Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New York City, Part Two

Monday, March 26: One of the most interesting facets of visiting big, vibrant cities like New York, London, and Paris is soaking up the interesting neighborhoods. On Monday we set out to see New York’s Chinatown for the first time. We found it to be extremely crowded and slightly disappointing compared to other Chinatowns we’ve been to in other American cities, not to mention authentic Chinese areas and cities in Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, and China itself. In every store we went into, the clerks hovered as if we were going to let our children break something. Chris expressed interest in a few cheap toys, though, and the clerks started bargaining with him! We persuaded him to save his allowance and buy something of higher value and sturdiness later.

The highlight of Chinatown was an excellent Dim Sum lunch at HSF in Chinatown. It was the best kind of Dim Sum lunch for non-red meat eaters, where you get to choose off a menu and thereby avoid pig’s feet and other unknown delicacies.

At left: visiting with Jerry & Carolyn

In the afternoon, we took the subway to the upper west side, where we visited our dear friends Jerry and Carolyn. We met them in Oaxaca, Mexico, in February 1996. We were staying at a cheap Mexican hotel near the center of town with an open courtyard in the middle of the hotel (Hotel Las Rosas), and an American tourist happened into the hotel and was convinced he was having a heart attack. Mike tried to convey this to the hotel desk clerks, but was struggling to convey medical information in his high school Spanish. Jerry came to the rescue and effectively conveyed the urgency of the situation. He asked us if we were doing anything later that day, and a friendship was born. Jerry and Carolyn were going to Oaxaca annually at the time, so they introduced us to many wonders of Oaxaca, including the spicy drink Michelada. (I’m sure I’m not spelling that correctly.)

At any rate, Jerry and Carolyn live in Manhattan, and we have visited them on each of our trips to New York, in 1998, 2005, and 2007. Jerry is a retired social worker and unemployment ombudsman, and Carolyn is a talented artist. What we didn’t know until this trip was that Jerry and his Czech family were put in internment camps during World War II and have been profiled in the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Perhaps on our next visit, when the children are older, we'll be able to visit the museum. We had a lovely visit catching up and planned to meet up once more during our stay.

Tuesday, March 27: We visited Holden Caulfield’s American Museum of Natural History. Always a popular place for kids, but especially since “A Night at the Museum” recently came out. That movie was PERFECT for a 10-year-old boy, and Chris was anxious to see all of the items in the movie. We discovered that they took great creative license in the movie, and that about the only authentic thing in the movie was the exterior of the museum! At any rate, the kids had a great time. Mike’s brother Ed and son Alex joined us for the day.

At left: Chris with the Easter Island statue (made famous in "Night at the Museum," and both boys in front of a dinosaur skeleton)

As we exited the front of the museum, I spied a Central Park bench where my family ate gasoline-scented sandwiches on a rainy afternoon in 1981. When I was 16, my family took a fantastic 6-week cross-country trip and camped in pup tents in “Cheesequake State Park” in New Jersey while venturing into New York City every day. Somehow, there had been a gas leak in the trunk where our food was, and everything smelled of gas. I wonder now what kind of brain damage I sustained by eating gas-infected sandwiches! Maybe that explains my memory loss of late!! :)

In the afternoon, we ventured to the “Books of Wonder” bookstore in Chelsea. We had read about it in several guidebooks, and it was supposed to have the largest collection of Wizard of Oz books in the world, so of course we had to go. When we arrived, I asked a shop assistant about the Oz books, and she led us to the two bookcases containing more Oz books than I knew existed. Kieran was in heaven. What a wonderful children’s book store. For those of you in Portland, it’s a bit like Annie Bloom’s for kids.

Wednesday, March 28: Wednesday was our day for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and we did not venture out as early as we had hoped. However, the lines were shorter than the last time we went in 2003. We were early enough to receive coveted tickets into the pedestal of the statue. When we finally arrived at Liberty Island after waiting in long security lines, we saw the line into the pedestal and decided to pass.

Instead we took a tour around the island with a funny park ranger. He talked at length about the colorful history of the statue. Apparently when they dedicated the statue, many dignitaries and politicians were gathered for long, lofty speeches. Lady Liberty was supposed to symbolize freedom and equality for all; however, no women were invited to the dedication. Incensed, a group of suffragettes rowed up in boats and protested loudly during the dedication ceremony. Interesting to consider what “liberty and justice for all” and the words of our constitution have meant to different people over the years!

In the end, we did go up in the pedestal because the line got shorter. It was worthwhile…there was a museum inside and we were able to look up inside of the statue. Of course, Mike’s most prized memory will be seeing how many people were turned away because they did not have tickets to go inside of the statue!

Photos above: views from the pedestal--Lady Liberty, Manhattan, our family

Ellis Island was fascinating as always, although Mike and I could have stayed much longer. We saw a great documentary about the island’s history and immigration. I would recommend taking the time to see it if you go.

