I mentioned last week that, as part of our Anniversary, Mrs. Ardwulf and I were planning to go to Toledo for the weekend. It was to have been a modest trip to visit a museum and eat at some fine Toledo Lebanese restaurant, undetermined at that time. So Friday, after getting home from work, packing the bags and hitting the bank for cash for the trip, it was time to get on the highway. I-80, from where we live just east of Cleveland, takes us due west to Toledo, or due east to… well, all the way east.
So me, the smartass, says “you want to go to New York City instead?” To which Mrs. Smartass says yes. So we went east instead of west, and spontaneously had a rather different weekend than we’d planned.
Obviously, the drive to New York from Cleveland is quite a lot longer than the drive from Cleveland to Toledo. We ended up stopping in a town I continue to refer to as Asscrack, Pennsylvania to stay at a hotel Friday night, about halfway through the trip. Mrs. Ardwulf looked up hotel options on the way on her trusty Blackberry. Finding a hotel room in Manhattan that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg takes some doing, but we managed it. By about noon on Saturday morning, we’d hit the Hudson river, which forms the border between New Jersey and New York. The toll for the Lincoln Tunnel, which takes you from New Jersey to the Island of Manhattan, is eight bucks. This would not be the first time we spent more than we would have on a trip to, say, Toledo.
Now, I’ve been to New York City before, although never purely for leisure. As a Clevelander I am supposed to have cultivated a stern disapproval of all things New York, and of the Yankees in particular, but I always directed that ire at Boston and the detestable Red Sox instead. When I first visited New York in 2002 I fell in love with the place.
New York is like a microcosm of America, a cultural melting pot of immigrant communities while at the same time being the cornerstone of American culture as well, better still for leaving out the worst of American provincialism. The city teems with vitality and diversity, and while it can be a rough place, nowhere in the world is such a big city as safe and clean as New York. It is a beautiful city, a hub of commerce and culture.
We stayed in the Garment District, which is the center of fashion in New York and indeed, the world. Mrs. Ardwulf is much more into this kind of thing than I am, but still… we’re SCAdians, so I readily agreed to visit Mood, a fabric store that she assures me is famous for being featured on Project: Runway. We walked out with some very heavily woven dark blue linen. After that, we went on a canned bus tour which made us feel like gawking tourists from Rusticland, but did enable us to get a grasp of the geography and architecture of Manhattan. I got quite a few pictures throughout the trip.
There’s a whole section of Manhattan where the buildings are made entirely of iron. And we rode past the Guggenheim Museum, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The architecture major that I used to be long ago got tickled back to the front of my cerebellum for a little while – The City is filled with amazing architecture in various eras and styles, from the very old and beautiful to the very modern and hideously ugly.
The hotel cost us about $240 for the one night, which is not bad for a hotel in Manhattan. The room was very small, but it was clean and generally nice, and the hotel was literally across the street from the Empire State Building. Our view, however, was literally of a brick wall. We did not make it to the observation deck of the building, or indeed enter the building at all, but we got several good shots of it, as well as the Chrysler Building.
New York, as home to over 8 million people, is divided into five boroughs. In a city this big, the boroughs are not just cities in their own right – they are counties in their own right. One borough, the Bronx, is part of the mainland of North America, while two, Brooklyn and Queens, are on Long Island. The other two, Manhattan and Staten Island, are islands. Chances are that when you see New York on TV or in a movie, what you’re seeing is Manhattan.
Most of the walking around we did (and we did quite a lot – only lunatics drive in Manhattan,) was in the garment district or in the adjacent Theater District – better known as Broadway, although an awful lot of theaters exist away from Broadway proper (thus the term.) At one point we rounded the corner of 8th Avenue and 45th Street, and ran – almost literally – into James Gandolfini. Mrs. Ardwulf almost knocked him over. I did not see fit to bother him for an autograph or stick a camera in his face, even though he is much less hulking and menacing in person than he was on The Sopranos – some other folks had stopped him to gawk and talk to him. His play, God of Carnage, is currently playing at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre around the corner.
We also saw, thanks to the bus tour, a great deal of Manhattan – much more than I’d seen on my previous trip to New York, although we did miss out on a couple essential New York City experiences, like riding the subway. (You have to do it if you’re there, but the subway stations all reek of urine.) But we did get rat-on-a-stick (or so I called it) from a street vendor, and our tour took us the whole length of the island, from Battery Park and the South Street Seaport on the southern tip of the island to Harlem in the north.
We did get glimpses of Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty, but only that – we didn’t have time to take a boat out to the statue and the bus only took us to within a block or so of the WTC site, but we could see it between buildings, and it made me angry, not only because of the tragedy, but because weak-kneed bureaucrats will be replacing the Twin Towers with a greatly pussified building, rather than rebuilding them one foot taller and with a big bullseye on the side right above “Fuck You. Love, New York.”
We did more tour on Sunday morning (the ticket was good for 24 hours,) seeing various sites like the Time Warner towers, the United Nations, Columbia University and Greenwich Village – including that YMCA – before leaving at about 3 PM. We got home after a long eventless drive at about 11 PM last night, adventure concluded. It was too short trip, of course – there’s way too much to do and see in New York to cover even a fraction of all of it in two weeks, let alone the one day we got. But I’m glad we went, and I’m glad Mrs. Ardwulf got to see it for the first time.