Sunday, September 27, 2009

NYC - Day 2 - Part 2 - ESB

The following pictures are all from the Empire State Building, which was essentially the activity for the last part of day two in NYC. Before I go on, there is something you need to know about the ESB. It sucks. Truly. Yes, the view is great, but you can go to the top of the Rockefeller (30 Rock) and be at the 55th floor for the same price and it'll take you about a quarter of the time. You won't be in the tallest building in all of Manhattan, but you'll get your view, your pictures, and all without the clusterfuck.

During the entire ESB experience I was trying to think of an appropriate word to use. Clusterfuck was, by far, the most accurate word that came to mind.

At the ESB I paid $20 bucks. I tried to use my UWM ID, but the worker handed it back to me and said it doesn't work if I am faculty. Anyways, with general admission I didn't even get a map. I had to pay for a map ($8) at the second line I got into. The first line was just for the airport-like security. After I bought my ticket and got a map, I got in another line. Finally, I think I am going to the observation deck, which isn't as high as you would guess (86th floor). I step on an elevator and when I step off I am on the 80th floor. What happened to that whole observation deck thing? The windows are frosted over on the 80th floor. No one can enjoy the view. Instead of enjoying the view, I am ushered into another line, which looks like it will take an hour to get through.

Kate and I went to the ESB right before sunset, thinking we had plenty of time to make it to the top by dusk. Wrong. We were stuck in a line on the 80th floor and it was already getting dark out. However, I am tall, and the windows were only frosted up to about 6'5" off the ground. I could get a pretty good look if I stood on my tip-toes, thus, I was able to get the first two pictures in this set.

Okay, so we are still stuck on the 80th floor, milling about in this never-ending line. Gosh, this sucks, I am thinking. Why did we do this? What an awful design to this place. The funny thing is, the way the ESB handles visitors and moves people along up to the observation deck was just renovated. Apparently, millions of dollars were spent trying to improve this zoo. Whoever was in charge of the redesign needs to be fired or pay their money back.

After we stood in that line for 20 minutes or so, an employee opened a door and announced that the line was moving so slowly that we could, if we wanted to, take the stairs to the 86th floor. Kate and I bolted for the stairs. The climb up was a good little workout and we probably cut off 20 minutes of waiting. Once at the top, we were miserable, but I was determined to get what I came for, a ton of pictures. We made it around the perimeter of the deck in about thirty minutes. We were shoulder to shoulder the entire time, nudging and gently pushing our way to prime viewing spots. This was the worst part about it, not the waiting, not having to pay eight bucks for a map, but finally getting to the top after well over an hour and realizing that the top is just as messed up as any other floor we were on between here and the street. There is no organization, obedience, or politeness whatsoever.

I can't say, don't go to the ESB when you are in NYC, but don't go on a weekend or holiday and don't hope to make it up there in any good amount of time. Kate and I are savvy travelers. We see the sights, but we don't get sucked into the really touristy crap. However, with the ESB, there is no way to be savvy. You're just going to have to deal with it if you want to get to the top.

A view of the Statue of Liberty from the 80th floor. I was holding my camera above my head and just shooting above the frosted windows, hoping I would get something decent.

Again, from the 80th floor. The Flatiron Building is in the foreground, center of picture. Also, the little green patch at the bottom of the picture is Washington Square where Kate and I dined the day before at the Shake Shack.

I can't tell you the names of the buildings on the left and right of this shot, but I like their glowing tops. My eyes and my camera were drawn to them.

The Chrysler Building is, in my mind, a much better looking building than the one I was in when I took this picture. It is beautiful, especially at night. It has a strong mystique and it made me think a lot about Howard Roark of The Fountainhead.

Views of the bridges over the East River.

Shooting northwest. You can see the glow of Times Square in the lower left, right between those two black monoliths.

Looking directly north toward 30 Rock and Central Park.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Ah, a Saturday night spent working on the writing sample. I feel like I am in grad school already.

I can't believe it has been almost two weeks since I posted on this blog. I promise, once this thing (that's what I call my paper because it is a jumbled mess) is done, I will return to posts about New York and our other, more recent vacation, a trip to Door County last weekend. One picture from that trip is below.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NYC - Day 2 - Part 1

I thought I was going to split the NYC blogs up by day. That won't be happening. It is just impossible to put everything we did in one day in one blog. I am now blogging in partial days.

One of the more bucolic images from Central Park. Our hotel was just two blocks away. The thing that surprised me most about Central Park was how much of the city noises (honking, buses, sirens) are muffled by the encircling trees and country. I felt like I was in a national forest far away from any metropolitan area. What a place to go for a run too.

Looking southwest from Central Park. Off to the far right is the tower housing CNN's NY headquarters. The Essex House hotel is clearly visible as well.

Another Central Park shot. Kate took this picture. Not much to write, except that I thought it was one of the best shots of the whole trip in terms of lighting, contrast, balance, and whatnot.

The Conservatory Pond at Central Park (right off 5th Avenue). We got stopped by some British ladies on holiday and we took their picture.

The famous Katz's Delicatessen, as featured in the movie When Harry Met Sally. This is the diner where Sally proved to Harry how easy it is for her to fake an orgasm. If you look closely at the ceiling on the left side in the background, there is a circular sign pointing to the spot where Sally sat. The sign reads, "Where Harry Met Sally...Hope You Have What She Had!" Katz's is insanely busy on weekends and holidays. But the lines move pretty quickly. There are lots of choices, but I went with pastrami on rye, the most popular, probably. The sandwich makers give you some slices of the meat as soon as you order. The meat was great, Katz's is worth experiencing if you are a foodie tourist, but it is certainly overhyped. It's historical. It's famous. However, the pastrami didn't blow me away as it should have. It was delicious, but not set apart from the pastrami I had at the Grand Lux Cafe (think upscale Cheesecake Factory, same owners, slightly different menu) in Chicago a few weeks before this.

