Monday, December 20, 2010

The Wandering Blues Travelogues: New York State of Mind

I'm sitting in a Gainesville hotel writing about New York. I'll be in Baltimore when I write about Gainesville. Then I'll be in Worcester, writing about Baltimore. And mispronouncing Worcester. 


I grew up in Pennsylvania farm country. While growing up dirty and barefoot may have certain advantages--being able to regale wide-eyed suburbanites with tales of horseriding, fishing, and John Deere Day (the holiest of holy days when my alma mater used to let the kids drive their tractors to school), it was also ideally located for day trips to Baltimore, Philly, Pittsburgh, DC, and NYC. So I'd been to the Big Apple about--15?--times before.

Of course, this still makes me about a Threat Level Red on the Obvious Tourist Scale. But every time I board that NJ transit train I know I've got about 40 minutes to transform myself from the chattery uncoordinated country girl to a lean, mean, jaywalking machine. Generally, the New Jersey commuters help a lot with this transformation by staring incredulously at me for the entire trip.

I mean, you can't really blame them for staring. I board trains with the grace of a spindly three-legged foal wearing tap shoes. A spindly three-legged foal wearing tap shoes with luggage.

But by the time we hit Penn Station, I'm a sunglassed and high-heeled warrior. The armor's up. I walk fast, I don't yield, I weave in and out of crowds like a guided missile. It's why I worry about ever living in New York. That armor? It's pretty hard for a girl to carry. Especially when she usually walks like a baby Labrador.


This trip was an odd blend of business and vacation. I'd write in the morning, explore, edit in the afternoon, and explore again at night. 

It was also an odd trip because I was operating on a shoestring budget. Not even a shoestring budget. A no-string budget. We're talking Stove Top made with the coffee maker-- like regular Stove Top, only crunchier. Given that I'd just spent 2+ hours in 18 degree weather, that crouton-like Stove Top tasted better than a steak at Sardi's. 

At one point I tried to make a grilled cheese sandwich with the iron, but realized I didn't have foil or wax paper. 

So I tried a washcloth.


 My cheap Koreatown hotel rented out its rooftop to one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan, the Mé Bar. Cheap drinks, indoor and outdoor seating, hot spiced cider with rum or whiskey (get the whiskey). Best of all? It's right next to the Empire State Building. 

The bartender spent about a half-hour telling me about the time he got lost in Amish Country: Lancaster, PA (near where I'm from). 

He said the f word thirty-six times. I loved him.


"You can get beer anywhere in NYC," I was told. "Definitely don't bring it in."

You can get beer anywhere in NYC. If you want to drink Miller Lite, that is.

I tried three different drugstores, all with dismal results. But you can get beer anywhere in NYC, I insisted. One more stop before I gave up: a Korean supermarket.

The labels were all foreign, the prices all in Korean. But the beer selection? Compared to the rest of NYC, it was godly. I grabbed two cans of Guinness and tried to memorize the Korean characters for beer. I failed. But no language barriers existed for the age-old equation of cash=beer.

I'd definitely recommend the La Quinta Inn Manhattan if you want a cheap hotel within walking distance of Penn Station and you don't mind that your hotel room will be the size of a large closet.

It's a wildly popular hotel for European visitors, so I'd also recommend it if you want to be sitting on the lobby couch beside an elderly Cockney couple passionately arguing about tissues, as I was.


 I saw Chicago. Rush tickets scored me seventh-row seats.
The seats were awesome. The show was disappointing.


The Christmas department store displays were cheesy and crowded as usual, but I love them. You'd love them too. Don't believe me? Exhibit A:
I actually have a record called "Disco Noel."
Synthesized, disco-ized Christmas carols.
I didn't know how to describe it until I saw this.
It's this. Exactly this.

Check out those PANTS.

A Very Merry Disco Christmas.

You're welcome.


I can't go to New York City without visiting Bryant Park. I had a favorite hole-in-the-wall pizza joint on 42nd adjacent to Bryant, tucked in the back of a corner market. I'd take my two slices, both bigger than my head, and I'd grab a table at Bryant, eat my pizza, and people-watch. Let my armor down for a while.  This trip I found out they tore my pizza place down for some new skyscraper. I very nearly cried, right there in the middle of Bryant Park.

Screw Rockefeller. Bryant Park at Christmastime is my favorite thing in the city.

Christ, I love New York.

Next stop on the Wandering Blues Travelogues: Gainesville, Florida.


  1. Wow that was awesome! I have never been to New york, as i live in Dallas, TX and that is a looooong drive... I want to go someday though, I now I want to see Bryant Park! :)

  2. Thanks for sharing. I've always wanted to visit New York, and now that wish has greatly increased. :)

  3. Whu-stir. Wusster. Wuster. Yeah, that's right. Assuming we're talking Worcester, MA.

    You know I lived in Boston, right? And I grew up in Jersey? I would not have given you dirty looks on the train. At the mall? Yes. On the train? No.

    NYC is a magical place. There's no doubt. Thanks for the photo reminder of it's wonder.

  4. I am so happy for you to take this trip! Awesome! The cyber big-sis in me wants to send you some cash. Lemme know where I can send it and I swear I'll at least send you enough to get a coffee. (With or without kaluah)

    If you have time, try to find the Bitchy Waiter. I think he still might work in a crappy Times Square chain.

    Have fun! Take more great photos!

  5. Can I please correct "it's"? My God. I think I've lost control of my contractions. Its wonder. Help.

  6. I love seeing a glimpse of NYC through your eyes! I have a friend that just moved there (by 'just' I of course mean August) and I've been meaning to visit him. We should go together sometime.
    I'm really sorry about your pizza place, but I would still go to Bryant Park with you. I actually squealled the first time I looked up, after wandering around Manhattan for hours, and realized that I was standing in the middle of it.

  7. Whoa I'm loving your blog. Great post:)

  8. seeing things like that reminds me why i'm moving back to new york. or, more aptly, makes me wonder what in the HELL made me think moving away from new york to florida was a good life choice.

  9. You have no idea how jealous I am of you right now. What a little jet-setter you are! The picture of you under/by the empire state building is classic. Don't ever ever get rid of it. Fuck you are fantastic.

  10. So I gave you an award on my blog for this post. Check it out!

  11. Wait!!!! I want to meet up in Baltimore. Come on. Do it!

  12. Psssh, who doesn't have Disco Christmas?

    Ha. :)

    Loooooved the post. Da End.

  13. I'm so fucking jealous of you right now.


  14. Still insanely jealous. Which is odd, as I've often said that if I could live anywhere in th world it would be london - and do actually live here.

    But there's just something about New York. It's quite possibly the best (and worst) of what the US has to offer and makes me proud of my Yank badge.

    Hope you're having a brilliant time, sweets.

    - B x

  15. Did the washcloth-iron-sandwich-press work?


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