A visit to NYC is always entertaining. It’s probably my favorite city in the world, and I like to go every year if I can. Well I suppose I can. I’m a strong believer in everybody has 24 hours in a day, and everyone can choose how they spend it. Some people choose to have families, some don’t. Some choose to work themselves to death for money, some don’t. Some choose to work out, some don’t. Some choose friends, some choose family. Some choose to save for retirement, some don’t. Some choose to lie, cheat and steal while others don’t. It’s all what is important to people in life, and that is what they make time for. Granted some people are afforded an easier path to the choices that they make (I don’t think J.K. Rowlings’ path was easy, but what a success), but in the end, it’s still their will and their choice, and they have the same amount of time in the day to make their dreams come true. Traveling is important to me as it makes me happy, so I make time for it, especially since we humans never know when life will end. Look at Joan Rivers. While she lived a long, fulfilling life, she went in for a routine procedure, and a week later unfortunately we are witnessing a red carpet funeral. VERY SAD!
My mom and I visited NYC for the US Open. I went last year and enjoyed it so much I wanted my mom to go since she is such a big tennis fan. We arrived on Tuesday, both of us with uneventful flights which was nice. She had a much better taxi driver than I did! I went out on a limb and tried a different hotel called Cassa Hotel New York. My favorite is the Palace, but that would require just a little too much walking for my mom these days and Cassa was a Viceroy property located on 45th between 5th and 6th, just a few blocks from Times Square without all the noise and maybe six blocks from Grand Central Station where we took the train to the US Open. The hotel staff may have been the nicest, most accommodating bunch I’ve run across anywhere in the world. The staff and location made up for the one shortfall which is there was only one bedside table for a queen bed. I believe most rooms were single bed options and one bedside table was inconvenient. Having said that, the room was far less important than the location which was perfect!
We began our visit to NYC with an Italian dinner at Crispo on 14th. Down near West Village, this was not exactly nearby, but the owner was a friend of a friend, and we knew with night tennis and the theater, tonight would be our only chance to try out his restaurant. I ordered the trofie pasta which was definitely a winner. Frank, the owner, came out in his white coat to greet us. He was going to send up some Limoncello, but the service was so fast, by the time he finished his evening business, we’d devoured our appetizers and main course. We enjoyed a pleasant, yet busy atmosphere for a Tuesday, and ate inside instead of in the garden to take advantage of the A/C on this humid evening.
Wednesday morning we made our way to the 42nd street subway and took it downtown to Chambers St. where we strolled a few blocks to the 9/11 Memorial. I finally got to see the twin pools set in the footprints in the original twin towers. I tried to visit last year, but a temporary wall towered around the area and without a pre-purchased ticket, the tremendous Labor Weekend line was not conducive to a visit. The pools are surrounded by bronze plates inscribed with the names of each victim. The victims include those from the 1993 bombing, each plane, the first responders, each crash site, and the towers. Instead of being placed in alphabetical order, they are placed by association (by company, family, friends). In addition to the pools, we got a good view of the Freedom Tower, now the tallest building in the United States standing 1,776 feet, representing the year of the United States Independence.
Though unnecessary for a September weekday entry into the museum, we pre-purchased tickets online for a 9:30am admission. Aside from the tennis, the museum may have been the highlight of our trip. What an incredible experience! The museum is absolutely enormous and to view it properly at least four hours of time is required, if not more. We would have stayed longer, but it was freezing cold! I really think the museum could have saved several hundred thousand dollars in utility bills just by adjusting the temperature. Perhaps it is a “natural” way for the museum to thin the crowd, as it steadily grew in the afternoon. I can’t even begin to cover everything on display.
The flight path of all four airplanes, including where each one was hijacked, was drawn on the wall. Voice recordings of first responders, witnesses, and survivors played as we entered into the main area. A demolished fire truck, remnants of the antenna, crushed steel, and an elevator motor were situated throughout the area that allowed no flash photography. Along with all the damaged items was one pane of glass (only one) that didn’t break. Two of the most poignant sights in this zone were The Last Column and the Survivors’ Stairs. The blue tiles, everyone a different shade, representing different artists’ rendering of the sky the day of the attacks was also a nice touch.
The Last Column and the Survivors’ Stairs
As the recovery of the World Trade Center site neared completion, one piece of steel was chosen to remain. This was the Last Column which became a memorial to the tragic attacks where notes were written and pictures were left. The column was removed in May of 2002 in now resides in the museum. An electronic panel allows visitors to select a picture on the column and learn more about that survivor or victim. The Vesey Street stair remnant became known as the Survivors’ Stairs as they offered an unobstructed passage for hundreds seeking to escape the attacks. It felt a little eerie to look at them.
