudda ya know? Rockefeller Plaza!
0726: Whudda ya know? NBC Studios!
0727: Whudda ya know? It is holiday weekend and they are not taping tonight.
0728: Watch the taping of the spectacle that is live taping of early morning television.
"Coming up, Sandy has ways to protect your children from Botulism."
"And do you like kittens? Find out how this little fella put a scare into a small Nebraska town and heightened the national Terror threat to burgundy."
"Oh those kittens Tom!"
"And now Neil has your 3 day forecast. Neil"
Where did they find this crowd? It is barely 0730 on Saturday morning. In half an hour of aimlessly wandering the streets of Mid Town Manhattan there has nary been a garbage man or baker. Suddenly we stumble upon some live taping of some show no one is watching and there is 75 tourists from the mid-west with signs reading "Happy B-Day Ami!" I don't know no Ami, and I somehow doubt that the plucky family of 4-and-a-half do either. Yet the cheer. When it cuts to Neal 13-feet away from Sandy and Tom, Sandy and Tom hand their mikes to some grips and start fraternizing with the awe-filled audience. Baby shaking, hand signing, autograph taking, picture kissing.
0731: Depart Live Taping of Live with Regis and Sandy-Lee for Times Square. Mother, who'd been here prior, tells me rush seating for Broadway shows go on sale at 8 somewhere in Times Square. How hard could it be to find the place?
0755: Piece of cake. If the piece of cake were so big it took you 24-minutes to eat. Or maybe some of us are just slow eaters, shut up! TKTS is behind the Marriott hotel--in case you were curious.
0756: After a kind security guard demands that the half-dozen waiters "WAIT ON DA BENCH OVAH THARE!" we find ourselves sitting on some sort of device used to keep run away limousines from crashing into the wall. Not so much a bench as a traffic corralling device our legs quickly fall into a deep sleep and every inch of our asses on down becomes uncomfortably numb.
0826: Mother lied. The ticket wicket certainly doesn't open at 0800. The board saying what time the ticket wicket is open doesn't even open at 0800. It opens some 25-0r so minutes later and clearly states that for matinées performances it is open from 1000 until 1400 and for evening performances it is open from 1500 until 2000. Thanks mother!
0829: "Where ya going? Ya leaving yer the line? Want me to hold yer spot?" "No thanks." Mysitfied look of disgust/disbelief/indignation.
0830: Posing as guests of the Marriott hotel the concierge provides a much needed map of Manhattan and points us to the lovely washrooms on the second floor. Just up the upscalators and to the right.
0834: Tired, bedraggled, duped one too many times by our overanxious imaginations and cunning guiles of this place we decided to trudge uptown towards our hostel. According to hostel propaganda we will not be able to check in until 1400, but we are sick of lugging our sacks and tired and despondent and don't know where we are or what is going on and all we want to do is to put our bags down and sneak a nap and explore on a full stomach and we will beg if we have to all we want is to...
0948: Central Park is breathtaking. Especially if you have walked for better than an hour with sacks of crap you thought you would need weighing you down. At some point even Christ Himself would take a seat on a bench across the street from the Dakota, where John Lennon became breathless on a more permanent basis and kick pine cones and pebbles at dirty needles while watching single guys hit on single girls while their dogs hump. Central Park is the most romantic place on earth. If are into sweat and shortness of breath. And dirty needles.
1017: Decided the remaining remainder of our journey is too much to bear anymore and a bus is needed. For a bus change is needed. Change we don't have. Subway it is.1021: The subway in New York is beautiful. It is progress, it is resilience, it is intuition and age and dirt and grime and depravity in the face of privilege all bundled up into the most incredible underworld you could imagine. Or it is the setting of the original Ninja Turtles. In other words it is a boyhood dream come true. Or it is muggy. And dirty. And efficient. And brilliant. Every tidbit of historical information I know about the NYC subway system is taken from the wall paper of the old Subway in Sundre, Alberta. It was newspaper articles from the opening of the NYC subway. From what I can remember it was a long time ago--the wallpaper was yellowed with age. Which explains the musty scent of my great grandmother's root cellar.1024: To ride the subway you must pay. You must buy a Metrocard and stock it up with dollars. $2 per trip. We buy 10 trips worth.
1026: The uptown C train, the train to our hostel, is closed for repairs for the weekend. So we board a downtown train to the nearest uptown connection and back track back to Times Square to change trains to get to 96th street.
