Friday, October 17, 2014

New York Day 5 – In Which We Love You and Leave You, New York.


While I love travelling, I am usually ready on some level to leave when the time comes. But not this time! I was definitely NOT ready to pack up and go home and hadn’t even come close to doing all the things on my list. So I was a little cranky packing up the apartment – barking at everyone to hurry up already and whose sock is this and had they eaten breakfast. Kent calmly went about his business while I shouted out a countdown of remaining minutes until we had to be out on the street. As per usual, I was the last one in the place, banging around looking under beds etc while everyone else waited quietly on the street for me. We had to be out by 11am and at the airport by 2pm which left us two hours to kill. I had all sorts of ideas but none of them were practical while toting around huge suitcases. So I proposed a short walking tour of the neighbourhood, starting with the United Nations Plaza, which was, I discovered, only a few blocks from our place.

This statue was one of the first things we saw walking up to the complex. My first thought was Huh? followed by Wtf? and then Why?


Upon further investigation I learned that it is called Good Vs Evil and is meant to be St. George slaying a dragon. Somehow it looks more to me like a dude stabbing a long cocktail spear into a totem pole.

I also wondered if part of it had fallen over. Apparently the ‘dragon’ is made from bits of old US and Russian missiles. Mind you, this same website also told me the statue was 60 feet tall so who knows what exactly is going on. Either way, I guess I thought the UN was going to be a little more sophisticated.

But then, a little further along I encountered this sign:


“…has decided…”? Well that’s great but you don’t really need to put that part of the process on your sign. It’s kind of obvious. This, my friends, is why things take so long in large organizations. Did they really have a big meeting about this? Imagine if that were the case for all signage everywhere, like stop signs: “The Traffic Safety Department has decided that you must stop at this intersection”. Or “The architect who designed this building in 1947 decided that this should be the Women’s Washroom (sorry sorry we are in the US I forgot) Restroom.” And there’s also a resolution too. Hilarious.They put them on everything!
I think ‘No Smoking’ seems to work everywhere else just fine.

Having said all that, it was kind of neat to see all the flags, and the actual assembly building. Some pretty great stuff goes on at this place even if it could use a bit of updating…


I had been wanting to see the iconic Chrysler Building so it was handy that it was located between the UN building and Grand Central Terminal.

A classic art deco building, the shape is fabulous as are the huge gargoyles: some are eagle-like while others look like hood ornaments found on various Chrysler cars.


The Ford Foundation building was one building over – another one on my list as I was told the lobby has an amazing atrium with huge 40ft tall trees but it was, surprise surprise, closed to the public that day so I was out of luck.

Just as well as we were running out of time so we battled our way through the throngs to get to Grand Central station. I was really looking forward to going inside and being able to say ‘This place is so busy it’s like Grand Central Station in here’ but then I learned that it’s actually Grand Central Terminal which didn’t sound as good.


Anyway, when we got inside it was so spectacular that I didn’t say anything, just stared at the ceiling, tried to get a good shot that would capture the awesomeness, and failed. My apologies.


The entire ceiling was cleaned and restored 15 years ago and you can now see the original ‘astronomical’ ceiling which depicts many of the well know constellations. I have heard that many of them are actually backwards and upside down but really, who cares? It really is stunning and so beautiful.

I had also heard that the restorers left one small rectangular patch to show how horribly dirty and grimy the ceiling had become after so many decades of diesel and nicotine. I was able to find that and took this terrible picture.


You get the idea…kind of incredible really. And gross. Incredibly gross.

Like so many New York buildings, the stories and secrets they hold are fascinating. I could have wandered around for hours, people watching, having a drink (ok, a water) in the Campbell Apartment, shopping, searching for an access to the secret basement bunker etc etc but instead it was time to get our car to airport where Zoe and I were boarding flights to take us home and Kent and Jacob were heading off to St. John’s Newfoundland for a week to hang out with our dear friends Andre and Sonja.

A word here, if I may, about Newark Liberty Airport: nasty.

