Thursday, August 14, 2008

New York I Love You, But...

The last time I made a visit to the other five boroughs was nearly five years ago (a trip that consisted of -- no joke -- taking the train into NYC, seeing a movie, and then taking the train back home). So last Saturday, at the tail end of a vacation that involved practically no travel, I took a little daytrip up to Manhattan. How did I like it? Well, I'm glad you asked:
  • I started out the day in Fort Tryon Park in Inwood, taking pictures of the heavily wooded paths and the Cloisters. As I was doing this, my camera died and has yet to be resurrected. Goodnight, sweet FinePix A340; I never really liked you that much, and now I have an excuse to replace you.
  • I guess I'm used to Philadelphia's cute l'il H0-scale subway system, but it takes forever to get anywhere on the train in New York. You're only making one stop every 10 blocks or so, and it's still a good hour from the northern to southern tip of Manhattan.
  • Every time I found myself near a group of French-speaking tourists, I had the sudden urge to shout, "Ya'll ain't from 'round here, are ya?" in an obnoxious Southern accent.
  • I checked out David Byrne's Playing the Building installation at the Battery Maritime Building, and it was pretty neat. It's basically an old organ connected to a bunch of motors, pipes, and percussive devices all around the walls of a cavernous room (all of the wires branching out from the organ make it look a bit like a giant spider has taken up residence there). It sounds like some avant-garde film soundtrack, with strange, dissonant noises emanating from all around you. The people lining up for their turn at the organ seemed to be mostly hitting random keys; I'd love to see if someone could spend enough time there to compose a piece.
  • After leaving that exhibit, I started walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge to take a look at the waterfalls that are currently going on there. I got close enough to vaguely see what the deal was and be unimpressed, so I figured I'd cut my losses and move on.
  • On the second leg of my subway journey, I apparently looked like enough of a local to start giving people directions. (OK, I just told them what station we were arriving at, a piece of information that they could have deduced by looking out the train window.)
  • The Strand is intimidatingly huge. Despite this, they didn't seem to have most of the books I was looking for.
  • Overheard in the Strand - Trendy Guy #1: "Hey, have you ever read Fight Club?" Trendy Guy #2: "Is that, like, based on the movie?" Trendy Guy #1: "Yeah." (Pretty lame, I know. That's why it's here and not there.)
  • Another reason Philadelphia is better than New York: the street layout makes more sense. In Philly, the street numbers get lower as you go east, and when you hit 1st street (OK, Front Street) the only place left to go is the Delaware River. In New York, the street numbers get lower as you go south, and after you hit 1st Street . . . there's still a couple of miles worth of island. Plus, the streets don't line up with the street numbers. If you're looking for the 800 block of Broadway, don't assume it's anywhere near the corner of 8th and Broadway.
  • I wanted to check out Other Music, because it routinely gets listed as among the best records stores in the country. Until I got there, I didn't know how tiny it was. It was a bit disappointing; I guess I'm one of those philistines who values quantity over quality. While trying to find the place, though, I stumbled across a spot called Generation Records; it's about the same size as Other Music, but with a huge basement stocked with vinyl and used CDs. Knowing what I know now, I should have stayed put and done my browsing there.
  • The saddest sight in the world = an attractive woman on the subway reading an Ann Coulter book.
  • Man, they're not kidding when they say that you can get anything in New York; I had a mescaline salad for dinner! I spent the rest of the night waiting for the mystical hallucinations to kick in. In retrospect, whoever wrote the menu probably meant this.

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