My first visit to The New New York.
By Christopher J. Bradley

I planned this trip carefully with my friend Steve who invited me to visit on Christmas day after bringing a bag of chocolates. My brother and I enjoyed them at an early showing of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius. I hadn’t seen Steve in almost a year. I was glad that he offered me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

I embarked on January 4th for the greatest American Metropolis, for my third visit to the big city, packed with a small backpack, and a Five Star Folder. My last exciting trip out of Western New York was the Daytona area of Florida in 1997 where I visited Disney with some close friends.

Steve and I decided that LaGuardia airport was the best place for me to meet him in New York because of it’s proximity to Astoria, the area where he lives. Getting to LaGuardia was easy except for the intense search and probing with the metal detectors at the Buffalo airport. The personnel discovered my Credit Card strip was setting their equipment off.

However, because of the way they changed my flight on the way there, I arrived 2 hours earlier than expected and had to wait in the baggage claim area until I saw Steve arrive via the M-60 bus. I talked to a friendly lady from USAIR while I was there who was collecting lost baggage for her family. I was actually outside the terminal smoking when I saw him looking for me on the benches.
At the news stand, I bought a Metro Card for a few dollars, and we took the M-60 bus from LaGuardia to Astoria Blvd. Steve showed me the N train and we proceeded from Astoria Blvd. several stops to Broadway where we got off and walked a couple of blocks to his apartment.

I had an opportunity to meet Steve's roommates and drop my bags off before rushing out of the apartment for dinner at Sanford's, an inexpensive Queens diner, where I had a Portobello Foccacio sandwich and Manhattan Clam Chowder. I have always preferred the Tomato, to the New England style chowder, and it was excellent.

Then Steve and I boarded the N train and headed for the village. Since it was my first night there and I didn't know any of the trains, I let Steve direct us and within one transfer we were close to Bleecker Street.

We went down past several intersections in an area that looked like a dark but living alley.  It reminded me of where Franklin Street meets Chippewa Street in Buffalo on a weekend.

We eventually found The Bitter End, which was in an underground bar while some a caller on the street was trying to direct us to a music loft for "live music" upstairs when we knew perfectly well that the real live music was at the Bitter End from our explorations on Citysearch.

Christina Abbott's band was playing at The Bitter End. She wore a shirt held together with safety pins and a pair of Hobie cotton bell bottoms. She sang folksy blues over her non-descript band member's grooves. Steve thought they had a good rhythm section and I was amazed that they were so good for an original band as opposed to being a cover band. We see a lot of cover bands in Western New York.

Paul Simon and Bob Dylan graced the same stage before becoming mega stars. It cost us about 30 dollars between the two of us for 3 beers and the 5 dollar cover charges. But it was well worth the experience of being in Manhattan in the same day I had been here in Buffalo. And even though I couldn't hear to well because my ears were pressurized from the subways and the plane, I still really enjoyed the set. It wasn't overwhelmingly loud and raucous. The beers we ordered were Guinness draft and Pete's Wicked Ale.

There's something to be said for a city that never sleeps. Not only does it never in itself go to sleep, but it also keeps you awake with it. I listened to the trains cycle to a slower pace all through the night while watching MTV and Comedy Central unable to get adjusted to snoozing along with them on Friday night.

I finally passed out around 7am on the futon after having gotten up repeatedly to check the subway map, call the airlines to confirm the return ticket, and draw a sketch of my first experience on the Metro Transit Authority. I used multi-colored pens on engineering paper.

On our way back from Bleecker Street we encountered an individual on the subway who was complaining about a kid who took control of a train in 1991 and drove it around New York for 8 hours until he was discovered and captured. He then complained that his girlfriend didn't want to have sex every night and that he should get to have it whenever he wanted it.
Perhaps that isn't an unusual circumstance. Steve thought he should go for the compromise of 3 days a week. I kept silent and pretended I didn't hear any of it until we had switched back to the N train. Where I ended up in a conversation with a bunch of John Cusack fans. I suggested that the one girl buy a copy of Serendipity on DVD.

At around 8AM I woke Steve up and went for a smoke on their balcony outside his room. The weather was perfect. It was close to 45 degrees. The balcony is a hanging steel basket above a larger hanging steel hanging above a flat terrace. Being exhausted I almost lost my balance a couple of times. I had to be careful not to knock over Steve's guitar stand when going out there.

Steve was on his way for a jog and then guitar lessons, but before he went, he stopped at a local bagel shop and bought some bagels and sun dried tomato spread. The “everything” bagels were great and inexpensive. During my rampage of the kitchen while the trains were passing I also found myself getting into the Cheerios.

I took a shower while Steve was out and brushed my teeth and then settled into a "Cribs" mega-marathon. I got to see Master-P's crib, Ozzy's Crib, Ozzy's Kids’ Crib, and multiple ads for Mariah Carey's upcoming Cribs episode. I also watched some mind numbing Carson Daly episodes with the USO where he is playing around with live munitions and throwing crap out of the back of airplanes. Kid Rock was also heavily featured, as was Jennifer Lopez.

I waited patiently for Steve to get back from his guitar lesson and talked with Kim quite a bit regarding his acting profession. He seemed to want to talk most about his exploits as an Anime voice character. I thought that was pretty cool. I plan to send him some fan mail as soon as I see the video he was a part of. When Steve got back around 12:15 AM, we went directly from the apartment to the N train and headed into Manhattan to go up toward Central Park West to the American Museum of Natural History.
The museum was very busy and we had to wait in line almost 30 minutes for tickets to enter. I had hoped to see the Planetarium Show. The tickets were a little expensive, about 19.00 without student id, but I figured since I had missed the Aquarium on the trip to Boston this was well worth the admission price.

On the floor below the planetarium was a very space age exhibit that showed the various elements of the solar system and a very brief introduction to space in general. We didn't spend much time with them because our tickets demanded our immediate attention and it was a little tricky finding the entrance to the globe itself. It was at the top of a curved flight of stairs that led to a walkway over that main floor. The walkway was roped off with an elevator that led to the second floor.

When we exited the elevator, we entered a dark room with Television monitors hanging from the ceiling every 15 feet or so, displaying a kind of universal quiz show of the galaxy's components. The show would display an image and give a definition and give you a moment to match the phenomena with the term that described it.

We were packed in like sardines as more and more people gradually entered this chamber. And at one point a maladjusted individual on a cell phone exclaimed that he had explosive shoes on. Everyone got nervous and uptight that was in his immediate vicinity and it changed my perfect view of New York that I had had up to this point. In any case it was expected that there would be a certain amount of attitude disharmony from certain New Yorkers considering the events of that week.

We followed into the planetarium when the ushers called for us and quietly took our seats. Within minutes everyone was settled and the lights went out. A computer model began to generate on the dome first with random numbers and letters and eventually with Stars. Tom Hank's was the presenting voice. He explained as the projections began that the images were taken in real time from the Hubble Space telescope and other observatories. This really impressed me. I had no idea that data was available in such a hyper format to observatories and planetariums in that fashion.

We watched as Tom explained the relationships between our planet, solar system, galaxy, and cluster of galaxies (known as the Vega Super-cluster). We saw a very interesting image of what a Black Hole might look like on the inside as we were transported back to our planet from the distant universe.

Steve and I wandered around the museum for a bit, considering the possibility of buying something to drink. During our quest for soda, we arrived in a large open Gallery. The Gallery contained dinosaur casts. They were enormous and balanced in what seemed like very precarious poses. There was a Brontosaurus exhibit, where the Brontosaurus fossil was actually up on it's hind legs in a defensive posture in an attempt to defend its’ young from I believe an Aleosaurus.

I was impressed at how the casts balanced so well on only some very thin supports. These casts appear for a split second in the new I Love New York commercial that has been airing the past few days. It would have been neat if they had filmed that section while we were in the museum, but it looks like it was probably filmed before we were ever there.

After viewing the dinosaur casts for a few minutes, we went for a walk deeper into the rear gallery and discovered an exhibit dedicated to African people. There was a timeline and several maps tracing our origins back to their beginnings in Africa.
There were several display cases along the way with tons of text describing the evolution of life in Africa going from simple tools through the production of complex metal objects including weaponry and shields. We stopped around this point because I got a little bit intimidated by a woman in a huge fur coat who was skeptical of my interest in the exhibits.

We moved on through rooms on our way out passing huge fertility totems hanging from the ceiling. We ended up walking back past the planetarium and out to the street where we took a break so I could have a cigarette.

We took a train south on the island to 42nd Street and Times Square and hopped out at the epicenter of the Eastern Seaboard. I think we actually walked a couple of blocks to get there. I was deeply moved by the video screens and the huge billboards and signs and bills posted everywhere. We walked across a couple of streets, and past an Olive Garden restaurant with very fancy neon lighting in green and purple, to come to a Sbarro pizza on a little bit down from the Virgin Megastore on the left side of the video screens.

Steve and I had some great Pizza. I had some vegetable topping stuff that was really thick. In New York prices, it wasn't all that bad. It ended up costing me about 10 bucks. Around here, for Pizza and Pop, it usually costs about 8.50 at the Sbarro at the Boulevard Mall.

We sat for a while and talked about New York and what we were going to do when we proceeded out of there. Steve left me alone in the place for a few minutes and I was really glad that he came back, still being unsure of my navigation skills, I think at this point I decided I could pretty much trust him with anything. And I appreciate him letting me have a moment to take things in on my own.

I remember staring at a very large billboard for a musical called Chicago and some small bill posters for a movie called The Shipping News that were along the front of the building immediately across from Sbarro. I've been a fan of Kevin Spacey for a while.

Steve directed me through the human traffic and we walked right down in front of the Virgin Megastore and looked inside. It looked like the biggest music and media seller I had ever seen. I didn't really want to venture in, not really having the money to buy any music, but I looked for a long hard moment at all of the perfectly packaged CD's and DVD's through the window and made a mental note that if I were ever shopping in Manhattan, I would have to come back to it.

We walked up and over a block, pausing in the middle of the intersection for traffic, and stood for a moment outside MTV studios and looked in to see that Viacom owned the building. I am not sure if Viacom is MTV's parent company, but the security looked pretty tight, and I didn't think it would be worth making an effort to speak with anyone there.

We could see a couple of the monitors inside the second floor studio from the ground level but that was about it. While standing there I reflected back to watching the crowds stand outside the studio for the TRL show that broadcasts live from that location during the week.

I followed Steve again to the correct subway platform and we headed North to 59th to switch to the N train and head back to Broadway in Queens. On the walk back to the apartment I told Steve about my loyalty to my friends here in Niagara Falls due to their helping me through some rough times.

Steve watched TV for a couple of hours and I slept on the couch until almost 8PM and woke up fearing I had missed the opportunity to get to the Jazz Club. I was glad to find that I had not and that Steve was ready to go right then, so I grabbed my jacket and Metropass and we headed for the Broadway Platform again.

We didn't have to make any transfers to get to Prince Street in Soho. I don't recall exactly which train we were on, but it took us directly there. We did have one mishap when we got into the neighborhood though. We walked a couple of blocks in the wrong direction and had to get some directions from a convenience store clerk to get there as promptly as possible. We were followed down the street of the club by a couple of what seemed like resident ladies of the night. They had the verbal tenacity that I expected from the streets of New York. I ignored them as well as I could and we ducked into Kavehas quickly.

We were greeted promptly by a Japanese hostess and seated at a side table a little fancier than the one at the Bitter End with a white table cloth, but I ended up sitting with my back to the Jazz players for most of the performance. Seeing their performance wouldn't have made that much of a difference because of the distance from them, so I just listened and enjoyed what I heard. They were very good and the place was very crowded.

It reminded me a lot of a larger Calumet Art's Cafe. I had a nice pasta dish with meatballs, and rolls, and a Mochachino with Whipped Cream. The Mochachino was excellent and if given the opportunity, I will definitely go back someday for another. Steve and I discussed the future prospects of publishing and talked about how Jazz is really not meant for a visual setting like MTV. It is definitely a calmer more grooving medium. After a couple of sets, we decided to take off and as before, took only one train to get back to Broadway, and I slept well Saturday night, after staying up to watch an MTV special.