Me biting into the aforementioned pastrami on rye.

We did not go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. There just aren't enough hours in five days to do everything we wanted to do. Plus, a trip to those two different islands wasn't at the top of any of our lists, but seeing them from the water was, so we took the Staten Island Ferry, which is free, and the ride provided us with great views of Lady Liberty. It was a great view of Manhattan as well. If you are ever in NYC and want to get out on the water and get some great views, but you want to do all that for free, check out the ferry.

On the way back to Manhattan we saw another cruise ship. We had seen the first one on Saturday. This one wasn't nearly as big and was quite ugly, as evidenced by the primary color palette painted on the ship.

I did mean to frame these people in the shot. This was at the very front of the ferry when we were heading back to Manhattan. This day, Sunday, was the closest it ever got to raining, but it never did that day. The weather was beautiful while we were there.

Part 2 coming soon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

This Could Be Interesting

Wyoming v. (2) Texas in Laramie, Wyoming. Today. 1:30 MST, on Versus. Check your local listings.

Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC - Day 1

Over the next few days or weeks I will be posting some pictures from our whirlwind tour of NYC in 5 days. We took about 530 pictures. We fell in love with New York. A lot of people do. We aren't set apart that way, but with these pictures and words I have attempted to take a little piece of New York home with us. I hope, with 500+ pictures and many words to come, I have done and will do just that.

Naturally, half of the trip revolved around eateries. The first stop after checking into our hotel in the Upper East Side was the Shake Shack, supposedly New York's best cheeseburger. The Shake Shack is notorious for its lines. Of course, this was a Saturday, so we just had to deal with it. We stood in line for 55 minutes. You can see the curve of the line in the picture above. The wait was worth it. We took action shots of us biting into the burger, not ashamed of our touristy behavior at all.

The Shake Shack is in Madison Square, a beautiful area that has a little dog park in it. There are lots of benches, shade, and respite to be had here.

The Empire State Building looms over Madison Square.

The Flatiron Building on Madison Square. I can't believe how skinny the northern tip of this building is. We just stumbled across it. That happened a lot in our five days there. There are so many iconic parks, buildings, stores, hotels, etc. that you just happen upon them while you are heading somewhere else. This stretches the day out so much you can have lunch at 3:30 and dinner at 10.

Ground Zero. A lot more thoughts here, but what struck me about these pictures is how little has been done in eight years. Construction has truly begun on the new buildings to be put in there, but there is still quite a hole. The place is surrounded by fence, most of which cannot be seen through. On the most crowded street corners near the WTC site, are people preaching that 9/11 was a cover up. They yell. They quietly stand and hand out pamphlets to any interested passersby, who, oftentimes, unsuspectingly take them and discover later on that the information proposes that 9/11 was an inside job. I took several pictures of this scene and I will probably put them up in a later post.

The maze of construction at Ground Zero. The site, no matter how cynical one can be about the way parts of it have been made into a tourist site or another place for locals to sell their NYC caps and shirts, will be sobering to the visitor at some point or another. More about this later, but overall, the whole experience shuts you up and shows you beautiful and grotesque things about our existence.

We walked from Ground Zero to the Hudson (not far at all). I am facing Jersey. Not too long after this a huge cruise ship went down the Hudson. I have pictures of that, but I couldn't post all 100+ pictures from this day.

Yes, we went. We went to Times Square. I was thinking this night, "Gosh, New Yorkers must avoid this place like the plague." It was good to walk through. As you can see, that took some time. But after the walk, Times Square really settles in as just a huge testament to capitalism and crappy restaurants (Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday, McDonald's, Red Lobster). I know I am forgetting a lot here, but you get the point.

A reminder, you should be able to click on each picture to see a larger version of it.

Not the same thing

I don’t watch any of the cable news morning shows, but occasionally, when I am not in front of my computer at that morning hour, I will scan all three networks to see what they are talking about. Obviously, this morning, the talk is about the 8th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and Joe Wilson, the guy that yelled at the President, “You lie” in the middle of his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. On Morning Joe, Joe was, as far as I can tell, comparing Wilson’s shout in the middle of a presidential address to Hillary Clinton criticizing General Petraeus and choosing to not denounce an ad taken out by a left-wing group in the NY Times that called him a liar. Now, Clinton’s decision to ignore that ad and denounce it as an irresponsible and false accusation was unfortunate, but tell me again how that is on par with shouting down President Obama in the middle of a speech? Clearly, I am confused.

Friday, September 04, 2009

To New York

Kate and I are off to NYC tomorrow. She hasn't been there since 2001. I haven't been there since I was 7. The last time I was there, it was the trip to FAO Schwarz and the Statue of Liberty that were the biggest hits with me. We hope to see a lot while we are there, but we were most concerned, naturally, about where we were going to eat. We've had those places picked out for a while now. I'll save that blog for after the trip.

I am just finishing up packing and decided not to bring with me any of the books I am currently reading. You can't just read a page here and there of The Brothers Karamazov. And I am too close to finishing the other two to bring them on this trip. In addition to that, I always end up bringing way too many books on vacation anyway. The truth is, I don't read all that much on vacation. I like looking up, not looking down at the page while I am in a new land. However, it is sacrilege to go on any sort of trip without a book, so I am bringing along a Bill Bryson book. I've never read Neither Here Nor There and Bryson already made me laugh by the quote he opens the book with. It is from A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell:
William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Down for the count

Oh Snap! Gmail is down and I can't procrastinate my writing in my usual manner.
What to do? What to do?

I'll write a blog about it.