Monday, February 7, 2011

Hangin' with the Biebs - Winter New York Vacation

New York is my magic land. The city loves me. It bends and flexes to my whims. Some of the magic is dissipating, but it still must feel like I'm fairly special.

This is the view from the hotel room window. At night.
This is not from the hotel room.
These are icicles.
This is some statue downtown.
This is a street in New York.

Jersey Shore

We were flying to Newark. Of course, the Jersey Shore guys were on our plane. The one guy...honestly...he was wearing grey sweatpants and a wife-beater, sitting in coach. At least get a business class ticket written into your contract. I honestly thought about sneaking back to take his photo, as he slept in his wife-beater, but we didn't want to risk getting thrown off future Air Canada flights.
We looked it up afterwards and they had been at some party in White Rock. Can you imagine if that was what your life was? Flying to parties in suburbs of North American cities to judge Guido contests? Oh man....look at the dress code for this thing!



Restaurants in New York make Vancouver seem kind of silly. There are so many gluten free options. So much meat. It's amazing.

First up, the Spotted Pig. Definitely lives up to the hype. This was the first thing in New York that we did at 2AM Sunday morning. I will dream about that Hamburger. The Six Points Lager was one of the best beers I've ever had. We went back later in the week and sat next to this guy, made famous on the Office as the guy that Jim walks in on dropping a deuce at the Daycare.

Monday, I went to Katz's on my own. 15 bucks for a sandwich, but definitely worth it.
Nearby, you have the Pickle Guys, which is amazing, as well as Babycakes, which serves up a pretty mean gluten free cupcake. I also popped in at Butter Lane because Ted Allen told me it would be the best cupcake I ever had. It wasn't.

Then you've got your Lenny's, which is a pretty amazing sandwich. On the sandwich train, we went to Friedman's in Chelsea Market, which has gluten free options.

For dinner, we pretty much lived at the Risotteria. Oh my god. One of the best pizzas I've ever eaten (not gluten free) but the gluten free breadsticks are better than most regular bread you will eat. The gluten free croutons are amazing. And the risotto has me diving through cookbooks looking for recipes. We ate there 3 times.

We also found this place near Katz's called Pala. Gluten free pizza and gluten free calamari. I didn't think it was as good as the Risotteria but somebody else thought it was.

All very boring for anybody reading this, I do realize. But very exciting to look back on. The only thing I missed that I wanted to experience was 5 Guys burgers, a Papaya Dog and some street meat. Next time.

Play #1

I'll admit it. The next day, I was a bit hungover. We had tickets to a matinee (and 2nd to last show) of Time Stands Still. We were literally up in the rafters. One of the main beams actually skimmed my head every time I stood up. The theater was beautiful though, and the play was good. We actually bumped in to our Landlord in the line-up outside. We watched in amusement as his party came in late and held up the show.

The Staten Island Ferry

Monday I was on my own. I wandered for a bit to burn off my Katz's sandwich, got pooped on by a bird and then ended up on the Staten Island Ferry. If you've never been on a boat or seen the Statue of Liberty, this would be kind of neat. If you have, I wouldn't bother. The only interesting thing about the Staten Island Ferry is that there are 2-3 armed Coast Guard zodiacs that follow each one as it treks back and forth between Staten Island and Manhattan. It's very odd. There's no security to get on the boat, but each zodiac actually has a person strapped in to a giant machine gun, ready to fire.

Biebs #1 and Letterman

Monday was set aside for the Letterman taping. I knew ahead of time that there were two tapings and that we were either going to get the Biebs or Martha Stewart. Unfortunately, we missed the Biebs show, but were treated to the screaming girls waiting for him outside of the theater. When I first got to the Theater at 3:15, they were there. When we came back to enter the Theater at 5:00, they were there. Dedicated, dedicated people.

While waiting for the Biebs, I snapped this shot of the back of Martha Stewart's head. Not even.
In trying to figure out what the timing of the evening would be, I stumbled across some pretty funny things written about a David Letterman taping. They're all true. There is in fact a line for oldies and fatties. They stick them up on the balconey. It is timed down to the minute. There are lots of instructions about what you can and can't do. There are lots of cheerful interns and people coaching you on how to cheer and how to laugh. It was all very interesting.

So, to walk everybody through it. First, you show up at the front door for the Ed Sullivan Theater. They give you a ticket and write a number on it. We arrived quite late, so we were at the back end of the not old, fat or ugly line up. Numbers 278 and 279 if I remember correctly. You have to show up between 3:30 and 4:30 to claim your tickets and if you don't, you're out of luck. Oh, that's for the late Monday taping, which is actually for the Friday show. Got it? A guy I work with kept saying "But it's too late if they film the Friday show on Monday", as if there was some kind of Letterman time machine that allowed them to film the Friday show 3 days after it airs.

