|Date: Sat, 3 Jan 1998
From: Larry Clark <klmiller@UCLINK2.BERKELEY.EDU>
Subject: WHTUINYC Part 1
After hours of flying with unlimited visibility, we are greeted by cloudy skys over N.Y.C. I'm disappointed. I had hoped to see the New York skyline from the air, but can't see anything until we are almost on the ground. It's dark by the time we're hearded onto the bus and during the drive I stare out the window trying to get a sense of life in New York. We drive through a tunnel and wind our way through the back streets of the city. The bus turns left and we are on Broadway, right in the middle of Times Square. The blazing lights and hordes of people are over whelming. Our trip has begun.
In our room, we decide to get some food at Lindy's, “The best Ruben Sandwiches on the Planet.” The phone book tells us there is one at 200 W. 54th St. so we join the masses on Broadway and start walking the ten blocks to 54th. It's cold, wet and windy. Betty is laughing and giggling and dancing around like a kid in a toy store. I'm paying attention to landmarks so we don't get lost. When we get to 54th I want to go left. Betty asks a guy at a newsstand and he says go right so we do. There are no numbers on the buildings. We pass Radio City Music Hall and the NBC studios. We are going the wrong way. We back track and find there is no 200 W. 54th, but there is a Wintergarden Deli where we encounter the “Pastrami Nazi.” We order Ruben Sandwiches, cheese cake and coffee. All were excellent. As we walk back to the hotel, the rain turns to gently falling snow. All is well in New York City.
[ Part 2 ]
Our first morning is bright, clear and beautiful. We are bussed to Central Park for breakfast at Tavern on the Green. This is a one story structure with several rooms all decorated with a different theme. After entering through the hall of mirrors, we are seated in the Crystal Room. Huge, brightly colored, crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. We are served the best breakfast I'm going to get in New York. Our guides have made much ado over the sculptured bushes on the patio. After breakfast, we check them out. They're plastic.
It's the weekend and Central Park is closed to traffic. The locals are out in force walking their dogs, roller blading, jogging and just enjoying the scenery. It's incredibly beautiful and quiet.
The rest of the day is a bus tour of Manhattan and its' endless neighborhoods: Greenwhich Village, Soho, Little Italy, China Town, The Financial Dist., The Garment Dist., and on and on. At lunch time, we are cut loose for an hour and a half at the South St. Seaport and Pier 17. Betty and I take off on our own and find a cool Irish Pub called the North Star. Great fish and chips and ale.
After the bus tour, I'm confident I won't get lost in NYC and I have my trusty map. I never leave the hotel without it. In the evening we walk to the Empire State Building and go to the obsevation deck on the 82nd floor. It is a sparkling clear night and we are treated to a spectacular view of NYC at night.
[ Part 3 ]
We arrive at the Players for a continental breakfast and tour. The Players Club, on Gramercy Park, was established as a private (mens') social club for the then socially unacceptable actors in the mid 1800s by Edwin Booth. We do a short walking tour of the neighborhood and board the bus taking us to the Natural History Musem and the Diamond Exhibit.
The ticket line is a mile long, but the musem is expecting us. Our guides pick up our tickets for the 2:00 P.M tour at the Musems' Special Servcices window. It's 1:15, we're hungry, and there is a 45 minute wait to get into the restuarant. The snack bar is worse. We go outside and buy hot dogs, pretzels, and cokes from a street vendor. The Diamond Exhibit is *very* impressive and we're back in our room by 5:00 to get ready for our first New York play, Ragtime. Three people from our group arrive at the theater after the start of the first act. They had waited over an hour to get into Virgils' where we are to have our ftf with Myles, Marie, and *uc* the next day. The play is incredible. Very moving. On our way back to the hotel, we make reservations at Virgils'.
[ Part 4 ]
Another continental breakfast at the hotel conference room. I would kill for bacon and eggs. We are broken down into groups of 6-8 people and meet our “Walking Tour Guides.” Over breakfast, we discuss what the group wants to do for the day and there's no debate. We take the subway to Greenwich Village.
It's early and the Village isn't moving. We stroll around block after block and I'm totally disoriented within minutes. Our guide prides himself on his knowledge of architecture and we stand on the steets in the cold and wind hearing everything and more than we ever wanted to know about the Village. We head uptown by subway for our 12:00 tour of Carnegie Hall. Our group had agreed to go to Soho after Carnegie, but Betty and I opt out and hit the streets on our own.
We go straight to the Stage Deli and see they are serving sandwiches slightly smaller than footballs. We order a pastrami sandwich and a bowl of soup and split it. Afterward, with no goal in mind, we wander down 5th Avenue, taking in the sights and watching the people of New York be New Yorkers. The stores and office buildings, still dressed in their Christmas decorations, are dazzling. We vist Rockefeller Center, Saks, and St. Patricks' Cathedral. We watch street vendors hawk their wares, "Get 'em while I got 'em! They're goin' like hot cakes! Get 'em while I got 'em!" This is the afternoon I do what I thought I never would. I fall in love with New York City.
[ Part 5 ]
We arrive at Virgil's and the place is packed. There is standing room only in the bar. We order a couple of beers and spot one stool in the front corner of the bar and Betty takes it. My job is to be on the look out for Marie and Myles. I'm fairly certain I will recognize Marie if her new hair do hasn't altered her appearance too drastically. I have no idea what Myles looks like. I see a very distinguished looking gentleman, wearing a camel hair overcoat, scarf, and slacks. He has been hanging around the maitre d's station for several minutes. He assures me he is not Myles. Shortly, I see another gentleman wearing a military parka and a bewildered expression. He *is* Myles. I introduce myself and escort him to Betty.
