Monday, April 9, 2012

Day one - July 12, 2007 My Birthday on the road

I have been doing this blogging thing off and on for many years. In an effort to consolidate some of the older posts on different blogsites into this one here is a post originally placed;
Thursday, July 19, 2007
On day 3 we went to the 2007 version
I did take a jet to S.F about 10 years ago just to have taken a trip on a big plane. The worst part of that trip was the short hop from Bakersfield to LAX in a 30 passenger Turboprop airplane. We flew over the mountains through a big storm the plane surging and dropping several feet at a time the whole way. When I was a kid my Uncle Cal had a single prop 3 seat Cessna. He would take us kids up and cut the engine or do wing tip turns to scare us. This did not prepare me for the first trip over the mountains to LA. Since I didn’t make arrangements soon enough the cheapest I could get was on united by way of LAX on the turboprop.
The new airport in Bakersfield is really nice. Named for a red and powerful politician who has pumped a lot of money through the area over the years and needed a tribute for his retirement. They are even widening the road from Hwy 99 to the airport but not on to the other terminal for the flights to Mexico. (that’ll teach the Mexicans to vote democrat)

So the adventure begins technically on the 11th. As I check my bags the big one with clothes and a small one with my CPAP machine. I bought a pair of cool bags with lots of zippers and built-in wheels and retracting handle. The second wheeled bag was my carry on. My first time through security. What a gyp! The United website said nothing about 3oz or less of liquid. I had to give up my shave cream and couple of other items. I got them at the 99¢ store but geez, I could tell me and security check points were going to ‘have issues’. “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” (Benjamin Franklin) but I digress.

6:41 PM I board the plane, window seat, smooth ride, nice. Even had time to read a little of the owner’s manuel for the Zoom H4. That crisscross double arch landmark thing at LAX seemed to be cloaked for some reason. With a couple of hours at the airport what else is there to do but eat and drink. Most of the restaurants and shops were closed. In a place like that how do they decide when to be open? Why did I order the chili fries?
Plenty of time to contemplate the morality of using so many natural resources just for the entertainment of one person. Henry David Thoreau my personal favorite naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, and philosopher was also born on July 12, but in 1817. So as not to ‘bum out’ the trip or ‘harsh my buzz’ I decided all this commence provided jobs for people and there seemed to be quite a number of pretty women to look at anyway. The bigger question was about becoming one of those people who fly places. This is not something my biological family is known for. Even Uncle Cal flew in small planes. What if I like it? A lot of people do it. That doesn't make it right. It is an upscale activity and I am not comfortable with living beyond simple means. Not so much an upper/lower class thing as a lateral distinction. Oh, well at least it’s safer that driving.

10:45PM Oh great 2nd group to seat, that’s because I’m in a window seat for 5 hours or so. Neat. The plane was kind of new, A320 they said flat panel monitors glided down from the ceiling to show us the safety features. A couple of pretty young gals were seated next to me. One of them freaked out a little and started to cry when we left the ground. I wanted to say that the real danger is landing, but somehow thought that wouldn’t be helpful. They served us soft drinks and pretzels and offered a box of snacks for $5. I had a sandwich in my carry-on but after the chili fries I was good with a few pretzels. The movie was dreadful, not even a fame name in the cast. I tried listening to the pilot chatter but is was sparse and didn’t tell me where we were in the dark. I turned 50 somewhere over the midwest at 30,000 feet stuffed into a metal tube. Slept a little. Tried to hold it so I would only have to ask the girls to move once so I could use the toilet. Then suddenly as we approached the rising sun there were rivers and cities below. Forests. Fasten seat belts because we are landing. She did much better on landing.

7:04 AM Newark airport has a different look than LA, different restaurants, shops mostly closed as well. Once my bags tumbled onto the carousel I was looking for the shuttle I booked on-line. I found a courtesy phone punched 18 and the lady told me 30 to 45 minutes. An hour later I called back ‘So what do your shuttles look like?’ She put me on hold to find him, assured me that he was 7 minutes away. They pompously don’t have places to sit outside but I needed fresh air and propped myself against something till I heard “Brian”. The guy lead me back through the building to a side entrance. I piled in and we went a little way then stopped to wait for other travelers. On our way to the Holland tunnel the engine began to cut out. The driver could restart it but steered us to a gas station. As we waited the guy next to me (a talent agent from West Hollywood) chatted it up with the family from Vale on their way to switzerland with a 6 hour layover wanting to see a little of New York. The agent suggested Times square for a short visit. As we waited for a replacement shuttle those people couldn’t wait and shared a Gypsy Cab for $30 to Times Square. This left me, some other guy and four nice looking black ladies from Baltimore who were staying at the same Hotel as my peeps. Woo Woo. Into the tunnel and out and finally ME IN NYC.