While all of what I mentioned tugged at our heart-strings, we then passed through some glass doors where no photography was allowed out of respect for the victims. I have to say, many times I choked back tears. While I felt like I followed the news and obviously America was inundated with information and images about the attacks, I still laid eyes on things that shocked me. A handwritten note on copy paper, “12 people trapped on floor 78” that a survivor picked up and handed to a first responder was one piece that really took my breath away. Another was a bike rack with several bikes still locked up covered in the buildings’ dust. Only one was ever retrieved. Then, to hear voicemails from victims to their loved ones and friends calling to see if their friends in NYC were OK; I’m not sure how anyone extremely close to the situation could make it through without crying. Tissue was strategically placed near videos.
This enclosed area covered all four crash sites, the twin towers, the field, and the Pentagon, though most of the museum covered the World Trade Center Site. From here, we went on to see the hand-made quilt and a room with a picture of every victim. This room included electronic panels where visitors could select a picture of any victim, see additional pictures and read a short bio. I think if I had to do it over again, after descending the stairs, I would have followed the wall with the quilt all the way to the end, worked my way back, watched the film (which we missed by then due to being ice-cold and hungry), and then I would have gone to see the fire truck, the Last Column, and the enclosed area as the floor plan would have flowed better. Regardless, the museum is very well done and a MUST SEE!
After a hot dog on the street, we caught a cab to REI so my mom could some comfortable shoes for walking, and then we hopped the subway one more back to the hotel to prepare for a night at the US Open. Lucky for me, I vaguely remembered how to get to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Train 7 goes from Grand Central every few minutes toward Flushing Meadows. It’s practically unnecessary to know the exit is Willets Point except that is the platform to stand on as the tennis center can be seen from the subway tracks. We followed the masses to the gates that weren’t open for the night session yet. They open at 6, and I added in error time. Eventually, we made it to the main plaza that filled with people as we waited for the day session to end on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka got into a 5 set duel!
We anxiously awaited Serena Williams to play Flavia Pennetta. Serena faced a rough start with many unforced errors and a break in serve. In minutes, Pennetta was leading 3-0! But in typical Serena fashion, she came back with a vengeance, steam rolling to a 6-3, 6-2 victory. I’ve always wanted to see her play, as I think she may be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, but it almost isn’t fun as her serve is so strong, rallies are few and far between. Regardless, I’m glad I saw her! And this might be rude to say, but I’m in awe of her size. She is enormous! Not in a bad way…tall and muscular…but wow. I’m writing this after she won the finals…18 Grand Slams…tied with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. I don’t think it will be long before she passes them.
The Wednesday night play also featured Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. I saw Djokovic last year. He destroyed his opponent. Murray gave him a bit more of a challenge taking him to four sets, but after back surgery, I don’t think Murray was back to his best tennis yet. Novak had more unforced errors than usual, but at least they got into some rallies and went to two tiebreaks! I was shocked to see Nishikori beat Djokovic in the semi-finals on Saturday. The finals should be interesting. I wonder if it will be as good as the entertaining dance one of the spectators put on for the stadium of 23,000 fans as he jiggled and spun and stripped layers of US Open T-shirts off and threw them into the stands?
With the night session beginning late and five hours of tennis, our sardine-like subway ride got us back to the hotel around 2:30am, but that didn’t keep us from being at the US Open by noon the next day. We started out at Arthur Ashe stadium watching the world number 1 Bryan Brothers play in the semi-finals against Lipsky and Ram on their way to their 100th win! We could have stayed at Arthur Ashe to watch Cilic vs. Berdych in the quarterfinals, but we chose more doubles. We caught the end of the other men’s doubles semi-finals (Granollers/Lopez vs Dodig/Melo) and then watched the first set of the Hingis/Pennetta vs Black/Mirza semi-finals match. I wanted to see Hingis play since she is no longer playing singles.
From the men’s and women’s semi-finals, we passed by some of the wheel chair play which was quite amazing and on to the champions league play at Court 17. Here we saw the McEnroe brothers beat Mats Wilander and Henri Leconte. We figured we’d go to Arthur Ashe if Berdych could put up a fight against Cilic, and at least take Cilic to a fourth set, but from what we heard on our AMEX radios, it wasn’t a competition. Berdych got trounced. Perhaps we should have gone to see Cilic since he is in the finals, but it’s more fun to watch rallies. We left the McEnroe match just as Arthur Ashe spilled out and beat the crowd to Court 7 where we watched Navratilova and Novotna take it to their opponents. It’s amazing how quick Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe are at the net.
We sat in the sun enough for one day, so we found a cement bench in the shade, stuffed our face with a lobster roll and waited until the night session as we had tickets to see Federer play Monfils. The tickets came with a bonus exhibition match between James Blake/John McEnroe and Mats Wilander/Jim Courier. The old boys and young buck had fun playing to the best of four, but Blake and McEnroe won four games so quickly, they had to improvise. Soon the linesman was playing, and he actually made a good shot and won the point!
