So it’s Friday lunch time and I’ve finally turned my attention to writing this. I had mentally written it yesterday, but what good is a mentally-written blog post? Hopeless. Granted this one is a bit overdue but for reasons that shall soon become very clear, writing time has been in short supply this week. I'm sure you will forgive me.
On Tuesday night, I welcomed my cousin (J-Train) to New York. This is his first overseas holiday and I’m so thrilled that he chose to visit me here. And if you thought that playing tour guide for my parents over Christmas & New Year exhausted all the sights and sounds of New York, think again. J-Train and me have been carving it up all over town and it has been great.
After a home-cooked meal on Tuesday night (home-cooked by yours truly, do you mind), J-Train slept well and awoke to a snow-less but sunny Wednesday that was full of promise. I had the day off too, but I got up early and rather ill-advisedly, I went to the gym. I was on the treadmill for less than 3 minutes before I had to accept that my left knee was not going to be cooperative that day, so I gave up (cursing my stupid old lady leg the whole way).
I remember we started slowly on Tuesday, in no rush to be anywhere in particular before lunch. We walked up my street to the Empire State Building, and engaged in some hardcore haggling with the tour bus operators, before J-Train finally settled on the three-day, hop-on/hop-off bus ticket he wanted to buy. Ticket safely stowed away for Thursday, we rounded the corner onto Broadway and wandered downtown.
I am a bit mean actually because the section of Broadway around 34th Street is admittedly a bit of a dump. It’s busy, to be sure, but it’s nowhere near as flashy as further uptown towards Times Square, where everything gets a little nuts. But there are shops, and J-Train is all about the shops. Problem is, the shops along this stretch of Broadway seem to sell alternately cell phone batteries, costume jewellery and crappy luggage - and that’s pretty much it. But do you think J-Train minded? Hell no! He was just soaking it all up. Seedy or classy, he’s already keen to move here!
Soon enough, Broadway smartens up again and so before we knew it, we had The Flatiron Building in sight and we crossed onto Fifth Avenue into Eataly. We all know what a love affair I have with this place, and it’s a must-see destination as far as I’m concerned. We had a delicious coffee and a bit of a look-see downstairs, before heading up to the rooftop for a spot of early lunch. Our choices were simple – a couple of local brews and some sandwiches, but the combination of the fare and the hot-house conditions up there and were in heaven. I really think we could have just sat there all day.
But time waits for no-one and before long we wandered up the street so J-Train could take his first New York subway ride. He didn’t get mugged, or see a rat, or anything stereotypical like that, but we DID make it to our destination (Rockefeller Center station), so I was particularly proud of us for that.
I must have been filling with confidence at this point, because in my smugness I took a typical wrong turn coming out of the station. Nuts. It didn’t matter though because the universe then did me a solid. The wrong turn actually led us to the perfect side of Rockefeller Center. J-Train got a great view of the ice-skating rink (no skaters, but a very groovy zamboni in action). And our little sight-see side-trip let me orient myself properly, so we could keep moving - in the right direction this time.
Around past Radio City Music Hall, we headed west towards the studios of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I cannot tell you how excited I was to be going to a taping of this show. My crush on Jon Stewart is no secret, but it’s not easy to get tickets to his show – they are released so rarely. Back in early October they released tickets for three days in January, so I got online and snagged them (with the help of Lex all the way over in Chicago, whose office computer connection is way faster than mine). So yes, I’d had these Daily Show tickets for a while and finally the day had come when we could use them.
In the frigid conditions between the office buildings, when the wind chill was truly terrible, J-Train valiantly trudged along with me, never once complaining that he was cold. I could tell of course, but he would never admit it. But like all new visitors to NY, it takes a day or two to work out how you’re supposed to dress. Just cause it’s sunny, doesn’t mean it’s warm. In fact, the clearest winter days are usually the coldest – there’s no clouds to trap whatever warm air might be around. So yes, the cold weather came in fiercely the further west we walked, and the nearer to the Hudson River that we got.
When we lined up, we met my friend C-Hun, who wrapped the first series of his web-based show “Fat Guy” late in 2011. Season 2 is in the works, and will no doubt be great.
We waited in line, got our ticket numbers, and were then instructed to come back about 90 minutes later to line up AGAIN (in our ticket order), so we could go into the studio.
To kill time we wandered over to VNYL in Hell's Kitchen, which C-Hun couldn’t believe I’d never been to, and when we got inside I could see why. Click on the link back there and you'll see what I mean. It's got "me" written all over it. Mosaic tiled tables (some of them mirrored), fabulous steel-topped bar with funky cocktails, gorgeous vinyl records incorporated into the décor, and (perhaps best of all) BARBIE action figures of recording stars. A Dolly Parton action figure, anyone? Uh, yes please! It was so fun. And when you’re in a fabulous place like that, what better to enjoy that a delicious cocktail and an Elvis tribute sandwich – gooey and melty peanut butter, tempura bananas, and Billionaire Bacon. OH LORD. I don’t even know why they call it Billionaire Bacon – and who cares, really. It's bacon, and it's amazing. The whole sandwich was so delicious, but I’m pretty sure it held my heart in a vice-like grip for a while afterwards.
Back at the studio we filed in for the taping and before long, Jon Stewart came out to chat with the audience (a little over 200 of us I think). He could have stood up there and read the phone book and I would have been transfixed, so I’m afraid I can’t really give you an objective review of his show. Special guest was a New York Times columnist and author, and they talked about Mitt Romney being a lunatic and how private equity firms work to rip us all off. It was quite riveting and I was in serious danger of actually learning something. So I chose to stare at Jon Stewart instead. The man’s brain is incredible. Sigh. Don't judge - everyone has their thing.
Anyway around 7.30pm or so, the taping ended and we wandered in the direction of the train home, stopping first at a phone store to buy J-Train a top-up card. The junior sales “man” (and I use that term loosely) asked me if J-Train was my son. Um, now between you and me I am only 13 years older than J-Train. Okay so I guess biologically I could be his mother but more to the point - who the hell asks someone that? A customer, no less!? I nearly died. I couldn’t look at the guy - lest I grab his face and smash it. C-Hun wanted to wait outside, while J-Train just wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. But we did none of those things. I simply ignored the guy (he was dead to me anyway), walked up to the female sales associate (who was wearing a giant grin at this point), and I quietly paid for J-Train’s phone card, and we left.
We found beer pretty quickly after that though. It was good.
Parting ways with C-Hun, I hailed a cab so J-Train and I could have dinner at Baby Bo’s Cantina, around the corner from my apartment. Despite all the junk we’d eaten and drunk that day, somehow we found room for baby burritos. Because really, isn’t there always room for baby burritos?