December 26, 2000 - January 1, 2001
New York City
I found it too tedious to work all my cool pictures into this text,
so you can click here if you want to see them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2000
The official beginning of this trip will be when my mother dropped Yep and me off at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia. We got checked in and all, and I decided to stop by the airport store for some batteries for my digital camera. We were flying on a little two-engine propeller plane, and the flight was nice. A little bumpy at the end, but nice. We landed at JFK Airport, with our first objective to be finding Sus, Yep's girlfriend. He had assured me that she would be on a later flight, and that we'd have an hour or so to wait until her plane came in. Once we finally found our baggage claim, which was insanely far from the gate at which we arrived, it took us a long time to find the proper terminal where Sus would arrive. We went around by bus, only to find it was the wrong place, and then hiked a good little way, with suitcases in tow, to find Terminal 4, where international flights come in. Yep went to the Sabena ticket desk (that's the airline) and he was told that she had arrived about an hour before us. I had never met her before, so it was up to him to scan the terminal to see if she was waiting there for us. After having no luck, he went back to the desk, where he was told that she missed the flight. In the meantime, I saw a girl who looked vaguely familiar (I've only seen pictures of Sus before) and I turned around to see where Yep was. Then when I turned to look where the girl was standing, Yep was over there hugging her. So all's well that ends well or something. It turns out that Sus' flight was canceled or something, and she had to get a flight from another airline altogether. Anyway... we caught a taxi over to the hotel, which fulfilled its expectations of being the nicest place I've ever stayed before. When we first tried to check in, they had our reservation down as one double bed, which simply wouldn't do. They arranged for us to have two double beds, but we would have to wait while the room was cleaned. We found a coffee shop just next door to the hotel and got settled.

After we had finished our coffee, and Sus and I were getting to know each other, we went back to the room to check in. We ended up staying in room 1907... 19th floor, front of the hotel with a decent view of the back of Times Square. It was nearly dark by this point, so we scrapped any plans of doing anything major on the town, and just stayed in the room for a quiet night. Dinner came from a familiar place, the Olive Garden just across the street and down a block, and all was well the first evening in the Big Apple.

Wednesday, December 27, 2000
We got up at about 9:45 to head down to our free breakfast buffet in Samplings, the hotel restaurant. Over our breakfast, we decided that the most appropriate tourist first thing to do was to head to the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island. We stopped by a little leather shop in the neighborhood first because I wanted to get a shoulder strap for my bag, and the Chinese guy in the store showed me one that I liked. When I asked him the price, his response went something like this: "Five dolla! No no, wait... I sorry... I buy for seven. No, TEN DOLLA! Ten dolla." And he looked like he was going to cry because he almost screwed up. I didn't feel like haggling, so I just took the thing. Anyway, after that nonsense, we caught the Metro down to South Ferry, where we stood in line to board the ferry. When we got to the front of the line, we realized that we had not purchased any tickets, and were redirected over to some monumental castle called Clinton Castle. Anyway, the insides of the castle have been ripped away, and it's been commercialized with ticket booths in there now. We stood in the line to get tickets, and then went back to the line to board the ferry. We started the trip on the very top deck of the ferry, which was a cold, cold, COLD experience. The first stop was the Statue herself, and I got some decent pictures with Yep and Sus once we were ashore. Then we piled back onto the ferry, this time staying to the lower levels, for the trip to Ellis Island. The museum there is really interesting with exhibits about immigration, and we spent a good deal of time in there. Then back to the ferry, opting again for the lower levels, shielded from the wind. Actually, the first line we were standing was for the ferry that was apparently headed over to Newark, New Jersey. We quickly had to get out of that line, and over to the New York ferry. Back on land again, we spotted some familiar buildings in the distance and decided to take a walk. But not before we came across a cozy little deli for lunch. It was sort of an Italian place, and I had a chicken parmesan sandwich, which was really good.