1118: Arrive at 96th street via the A train. According to the handwritten notes we've handwritten on scraps of paper and old grocery receipts the hostel should be around here somewhere. It isn't. All four corners of the corner it is supposed to be on are empty lots. By spring 2008 one of the corners will be new luxury condos. But for now it is a pit. Which may resemble some hostels I've visited in Eastern Europe, but it looks nothing like the pictures Central Park Hostel had on their website. And where was the friendly staff? Where?
1124: Phone hostel from pay phone outside drug store. Turns out the numbers 103 and 96 look a lot alike on the internet.1148: Arrive at the Central Park Hostel on 103rd street. The friendly staff turns out to be just staff. The beautiful pictures were of the pre-9/11 Central Park Hostel. Before fear and dirt overran the city and laid it waste. Or something like that.
1204: No amount of begging, pleading, nor bribing (to an outsider observer it may have looked like simply asking once and accepting the "no" but if you look deeper you'd see that all that begging, pleading and bribing business was there--somewhere) could get us our beds for napping and showers for showering a second before the 1400 they advertise on their accurate (96th street, friendly staff, clean and shiny photographs, etc) website. But we do give our bags of all our worldly possessions to some suspicious fellow with a key to the storage room. I am sure they will be fine.
1211: No more bags! Free at last! New York is a whole new town when not weighed down by sacks of crap you should have left at home (what if I have to make a spread sheet? I will need my computer!) Escaping the bagged bondage helped us realize how actually tired we really were. Heavy bags is an easy ass dragging excuse. When you free yourselves of your cargo and don't move any faster or with any better a sense of direction or navigation, it means the 2.5 hours of fitful border sleep you got on the bus ride after working all day probably wasn't enough, nor was the nothing you had for breakfast or the crackers and vending machine ice cream bars you had for dinner the previous night enough. At a certain point, between the heat, the exhaustion, the starvation and disorientation a delerium sets in that carries you lightly over the pavement and, sure, your back aches and your feet ache and your head aches and your thighs burns like the top of your head from the sun and the distance and the heat but there is a good noodle place in Soho you'd heard about so you best take the train down there and try and find out where it is without knowing the name or street of the place.
1348: Kelley and Ping was established in 1993 according to its business card. I think we left the hostel in 1993 and finally found the GD place in 2007. But it exists. It sits on 127 Greene Steet. Right where it always has been. Since 1993. And they do have noodles. Noodles which were both the best and worst noodles I have ever had. The best because they were a starving and delirious man's first meal after 40 days and 40 nights of wandering the Eastern Seaboard and the concrete dessert. The worst in that they were simply good noodles. When you flirt with death by starvation as you walk past a million eateries of all varieties to the point where you are asking cafe employees and baby clothes store managers where the really good noodle place in the neighbourhood is you are expecting something really good. You are expecting something resembling the 4th of July fireworks display in your mouth and digestive tract. Only, instead of being made of fire the fireworks are made of DQ soft serve and served in bowls carved out of unicorn horns and spoon-fed with dodo bird beak spoons by the hand of Helen of Troy in Tahiti after beating Vince Vaughn and Liz Taylor in a game of ping-pong. That they were not. They were just noodles. Not bad, but just noodles. After the fourth mile and third hamburger hallucination you find yourself expecting more.
1422: They may be just noodles, but it is amazing the difference just noodles can make. Sweet, sweet carbohydrates and your delicious sugars my cells burn to keep them osmosising and reproducing and all those other saucy things my cells do. They may have been just noodles, but the result was like being born again. Pre-noodle we were suspended in some saline fluid in a daze, barely managing more than the odd kick. Post-noodle we were actually walking on streets filled with things streets are filled with on Saturday afternoons in Soho. People, vendors, shops, cafes, and such. And this:
Woman A: (Into cell phone) blah, blah, blah, like, blah blah, blah, blah. (To Woman B) You comin'?
Woman B: I wanna git a hot dog first.
Woman A: (Continues walking. Into cell phone) So blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah, like blah blah blah. (Exasperated turns around to find Woman B still at hot dog stand 25-feet back) YOU COMIN' OR WHAT?
Woman B: Yeah yeah, hang on.