I was exhausted, the anticipation and my shitty job left me with little sleep the week before. I got dropped off at my hotel the Americana Inn. It was 10am and check in time is noon. They at least let me check my bags. Two hours to kill. My sister Sandy asked me to call before I left but I missed it. The weather was great 80 degrees and dry, even a little breeze. The New York Public Library was only a couple of blocks away. I walked down 5th Avenue past a place called Lord & Taylors. A fancy clothing shop I recognized the name. In front of the library are 2 statues of sitting lions. I made my call. No answer, she lives with my niece, I left a nice message for them to hear. Right away I found one of my favorite places in New York, Bryant Park. 3 or 4 acres surrounded by fences made of those big bricks 1’ by 2’ that look like ancient stone with wrought iron on top. Even some gilding it looked like. Big trees and plenty of chairs. Nice. I was hungry so I walked around till I found a place that sold portobello paninis. I had resolved to drop the vegan thing for this trip to get the full flavor of New York. I had never had a panini and figured that was an exotic enough first meal, that and a cannoli and lemonade.

Time began to move quickly. I was up on the 5th floor in room 516. The 5th floor of this place was still under some renovation. I read about this in one of the review web sites. It smelled like paint in the corridors. More like cheese made from old varnish inside the rooms. I could almost touch the walls with my arms outstretched. There might have been room for a small night stand next to the double bed but a sink was in that spot. It was very clean, that was nice. Lengthwise it was maybe 14 feet 2 of that next to the door was closet. There was a desk with a TV on it and a big mirror over. I didn’t wait to unpack before lying down. I clicked on the window A/C. God it was loud, but I was tired and with pillows over my head began to pass out. My cell phone rang, it was someone in Wasco who had a problem with their newspaper. “I’m sorry you should have called before 9AM”. Finally asleep. My cell phone rang, “Brian are you asleep?” “Yes. Sandy, talk to me later” click. I got the feeling that New York was telling me who was in charge. Sleep is an issue with me it’s either 3 hours a day or all the time. Seldom something comfortable. At 3:30 I was up and unpacking.

Enough of this room, I went down to the street and began to walk towards Times Square. Only a couple of blocks away, I was soon in the midst of all those signs and crowds of other people looking at all those signs. I thought I’d look for the free Charmin toilet or the half price ticket booth. Street food. Better start with something easy in case I didn’t find the toilet. A big ol pretzel with the big salt crystals and mustard. It was crumbly and dry and half of it fell on my lapel leaving a splotch of mustard. That was a disappointment. I threw most of it away but kept nibbling on it for several moments. I didn’t want to let go of my first authentic NY street food. Then I saw it, a store with nothing but M&Ms and M&M merchandise 2 stories tall. I need souvenirs, later with Laurie and the other there probably wouldn’t be time. I searched and searched and searched for anything bigger that 2X . Nothing. Then to my amazement was a 3rd floor. No bigger sizes there either but a free mens room. Back on the I did find a couple of 3Xs but not the best designs. Every color and flavor all mix and match, Sylvia would love this. Selfish pig, why didn’t I get her some? I got myself a brown cap with an M&Ms logo?
Then I felt kind of into the too touristy zone when went to the Hard Rock cafe and got a T shirt. They had 3X, not loose like the 4Xes I like especially after washing but they usually fit. I changed into it and used my mustarded shirt as an over shirt hiding most of the mustard stain.

Around 4 Laurie called. They were at the airport and going to the Roosevelt Hotel. I was still in Times Square, they were going to at 45th and Madison. Down 4 streets over 3 Avenues. “I’ll meet you there”. I got as far as the 42nd street Parfumerie looking for some shampoo before the phone rang again “Where are you?” They must have gotten a better ride from the airport.