After our lunch excursion, we continued walking in the direction of Wall Street, and passed by the good ol' stock exchange building. We also went into the Trinity Church, which was really beautiful inside. After that, we headed to the World Trade Center, taking some time to shop in the mall in the basement before heading upstairs. Upon finding that a ticket to the top would cost a proverbial arm and a leg, we decided to wait for the Empire State Building to fill our vertical cravings. But that would come another day. It was getting dark, so we decided to wander back home. Once we were back in the room, we had to contemplate dinner arrangements, and we all decided on some good ol' New York pizza. Well, at first we wanted some Pizza Hut standard pizza, but we found that the Pizza Hut had been shut down. We found a suitable replacement in a neighborhood pizza joint called Famiglia's, which offered good pizza and some interesting "garlic knots". Little pieces of pizza dough, tied into knots and seasoned, in which Sus found a stone or something and kinda hurt her tooth. But it was good pizza. You have to give New York that. They know how to make some good pizza. :)

Thursday, December 28, 2000
We woke up around 9:30 and headed down for our complimentary breakfast again, which was excellent, as all free things tend to be. After determining that today would be a good museum day, we started walking through Central Park up to the "Museum Mile". As we came to the ice-skating rink in the park, we were approached by a man whose whole introduction was (and I quote): "Hi, my name is Charlie. I sleep in the park and sell postcards." Even though we shrugged him off right then, the man, dubbed "Park Charlie", would provide us many hours of fun as we laughed and sung songs about him. After watching the skaters for a few minutes, we left them behind and continued our long, COLD walk through the Park. In the middle of the Park there was an Alice In Wonderland statue, which was pretty cool, and we also stopped to feed some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to the squirrels. So then... fast forward many many blocks to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art. This had been one of the highlights of my trip for only one reason... Rogue Spear. That's right, the computer game. The first level of the game takes place in this very museum, and I wanted to see how accurate the game designers had been. I know, it's sad. But I wasn't disappointed as we strolled through all the Egyptian exhibits and paid a brief visit to Arms & Armor. After the museum, we wandered around and found a nice cozy little Greek-Italian bistro to eat lunch. I went purely American and ordered a bacon cheeseburger. After lunch, our museum efforts were thwarted by the fact that the Guggenheim (one of Sus' desired stops) was closed on Thursdays. Well... the sign said they were closed, and there were people inside doing things, but they assured us they were in the process of closing anyway.

Opting for a different track, we caught the Metro over to Grand Central Station in the hopes of a quick walk to the Empire State Building. We left the station and walked two blocks, only to find that we were going in the wrong direction. It seems like it took us a lot of walking to ever get there (and we later found that there's a 34th Street Station that would have been SO much closer) but we eventually found our target. The next part of this journey consisted of a very long, confusing set of waiting in lines, so let me make this as clean as possible... We were originally told to go downstairs and wait in line, and that it would take maybe 2 1/2 hours to get to the top. After waiting about 20 minutes, some people came along and announced to the crowd that you could cut about an hour off your waiting time if you went to their attraction, The Skyride, first... and then went to the Observation Deck. So we bought their story and went to the second floor. We waited about 10 minutes in the wrong line, then waited some more to get tickets, and then had to get back into the first line again. I think it was about an hour later that we finally found ourselves in the Skyride, which was one of those rides with a big screen and you sit in a room that moves along with the movie. This particular movie was a flight around the New York sky line, hosted by a very aged Scotty from Star Trek, and a very annoying Yakov Smirnoff, that old Russian comic who I'd hoped I'd never ever see again. After the Skyride, we were assuming that we pretty much had it made to get to the top, but we ended up in a line where we were waiting to get into another line. The other line got you into an elevator to the 80th floor. Then there was another line to get into the elevators for the 86th floor, where the observation deck is. Once we got to the top, we spent about ten minutes outside, where the temperature must have been about 50 below, and I took some very blurry pictures of the lights of New York City. We got inside again and waited in line for the elevator back to the 80th floor, and we were told that if we walked down the 6 flights of stairs ourselves, there would be no waiting for those elevators. So we bought that too, and found one of the longest lines imaginable on the 80th floor. But we finally got down again, and I think I figured that the whole experience... from the time we entered the building to the time we exited... took about 3 hours. By this time, we were so tired but we opted to walk the evil blocks back to the room, where we totally crashed. I think this was the night we were so tired that we even chose not to have dinner. After a few games of Mille Bornes, we were off to sleep.