I recommend avoiding this place. I was OK with the whole ‘sorry we’ve changed the codeshare and now you must go to another terminal to check in’ and also with the uniformed man yelling at me to ‘go to the other escalatah at the end of the hawl THIS ONES CLOSED’ while loads of people were using it right in front of my face. I was also ok with the lack of any directional signage and the terrible smell (what WAS that anyway?). But I wasn’t really ok with the dude at security who was on facebook on his phone while a bunch of people walked past him (probably the same people from the escalator incident) and then looked up in time to stop us and demand passports, boarding passes etc.. Nor was I OK with the super rude and possibly mute woman at security who didn’t seem to think it was necessary to speak and just held out her hand like she wanted me to slip her some skin or something. After some eye-rolling on her part , I finally realized that apparently, I was also to hold out my hand while she silently wiped a piece of material all over it and then checked it for…what…I don’t know…chocolate? mustard? explosive residue? I don’t know it might be me but if you need someone to do something, we have this thing called ‘speaking’. I also didn’t care for the security experts who didn’t notice when Zoe left her metal watch on and sailed through the scanner, nor the guy who refused to go and get the stack of bins for all of us to put our change, phones, passports in etc and instead let them all slip through the cracks in the conveyor belt so that everyone had to scramble around on the floor to pick up their stuff. I kid you not, this actually happened.

A chance encounter with a classic elderly New York Jew at one of the food counters made up for some of this though:

Him: Were you here first?

Me: I don’t know…

Him: Well please go first. If there’s any chivalry left at all in the world, then please, go ahead of me.

Me: Thank you. Chivalry seems to be in short supply based on my experience here at the airport so far.

Him (with a smile): Well I don’t want to ruin your evening…

Me: Probably couldn’t get much worse so no chance of that.

Him: Things are looking up then.

Me: Enjoy your flight.

Him (With a smile) no chance of that.

I felt like I had just been in a Woody Allen movie. Awesome!

I went to find Zoe, who had been hoping for some wifi, being in an airport and all, but guess what, no free wifi at Newark.

Anyway, our flight to Montreal was leaving soon so I stopped all my whining for a few minutes to eat my salad (and I use the term loosely as I think a salad is usually made up of more than just lettuce and a single piece of cucumber) before getting on the plane.

It was only 52 minutes to Montreal, followed by a sprint through the airport to go through customs, collect our luggage and RUN to our gate with about 3 minutes to spare. The plane to Vancouver was huge and full, so I had high hopes that they would actually have some menu items from their onboard ‘café’ available as we didn’t have any time for dinner and I was a little hungry after my piece of lettuce. I don’t know why I thought this flight would be any different than all the flights before, cuz it wasn’t and I had to settle for a piece of ‘pepperoni’ pizza that was actually, I think, made out of paper (they must have read my suggestion from my first blog).

They do have a great selection of movies now on Air Canada and I laughed my way through 22 Jump Street. So funny!

By the time we landed at Vancouver, and then finally Victoria, found our car (that took a while!) and got home and into bed  we were completely zonked. But in a good way.

New York, I miss you! We’ll be back sooner rather than later.


And there’s a good chance of that!

Thanks for tuning in, everyone.








Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New York Day 4 – In Which There are Zombies, Dinosaurs, John Lennon’s Murder, and Other New York Moments.

Today was gorgeous – sunny and the perfect temperature for walking miles and miles, which was a good thing as that is what we did. We started out by heading to the discount ticket booth in Times Square but got distracted along the way by several fabulous things like this sunflower cake which I LOVED!


And also this park which was lovely. Great idea to put out all-weather ping pong tables.


I didn’t know pigeons where so thoughtful, leaving their leftovers for the rats. I can just see it.

Rat: Hey Pidgy, whatcha gawt for me today for leftovers?

Pidgy: Well I gatta piece a pizza here but I already ate the ah-lives and the cheese so it’s just the crust.

Rat: That’ll do nicely but the missus she don’t like pizza ever since that mouse tail incident last year. Ya gawt anyting else?

Pidgy: lemme check with Sal. Hey Sal! Ya  gawt anyting in the back for Rat? His missus don’t want the pizza.

Sal: I gawt a couple of hawt dawgs here but like I says yestaday, the buns a bit sawft with all this rain.

