Friday, September 9, 2011

9-9-11 NYC

Courtney will be here in less than a week!

Since I had such fun re-looking at our NYC pictures, I thought I'd share.

Picture #1: Our Hilton Hotel room

This is about half of the room (and some very out of focus people). We were amazed. I think we were both expecting a tiny room where we'd be tripping over one another for three days. This was taken at the end of the whole day of travelling from Houston to NYC, a cab ride in rush hour traffic, a problem getting checked-in at the front desk, and running on almost no food. After we set the timer up to snap this single picture I packed the camera away and we hit the streets of New York in the dark (and cold, it was in the 40°s) to make our way from the Hilton on the Avenue of the Americas to 915 Third Ave and  PJ Clarke's. I am still kicking myself for not lugging my camera along. Six city blocks doesn't sound like much, but it was a pretty good walk. It was during this trip that I got over looking like a tourist. I AM TOURING, dangit, and I don't know when I will pass this way again. After this trip, I decided I am taking my pictures whenever I darn well please and everyone else can snicker and roll their eyes if they like. I think it was this evening in particular that did it. As soon as we were about a block away, I regretted leaving the camera behind. And PJ's would have been such fun to photograph. Built in 1884 with a fantastic bar, the old phone booth, the complete lack of space -- I can just imagine how many aloof and irritated New Yorkers I could have photographed while we waited, pancaked against the wall, for a table. The tables are about 6 inches apart, just enough to get your butt (at least my butt, significantly larger at the time) in between and into the booth seat without bumping the people's food next to you. The burgers were fantastic, and the pint of Guinness didn't hurt on a cold, dark night, either. It definitely felt like a shorter walk back.

The next morning we were free to roam since the conference didn't get going until late in the day. 

We walked up to Times Square to see what Broadway shows might be selling discounted tickets that day. I remember looking up Wicked seats months and months before and deciding not to get them because so much could happen to the trip between then and now. And today? Nothing we really wanted to see. So we wandered.

Broadway and Times Square, and Cjo's really long, beautiful hair blowing in the morning air.

The streets are always under construction, always clogged, always bustling. There's an energy about this place that seems to seep into everything around it. Truck 54 was proudly sporting the Irish flag and, since Cjo is originally an O'Banion, we had to have a picture.

And right behind was one of NYC's finest on horseback.

By lunch we were near the Roxy deli. First rule of thumb -- never, ever expect anything but astronomical prices if you're in Times Square. They do seem to try to make up for the $20 price of a sandwich by giving you a sandwich big enough for King Kong.

Seriously, if you are looking for the over-the-top NY Deli experience, you can find it here. Caricatures all over the wall, black and white checkered floors, the tiny long hallway of a seating area, it's got it all.

We could have split one entree ($3 sharing charge!) but hey, we skipped breakfast and we were on a per diem, so bring on the gargantuan plates!

The line you see up front is for the pastry/dessert take-out. Those customers don't get to sit. In fact, according to a few reviews, if they try, they get yelled at. Ah, New York.

So for dessert we split a piece of chocolate cheesecake (yes, $3 sharing applies here, too) with coffee. Good cheesecake, which is sort of a requirement if you are doing the tourist thing in New York.

Here's a picture of us on the way out at the Pastry counter. I've read the black and white cookie, ala Seinfeld, is the best bet. Maybe next time. 

After lunch we arrived at MoMA. This is where Courtney and I parted ways. I have to say, watching the guys clear away the snow in the closed courtyard and taking in the structure of the city from this angle, so close-packed and square against a building housing art that kind of fights against all of that, was mesmerizing. Plus, you can use the courtyard as a sun dial.

I took tons of pictures, of course. My favorites:

The close up of the sky in Starry Night.

The sheer size of Monet's Water Lilies, which isn't fully captured here. This mural is almost 42 feet long.

One of the rooms housing Picasso's works had so many cubes itself, it made me back up and try to imagine him painting a picture of this picture.

After all that, the Disney Store on Fifth Avenue was a trip, at least to me. I think Courtney was humoring me. I do love how the reflection of the street came out here, though.


Then.  . . . oh, yeah, conference stuff. I don't regret not taking any pictures of that part. Work? Phhhbt.

I think we ordered Chinese take-out for our room that night as we worked on finalizing the presentation we were delivering on Friday morning (this was Wednesday night). Hey, we've got 36 hours, no sweat.

We got up early Thursday morning and hit up breakfast at a little place on the way to Central Park. It was cold and cloudy and Sixth Avenue Cafe was packed. I took no pictures here either. I can't remember why. Courtney was not feeling well and we had a full day of conference stuff ahead of us. We spent a few minutes after breakfast wandering around the pond in Central Park before getting back to the hotel for the rest of the day's meetings, etc.

Hansom cab horses lined the street waiting for passengers. The snow was still hanging around in clumps, getting dirtier by the minute.

The ducks took flight right as this group of students on their way to school passed. They were the only other people we saw that early in the morning.

Although there seemed to be a good crowd for an early Thursday morning skating.

A pair of swans and signs of life in the red buds on the bear branches:

So back to the hotel we went after a half hour of wandering just the edge of Central Park and back to work: attended select sessions with very academic sounding titles, thought about how much work we had left to do on our own presentation, considered staying in to do work on it for about one nanosecond and then headed out for the publisher's party at Tavern on the Green in Central Park that evening.

The publisher had a bus to transport conference attendees to the Tavern from the hotel, but where was the fun in that? We hoofed it down Central Park west and took in the late day light. At the USS Maine monument at Columbus Circle:

The ironic part is, as I was taking this picture of Courtney under the Tavern on the Green sign, we see the bus that was departing from the hotel pulling in. Yes, NY traffic is really that slow.

