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
. 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 4
th 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
the metal detectors
at the Buffalo
airport. The personnel
discovered my Credit
was setting their equipment
However, because of the way they changed my flight
on the way
there, I arrived
earlier than expected and had to wait
in the baggage claim
I saw Steve arrive via the M-60 bus
. I talked to a friendly lady
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.