Photo at left: on the boat returning to Manhattan

That evening we had amazing takeout Chinese food…some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in some time!

Thursday, March 29: Three boys in tow, in the morning we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Are we crazy?? The museum was jam packed with people, but very few small children were about. The kids enjoyed the Egypt collection the best. We also spent time in the Armour section and the Japanese exhibit. Surly guards were obviously not thrilled at the sight of children. Mike was disappointed that the kids didn't last longer in the museum (he and my mom love to take their time reading everything in museums)...I'm just glad that we had lots of pre-kids time to luxuriate in museums!

Photos at left: Kieran clowning around in the Temple of Dendur

We had lunch at the Lexington Candy Shop Diner--which is not a candy store at all, but rather an authentic New York City diner, with soda fountain prices reflecting its Upper East Side location. The kids enjoyed their burgers there. (Interesting that we have raised such red meat lovers somehow!!)
After lunch, we went to FAO Schwartz. Kieran just about died of pleasure when he saw the very expensive “Madame Alexander” collection of Wizard of Oz dolls!!! Excuse me, $250 for a doll? No way! Both older boys enjoyed dancing on the “Big” piano, although Kieran was wearing a pair of slightly too big jeans, and they kept falling down around his ankles, making me crack up.

Photo at left: In FAO Schwartz on the piano made famous in "Big"

In the evening, we cooked Japanese food (yaki soba) for our friends Jerry and Carolyn and Ed and Shemara and family.

Friday, March 30: Friday was spent being consumers—or pseudo consumers, as we really didn’t purchase much. We started out with Nintendo World in Rockefeller Center, where Mike and the kids tried out “WII” and other toys while I wandered around with Nicholas to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art shop. After lunch in Rockefeller Center at “Hale and Hearty Soups” (wouldn’t you know it, the “Soup Nazi” of Seinfeld fame now has a chain of restaurants!!), we went to the huge Disney Store on 5th Avenue. After that, we met Ed and Alex in Central Park for a few hours.

Photo at left: With Peter Pan and Wendy in the Disney Store

In the late afternoon, Chris and I went on the NBC Studio Tour. It was his reward for good behavior all week. He LOVED it, and I thought it was pretty much a colossal waste of money. I enjoyed seeing his enjoyment, though. They took us through several sound stages and studios (such as Dateline Studios). The highlight for me was seeing the studio where they film “Saturday Night Live.” At one point, they asked for volunteers from the group, who were set up to read the weather and news on a green screen. Chris was the first enthusiastic volunteer, so he got to pretend to be a meteorologist. After the tour, I treated him to a Photoshopped photo of him winning $1 million on “Deal or No Deal.” I know that lots of parent drop hundreds of dollars on souvenirs for their kids, but not us. I thought I was a pretty cool mom when I bought him that photo, especially as I can’t stand that show! :)

After the tour, we met everyone at La Bonne Soupe, our favorite French bistro in Manhattan, where we’ve been going since 1998. We had a nice meal, but it’s not easy or relaxing to eat out with five children!

Saturday, March 31: Our last day in the city, so we took it easy. We took the tram to Roosevelt Island, where we explored yet another playground. We also checked out Dylan’s Candy Bar, a famous candy store owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter. We found it quite overstimulating, but we did find some unique Pez dispensers to get for our nephews.
Photos at left: on the playground at Roosevelt Island

After lunch, we celebrated Kieran’s 4th birthday early with an ice cream cake from Ed and Shemara. He was delighted with the fact that it had “lellow” frosting.

Photos above: hanging out with cousins on our last day; Kieran with "lellow" cake; Jessie in the dress we sent her from Hawaii

In the afternoon, we took mass transit to the airport, which was surprisingly easy. We took the subway to Queens, where we caught an air train to the airport. We were pretty proud of ourselves, taking mass transit to JFK with two big suitcases and three children!

Unfortunately, our 7:15 Delta flight was delayed for 2 hours, and about 20 minutes before we finally took off, Nicholas had an inconsolable crying jag. I was convinced that the people all around us were horrified at the thought of a cross-country flight with a screaming baby, but when we disembarked later on, a woman near Mike said she had not heard a thing! Fortunately he calmed down after about 10 minutes.

We enjoy Delta’s individual television screens in each seat. Again, I had all three kids in a row, with Mike across the aisle. I figure that since he’s the primary caregiver, it was the least I could do for him! He was extremely focused on the TV screen in front of him, and I finally figured out that he was playing the in-flight trivia challenge! I joined in and found it to be quite addicting. We both were able to win the contest a couple of times (and beat out everyone else on the plane), and Mike had the record-high score.

We arrived back in Seattle at around 11:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. Eastern), and were delighted to see dear Uncle David waiting by the baggage claim for us.

1 comment:

  1. from Mom: re: the gas sandwiches: We must have thought we needed to slow down your brain so we could keep up with it...obviously it didn't work! Maybe we shouldn't have eaten them too. It worked on us!