Monday, October 9, 2017

The New Normal in New York

As bad as I am at taking photos, there still didn't seem to be much point to coming on here and babbling about where I was and what I was doing without them. Now that I have a new phone and camera, we're back in business. Although the photos haven't gotten any better. sigh.

I love Penn Station and trains more than any airport or plane.

I think the defining characteristic of my daughters' childhoods was that we moved around a lot. Maybe not like army brats, but way more often than most non-military families. Los Angeles, Las Vegas/Boulder City, New Orleans, all over Florida and back again. For many years, most summers saw us traveling some portion of I-10 to a new home.

An online acquaintance once commented, "Your lives must be so exciting." But I explained that our lives probably looked much like hers - full of school work, laundry, grocery shopping and other mundane tasks. It's just that these things took place in ever-changing locations.

And that's where I'm at again.

I took dance classes at Carnegie Hall when I lived in NYC.
Almost, anyway. I'm taking off from paying work for a few more weeks while I visit some of my happy places. But soon my travel will slow way down so that I can work without the distractions of constant packing, unpacking and logistics planning. Not to mention the actual moving from one place to another.

A little bit of Central Park & skyline from my room.
Then I will be just getting shit done in ever-changing locations. Working, running errands, even grocery shopping, are all a lot more interesting in places I don't call home. And, strangely enough, I enjoy places more when living in them this way than when spending all of my time seeing their famous attractions. Although I do still get out a few times a week to enjoy whatever catches my fancy.

Which is exactly how I spent my time in New York.

Chores as Sightseeing

Though I'd spent over a week in Las Vegas provisioning for months of extended travel, there were a couple of things I didn't get to. So, while I was in New York, I got my eyebrows waxed and my boots shined - which, at $10 including tip, was probably 10 times what it would have cost in Mexico City, where there are shoe shines available on street corners all over the DF.

The lions are named Patience and Fortitude.
I also had to finish my taxes. I'd taken an extension, so I had until the 15th to file. But I really wanted to get it done before I left the country. I'd been fooling with it for weeks, but I didn't want to spend hours in my room at the expense of seeing more of New York. So I decided to finish it all up at the New York Public Library.

New York Public Library Reading Room
New York Public Library Reading Room
Considering what a bookworm I've been my whole life, I find it surprising that I've never been to the
famous library in the two years I lived there after college or the many times I've visited since. This was the perfect opportunity to not only see the gorgeous Reading Room, but actually put it to use. It was fabulous.

Walking from one place to another allowed me to see parts of the city I might not have seen otherwise. And running my errands let me experience a little bit of what it's like to be a local there these days.

Bryant Park NYC
Bryant Park
Bryant Park is right behind the library. I met Andrew (who actually is a local), the son of my fabulous friends Charlie and Maureen, at the park that evening before going to the theater nearby. It's a great place, and packed after work.


Of course, even locals go to the theater, and I certainly wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to indulge in one of my absolute favorite activities. I just kept it at 2 shows in 4 nights, rather than trying to cram in another 2 evening shows and 2 matinees.

This show was great. Lots of laughs, with some parts of it taking place around the theater, as well as on the stage. I loved it, but one of the main reasons I wanted to see it is because it originated in London and is still playing there. I want to see both versions, to find out how they compare to each other.

I don't expect one to be significantly better or worse than the other, but I do expect the experience to be at least somewhat different, and that fascinates me. In all the years I've gone to the theater in both cities, I've never had the opportunity to see the same play in both places. And I like that it is a show I'd never seen before.

This play had the most boring songs it's ever been my misfortune to find in a musical. The story about the competition between Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden was interesting enough, and it's what I went for, so I have no complaint about that. And the production values were excellent. The show looked fabulous, the cast was excellent - though I thought Patti Lupone often took her characterization of Rubenstein way over the top.

Still, I considered the show well worth the price of my ticket - particularly with the discount I got from the Theater Development Fund. As a huge fan of vintage fashion, I was drooling over the costumes used in this play. Not only the leads, but all of the chorus, are dressed in the absolute best styles of each decade. Whoever was in charge of costume design deserves huge recognition, in my opinion. 

The purpose - illustrating the passage of time - could have been achieved by just using the most mediocre representations of each period, particularly on the chorus. But the designer nailed the highest quality in both clothing and jewelry for every single female that appeared on stage, and it was a pure joy to look at.


Cuban Chinese, not an everyday combo.

While New York offers practically unlimited options for dining, I was content to splurge with both my funds and my diet on just two occasions.

Pancakes at the Smith

Sidewalk pancakes at The Smith
The cappuccino and stack of pancakes at The Smith was probably not the most imaginative choice for a splurge, but I happened to have been craving pancakes for weeks. I softened the blow, both financially and dietetically, by eating only two of the pancakes and having the rest over the following two days.

Pre-Theater at Jack's

Jack's Restaurant and Bar New York City
Jack's Restaurant and Bar

With a Ruby Tuesday's on one corner and a Red Lobster on the other, I was very disappointed with the nearest dining options near my theater on the night I decided to treat myself. Fortunately, I spotted Jack's just a few doors down the next block. 

