Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fun in New York

S and I enjoyed this past weekend in NYC, dodging buses, cabs, rickshaws, tornadoes, and sheets of rain, celebrating her birthday, and where I once again, orchestrated the satisfaction of her every whim and pleasure.

We drove in Saturday morning and luckily for us were able to check in early at the W Hotel - Times Square. Now there are a number of W Hotels in NYC, but all the others seemed too far a walk from the Theater district, so I picked this one for it's proximity. Upon pushing through the revolving doors one enters a serene vestibule with water flowing, gurgling, burbling, and streaming above the ceiling and along the walls (behind glass)--a 180 degree swerve away from Times Square--transporting you into a world in which time shimmers to a halt and pleasure is eternal. Inside the vestibule, fresh, fragrant flowers soften the room's modernity and directly in front of you are three elevators which bring you to the Living Room on the 7th floor. Stepping out of the elevator and to the left is the concierge and reservations desk and directly in front and to the right is the living room. A living room is how it's set up with a straight bar along the far wall and unique circular beige leather sectional sofas arranged before it for socializing. Unique seating squares also dot the space each overhung by a square lighting tube roughly three feet on a side, hanging down from the ceiling, almost to the seats, and with a warm glow emanating from the glass. Directly below the square tubes, soft scented candles flickered as if to say: Hey. This is the Living Room. Come on in, have a drink, relax, and let's get to know each other! (The lighting theme is carried into the elevators as well tracing their ceilings.) We quickly checked in and dropped our stuff and headed back out.

We skipped back to the theater on 45th st., passing Mr. Cruise's worst nightmare along the way, waited on queue, went inside, pitted at the restrooms and finally settled into our seats for a performance of Avenue Q. An adults-only, not-quite-officially-sanctioned take on Sesame St. with real actors singing, talking and working the puppets, all at the same time! Some of the puppets were even worked by two of the performers. Oh. These are not puppets in the normal sense with strings worked from above, but more like ventriloquist dummies held at chest height. There were characters that seemed to be analogous to characters on Sesame, Bert and Ernie come to mind, as well as two new charcters, the Bad Idea Bears, who's idea of a bad idea is a six-pack, no make that a case of beer! At various points during the performance, two large flat-screens to the left and right of the stage were used as segue-ways showing cute graphics and such. I'm here to tell you that the dialog and lyrics are extremely clever and punny, the themes are contemporary: like love, commitment, and Internet porn, the music is, ah, so-so. The singing is top-notch, and the puppeteering is excellent. But being one who needs to have good music accompany a Broadway show, I wasn't that thrilled by it all. S enjoyed it though, for its cleverness and unique way of storytelling, so whim one was achieved. Check!

Our plan for after the show was to find someplace to eat dinner. Seeing how I have told S stories about Turkey (the country) for the longest time--and had always wanted to introduce her to Turkish cuisine, I decided to lead her by the nos...I mean hand, as we walked over to the East side of mid-town for dinner.

We awoke on Sunday, as is want to happen, to a totally different world weather-wise--instead of mid-60s and partly sunny, we awoke to overcast and blustery conditions with temperatures in the mid-40s, so coffee and tea tasted really good when we went out to Times Square. Directly in front of the hotel was a new Tckts kiosk located in the northern end of the square with a bleacher-like, pentahedron structure above it. Now bleachers is way too mundane a description for this structure, and bleachers they function as, but with wider seating area and shallower steps up. Perhaps 1000 people could seat themselves or stand on them. We walked over and went up the steps to the top where we met a Times Square Safety Officer Will. When asked he told us the whole story of the structure and the improvements to the square. These bleachers are made of a tempered red crystal from Germany that even if wet or icy can still be walked upon safely. The edges of the crystal are set in stainless steel channels. At night, the structure is lighted from below and emits a surreal glow. The view looking downtown from the structure is one that I've not had before as the elevation gives perspective to the whole space. In front of the structure, still in the center of the square, is a pedestrian area with low cafe tables and chairs--perhaps 100. So what was once a standing-only area, is now one where you can linger and enjoy the sites, day or night.

We checked out of the hotel and drove off down 9th avenue in search of a place called Lombardi's, claiming to be the oldest pizzeria in the U.S. We found it easily on Spring Street between Mott and Mulberry, but finding a parking spot was more difficult. After about 1/2 hour of trolling we found a spot a full 12 inches wider than our car, and I was able to slip that baby in like a jockey slips his horse along the rail. Thin crust: perfectly toasted and superb; fresh Mozzarella: flavorful, soft, and puddling on top; sauce: real fresh tomato taste, not from a can or overly salty or spiced. With the pizza we selected that wonderful drink, Sangria, home-made, just like the pizza. It arrived with an 1/8 of an orange hung on the lip of the glass and it was the perfect compliment to the pizza.

After lunch we thought we'd try to find the Cloisters as neither of us had ever been there. I knew that the FDR (alternately referred to as the East River Drive which turns into the Harlem River Drive farther north) would take us in the general direction, and sure enough we were able to follow signs onto and off-of 95 right to the museum. My only memories of the Cloisters was from the Clint Eastwood movie Coogan's Bluff that had some scenes filmed there. Being on an elevated portion of Manhattan, just above the river and within view of the George Washington Bridge to the southwest, the wind was howling like a banshee when we arrived and we quickly made our way from the west side to the main entrance. In a nut-shell the Cloister is a castle or abbey-like complex with multiple inner gardens surrounded by roofed corridors on all four sides (a cloister) and inside displaying artwork with a focus on the Medieval period of around 1000 to 1500 A.D. There are many fine examples of stained glass, religious artifacts like chalice cups (aka Pimp Chalices), reliquaries, and the such, tapestries, sculpture, furniture, and architectural elements of the period. We spent a good two hours there simply enjoying the quiet aspects of the place and were able to spend quality time in all the areas in that amount of time.

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