Monday, 25 July 2011

A Fun Day in the City

Luis and I determined that we really want to see Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana. So even though I was up and got very little sleep last night, we were up and out of the house by 1000 heading to Hoboken to part in one of the many Park & Ride buildings that festoon the lower road (two below and parallel to Washington Avenue) to take the Path train.

To give you an idea how long it has been since I've been in NYC, I had no idea that the cost of the Path train has gone up to $1.75 for a one-way ticket. I still thought it was $1.50 - duh! But the Path trains run the same as always - every fifteen minutes on the quarter-hour mark. The trains are kept quite well and there's a telly screen with no sound that is clear made for this - it had local news, weather seven-day forecasts and little tidbits that are printed and scrambled words and such. It was not at all crowded going in (I was confident that few people had any great desire to be traipsing about the hotter-than-hot confines of New York on a day where the temperature was expected to 100°F and be broiled alive. Luis was sure that it was just too early for people to be heading in. I love that man. How long has he lived in New Jersey, but has all these bizarre misconceptions about the human race...?

When we got off the Path train on 33rd, it was akin to walking into a blast furnace. Working on coke in the mines of Pennsylvania or Manchester (England) would have been cooler. That was around 1140... not promising.

Rather than walk and potentially miss out on the tickets at TKTS, we grabbed a cab and arrived there safe and sound (which is saying something in a New York city cab, as they train in how-to-terrorise-your-passenger-in-just-five-minutes driving. This man drove very reasonably and did not try to drag the trip on for more money. So I paid the $4.15 toll plus a three dollar tip. He was so nice!

We got to TKTS right away and stood on line for all of 30 seconds. We went to the window and asked about the cost of good tickets to see Zarkana - normally $150 per person, there were two tickets for Aisle F in the center of theatre for the bargain basement price of $74 per person. We did not even debate it! That was far too good a deal not to take. We grabbed them and I stored them in my bag.

I was starving and I know Luis was hungry, so we wandered over three blocks to the restaurant district and looked at the various menus posted. We mulled over Italian, German, French, Brazilian and various other food types and different countries' offerings and settled on Spanish food at a place called Tratas (I think that was the name). It had all kinds of yummy things on the menu, and one jumped out at me - too good to pass up.

When you go to restaurants in New York, there are two key things: the store front, the valuable real estate, is the tiniest part of the eatery, and the actual eating area is a little wider, but very long and narrow in general. The other thing I noticed is that it would fail the marble test immediately. (The marble test is something experienced house-hunters like me use to see how even a floor is. If the marble, upon hitting the floor, immediately begins rolling away, the floor has a grade to it - something you most certainly do NOT want. If it doesn't then the structural integrity of the floor is at least sound. Or it hasn't settled.) But the restaurant is charming with lovely decor and excellent service. I suspect few properties could pass the marble test, anyway. In NYC you takes what you can gets!

So I ordered the insulata (salad in Spanish) which was mixed field greens with a nice tangy orange dressing; then shrimp in garlic sauce - yum! Luis ordered all appetizers: ham, called jarmon which put me more in mind of prosciutto - dark and marbled with fat; fried potatoes that looked a lot like large flat potato chips and stuffed Portobello mushrooms. The ham was delicious as well it should be - I've never seen such an expensive appetizer! But it was very, very good. We really enjoyed our meals and had a great time just chatting and eating. I had a cup of tea for dessert and told Luis I wanted to find an ice cream shoppe to have dessert - the only items the restaurant offered was flan, vanilla ice cream and rice pudding - none of which I care for. I'm sure that they wouldn't have rainbow jimmies for the ice cream as well.

We left there around 1315 and headed back to the Avenues of the Americas to find the Rockefeller Center to see Zarkana. We got there right on time. We overshot the theatre from poor directions someone gave us and had to backtrack a couple of blocks. We got in and stopped for a bottle of water each and headed to our seats.

An interesting thing about the temperature... when we walked in from the heat sink that the outside was, it was shockingly cool - maybe 80°. It felt amazing, and who cares about the 20-plus degree difference? It was so wonderful. But by the time we were creeping up on the intermission, the heat in the theatre was enough that my eyes were slamming shut. It was an incredible show and I hate admitting that, but it had nothing to do with the show, it was just too hot in there and heat puts me to sleep.

During the intermission Luis went to get more cold water and I fiddled around with the booklet, then took a couple of images of the theatre. When Luis returned he had four bottles of water, but what a huge difference they made! At first I wondered why he'd gotten so much water, but then after I'd put my drink mixes in, I stuck one down my shirt and kept the other in my lap and whew! it cooled me right down. (Betsy and I did that at the last concert, on Thursday night. We took a walk around to say hi to the guys from Car 69 [the heavy rescue guys] and the police hanging out at this event and the water there really acts well as a coolant.) I stayed awake and sprightly through the second half.

