Monday, January 31, 2005

Big Day in the Big Apple


After a rough and tumble week of packing and moving, I finally got my sorry carcass on Air Canada Flight 548 to JFK on Thursday and vegged all the way to New York...

... literally: on a lark, I ordered a vegetarian meal so I could get served before the rest of coach class and go to sleep. (They always serve the special meals first. That's also why I always take the window -- so I'm undisturbed. If you take the aisle or middle seat, you've always got people reaching over you or trying to shimmy past.)

It was the quickest Vancouver-New York flight I can remember. I was asleep at take-off, half-asleep through the three rounds of drink requests, just awake enough to feed myself the aforementioned veggie meal, and nodded off watching Being Julia (Annette Bening vehicle). Next thing I knew, we were in descent. Those five hours just disappeared into thin, high-altitude air!

I haven't written in here for a week, so I'll have to work my way backwards. I've uploaded some photos to Flickr of Friday in New York. David and I stayed at the Wolcott Hotel, which came highly recommended (our only post-stay endorsement is the lobby). On Friday we checked out as late as we possibly could so I could have a proper sleep, something I'd been missing for days. My plan was to visit the newly-renovated MoMa, but the Empire State Building was only a couple of blocks away, and the gorgeously sunny day beckoned us upwards.

David and the urban vultures
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

What time is it?
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.

Good timing! -- virtually no queues. Last time I'd gone up, the wait was interminable. This time, the visibility was as far as the eye could see, and when we stepped out the door on the 86th floor observation deck, I was surprised at how warm it was. I thought it would've been windier than that, but there were pigeons sunning themselves on the ledge. Took loads of pics of the pigeons, who went rabid when I took out a brownie from my pocket... they climbed on my arm, then David's when I handed over the goodies -- I didn't want to get shat on!

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
When we'd taken enough photos of downtown Manhattan, I thought we'd head to the north side of the deck so we could take some uptown shots. Guess where the wind was coming from? No wonder everyone was hanging out on the south side of the building. My hands froze in the time it took it get the camera out, so needless to say we didn't spend nearly as much time out there.

From the Empire State Building, it was straight on to MoMA. It occurred to me when we were in the taxi that NY cab fares are quite reasonable when you compare them to other major cities, which makes sitting in traffic less costly, if not any less frustrating. Thankfully I've not yet had to depend on a New York taxi for a timely journey.

MoMA - New York
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
We arrived at MoMA in short order, less than $7 later, and discovered that we picked the ONE day it was open until 8pm. A good thing because we didn't make it there until after 3 o'clock, and we wouldn't have had enough time to see it otherwise. Even though the stipulation is full-time status, I used my SFU student card to obtain lower admission ($12 instead of $20!). I figured, how could they verify if I were full-time, anyway? Presumably there's some sort of designation on local university cards, but there isn't on the Canadian ones I've seen, although an ISIC card would take care of that. Thankfully, I didn't have to go that far. We were given the option to wait in the "cheapskate line" outside, because from 4:00-8:00 on Fridays, the museum is free. Normally, I would've been the first person to head outside to save us $32, except:

1) it was absolutely FRIGID outside
2) we were also starving (hunger + cold = cranky)
3) we wanted to maximise our time at MoMA without the bumper-car experience.

On our next visit, we thought we'd time it so we could take advantage of Friday night freebie hours; we'd be more efficient with our viewing because we would be more familiar with the exhibits. So, in this inaugural visit, we just took it easy. We headed to the bustling cafe on the 2nd floor and re-energised with Tuscan chickpea soup and paninis. (My latte was the best I've had in the East thus far.) The floor David and I were most interested in was just above -- Architecture and Design, and Photography. Our strategy was to head straight to the top, the sixth floor, and work our way down.

Some highlights on the Architecture and Design floor:

- chandelier made out of dinnerware
- acrylic (?) chair with flowers embedded in the seat (not very comfortable-looking, but beautiful)
- Art Nouveau, the style in which David designed our rings, and we're hoping to incorporate in decorative features for the wedding

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
I fought vertigo to take some photos of the vertical space in the middle of the museum. The railing consisted of only thin sheets of glass, which appeared even flimsier as David wiggled them with just his fingers and minimum pressure. I couldn't imagine the railing holding back anyone leaning heavily against it, and the thought of glass breaking and falling to the floors below sent me scurrying away.

I can't compare the newly-renovated MoMA to its location in Queens, since Queens was only ever a temporary space, and this one is permanent. The new space reminded me of the great white expanse of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, with its gleaming angularity broken by people in motion.

David and I stayed until MoMA closed at 8pm, visiting the store downstairs and MoMA's design store directly across the street. I bought some things for Eliza to thank her for helping me move, and David bought a Flex Vase I'd been eyeing and a chrome tangle.

MoMa photos on Flickr

Funnily enough, after I posted my MoMA photos to Flickr, it was brought to my attention that another Flickr member posted almost exactly the same shot, taken about half an hour before mine!

We'd left the car at an underground carpark around the corner from Hotel Wolcott for only $20 for 24 hours, so I suggested we have dinner nearby and pick the car up afterwards. I think most of the cab ride between MoMA and the parking garage was me holding onto the door and David holding onto me as the taxi driver's foot stomped to the floor. As we jostled around in the back, Mr. Cab Driver told us with bursting pride that he had two brothers in Philadelphia -- one a medical doctor and the other a dentist. We could only grunt agreeably, getting knocked about like pinballs. At least we got to our destination quickly.

Lucky for us, the block along 32nd street where we parked the car was also full of Korean and Japanese restaurants, so it was a matter of picking one. All of them were busy, and some were Zagat-rated, so I just picked the one that was rated and didn't have a queue out the door. The one where we ended up was mostly Korean with some Japanese fare, called Dae Dong. I was so distracted by the Engrish on the menu that I couldn't make up my mind what to order. Not to mention that Korean is probably the Asian cuisine I'm the least familiar with.

Some notable Engrishisms (I had to write them down):

- egg york
- withered peper
- rice in bowel
- grinded beef

There were more, but I felt compelled to take a red pen and circle these on my menu. But I was more compelled to eat, once the food arrived. And arrive it did! Lots of it! Within minutes our table was filled with small bowls of delights -- kimchi, slices of fresh apples and cucumber, thick rolls of pasta in a slightly sweet tomato sauce... it was delish. I was wondering if we'd even have room for the main attractions -- David's beef and my tofu and pork tenderloin in a hotpot. We were in eating heaven, and the bill was amazingly small, especially for Manhattan.

Sated, we picked up the car and drove around the corner for our luggage, which we'd stowed for all of 50 cents in lockers at the Wolcott. I had two enormous suitcases, ones I'd borrowed from David and Eliza (I never usually travel with anything more than carry-on bags), and we'd stuffed my notebook, briefcase, and two of David's bags in those lockers as well! So, all in all, a very economical day.

I'd been missing my PowerBook, so I flipped it open in traffic to see if I could steal bandwidth and check my e-mail. I had a long list of wireless networks, most of which were password-protected, but with some perseverance I managed to find one that wasn't secured and downloaded e-mail messages. Gotta love Wi-Fi. But alas, soon we were in the Lincoln Tunnel, and then I switched over to iTunes. I'm finally reaping the rewards of ripping my entire music collection to the PowerBook.

It wasn't long before I fell asleep -- once I write about what kind of week I've had, you'll understand why.

For a different perspective of the day, plus David's photos, read his journal entry on Multiply: