April 2001 Trip
I had to go to Longmont Colorado one week and Nashua New Hampshire the next so I decided to go back to
New York for the weekend in between. I wanted to ride the new Acela high speed train. The departure from Washington D.C. was too early in the morning so I took it from New York to Boston.
I did the usual, arriving at Newark and taking the Olympia Lines bus to Penn Station. The bus broke down
before the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, but the bus company quickly got another one and transferred the luggage and passengers.
I decided to try a new hotel this time. The Pennsylvania Hotel is right across the street from Penn Station. The
hotel was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad along with the station. The place was a giant cliché with bellmen in
fraying uniforms and endless corridors. I felt like I was in a Steven King novel. The walls were so thin I could
hear people talking two doors over. It looked like it hadn't been redecorated since 1933. The fluorescent fixture
by the door went pink, pa, pink, pink, pink, on, which was a good substitute for a cup of coffee in the morning.
The bathroom was cramped and coated with a vinyl paint, substituting for new tile. The toilet had a sloan valve
instead of a tank. There were no pictures on the white walls. The bed was comfortable and I got good cell phone
reception. I'd stay there again, if all the other hotels in New York were full, or I was down to my last $170.
I saw two shows:
- International Center for Photography Midtown
- International Center for Photography 93rd St.
- Cooper Hewett
January 2001 Trip
January 24, 2001
I remember back when the year 2000 was a long time in the future. Now it is over. There are no computers any
where near as capable as HAL of 2001 and we can't go to the moon anymore. On the other hand, the world is a lot better off now than when I graduated from high school. Back then the earth was running out of energy,
inflation was out of control, the USSR was ready to nuke us, the military was falling apart, and so was New York City.
New York has been cleaned up a lot since my first trip there in 1986. There is no graffiti on the subway cars,
except for initials scratched in the glass. The streets are cleaner and so is Times Square. Back in '86 even the
cops wouldn't go into Bryant park. It was run by drug dealers. Today it is full of people eating their lunch when the weather is nice.
I had a couple of weeks off between leaving my job at the Gaming Manufacturers Association and starting with
IBM, and a complementary ticket from Continental for getting bumped that was was gong to expire, so I decided
to go to Manhattan for a few days. Continental flies directly from Las Vegas to Newark but the direct flights
were full. I had to change in Houston on the way out but I got a direct flight back. I took the Olympia Lines bus from Newark to Penn Station. The hotel I ususaly stay at, the Best Western Manhattan, is on 32nd Street a few blocks from Penn Station, just off of Herald Square, in Korean Town.
I got in at about 6pm and the bus got caught in traffic going through the Lincoln Tunnel. I made it to the hotel by
seven, checked in and got down to TKTS in Times Square in time to buy a ticket for an 8pm show. I saw Chicago with Bebe Neuwearth.
It was cold and windy. The only nice things about that was that there were fewer tourists and New York doesn't stink as much when the whole town is natrualy refrigerated.
In my travels I stopped in at Grand Central Terminal. Like all of New York, it has been radicaly cleaned up since
my first visits years ago. There are a bunch of fast food places in the lower floor and clean eating areas. The
restrooms were very small, though. It would be better if massive public buildings had massive restrooms that
matched the over all theme of the place. The news stand at the east end of the building is cool as is the branch of
the Subway Museum at Grand Central. The best part of the Subway Museum is the store. They have hats and cups and things with the circle line symbols. I almost bought a hat with an R on it as that is the line I use most often.
In all I saw five shows:
- The Search For Intellegent Life in the Universe
- The Unexpected Man
- Dirty Blonde
I went to a bunch of Museums
I had a meeting in Portland Maine so I decided to stop off in New York City on the way for a binge of museums and theatre. My transportation costs are noted.
To New York
I decided to go on an all public transit trip to New York and Portland Maine. I left my car at home and took the train to San Jose airport for a flight to Newark.
I had never flown to New York before. All the other times I've visited I arrived by train. Lady Cobble assured me that the people of New York, upon hearing that I the Emperor of Colegrovia had chosen to visit their
delightfully quaint town would send a fine limousine to fetch me and they did. The chauffeur greeted me with a
pleasant "Youse going to Manhattan or not?. Dis is da bus ta Penn Station. Putcher bags over der". I really must study New Yorker after I learn Japanese.
The Olympia Bus Company has ticket booths and stops at all the terminals at Newark. I walked the three blocks
from Penn Station to my hotel, the Manhattan Hotel, on 32nd Street. From my room I had a view of the Empire State Building, or at least floors 7 through 65 or so.