I met Tommy and Dyanna outside the hotel. Laurie got to the street, she had shampoo in her to replace the shampoo TSA got, their room was on the 8th floor. We waited a while for Dan and Sylvia to arrive but they seemed to have gotten on a shuttle like mine. No matter, they can settle in and meet us there. Across the street was an entrance to Grand Central Station. Hey that was on my list of things to see. So it’s just about rush hour and we need a map to show which subway to take to little Italy. At that information booth in the middle of that huge marble room with the cool ceiling that you see on TV they have lots of maps to carry away. We bought $20 metro cards. Went down some corridors and got on the train that said Brooklyn Bridge.

One of the more charming things about Laurie is how easy it is for people to talk to her. And how easily she can talk with strangers and draw them out. It’s gotta be more that the big boobs. As an ardent admirer and a metaphysician I say it’s a special kind of energy. Then on the other hand it seems to work on men especially well. No matter, it works. One strange old guy who was hitting on her in the train advised that we get off at Canal St. Unfortunately we missed that stop and had to exit, walk up and over and back down to catch one going the other way.

Once on the street we headed for Mulberry street where all the Italian restaurants are. The one with all the real life gangsters ‘Luna’ that Steve told us about looked like it had been closed for some time. The door man from the Roosevelt told us to go to Angelo’s, ask for Jimmy and tell ‘em Sal sent us. (Is that New Yorky or what?). Trouble with that place is that the dinners start at $21.50. We kept walking as Laurie began coordinating with the other who were to join us. (I am not looking forward to my cell phone bill with all those roaming minutes, her has got to be outrageous.) We looked a number of interesting places and settled on CaffĂ© Palermo I think it was on Mulberry and Grand. We had to wait for a table for 8 on the street but we had time before the others would arrive.

I mentioned how I was kind of disappointed that I had been there for almost 12 hours and hadn't encountered a classic rude New Yorker, Tommy reminded me that there was the one woman who decided not to go around me off the subway and said in a direct voice “exit the train sir”. I had to swim back through the crowd to get back in the same car. That was good but not quite what I was looking for. I also noted that everyone seemed to have the same midwestern speech as all of us do that were raised on TV. The only accents were the new immigrants. As we sat there sipping an Australian Shiraz (we decided it was fruity but not sweet and didn’t have that metallic taste some reds have) my wish was granted. A parade of classic New York Italian stereotypes passed by. ‘You nevah met my brahtha? le’me introduce ya’. Wanna be wise guys and even a couple of what seemed to be the real deal wise guys. One guy strutted by in a cream colored silk suit like he owned the world. No socks, he must have been from the old country.

Michael and ChouChou arrived, like me, family friends but of Bob and Doris. ChouChou gave me a little birthday present. A swiss army knife in the form of a card you can put in your wallet (remember it it will resurface). Michael did some small fit-in-your-pocket magic tricks. They were kind of clever, he seemed to exaggerate the shaky ol dude thing as part of the misdirection. (if not, sorry Michael) Passers by began to gather for one of them. Funny. He even struck up a conversation with a dentist that does the same thing. I can picture the dentist doing magic in his office, but Michael as a psychiatrist, not so much.

The bread and butter was awesome but as by the time Dan and Sylvia got there I was ready to order. Dyanna, Tommy and Laurie hadn't eaten since breakfast. They had one chef in a small kitchen blazing away so the food seemed to come in shifts. I finally got my Lobster, shrimp, clams, oysters, and calamari over linguini. (Hey, it was my birthday.) It was fabulous. I couldn’t eat it all.

Laurie struck up a conversation with this guy Joe who seemed to be hovering around. He claimed to be an investment banker who lives in Denver and just happens to bike around the same lake as Laurie does. He lives in NYC weekdays and stands around the old neighborhood in his free time to soak up the locals. He’s the one who pointed out the real wise guys. Dan seemed to think he was a cop of some sort. I tend to agree. I asked him about what I had heard, that the old meat packing district had been repurposed as an arts district. He said yes but that at night it was packed with young peoples night clubs.

We were all tired and headed back to the hotels. The subway took us back to Grand Central. I was ready to walk over to my hotel but our fearless leader Laurie suggested I take the purple 7 train west to 42nd st. Oh-ka. I walked down a small ramp to some stairs to another ramp and some stairs. I’m 3 and a half or 4 floors down, how is that climb up all those steps supposed to be better than 5 block of flat? Whiney whiney. It ended up being just two up to the street by Bryant Park.

I slept all night, haven’t done that in a while.

The day before Bob's Big Birthday Weekend Events

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