Blowhard, Esq. writes:
I recently returned from a 10-day vacation to New York City. Here are some pics and observations from my trip. WARNING: I’ve lived in (suburban) Los Angeles my entire life and spent all of 18-20 days total in NYC on various vacations, so take my ramblings under advisement.
1. For me the quintessential New York activities are riding the subway and walking the streets. You feel integrated into the city. The buildings tower above, you’re surrounded by people, the smells (exhaust, food carts, garbage), and the sounds (sirens, honking cars, conversation all around). You’re part of the flow, the electricity. (What’s the L.A. equivalent? Probably driving down the freeway with the radio on.) Once you enter a building – no matter how wonderful its contents might be (art, food, etc.) – you remove yourself from the environment.
2. Parks are an exception. They’re halfway between interior and exterior, private and public. Bryant Park might be my favorite place in the city. The NYPL forms the eastern boundary, there’s a wonderful canopy of trees on the south side, and a grand skyscraper skyline on the north. I love the hundreds of green chairs scattered about.
3. 99% of the people on the subway are well behaved. You’re crammed in so tight that people attempt to create a sense of personal space – they read, listen to music, zone out, sleep. On one subway ride, I encountered a spectacle of craziness: 1) two Mexicans in cowboy hats and boots playing acoustic guitars and harmonizing quite nicely, 2) a bunch of teenage kids and girls flirting with them, 3) a homeless man with a practiced speech about his hard luck, 4) a crazy black dude ranting to himself, and 5) a woman blasting music. It was more amusing than annoying.
4. I was surprised and the number and variety of people I saw reading The New Yorker on the subway. While it’s a snooty lit mag to those outside the city, for those that live there it’s treated more like a local newspaper or weekly guide to goings on.
5. The NYPL is one of my favorite places ever. The Strand makes every other bookstore I’ve ever been to look pathetic; L.A.’s The Last Bookstore is a like an airport kiosk compared to it. (Never been to Powell’s but it strikes me as The Strand’s only serious rival.)
6. Overheard one morning, one on subway the other at the NYPL:
“Oh, do we have a problem? You got a problem? Well, I’m going to exert my blackness. I’m exerting my blackness today.”
“How do we organize a world federation to stop the next world war?”
7. Everyone – man, woman, young, old – walks around with some kind of bag. Shoulder bag, backpack, shopping bag, duffel bag, something. On the rare occasions I saw someone without a bag, it was a white dude.
8. Speaking of, I saw a number of square white dudes who looked totally out of place. Could’ve been tourists of course, but for all I know they are life-long residents.
10. If nothing else, The Met is worth a visit for the view from the rooftop. Trust me that this picture doesn’t do it justice.
12. I saw about three dudes (spotted near MoMA and the Garment District) whose outfits I wanted to steal: colorful shirts, tailored jackets, skinny jeans, brown leather shoes, expensive haircuts, and glasses. Don’t think I could pull it off, but apparently I want to dress like a gay graphic designer.
13. L.A.’s food is on par with NY’s. Pound for pound, at least when it comes to fine dining, Vegas beats both. I paid $6.95 for a side of coleslaw at a deli. There are so many great places to eat and drink, but man, you are going to pay. I don’t think I paid less than $14 for a cocktail. Stay tuned for a more detailed food post.
14. The food in Chinatown is fresh! These depressed frogs clearly knew they were on the way to becoming dinner. I asked Paleo Retiree, “Do they slaughter them for you?” “I’ll let you find out,” he said.
15. I’m no expert, but the 3 or 4 different lattes I had didn’t match the one at my local place here in Orange County.
16. It felt like there was a Chipotle everywhere. There’s clearly a big demand for inexpensive, good Mexican food. But I need to offer a class at the Learning Annex where I teach New Yorkers the difference between tacos, taquitos, and flautas.
17. The most shocking thing I saw during my trip was almost $3 for a can of Campbell’s soup on the Upper West Side. Holy cow, that’s twice the regular price here and almost triple if they’re on sale. And who the hell is buying Campbell’s on the UWS anyway? Do they make it available so people can buy it for the help?
19. I’ve heard people describe NYC as an Art Deco city, but it looks more like a Beaux-Arts one to me with Art Deco and Modernist flourishes. Sometimes a bit too much of the latter, unfortunately. (I’m of course talking about Manhattan. I haven’t been to the Bronx or Queens, the only part of Staten Island I saw was the ferry terminal, and my time in Brooklyn was very limited.)
20. I really liked walking the Brooklyn Bridge but it would’ve been more enjoyable without the cyclists zipping by who DGAF.
21. This is the facade of the US’s permanent mission to the UN. I took a bunch of pictures of the exterior and for some reason a black windowless van came out of nowhere and followed me for the next few blocks. I like to imagine that when I was within a block of the building some NSA flunky was yelling, “Zoom! Enhance!” on my picture while pulling up my Facebook profile, bank account, and elementary school permanent record.
22. I can’t think of a good reason why I don’t own either a Brooklyn brownstone or Greenwich Village apartment. A Park Ave. penthouse wouldn’t go unappreciated either.
23. Keep SoHo weird! Or at least very expensive!
24. New Yorkers don’t like unnecessary noise. They’re a quiet, reserved lot, like Quakers. The sort of people who like string trios in the subway.