Friday, December 29, 2000
We all got up at 9:30 again to hit our free breakfast buffet, where we discussed plans for the day. We decided to head to Chinatown and Little Italy to see what there was to be seen. We caught the Metro to Chinatown, where there were jewelry stores and fish markets everywhere. As we made our way to Columbus Park, we came across a Chinese funeral procession, which was quite interesting. We also found some little shops where Sus bought some Chinese slippers, while Yep and I looked around at a nice selection of swords and weapons. Then we noticed that everywhere you turned, there were these little racks on the sidewalks where you could buy silk ties, so Yep and I both did so. We were all amused by the lady running the store because she never even looked up at you or anything. She just sat there, looked quickly at what you were buying, yelled out her price, and grabbed the money from you. Yep got one tie, which was "THREE DOLLA!" and I had the special of four ties for "TEN DOLLA!" Back on the street, I was compelled to take some pics of Yep and Sus, but I had to stand just in the street to do so, and I was beeped at by a delivery truck. Nice. Also in Chinatown, we passed a sign that just had to be photographed, as it had a Monty Python reference. Clearly visible on the menu was "Spam & Fried Eggs". (I later discovered another MP reference as I was viewing the pictures back at the hotel. "Cuttlefish" is used in the Dead Parrot sketch.) And I think it was the same restaurant where we actually saw some of New York's finest buying doughnuts. I know it's a cliché, but I had never seen cops buying doughnuts until this very day. After we got tired of all this nonsense, we headed to Little Italy, where we located a really cool Italian food store. We also found Umberto's Clam House, which was featured in Sus' travel book as a place where a famous gangster was killed. Somewhere in the midst of Little Italy, we found a nice little café-type place, where I had a danish. (This is still a sore subject with actual Danish people, that we would have a silly pastry named after them, heh.)

After the café, we headed into SoHo, where we found things that have outrageous prices. Yep was in the market for a leather jacket, and we quickly found that SoHo is not the best place to purchase one at a good value. There was even one store where we felt so uncomfortable by the posh decor and snobbish salespeople that we just had to leave. Around this time, I was feeling the call of nature, and I brought up the suggestion of finding a restroom. Everyone eventually conceded and we ventured into the New Age Café, where we found that restrooms are for customers only and you had to "ask the manager for the key". Or so they said. Just to be safe and not feel quite as guilty, we posted Sus as a decoy to buy some hot chocolate. We then found that the restrooms weren't locked at all, but there was a nice little line to get in. After leaving the café, we opted to do a little sensible shopping, and caught the Metro to Macy's. We actually had a little trouble finding the place when we exited the Metro station, but we quickly found that we were standing right next to the entrance, and we couldn't see the glowing Macy's sign because we were standing directly beneath it. Funny. Now I've always been under the impression that Macy's was just a big department store, full of different kinds of goodies, but my hopes and dreams were about to be shattered upon entering the store. Sus decided that she wanted to split up and shop on her own, so we gave ourselves about an hour and a half to peruse the store. What Yep and I found ourselves confronted with was seven stories worth of clothing and seemingly ONLY clothing. This simply wouldn't do, so we left the place and walked to the CompUSA Superstore, where we were on our own turf again. I managed to pick up some decent memory cards for my digital camera while I was there. After wasting enough time, we wandered back to Macy's to meet with Sus, and then walked a billion blocks back to the hotel. Now we weren't quite up to skipping dinner again, so there was one crucial decision left to be made. Where to eat...