Crab cakes & sweet potato fries at Jack's NYC
Crab cakes & sweet potato fries at Jack's

The crab cakes and sweet potato fries did not disappoint. And the serving of fries was so big, I took that home, as well, and had it for lunch the next day. The waiter was nice enough to wrap it in foil for me so that I could stick it in my purse and didn't have to go to the theater with a takeout box.

The Highline

The Highline NYC
The Highline

I'd been curious about the Highline, but had never gotten around to checking it out, so I went to take a quick look the morning I left New York. It looks like a nice enough place to get up away from the traffic on nice days, maybe take lunch if you work nearby. Definitely a nicer place to jog than the sidewalks.

I liked the way they put seating out of the way of the main path, so people could have more room to navigate the path itself, as well as lots of room to sit and relax, without the two groups tripping over each other. 

There were also a couple of whimsical decor items I found interesting.

Overall, though, it isn't something I feel a need to visit again. It's supposedly based on the Promenade Plantee in Paris, which I haven't visited but will when I go back to the city in a few weeks, just to compare.

Thinking Ahead

I'm usually pretty good about thinking ahead and contingency planning. Although my plane didn't leave Newark until 9:30 pm, I went straight there after checking out of my lodging at 11:30 am. I'd been having a problem with my online application for Global Entry and there was an office at EWR which sometimes took walk-ins for the interview process. 

The website wasn't letting me log in because I needed a number I'd never been given. I was hoping
Saturday morning market near Highline
that someone would be able to pull up the number for me and offer to let me do the quick interview right then, so I could use Global Entry when I returned.

What happened was that the guy who came out to bring people in to their interviews got me the number. He brought it to me in the waiting area, and when I finally got signed in, my application was still showing as pending. So I assumed I was not going to have the opportunity to interview.

It turned out that British Airways was right next to the Global Entry office, so I went over to check in for my flight to London. But the line was so long, and it didn't seem to be moving, so I went to grab something to eat. Since I had so much time to kill, I ate very leisurely, then went back down to the BA counter. 

NYC parking lot with stacked cars.
At that point, I should have checked my application again, because it had been about an hour since someone had looked at my application and they might have approved it. Because I checked it today - the first business day after getting help - and it is approved now. So all I have to do is schedule an interview. Unfortunately, I'm out of the country by now, which means I can't use the Global Entry kiosks to get back in when I return. Grrrr.

Still, I will be coming and going on a regular basis, so it will still come in handy.

Before and After

I left Mexico City the day before the earthquake hit. I would have been so relieved at the enormous good luck of my timing had I not been so worried about the family I left behind there. Fortunately, everyone is okay, though it has taken quite some time to return to some semblance of normality.

I was visiting Charlie and Maureen in New Orleans, being treated to such amazing indulgences as Eggs Louisianne and a Bloody Mary bar at uptown restaurant Atchafalaya, when I woke up to hear about the horror in Las Vegas - which I'd left 2 days before. Again, all of the many family members I have there were unhurt, and I was lucky enough to hear that at the same time I learned of the shooting.

Still, leaving a trail of disaster in my wake everywhere I went was not the most auspicious way to begin months of travel, so I have not started this new adventure with the easiest of minds. But I'm now safely arrived in London, and have begun enjoying old favorites and visiting new ones.

First up was visiting Leadenhall Market, which was used to film Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. 

I'm only in London a few days, then I go to Bath for a few more. Another week in London will be followed by exploring parts of England I haven't seen before, probably up to around York.

Loosely planned after that are a couple of weeks seeing some of southwestern France and unfamiliar areas of Italy. These are somewhat in the nature of scouting trips, to see if there are any places that fit my criteria for longer stays - which are mainly not too expensive, with interesting things to do.

I doubt any of them will come anywhere near Mexico City in that regard, although I am expecting Morocco to come close, and that is where I begin my slow-paced work/travel program, probably around the beginning of next month.

If any of that sounds like it might be of interest to you, then stay tuned. The photos might even improve...though I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that.


  1. Becky, we both got Global Entry at the GOES interview, but from what I see, the kiosk only helps with going across the Mexico or Canada borders. It DOES give us TSA Precheck, though, and I "lurve" that.

  2. And a followup: The kiosk takes a passport and your fingerprints. So, yes, you need the interview. The little card that comes with it is for Mexico and Canada. Sorry for the confusion. But as they used to say, "keep on truckin'"

  3. I will definitely enjoy having Precheck. Most of the airlines I've flown this year have given it to me, which I didn't even know was possible, and now I'm spoiled. I hate when I don't get it because it's sooo much easier. But that card sounds like an express version of the regular passport card, for non-flying Mexico and Canada crossings.If so, that will be great, because I seem to have misplaced mine.

    When I flew back from Mexico through Atlanta earlier this year, nobody got preferential entry. And when I came back from Europe through JFK in August 2015, the kiosks were down for over an hour because of a computer glitch. So, unfortunately, Global Entry won't always make things faster and easier, but I'll take whatever help I can get. Airports are just such a hassle, this is why I prefer trains, lol.

  4. Yes, keep on truckin' and taking those "awful" pictures. I am on twitter now.

  5. Right now, New york is one of ths busiest cities in the world.
    compare gatwick parking

  6. New York is a very beautiful city. Thank you for sharing an interesting post.
    cheap meet and greet stansted


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