The party was held in the famous Crystal Room of the Tavern, overlooking the private garden section of Central Park where the equally famous topiaries were housed, including some from Edward Scissorhands.

I was having too much fun taking pictures of the lights in the trees against the sky to schmooze properly. But the open buffet featured prime rib and shrimp. The publisher was pulling out all the stops and the place was packed out with academics, cheek to cheek. Did I mention the open bar?  And academics don't hold their liquor terribly well. So outside I stayed most of the time. Lucky me.

Courtney and I still laugh at this photo. Her smarmy look is on purpose. At this point, post-divorce, pretty much fed-up with the male half of the human race, Cjo wasn't having any of the romantic swans-mating-for-life thing.

Here's an idea of how crowded it was getting, even in the garden, if you can make out all the little heads at the base of the picture:

And while this shot was for the crystal in the Crystal room, check out the number of heads at the bottom here, too. Good luck moving through any of the rooms.

So we decided we'd made enough of an appearance (and enjoyed enough free food and drinks) and. . .  we still had that presentation hanging over our heads. A few pictures on the way out:

And the best part was walking home through Central Park in the dark. We joked Cjo should phone her mom and tell her what we were doing. She didn't. (Chicken).

Back at the hotel we kept plugging away at the presentation, the powerpoint, the video clips, meshing everything together. We got a little sleep and got up the next morning to print out the final version only to discover the business center printers weren't WORKING. Frantic phone calls to every place anywhere close to the hotel and NO ONE could help us print the damn thing from our flash drive in time. REALLY?!?

A kind conference organizer came to our rescue and, using her little one page at a time hand-held printer (which ran out of ink half way through and we had to figure out how to change it out) I got our 20 page final paper printed in her hotel room. I hightailed it down to the allotted presentation room to find Courtney standing there at the door looking shell-shocked. There is no computer projector. We set up the computer projector order months ago, with the clear explanation that our presentation was entirely predicated on visual literacy (VISUAL). And . . . they'd wheeled a cart with an old-style overhead projector. You know, the ones with the little clear overhead pieces of plastic that your geometry teacher used two decades ago to illustrate proofs? One of those. Not helpful.

Since our visual literacy project was centered around race, we had a number of participants come up and ask if they were in the right room. Everyone was expecting women of color, apparently. But in the end, we made do with what we had, we had a great time, and we had fantastic participation.  I'd guess at least 75% of our attendees were not white and very interested in these two white ladies from a small predominantly white college in Texas and their semester long class based on racial issues. 

By that afternoon we'd had quite enough of conference stuff and headed back out to take in the city again. This time we figured out the subway system well enough to get ourselves over to 86th and find our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as walking in the cold rain to the north part of Central Park (35 blocks from the hotel) was out of the question. 

Since we overshot the museum by a couple of blocks, we still had our wandering in the rain moment.

And we both got a kick out of poncho dude posing in the steps picture:

It was late afternoon and other than the banana we'd scarfed in between pre-presentation panics, we'd not had a bite to eat. So as soon as we were inside, we located the little deli upstairs.

I love this picture. We don't do museums the same, so we were about to split up, and I'd walked my trash over with my camera on my shoulder. I couldn't resist that look, a combination of exhaustion, relief, and impatience, that Cjo has on her face.

I spent most of my time in the Egypt exhibit, but I did pop around upstairs in the Eastern wing.

And up in the music section, looking down on the armor room.

And with the Van Gogh.

On the Roman end of things:

But yeah, it was the Egyptians that really captured me.

After we met back up, we got back on the subway and found ourselves in Grand Central right at Friday rush hour.

We holed up at a table downstairs in the terminal and talked for a long time before we needed to catch the next train, at one last publisher's party near Times Square. We happened on some musicians at our stop.

And then, we danced the night away at Havana Central (with another open bar). This answers the question of why textbooks cost a fortune, doesn't it?

While Courtney is entertained by the youngest guest in the crowd, I snap a picture of the mojito in her hand. That's sugar cane garnish, totally and yummily edible. Have never had a mojito come close to that one.

On the way out, I get Courtney to post with the bodyguard who was keeping everyone without an invitation from getting in to the closed party. Courtney discovers the bullet-proof vest at this point. Hmm. I didn't realize publisher parties were such hot tickets.

It was near midnight as we blearily walked ourselves from Times Square back to the hotel and fell into bed. 

The morning of our departure, we had to get one more taste of the city, so we set out back towards Fifth Avenue. 

Right across the street from the Hilton:

Back at Fifth Ave. and the Disney Store

At Tiffany's

At St. Patrick's

At Rockefeller Center

At the NBC building

And Radio City

After our last walking tour, we stopped in at Astro's for breakfast before catching a cab back to the airport. It was a whirlwind three days, but I can't think of anyone I'd rather have shared that with than my Cjo.

Who else loves creamer in their coffee as much as I do?

We are at very different places in our lives now. I think if you'd dropped in on us here in this NYC diner that morning and told us where we'd find ourselves four years later, we'd have laughed you out of the place. Ah, the whirlygig of time brings in his revenges, most definitely, but what lovely surprises await us all.


  1. We love the pictures from Havana Central! We can't wait for you to visit us again!!

    Warm Regards,

    Havana Central Restaurants

  2. I can't believe your memory! And your description of that look is pretty right on. I'm so transparent! I can't wait to see you. I remember that trip with you was truly a life-changing event. We'll always have NYC, Tori Jo!