Pidgy: Sals’s gotta couple of Hawt-Dawgs. You want em?

Rat: Yeah I’ll take em. Thanks Pidgy and give my best to the little lady.

Pidgy: Yeah Thanks, Rat, and don’t fawget to take a bag of hospital waste with you to spread around. Oh and could you pull out a few more flowers for  me on your way out?

Rat: Will do, Pidgy. See ya tomorrow.

Pigeons. Can’t trust em as far as you can throw em.

Times square, I would just like to say here, is more accurately described as Times Strip, it being nothing of a square at all, and also several blocks long. In my experience, squares are square, it’s why they are called squares, but anyway what I was going to say is that I was super happy to stumble onto a promotion for The Walking Dead, which was premiering that night, complete with real live zombies (the promo, not the show. Those are actors, duh.)


This huge bleeding Zombie hand was pretty awesome, but not as awesome as the zombies:


Here I am, apparently checking out his zombie butt.


And here they come, presumably to eat my brains although they will need to be a bit quicker about it. Talk about slow. A sloth zombie would have been faster.


I also liked these guys, who were looking on and babbling away in Hebrew. Jewish men are so well dressed and have taken the whole hipster thing to another level entirely.

I then spent some time in the discount broadway ticket booth line-up before learning that evening shows don’t go on sale until after 3pm on a Sunday as there are matinees first. Great. “Go Early”, they said, “There will be lots of Tickets then” they said.
After determining that we would need to drop everything later and come back to Times Square, we set of for the rest of the day in fine spirits. Yep, everyone was super happy about that, let me tell you. Anyway, we walked it off, and made it to Dylan’s Candy Bar where it is possible to buy about 1000 types of different gummy bears, if that is something you might ever possibly want to do. As it turns out, I did, and so after parting with rather more cash than I had planned, I rolled out of there with basically a few bags of sugar. Whatever, it was fun. We grabbed some lunch and the plan was to walk to Central Park but instead we encountered the never-ending Spanish-Heritage parade which had blocked off a bunch of streets. It wasn’t what I would call the fastest-moving street parade ever, but that was ok as it afforded me some time to check out the amazing architecture of this part of Manhattan.


We soon made it to Central Park as the parade seemed to have finished, at least where we were.


I think these guys were part of the parade  but I could have been wrong. The thing is, in New York, most people look like they could be marching in some sort of parade any time or any place. In fact, you could pretty much be dressed up in a pink tutu, hockey skates, and a hat made of lettuce, and you would hardly get a second glance. I think this is why the concept of a parade in New York city baffled me a bit as it really wasn’t that different from what was happening the next street over where there was no parade.

But I digress, again.

When we finally did get to Central Park it was like taking a huge breath of fresh air, literally. I can see why New Yorkers love their park so much. After doing battle with street corners, traffic, puddles of dirty yuck water everywhere, and a whole lot of grey all day long, the park is refreshing and calming. Over here was a group of people doing some sort of interpretive country dance, just minding their own business, happily letting anyone and everyone join in if they so wished. Over there, a group of kids with skateboards looking on at the dancers as if they were planning on staying there all day. Birds twittered, trees swayed in the breeze. It was lovely. P1010766P1010767P1010773

We wandered around until arriving at Strawberry Fields, an area of the park across from where John Lennon lived. All my life I thought the song was perhaps referring to some lovely field of wild strawberries somewhere in England when in fact, I was totally wrong, it was about this corner of Central Park.

Today, you will find the Imagine mosaic, usually surrounded by tourists and folks with guitars strumming Beatles tunes.



After soaking it all up, it was only fitting to go across the street to pay our respects at the spot where John Lennon was shot in front of his apartment building. The building is known as The Dakota due to the fact that when it was built way back when, it was so far uptown that it was jokingly referred to as being ‘in the Dakotas’.

It was a surprisingly moving place to be. I don’t know about you but I remember the moment when my dad told me John Lennon had been shot. Having been raised on the Beatles, it was shocking to me as a young girl. I remember my dad being totally stunned by the whole thing. I think we listened to Imagine about a hundred times after that.