We woke up later than expected and ended up catching a little bit of a rushed breakfast, after I packed all of my things up into their appropriate packs. I had to carry them with us on our trip on Sunday because we were going straight to the airport after that. Steve carried the heaviest pack most of the way and I owe him great thanks for that.

The diner that we had our rushed breakfast in didn't have a name that I could remember. A very nice Hispanic waitress who moved smoothly between speaking Spanish and French brought our dishes, and we had two eggs, toast, hash browns, coffee, and juice for $2.50 a piece. A great deal, even in comparison with the Denny's Slams we have around here.

It was a much longer walk to the church than I anticipated, but well worth it. On the way to the church, we saw a statue of Athena donated from Greece to the city of New York in 1997 I believe. It was still in very good condition and I remarked that it must have been donated at about the same time Steve moved to New York.

We visited a Catholic church and sat toward the back. I made an interesting connection that I had not prior, regarding Epiphany. There were remarks in Isaiah regarding Frankincense and Myrrh that were also made later in the New Testament. Indicating that to a degree, that the Wise Men being scholars themselves, may have helped to fulfill a centuries' old prophecy. Whether they did it wittingly or unwittingly is a question I will have to live with for a long time I am sure. The service was very much like the services I have attended with my Catholic friends here at home. I did my best to keep up.

Steve and I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts right under the 36th street subway platform and had a couple of cups of coffee. When they sold me mine, the clerk asked me if I wanted a bag. I was stunned for a moment and didn't know what to say, because I hadn't ordered any donuts. It turns out, in New York, from what Steve told me, some people liked to carry their coffee in a bag, so they could get on and off the subway platforms without spilling it. Something, being from around here, I never really would have considered.

After our extended stop at Dunkin Donuts, we walked a couple of blocks, bought a lotto ticket (accidentally), and made our way to the Museum of Film and Moving Image, where we saw some really neat stuff.

On the main floor there was an exhibit that included vintage video games. It turns out that one of the first ever invented was a prototype for Asteroids. Space Wars, it turns out was developed as early as the 1950s.

On the second floor, one display was a three dimensional representation of how a strobe can turn a set of rotating objects into a moving image. There were some old black and white rotating page cartoon movies. And the insides of cameras and televisions were strewn about throughout the main physical displays.

There were television and film pop culture exhibits that included some really interesting artifacts, to include: a Star Wars lunch box, Kermit the frog doll, Bart Simpson bank, plastic ray gun, Woody Allen Zelig props, and the Mowhawk Skull Cap from the movie Taxi Driver.

We had an opportunity to overdub the voices of famous actors in a sound studio there, (unsupervised I might add). Steve showed me a quick sample with Deniro's "You talkin' to me" lines and I quickly learned and overdubbed Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz in Japanese as she met with the Munchkins at the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road.

It was quite interesting to me that they had these exhibits so publicly accessible. We also played with a machine that allowed us to change the soundtrack from one movie to that of another movie. There were several different options for scoring the Fox film Independence Day.

One thing that was a big help in the museum was that they allowed us to check the bags for free. This museum also deserves a second visit. We checked out our bags and coats at the museum desk and headed back to the subway platform.

When we got there, it was only a couple of quick stops to Astoria Blvd. And then only a short wait until the M60 picked up and took us to Laguardia. Steve stuck with me, so I wouldn't get lost, and I really appreciated that. When I got to the airport, I ended up getting searched twice.

I didn't much appreciate the delay in getting back to Buffalo due to "mechanical" problems. Oh well, I guess it's rather routine since the problems with the airlines began, and I would rather have had them check up on everything than not, prior to launching into flight. I was disappointed that I didn't get free juice on the ride home though. I got star treatment on the way there, with a nice can of spiced tomato juice. All in all though, the trip was quite a success and I have come back with an interesting image of the New New York.