So, we showed up at 4:25, got our tickets and they told us to meet at a theater next door to line up to go into the show. That wasn't until 5:00. We had a Hot Chocolate, watched the Bieb-screamers, took a picture of part of Martha Stewarts hair as she showed up for the taping and then went and stood in line.

The directions were fast and furious at this point. When to pee. When to laugh. When to cheer. Etc. The final step was a young hype man who did a fairly good job of getting the rules across and making everybody excited. "This is the best show we've had in a long time. This is sweeps week. Millions of people have tried to get these tickets. Get excited!" I'm certain they've had the same speech since the seventies.

As I mentioned, we were the last of the not fat, not ugly, not old bunch and were some of the last people to make it in to the theater. We acted as seat fillers for the bottom section (i.e. the not fat, old or ugly section). Unfortunately, this meant that we couldn't sit together. Which made things a bit awkward.

We'd barely sat down when things started happening. A really old comedian came out and told some kind of funny jokes. He then introduced the really, really old band and an even older Paul Shaefer. He looks super, super creepy in real life. Like he's put together with glue, is certain the camera is always watching him and can't move all that well. Then Dave came out for about 2 minutes, made some jokes about Canada and then...boom...6:00 and we're taping.

I don't watch much (ummm...any?) David Letterman. I'm of course aware of who he is and gained some knowledge via a creepy Letterman obsessed roomate in first year. But once you see him live you realize that most of his humour comes from looking a bit awkward and mugging to the camera after telling a kind of funny joke. His references to pop culture seem a bit odd. It was all very strange.

At the end of the monologue, it was time for the main event - The Bieber top 10 list.

This was probably the most interesting part of the evening. The Biebs is just a whole lot different than I expected. He's tiny, for one thing. Just absolutely tiny. He also gives off the impression that he's just some 16-year-old kid not really comfortable with this whole celebrity thing, not really sure how he should be acting. I know, crazy, right?

But honestly, he's always sort of mugging for the camera. Or flipping his hair. Or doing stupid shit with his hands. They cut most of it out of what aired, thank god. But I just kind of assumed he would be this celebrity uber-being, incapable of doing awkward shit, not acting like a goofy teenage kid, aware that all eyes are on him, struggling to give us something to look at.

The Biebs did his thing, there was a commercial break, and then he brought shit back by playing along with the band on the drums. To his own song. Then...he was gone.

Back to the band. What an old bunch of dudes. Playing old stuff that nobody cares about. Singing really terribly. Playing the saxophone. Just old and not all that interesting.

After that, Martha Stewart came out, Dave made fun of her and there was some food preparation involved. I wanted more Martha and I felt kind of cheated. There was little to no explanation of what she was making and it was really beside the point that all we ended up with was a bowl of white stuff that Dave then begged her to throw in his face. It was very forced.

As quickly as she'd showed up, Martha was gone and Jimmie Page showed up. He looked like a really old Weird Al. He told a few interesting stories about the days of yore and then played a song with his band. It wasn't as horrible as I expected, but it was still an aging rocker playing a song that doesn't really matter. And then it was all done.

If you go to New York and have a spare afternoon, I'd put your name in for tickets. It's a story to tell if nothing else and it's very interesting to see the inner working of a TV show.

The Intrepid

My white whale. Never available when I'm in New York. This time, I wasn't going to miss it.
Unfortunately...the flight deck with all the airplanes on it was closed due to all the ice and snow. So no Blackbird for me. The ticket seller was kind enough to sell us student tickets and it was more than worth the 15 dollars. The submarine tour is awesome. The aircraft carrier itself is amazing. There's more than enough displays to keep you busy for a few hours, even if you can't see all the airplanes.

The Federal Reserve

I was trying to come up with things to do on my own and I came up with this. It's a totally free tour, you just have to sign up in advance.

You arrive, and two police officers grill you for a few minutes, then scan all your belongings and let you in. They're pretty adamant that you can't take any photos and they lock all your bags and jackets in a closet. They say that if they catch you taking photos with a film camera they will confiscate your film. This is the closest I could get for a photo.

The tour guide was this girl that kept her voice at the same pitch for an entire hour. Like she was reading something in a language she didn't understand. The tour starts with a coin display. There's some pretty neat ancient coins, Ducats and whatnot. As well, they have one of the only 1933double eagle 20 dollar coins on display, which has a pretty interesting back story.

From there, you move on to some displays about counterfeiting, as well as the cash management functions of the federal reserve. They have a 25 foot tall cube filled with $64,000,000 of shredded $100 bills. They give you a small sample of the shredded bills on your way out.

After that, they take you down to the vault. I'd read about the tour and I had assumed that they took you down to one of the vaults. You know, one of the vaults that isn't full of gold. But no, they only really have one vault. And they take you right down inside of it. It has 275 Billion dollars worth of gold in it. I poked my finger through a hole in the grating and touched some of it. It's kind of amazing.