Rumour has it that Chapman, the murderer, had been to the same spot the day before to ask John Lennon for his autograph. Lennon had been so nice to him that he reconsidered his plan to go back the next day, but go back he did, shooting Lennon right by the door. He later claimed that the gargoyles and statues had spoken to him and told him to do it.


The American Museum of Natural History was conveniently located right next door so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon there, which turned out to be about an hour, but that was perfect. Any longer and it starts to get a bit tedious, in my opinion. If you have seen the movie Night at the Museum then you will recognize many of the exhibits. We spent most of our time in with the Dinosaurs and I actually found it to be fascinating. Many of the skeletons are the real thing and many are complete.


Tyny-arms-asaurus Rex


The original Duck-billed Face.


Triceratops – my favourite.

After sprinting around the museum, it was decided that Zoe and I would go by ourselves to get tickets for whatever show was on offer, as the boys had tickets to the American Beatbox Championships that night at the Webster Hall. We parted ways and Zoe and I found the closest subway station and tried to head downtown but there was construction on the line so we had to go uptown first. At least I think that is what they said. It really is virtually impossible to a) hear the staticky voices at all over the screeching of the train and b) to follow what the heck they are even saying:

While waiting on the station:

Announcer: Passengers please note this important change mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah meah meah mwong mweap thank you.

Me: Did anyone hear that?

Announcer: Passengers are reminded that mweap mwong shamalamma ding dong mwah mwah olay biscuit barrel mweap. Thank you.

Me: Seriously what did he say? I don’t want to end up in the Bronx or Yonkers or somewhere like that.

It’s both better and worse when you get on the train. At least you can hear what they are saying but I defy anyone to actually follow along:

Announcer: Passengers this is an A train bound for Brooklyn, Brighton Beach, blah blah Due to construction on the line passengers will not be able to transfer to the L line at Lexington and 304th but will instead have to…”

Me: Wait, did he just say 304th? Where the heck is that? Where are we even anyway?

Announcer (continuing on): Get off at 487th street, cross to the other side of 75th and Mwah and take a B, C, or W train, cross back again to the original side, and take a 1, 2, or 5 train but only if the driver is wearing a lettuce hat…

Me: What’s this about lettuce now?

Announcer (still talking): Due to construction on the line at the place you really want to go to, you will not be able to take that train that you planned on taking and will have to instead take the x, y or z train, please remember to solve for x before you present your ticket to the man in the Yeti costume.

Zoe: We have to get off here, mum, and take the B train to Columbus Circle.

Announcer: If you need assistance, don’t bother asking any of your fellow passengers as none of them have a clue either. Only those passengers wearing headphones, sunglasses and chewing gum know what is going on and they don’t want to talk to you. If you are really stuck ask the crazy guy spouting the gospel and he will say a prayer for you.

Me: I’m so confused now. He said I have to pray or something?

Jacob: No mum, he said the crazy guy will pray for you but come on we have to get off here. Do you have your tin foil hat on?

We did manage to get to the office and bought ourselves some tickets to Mamma Mia!. I have never seen it and I knew Zoë would love it. We had some interesting seat-mates: I had four guys from India sitting beside me, and all of them sang along to every song, albeit completely out of tune, but with such joy that it didn’t matter. At one point the fellow next to me pulled out his phone and downloaded the entire soundtrack. All the singing in the first act obviously tired him out though as he fell asleep part way through the second act. Zoe had an elderly Korean man who looked quite baffled by the whole thing and must have wondered where the heck he was. He fell asleep quite early on in the production. Apart from those two, everyone else was very energetic and sang along at top volume. We loved it.


Fortunately when we got out, all the stores were still open and as it is so much nicer to shop when the boys aren’t waiting by the front door (men, take note) we had a great time.

It was another late night but we felt energized by this great city. When we crawled into bed later we were happily tired and ready for sleep.

Another long day of travel tomorrow but we still have time for a few last stops in the morning. Not ready to leave yet!

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, October 12, 2014

New York Day 3 – In Which We Veer Off Schedule, Hang Out in Chelsea, and Jacob Does Not Have Ebola.