- CalTrain to Santa Clara $3.75
- Bus to Airport, Free
- American Airlines to Newark $359.00
- Olympia Lines Bus to Penn Station $10.00
- 7 Day Subway Card $17.00
TKTS used to be in 2 World Trade Center (before the building was blown up by rat bastard terrorists.)
World Trade Center / TKTS
The first thing the first day I walked back to Penn Station, the subterranean labyrinthine station under Madison Square Garden, a round building, to catch the 1 train to the World
Trade Center. Only a few days before the Metropolitan Transit Authority started selling weekly unlimited ride fare cards for $17. I bought one.
I can never remember which tower has the TKTS booth at the World Trade Center. It is in 2 World Trade
Center. The TKTS booth opens at eleven but I thought it opened at ten so I got a bagel and coffee and a Wall
Street Journal and sat and watched people in suits flow by. I picked Titanic for my first night at the Theater.
I took the E train to the 5th Avenue EF stop which is right next to the Museum of Modern Art but MOMA is
closed on Wednesday. So I took the 4 train uptown to 86th street, the Musum District.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
I had thought, after visiting the Louvre and the British Museum that the Europeans were the champions at looting
the middle east but I think the Metropolitan Museum of Art is right in the running. From the collection on display
it looks like the Americans bought up most of the really neat stuff and left the Europeans with the big rocks. Its hard to find ancient stone cooler than the Code of Hammurabi Stella in the Louvre, though.
It is a little weird to think that there was a major bureaucrat, the scribe of lower Egypt, who died three thousand
years ago, was dried out, his organs removed and put in jars, mummified and buried in a giant stone sarcophagus,
only to be dug up later by British dudes, bought by American dudes, hauled to America, a continent he did not
even know existed, and put on display to be gawked at by school kids who get in to the Metropolitan Museum at
a discount. He was not spinning noticably but he is not in his grave any more so I don't know if that counts.
The Met collection is huge and I will be able to get another whole day out of the place the next time I am in town
so I concentrated on the traveling exhibits. The best was a set of Medieval Tapestries showing scenes with
unicorns. There was also a bland exhibit of art deco objects by some French dude so boring I didn't even try to remember his name.
In the permanent collection has the best display of Japanese lacquered iron lamellae armor I've seen, even better
than in Tokyo. Their swords were unremarkable with the exception of a Kamakura period Tanto that had not been cut down for use as a Katana. The Ukeio-e wood block prints on display were from the high end of the
19th century market, having very sharp black lines and precise registration, illustrating famous poems. There was an unlabeled case being prepared with very nice ivory netsuke, again the best I've seen.
They have some spiffy naked marble babes in the new American Wing including "White Captive". The French
have a few nice marble babes in the Musee 'd Orsay, inclucing Malliol's, "France" but "White Captive" is the
best sculpture of a human I've seen. The subject would get you thrown in the slammer if it was done in anything
but marble, a young woman tied to a tree by her dress, purportedly by savages somewhere. The nicely done bronze babe, in "The Vine", on the other hand is having a great time partying.
My favorite sculpture of all time, "Hefty Two Ply", which I saw at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, is a
hyper realistic marble sculpture of a full bag of trash, so my view of sculpture may not be the most conventional.
At the Met I bought a multiple attraction ticket called City Pass. It includes:
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Museum of Modern Art
- Intrepid Museum
- Empire State Building Observatory
- World Trade Center Observatory
- Natural History Museum
It cost $26.75 which is half of the ordinary admission price and you get to pass all the ticket lines, which was a
big time saver at the Empire State. I didn't get to the top of the World Trade Center this year but it was the only one I missed.
I have no doubt about the improvement in New York City since my first visits about ten years ago. There is no
graffiti on the subway trains and the stations are slowly being refurbished. It is still always very hot in the Times Square station but I did not have a "hot" subway car with broken air conditioning all trip.
I went to Titanic.
The Essex class aircraft carrier Intrepid is docked near 45th street on
the Hudson. Just keeping the thing from rusting must be a big money drain as there are few really engaging exhibits. They do have a nice collection of jet carrier aircraft and a Y-12, the precursor to the famous
SR-71. I did not feel like touring the destroyer and submarine that are part of the museum. The submarine, the Growler, is billed as the only
missile submarine open to the public but it is a weird experimental cruise missile firing boat from the early 50's that has two enormous hangars built
into its fore section. One really odd looking submarine. I don't plan to go back for 5 or 10 years.