Yet kind of stupid. They tell you all about the process of bringing gold in and out, weighing it, etc. I asked how often a transfer takes place and they said that it had been a few years since anything had gone in and out. So, basically, there is this giant horde of gold belonging to 30-40 different countries that has been sitting in a vault since World War II.

So 10% of the worlds gold sits in a vault in the middle of New York. It never leaves. It generates no interest. It does nothing. What good can this possibly do for anybody? How is it possible that as a society we place so much value on something that we bury it in a hole and never do anything with it? It's all very weird.

Biebs #2 - The Knicks

We arrived just in time for kick off and took our seats in the final row of the nosebleeds. Our seats were next to four really obnoxious teenage kids. They ate non-stop, swore non-stop and left their seats and the floor looking like a feeding trough. The girl next to them was this tiny little thing that swore like a high-pitched drunken sailor. On our other side was an immaculately dressed African American gentleman and his soft spoken girlfriend. She looked at us with embarrassment every time the other jackasses opened their mouths.
Madison Square Gardens is fairly immense, but even our nosebleeds had a good view of the action. Unfortunately, the game was a bit of a blow out. By the start of the 4th quarter at least half of the crowd had left. Which leads me to why I like Spike Lee and why I don't like the majority of New York sports fans.
Spike Lee is awesome. He very obviously is passionate about that team and that game. He stayed until the end. He cheered and yelled and was one of the most entertaining things about the game. He's such a fixture that they don't even bother pointing out that he is there. He's an inspiration for celebrity sports fans.

But other than him, their is an overwhelming amount of entitlement and boorishness in every crowd. You're either paying thousands for floor seats and barging through the crowds with your kids in tow, or you're yelling obscenities, dropping mounds of trash on the floor and leaving early. There's no respect for the home team. Perhaps this is a function of there being 10 professional teams in the general area...too much choice to warrant respect. And I'm not saying that Vancouver fans are the ultimate in restraint, courtesy and all around fandom. It just seems like a Canucks game is a lot friendlier place to be. Hell, the whole reason I wanted to go to a Knicks game was because my Portland Trailblazers experience was so positive. Not that being in Madison Square Gardens watching the Knicks wasn't's just hard not to judge the crowd and wonder what the hell they are thinking.

And on to the crowd...of celebrities. The cameras did the usual highlights of celebrities attending the game. John Larroquette. Chris Rock...A few others....and then....The Biebs! Holy crap. They showed the Biebs, he mugged for the camera in some stupid sunglasses and then a chorus of boos like I've never heard rained down from the crowd. I remember witnessing the Canucks epic collapse a few years ago, when all they had to do was beat Calgary and they were in the playoffs. They had 30 minutes of powerplay time and they couldn't even do it. Just epic collapse. The boos from that evening were nothing compared to what the Biebs got.

And then, once they showed him...craziness! Every photographer rushed over to get a shot. All the girls in the floor seats started leaping over people in order to rush over and have their picture taken. It was crazy. The Biebs causes mayhem.

Anyhow, as I said, an epic Knicks collapse. The savages all left a minute or two into the 4th quarter and we quietly took in our surroundings during the final bit of basketball.


Went to the MOMA. Nothing more to say.

Brooklyn and Play #2

The next day we wandered through Soho/East Village/Chinatownish, over the Williamsburg bridge and over to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is pretty awesome. We ended up in much of the same area as I went last time I was there, but spent more time looking at stores, drinking beer and eating food. Awesome street meat tacos. Awesome arepas. Then on to the play.

This play was pretty much Andrea's late twenty-something childhood fantasy. Alan Rickman starring. Stanley Tucci hanging out in the crowd. I didn't think she'd be able to contain herself. Oh, the dude from Counting Crows isn't dead yet. He goes to plays in Brooklyn.

We had amazing seats, 2nd row, dead center. It was like the performance was for us and the fat ladies sitting in front of us.

Natural History Museum

You should go here.

Central Park Zoo

You should also go here. Surprisingly awesome. They have a tropical building in which you can wander around with all kinds of awesome birds. There's awesome lemurs. Awesome snakes. Awesome little mini deer. Awesome mongooses (mongeese? mongi?). An awesome sloth that we didn't see.
Once you leave there, there is an awesome polar bear exhibit. An awesome red panda exhibit. An awesome snow monkey exhibit. A giant penguin exhibit where there's a lot of different penguins and they dive all around and it's awesome. Best 12 dollars Andrea ever spent on me.
I know. New York is all about the wildlife.

Little Piano Playing Dude (Biebs in training)

Pretty much the final thing we saw in New York as we headed home on the subway Saturday night was this little dude playing the piano. He was selling CD's. Has dad was just out of frame, dressed exactly like him. They took it very seriously, but he was absolutely killing it and had a massive crowd. I wonder what his story is.

1 comment:

Ernest Merriweather Picklebottom III said...

Sounds like an "awesome" trip! Great pics! Those birds look yummy...