I saw this first thing this morning. A little something left over from the cold war? That yellow and blue sign says ‘fallout shelter’.

Despite our late start to the day and the fact that it was raining, I was still hopeful that we would manage to cover most of the items on my itinerary for the day. A word about the itinerary: I won’t say I’m exactly militaristic about the day’s schedule, it’s just that I like to get the stuff done that I planned for that day and if that involves carrying around a city map with a sticky note of the plan for the day complete with expected times of arrival and anticipated length of visit, then so be it. As I like to say to my eye-rolling family, if any of you has a better plan then please, by all means, lead the way. That usually shuts them up but I have noticed that lately whenever I pull out my map on a street corner that they have taken a new approach to managing me in these situations:

Me: I’m just going to check that cross street again hang on a second everyone…

Zoe: Mum. It’s 34th. We just looked five minutes ago.

Me: I know but which side of the block is it? Hmm? Do you know that?

Zoe: Put the map away.

Me: Wait a minute I can’t read this. I’m just going to turn on the Assistive Light on my phone.

Jacob: Just call it a flashlight like everyone else and why do you even need it it’s the middle of the day.

Me: I can’t read this .02 font size text on this map. It’s ridiculous. How can anyone be expected to read this?

Zoe: I think you have the map upside down.

Me: Well if they made it a bit bigger I would be able to notice that.

Jacob to Zoe: Do you have wifi? Ok great open the maps.

Zoe to Jacob: If we take a left here and walk two blocks we’ll be right beside it.

Me: What was the name of the first street again? I think this blob here says…what does this say? Does it say 34th? Oh no wait that’s the east side we want the west side.

Jacob to Zoe: yeah that’s it. Let’s go (walking off down the road).

Me (dropping my phone): can someone hold this while I pick up my phone? (dropping the map) Darn I dropped the map. Where’s my phone now?

At this point I usually look up to see everyone else a block ahead of me. It’s good thing Jacob is so tall or I would probably spend most of the days alone walking the streets with an upside down map in my hand.

Anyway. We started off a little late and had a slight cafuffle as I decided we would deviate from the plan and meet Jacob somewhere other than where I had said we would meet him. (Yes, he stayed in Brooklyn last night). There was a slight period of panic on my part when I couldn’t get hold of him where I wondered if I had been wrong in allowing my 18yr old son to just go off on his own in New York, never having been here before. Add to that the Newspaper headline “Brooklyn Teen Being Tested for Ebola” and I was starting to feel a wee bit nervous about it all. Which teen? Had that teen been partying with Jacob last night? How many degrees of separation? Where were his parents? Could I phone them? Perhaps I should just go straight to the hospital?

By the time we got to the New York Library, I was pretty sure that Jacob was face down in a ditch in Brooklyn, suffering from full-blown Ebola and that that was the end of that.

Of course he texted me a minute or so later to say that he had just gotten off the subway and where should he meet me? At the library of course.

Being used to the Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, The New York Public Library came as something of a shock to me. The entire place is made out of white Italian marble and is a sight to behold. The main reading room was ‘temporarily closed’ (of course – that always seems to happen to me. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the entire city of New York had been ‘closed for a private function’ when we arrived at the airport.) but it didn’t matter as any of the other rooms were also totally amazing.


I kinda wanted to hang around for a while but when I noticed the rest of my family standing by the door I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Apparently we were heading to Macy’s to do some shopping. It turned out that so was everyone else in New York – the place was a total nightmare and I could barely take a step in any direction  and fairly quickly I managed to piss off a series of well-heeled mother-daughter combos, all of whom looked like they could paralyze an entire army unit with the amount of Botox kicking around their systems. I personally wondered how they were still alive. Anyhoo, we all wrestled our way through the various departments and in the end after what felt like the entire Jurassic period, emerged with a couple of pairs of jeans for the boys and a new pair of boots for Zoe.