Marie arrives a few minutes later. I would have recognized her anywhere. Myles tells her she looks like a Greenwich Village rich girl. I don't know what that means, but it sounds like a compliment. I think she looks very sophisticated and attractive as all get out. We are seated almost immediately and our waiter proves to be both efficient and entertaining.
Dinner is served and it's delicious. Just as we're finishing, Marie's face lights up. *uc* has arrived. He is tall, dark, handsome, intelligent and gracious. I can understand why she might be slightly interested in him. After dessert, and far too soon, it's time for Betty and I to depart for the theater. Upon *uc's* recommendation, we hike over to 8th St. and catch a cab.
Our cab zips down 8th like a ricocheting bullet. We are on a one way street that's three (or four) lanes wide and the driver uses every lane, but none for more than a few seconds. The cab tears in and out of traffic from one side of the street to the other as if it's radar controlled. Betty takes my hand and squeezes it with ever increasing force. Her body is rigid as a rail. I grin. This *is* fun, but I silently wish I had a seat belt.
Amazingly, we arrive at the theater without incident and in plenty of time to leisurely take our seats. The house lights go out. My lights go out. Audience laughter keeps waking me up. I manage to stay awake through the second act. Kevin Kline has delivered a gut wrenching, bravo performance, but the half dozen old fart characters steal the show.
[ Part 6 ]
The morning of New Years Eve is brutally cold and windy. After a very entertaining and interesting tour of The Apollo Theater in Harlem, we are scheduled for another walking tour. Everyone in our group wants to do something different. We split up and our guide follows us. We visit the Cathedral of St. John the Devine, the largest gothic cathedral in the world and it's still under construction. We stop by Zabar's, kind of like a Deli's Farmer's Market, and then on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Versace Collection and a myriad of other things.
Our hotel is a half block off Times Square. We arrive around 5:00 and the barricades are up around Times Square and the crowd has already started to gather. Our hotel lobby is cordoned off and we can enter only after showing our key cards. We intend to join the crazies on Times Square after the play, so we bundle up like a polar expedition and carry extra sweaters. The theater we are going to is a block away on the *other* side of Times Square.
We get to the outskirts of the crowd and dive in. After a lot of jostling, nudging, bumping and several changes in strategy, we finally make it through to the barricades. Betty gets a cop's attention and explains we have theater tickets and must get across. I hear him laugh and exclaim, “There is no theater in New York!” The crowd laughs. Something else is said and Betty gets on her hands and knees and scrambles under the barrier. I follow and hear the cop say something about showing our theater tickets as we cross the street. I can't find the tickets, but do find my trusty NYC map. I hold it out in front of me like I'm warding off vampires with a crucifix and yell, “Coming through! Coming through!” We are ignored.
After the play, we decide it's too cold to wait outside for an hour and a half. We have learned the ropes and returning to our hotel is realativly easy. We turn on the TV and watch what is happening below us a half block a way. At ten minutes before the hour, we rejoin the crazies and cheer in the New Year.
[ Part 7 ]
There are no scheduled tours on New Years day. We walk to the J.P. Morgan Library and it's closed. We take a cab to the World Trade Center and spend a few hours there. While we're in the area, we visit the World Financial Center, and walk along the Espalande. We take a cab to Jerry Seinfeld's neighborhood for a late lunch at the “Soup Nazi's.” It's closed. We walk down 5th Ave, stopping whenever and wherever the mood strikes.
We stop at Virgil's and get warm pecan pie (outstanding) and coffee to go. It's 5:00 P.M and we've been out since 9:00. We turn on the Rose Bowl game and sleep through it. Refreshed, we walk to Grand Central Station to pay homage to the Oyster Bar and Whispering Corners.
The Oyster Bar is on the lower level of the station and we are the only ones there. It takes us a minute to find which corners we need to be in to hear each other. It works. Fifty feet apart and we can hear each other better than if we used a phone. A young, well dressed, Japanese couple arrive and peer longingly into the restaurant. We decide to share our newly discovered secret with them and they don't understand.
I take the young man by the elbow and try to usher him into a corner. He is not willing. I try to be as unthreatening as possible. Betty is motioning for the girl to follow her. She is not moving. After much coaxing and encouragement, I finally have my guy facing the corner. Betty doesn't have her captive in position yet. The man keeps turning to see what's happening to his friend. I keep turning him back. I know he thinks he's about to be murdered. Ever so slowly the girl arrives at Betty's corner and all is ready. “Talk,” I command. He says something in Japanese and the girl squeals with delight. She jumps up and down with glee and they talk with one another with great enthusiasm. In sign language, we try to explain how the sound travels the arch. As they leave, we wave and Betty yells out, “Happy New Year!” They turn and wave back. They have broad grins on their faces, glad to still be alive, no doubt. We have done our part for international relations.
Our last day in NYC is gorgeous. Unlimited visibility, no wind and forty degree temperature. As we cruise across the lower bay toward Ellis Island, we get our best views of the Statue of Liberty. She *is* an impressive lady and I get chills seeing her.
Ellis Island was the east coast immigration center for a hundred years and it processed millions of people. The tour is interesting to me, but far more meaningful for Betty. Her father came through here.
Our return trip provides us with a beautiful view of the New York skyline. When we reach shore, busses will take us to our hotel for a quick luggage check and then on to the airport. Our trip is over. It has been a wonderful trip. A perfect trip, but it's time to go home. I'm ready.