Woman A: (Continues walking and blah blahing. Turns again to see Woman B still getting a hot dog). (Underbreath/into cell phone) ugh... (To Woman B) BREAK YA NECK!!! (Storms off)
Turns out those were magic noodles after all. Off we went back to the Marriott. Back to TKTS. Back to get tickets to Broadway.1455: Mother's misinformation told us the ticket wicket opened at 0800. So we had lined up then. Then when there were only a dozen early birds itching to get the best deals on the best seats to the best Oprah produced shows. We were 8th or 9th from the front when we gave up our prime spot to go pee in the Marriott's bathroom and watch dogs and single people hump in Central Park. Upon arrival at 1455 Mother's misinformation made slightly more sense. I guessed that people started lining up at 0800 for the 1000 ticket wicket. The afternoon ticket wicket opened at 1500, so when we arrived there were a billion people in line. You may accuse me of hyperbole, but I shit you not, there were a billion people in line when we got to it.
1515: People look at you angrily when you jump out of line as it snakes past the pretzel guy to get a pretzel and they look even angrier when you jump out again to get a water as you go past the next time. It isn't my fault though. Those pretzels were making me thirsty. (1,738 of the 123,940 Seinfeld references made during our visit).
1538: After much deliberation and an advanced ranking system which used the very scientific happy face, frowny face, star and giant black X, we decided Rent was our first choice, and some others were our other choices. Decided just in the nick of time. We were next. That security guard who directed us to the bench for our waiting comfort earlier in the morning, 100 years ago, was now in his element, his crowded, busy element, "MOVE DA LINE! ALL DA WAY OVAH! AAAAAAALLLL DA WAY OVAH PUHLEEEZ! MA'AM, MAAAA'AM! ALL DA WAY OVAH! THANK YA! MA'AAAAAAM! ALL DA WAY OVAH!"
1540: Rent for this month (x2), $106.
1545: They may have been magic noodles, but even magic noodles can't reverse the damage of an all night bus ride. Back to the hostel for that nap we've heard so much about.1632: Arrive at the hostel, get our beloved bags bag, find our beloved beds, promptly pass out. We were tired, but not brain dead, we had a Broadway show to get to later that night. All that was needed was a short 1 hour power nap. Then a refreshing and invigorating shower and we would be like new again. (Half of all post-bus ride fatigue is on account of the grime of 1,000 weary nomadic souls who had crapped their pants in the seat you sat in before you sat in it on other trips that you carry around with you until you shower it off. We'd been carrying around that grime since 2130 the night before.) Forget so-so magic noodles, the magical power nap/shower combo is where it is at. Alarms were set. Sleep was found (easily). Things were looking up.
1800: Alarm goes off (I think).
1900: "Morgan! Morgan wake up! Morgan! It is seven! We slept in! Morgan!"
"Morgan! We slept in!"
"Oh, okay, yup. Zzzzzzzzz..."
"Morgan! It is seven! We have to be there in an hour!"
"Uh-huh... Zzzzzzzzz..."
"Morgan! We were supposed to get up an hour ago! We are going to be late!"
"All right... Zzzzzzz..."
"What time is it?"
"It's seven!"

1. "The Tourist." Caroline Area Man in Times Square, New York, NY.
2. "I Went to the Met and Saw the Sun." Caroline Area Man wearing old women's sunglasses on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.
3. "Holy Roman Empire State Building." Empire State Building seen at dusk from Brooklyn, NY.
4. "Mannequin." Caroline Area Man poses with woman on cell on 5th Avenue, New York, NY.
5. "A Face Only a Mother Could Love." Caroline Area Man poses for caricature in Times Square, New York, NY.
6. "King of the Castle." Caroline Area Man is real strong in front of a castle in Central Park, New York, NY.
7. "The World's Leading Fast Food Franchise." The New York City Subway, New York, NY.
8. "From the Inventors of CLR."
The New York City Subway, New York, NY.
9. "Inner City Thoughts." Apartment buildings on 103rd Street and Central Park West, New York, NY.
10. "Under the Umbrella Tree." Kelley and Ping Asian Noodle Shop, Soho, New York, NY.
11. "Waiting Tables."
Kelley and Ping Asian Noodle Shop, Soho, New York, NY.
12. "Spoon Fed."
Kelley and Ping Asian Noodle Shop, Soho, New York, NY.
13. "Madhattan." Manhattan as seen from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.
14. "All the Wonders of the World, in Neon." Times Square, New York, NY.


jillian said...

Your trip to New York seems to have been just as insane as my trip to Chicago. The blue line train, to where we were staying uptown, was ALSO closed for repairs that weekend. Too much of a coincidence I think... Oh, Oprah and Yoko Ono say hello.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for Parts II through XXV, what gives?

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