Monfils and Federer finally entered the court. Monfils was running away with the match and won the first two sets handily. Federer just couldn’t get his game going and made countless errors. Suddenly, in the third set, Federer only made one unforced error in the whole set. This turned the match around. The fourth set was the best of the night with several rallies and Monfils even had to match points. But Federer fought them off, and that proved to be the demise of Monfils as Federer cruised to the five set win in front of a rowdy crowd filled with celebrities…Clive Davis, Anthony Edwards, Lindsey Vonn, Kevin Garnett, Hugh Jackman, and a variety of TV personalities.
After another late night, we got a delayed start to Friday morning. Our first stop was a visit to Art of the Brick, a LEGO Exhibit near Times Square. It is only open for another week. Nathan Sawaya, a corporate lawyer turned artist via LEGO. His pieces include copies of famous works of art like the Mona Lisa, Starry Night and David. He also creates his own pieces of work such as a 20 foot long dinosaur which includes 80,020 pieces and took Sawaya an entire summer to build. His swimmer, with 10,980 pieces, took 15 days. While staring at the pieces, I thought I would not have the patience to do this much less have the imagination to get all those square corners to look as rounded as possible with the limited connection points of the LEGOs. Sawaya is an example of someone who decided to exit the rat race and pursue what makes him happy…only one life, choose wisely. It’s amazing what someone can be successful with when there is a will. At the end, we got to write our names on a LEGO, which Sawaya will use to make a sculpture.
In the same building as the LEGO exhibit, Discovery Times Square, is Body Worlds: Pulse, the original exhibition. This exhibition of the science and anatomy of the human body traveled all over the world, and while I wanted to see it when it came to Dallas, I never made it. This is something I’ve pledged not to do anymore. If there is something happening in my area that I want to see, I am going to go, as I may not get another chance. My mom had not seen the exhibit either, so we walked through inspecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and organs. Photos were only allowed in one spot of a person riding a horse, so that is what I got! The exhibit also played a TED Talk about a survivor from the Hudson River flight. I’m not exactly sure what it had to do with a human body exhibit, but it was an interesting 4 minutes. He now has a sense of urgency and doesn’t delay his bucket list. http://www.ted.com/talks/ric_elias?language=en
After a late lunch at Sardi’s which was right next to the exhibits, we ventured to a few stores and then returned to the hotel for an early dinner and show for our final night in NYC. We dined at Vitae, just a few blocks east of our hotel. My tuna appetizer and duck entrée were fantastic. My mom’s heirloom tomatoes and beef were tasty too. What I loved most about the restaurant aside from the great service were all the extras from the chef. We started out with a spoonful of cucumbers and strawberries. We got a tiny bottle of lime orange soda before dessert. Finger desserts came out at the end of the meal and at the door we left with an oatmeal raisin cookie!
From Vitae, we walked to Pippin which was playing at the Music Box Theater about five blocks away. The first act was fantastic. The dancing and acrobatics, like usual in New York, were top-notch. In order to cast actors with such circus abilities, however, the vocals seemed slightly sacrificed. With all acrobatic shows, I found the first act to be better than the second. Singing and dancing at such a high level is difficult. The show talks up a grand finale which isn’t grand. It’s a lesson. Overall it was a great show and I’m glad I saw it. We even got a grand finale from two women in the audience who were furious with each other. One woman was snapping photos throughout the performance on her tablet which I can only imagine was distracting with the glowing light, not to mention forbidden.
A shouting match began, “It’s none of your business.”
“It is my business. I paid for these tickets.”
“You took pictures with your phone!”
“No I didn’t!” as she turns to the usher and says, “Look at my phone. I don’t have any on it. She has tons of pictures on her tablet!”
The usher just stood there and said, “Ladies.”
I thought a fist fight might break out as the F word started flying and “Shut Up”, “No, You Shut Up” were bellowed out at the highest octave.
Another person in the audience chimed in and said, “We have children here.” She got told to shut up too!
The excitement didn’t end there. Somehow, someone thought it would be a good idea to start construction on Broadway at 11pm on Broadway when the theater let out. Cops and workers in orange vests were attempting to direct car traffic as a backhoe bounced down the street and tourists crossed through the intersection. An impatient driver began passing through the intersection, and the traffic director started smacking the stop sign into his windshield yelling, “Where do you think you’re going?” He kept going until the cop stepped in front of him, and he was stopped in the middle of the intersection. What an entertaining commotion to the end of the evening!
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened in the South! As I mentioned before, I love NYC, but this may be the first time I’ve visited the city, and thought I could never live here. I used to want to as I love the fast pace. All the service people couldn’t have been nicer, but the people on the street were as rude as I’ve ever seen them and the city was as dirty as I remember it. I was also jonesing for green space after three days as we never made it to Central Park. It’s still a great place to visit, and we had an awesome time! I’ll be going back to NYC soon…ETB