At this point we had seriously veered off the schedule and I was feeling a little punchy about the time as I dragged everyone off to walk the High Line, an elevated walkway that runs through part of the west side of town. And when I say everyone, again, I mean everyone in town. The thing was totally packed and there was hardly room for us to fall in with the rest of the troops. It was like Mao’s Long March as we trudged along thirty feet up past office buildings and over back streets. I kept wondering if this was the High Line or was this perhaps the Narrow Line or maybe the Crowded Line and that I would soon turn a corner and find the actual High Line, but this never happened. It’s a great concept: turn an old unused elevated rail way into a park with a trail and seating and look out points along the way, but in reality, we found it…well…a bit boring. I wasn’t exactly sure of it’s purpose: a commuter path? A green space? There’s not much to look at up there except for a few pieces of ‘art’ and the streets and traffic below. It was unclear as we all marched along. I suspect this is a very unpopular opinion and I should probably keep it to myself but there it is.


New Yorkers love their High Line so I’ll shut up about it now, and spend my energies raving about the Chelsea Market instead, which is a FABULOUS place to visit. The one nice thing about the High Line is that it deposits you right beside the Chelsea Market, a massive old warehouse in the Meatpacking district that has been turned into an amazing collection  of shops, food stores, restaurants and cafes. We ate an amazing dinner there at a little Thai place.


There is a great fish market there with a huge variety of seafood on offer. I was happy to see they even had oysters from Deep Bay on Vancouver Island!

They also had farmed ‘Organic King Salmon’ (we know it as Chinook) from BC. A woman was buying some and asked the dude what exactly ‘organic’ meant. I heard him say it was that these fish were farmed in the ‘open ocean’ in ‘Canada’ (cuz it’s all Ocean in Canada) which apparently makes them more firm. Hmm. Interesting. I almost called bullshit but I stopped myself. I then stopped myself from going off about farmed salmon, and then again about how it actually looked more like an Atlantic salmon fillet and were they 100% sure?


Fortunately I was distracted by the bakery across the way so I abandoned my soapbox and bought some brownies instead at Fat Witch. Yum.

Once again we left feeling satisfied and headed out to walk the neighbourhood. We had been carting around a huge umbrella that I bought for $10 when it was pouring earlier in the day. It was Jacob’s turn to carry it and he must have been channeling the performance spirit of New York as he broke into a spontaneous tap-dance style umbrella dance on the street which had all of us, and passers-by too, smiling. He could probably have made a bunch of money if he had put his hat out. He ended the whole thing by walking off down the street doing a perfect Charlie Chaplin walk with the umbrella. Hilarious.

A couple of blocks down the road was the Chelsea Hotel, famous for having housed various musicians, writers and artists over the years including Ginsburg, Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Arthur C. Clarke (he wrote 2001: Space Odyssey here) Janis Joplin, and also our friends Sandy and Nonce. Oh, no wait, I mean, their neighbour Sid, and Noncy. No that’s not right either…Wait I’ve got it, it’s Sid and Nancy, from the Sex Pistols. I think one of the offed the other at some point after a particularly bad night. Anyway, it is an unattractive building but the fact that some of literature’s greatest poets and writers lived and produced some of their greatest works there is fascinating to me. Again, however, it apparently wasn’t super fascinating to the kids as they were all half way down the street again when I looked up.


I believe it may have been because there was a puppy store with the worlds cutest puppies playing in the window. We just about left with one but reason prevailed.


We had originally planned to head to The Bronx for dinner in an Italian neighbourhood but everyone was Too Tired so I again allowed an appeal for variance from the schedule to go ahead and took everyone north to Columbus Circle to have a drink in the Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The cool thing about this place is that the hotel lobby is 35 floors up, and the lobby lounge is right beside it, with a killer view of the city. Of course, when we got there, it was ‘closed to a private function’. I almost started crying but the hostess said it was totally fine to take the kids into the MOBar next door as long as they didn’t sit up at the bar. So we did this and it was fabulous.


It’s so nice to be somewhere with progressive liquor laws where you are trusted rather than controlled. This is the second time we have been able to take the kids into a bar here and NOTHING BAD HAS HAPPENED. BC take note.

We cabbed it back home a little earlier than previous nights which was good as we all needed a bit of down time and plus our feet were threatening to go on strike.

Last full day tomorrow!

Thanks, for reading,