You know, I know they all say no photography of any kind at these shows (they said that, too, when Greg and I saw Rammstein at the Izod Stadium) but the fact is, I see people using their cell phones and getting away with it all the time. The next time the hell with the rules - I could have gotten some really wonderful shots of this and Rammstein back in May and I didn't. But if everyone else can do, why not?

I will at some point go online and download all the music from this show - yahoo!

We got out of the show by 1600, and then I had to use the loo. Standard bulls*t: the mens line zips right along and the women's line, although it moved along faster than I'd have thought, moves at a snail's pace comparatively speaking. I was tempted to use the mens loo, but if it was mostly urinals it would not have been worth it (in any sense) so I just had to suck it up and wait. However, the bathrooms far exceeded what I thought they'd be like - immaculately clean, with automated flushing and plastic seat covers! The toilet paper was the usual let-down - super thin one ply sheets (I never understand how any place uses cheap, crappy toilet paper - it just means I have to use almost three times are much to make sure my fingers don't tear right through it. What a waste). The sinks were good, instant hot water and fully stocked with soap, but the second I let go of the handles for the water - zip! - it was off. The warm air jets, however, were a total loss - cool, weak jets of air did not do a thing to dry my hands off.

I realise I said the bathrooms exceeded what I'd been thinking they'd be like and it is true, they did. I may have noticed some negatives, but the word immaculate is the key. No one wants to sit down if the loos are dirty and smelly. Despite the number of people who made it in prior to me, it smelled fine and was very clean. The plastic covers that automatically changed when I stood up was really the most impressive thing. They clearly did not mind spending money where it really counted!

We stopped at the candy vendor and I got some Willy Wonka candy (irresistible!) and Luis bought me a Nerds pillow (it's really cute, although it was highway robbery to pay $24.00 for it). Then I got a shirt from Zarkana and we headed back out into the blast furnace of the outdoors. Fortunately the sun was no longer beating down in between the skyscrapers, so at least we did not have that to deal with and we were both quite red from the morning's walking. We stopped at a Good Humor ice cream truck and each got a cone - Luis had vanilla ice cream with peanuts and I had my chocolate ice cream with rainbow jimmies. We started heading toward the 33rd Street Path Train station and just meandered along, me taking pictures along the way. The two parks were really nice and the buildings looked really neat. I took one picture of the National Debt (which goes up about $10,000 every 30 seconds or so - yikes!) right over the sign for the company in that building - the Internal Revenue Service... heh, heh, heh...

On our back, we passed - until Luis went back - a store full of soaps, shampoos, conditioners and bath bombs. The display here looks like confections, doesn't it? Nope, not so. At least, I wouldn't recommend eating them! These are soap bars, believe or not. I love these. Luis got me a bunch when he traveled to Chicago last. I love them!

As we continued our walk, there was this interesting sight: a layout of the southern hemisphere of the earth with Antarctica as the center, and the northern hemisphere, with the Arctic as the center. And there on the walk above, where we were, was an inscribed bit:

THE EARTH-OCEAN PLANET:
The Earth-world: The Continents are almost connected: They appear as a single island within a surrounding ocean.

The Ocean-world: The oceans surround Antarctica as a single body of water and are framed by the continents.

I love that kind of stuff! Astronomy, plate tectonics, scientific information about the earth, or - as in this case - a different way of looking at the familiar Terra we know and live on. Pretty cool, huh? I enjoyed this thoroughly.
We made it back to the mall that the 33rd Street station sits under, by which time I was limping from the nice blister that was under the ball of my left foot. We walked around the mall for about ten minutes to take advantage of the air conditioning to sort of recharge the batteries before heading down to the Path train. It was just as well. While it was cooler underground, it was still too hot and the air had helped. We missed the train back by just moments and the 15-minute wait for the next one seemed long. By then my right foot was starting on its blister... but as I said to Luis, this was a small price to pay for such a wonderful trip!

I had originally wanted to stop off at Christopher Street on our way home, so I could stop in at the McNulty's Tea Shoppe and then the crystal/jewelry stores, but by then we were both whipped and so we just bailed and went straight to Hoboken. We staggered back to his vehicle and were so happy when we got in! Who knew so simple a thing could feel that good. I took my sandals off and plugged in my iPod and we headed home.

All in all, a wonderful day out!

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