The UPS building and Chinese Consulate are across the street from the Intrepid.
Museum of Television and Radio
It was raining and the Museum of Television and Radio stays open late on Thursdays. I watched part of Johnny
Carson's 17th anniversary Tonight Show Show. The show originally aired in 1978 and the most interesting part of the show was the commercials. Several food related commercials emphasized how economical they were,
holding down the high cost of living. A Chief Boyardee add emphasized that the meatballs in their spaghetti and meatballs was real meat. It must have been a hard time.
In the research library I watched a Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour from 1968, a Saturday Night Live from 1978, and a Rod Serling drama called the Strike from Texaco Star Theater.
The Smothers Brothers were really political, making jokes about loosing H bombs in Greenland and singing songs
about ending war. The sets for the songs were very bare, with the sound stage linoleum showing. The Saturday Night Live show probably could not be aired uncut on TV today. In the opening John Belushi says that host
Charles Grodin is not a TV actor like them, he doesn't smoke dope. Beldar the Conehead gives beer to trick or
treaters. The Strike was a Korean War drama about a comander that has to call down an air strike on a patrol of twenty men to save five hundred.
I went to High Society.
Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs
I wanted to take the Subway to Coney Island so I did. Unfortunately, unlike the elevated Flushing line, the routes
I took are below grade so the view was uninteresting. I had a hot dog at Nathan's Famous hot dogs and wandered around a bit. There was an old abandoned roller coaster worth looking at but the place gave me the
creeps so I took the subway back to Manhattan.
The Art of the Motorcycle was the show at the Guggenheim. BMW sponsored a show of about 200 of the world's most famous or significant motorcycles. For the show the internal spiral balcony of the Guggenheim was
lined with mirrors. It made looking down, with people walking around, a kaleidoscopic experience. The motorcycles spanned the range from early bicycles with one popping cylinder to a Curtis Eight Cylinder speed
record bike to post war Triumphs and early Hondas. With all the valves and push rods most of the early ones were very cool.
Cooper-Hewett National Design Museum
The Cooper-Hewett had displays on fountains and on solar voltaic power. I particularly liked the display on fountains at world's fairs, but I am a world's fair fan anyway.
The International Center for Photography had a boring show of inter war German photographers who liked to
take pictures of factories and ordinary people. Some of the pictures of ordinary people were interesting, considering that you knew they were going to be in World War II in few years and they didn't.
The Museum of Modern Art stays open late on Friday nights and it is near the theater district. I particularly wanted to see the exhibit on the
Soviet Constructivist Aleksandr Rodchenko. I don't know why I like Soviet avant-garde from the 20's but I do. It is sort of activist surrealism,
lots of smiling happy canal digging gulag prisoners being transformed into new Soviet Men, or new Soviet dead men. Rodchenko was denounced for photographs with bourgeois formalism. One of his crimes was his
famous portrait "Pioneer Girl" which shows a young worker looking up. Looking up was not politically correct. She should have been looking forward to a better future not up to the purported former location of
God. Rodchenkco was also the designer of the famous Ten Years of Uzbeckistan, a history of the early years of the Communist party in Uzbeckistan with portraits of the top communists. As Stalin purged the
Uzbeck party, owners of the book were instructed to obliterate the portraits of the non-persons. Rodchenko, a committed communist, dutifully did so to his own copy.
I went to see Forbidden Broadway.
Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History is a big pile of bones. I saw the DeBeers sponsored show on diamonds. The
minerals collection was nice but poorly organized. If you are keen on taxidermy, the Museum of Natural history is your kind of place.
I went to Art.
I went to Chinatown for dinner. The unlimited subway pass is cool.
Viewing the sunset from the top of the Empire State Building was a fine way to end my trip to New York.
Tourists from all over the world, but not the United States, crowded the place. My City Pass ticket cut out most
of the long lines. I had a hard time remembering that I was standing on something that was built so high so long ago and not some natural peak.
If New York could get its political act together it could become a major part of America. With all that density
running fiber optic cable to all the offices and homes would be very efficient. Unfortunately, like Windows 98,
New York has years of precedent and special interest built into its government so making the place into a practical place to live and work is probably an impossible task.
I took the Amtrak train from Penn Station to Boston South Station and then the bus from Boston to Portland.
The bus went express, no stops. The bus station is located next to the train station in Boston so it is very convientient.
- Amtrak to Boston $44
- Vermont Transit bus to Portland Maine $13
- Shuttle Bus to Hotel, Free