We were all fairly worn out, so we decided on the little steak house just across the street, called the Texas Texas Saloon Steakhouse (yes, there are in fact TWO instances of the word "Texas" in the title). You could tell we were a little bit off guard, because the waiter opened with a classic trick... "Would you care to try our frozen strawberry margaritas this evening?" ...not quoting a price, and we fell for it. When he finally brought the menus, we found that we had been suckered into three $8.50 drinks that were served in an ugly little glass boot (and if you wanted to part with an extra $4.00, the boot was yours to keep; none of us did). Despite the fact that he tricked us, the meal was good, and Chris (the waiter) did some massive sucking up at the end of the meal, so we gave him a far-too-generous tip. SOMEONE (Yep) even gave him a tip on the table on top of the credit card tip. We then went back to the hotel room and the reality started sinking in... we're scheduled to check out of this place in the morning, and switch over to the Grand Union Hotel. A scheme was immediately concocted to squeeze some more nights out of these people at a bargain rate, and Yep and Sus went downstairs to do the deed... successfully. Apparently a Crowne Plaza guy named Fred had been nice enough to let us extend our stay until January 2nd (actually, I was leaving on the 1st, and Yep and Sus were staying in New York until the 4th, so they would only have to spend two nights at the other hotel). Then a few frantic calls were made to the Grand Union, and we were allowed to delay the check-in there. Crisis averted, we played Mille Bornes until sleepy time. Actually, as we were getting ready for bed, we came across another project for tomorrow. Sus had an appendectomy just a couple of weeks before the trip, and she noticed that her scar was doing funny things. So we located a private hospital in the area, and made plans to go there first thing in the morning.

Saturday, December 30, 2000
We awoke this morning around the same ol' time to find that the forecasted snow had indeed fallen overnight, and it was still coming down. All told, we ended up with about 8 to 12 inches in the city. We gawked at the snow for a while, then went down for our last complimentary breakfast. See, some of us felt bad about leeching the extra nights from the hotel, that we decided not to press the issue of extra breakfast vouchers. Anyway, the last free breakfast was a good one. After fueling up, we decided to make the trek to the hospital. I only fell in the snow not once... not thrice... but twice all day, which was two more times than anyone else in our party. As best I can recall I fell once on the way to the hospital, and once more on the way to the pharmacy. After that, I apparently got my "snow legs" because I remained steadfast for the rest of the snowy days. Anyway, the wait at the hospital was pretty uneventful. We watched Soul Train on the TV while Sus was in with the doctor, and the girl next to me seemed to really like the R&B singer Joe. After the hospital, we headed to the afore mentioned pharmacy, a local Rite Aid, where Sus' prescription came to an outrageous $124 for 20 little stinkin' pills.

So, after all this unpleasantness, we decided that today should be another indoor day, and headed for the Metro to the American Natural History Museum, one of the largest in the world. As soon as we entered the Metro station, we encountered another colorful character, in the form of a guy who just went through the station yelling "You gotta look like you know where you're going!" over and over and over again. At the museum, we went around some outer space exhibits for a while, then caught a cool show about astronauts in the IMAX theater, in which Yep fell asleep. Then we wandered through exhibits about evolution and meteorites, catching a little movie about minerals and things, in which Yep fell asleep. After that, we went to the dinosaur section, which was pretty decent. After a somehow mentally exhausting day, we caught the Metro back home, with a quick stop by Famiglia's again for pizza, then by some local shops to purchase some Mountain Dew and doughnuts.

Sunday, December 31, 2000
New Year's Eve... The day started off a bit odd when we were all sitting in our room, having forgotten to put the "Do Not Disturb" sign outside. The maid came along and started fiddling with the doorknob, and Yep suddenly said "DON'T!" rather loudly, and she immediately stopped. Yep later claimed that he was speaking to me, but I never believed it. :) We started off the day with our non-breakfast of the trip. We had written some postcards, and were in need of finding some stamps. The people at the front desk told us to go to the hotel gift shop, and the people in the gift shop acted stupid. So we headed down the street to the Rite Aid again to drop off some film. (Sus had noticed an advertisement that they did that sort of thing.) It turns out that we found some stamps in a local gift shop (one where Yep had bought a scarf earlier), and the people at the Rite Aid couldn't develop our film because the guy was gone for the day. From the Rite Aid, I spotted a post office dropbox, and we sent the postcards on their merry little way. Seeing as how we skipped breakfast, we started walking back toward the hotel, and stopped in a little deli, where we found the macaroni and cheese too good looking to resist. We all assembled plates and went back to the room to eat some nice deli food.

After lunch, I happened to mention that I wanted to go to FAO Schwartz for a bit, so we decided to Metro over there. The only thing of real interest was a Patrick Stewart action figure that I got for my Survive series. Yep ran across some Jelly Belly jellybeans, and had to purchase a bag. Back out in the slushy mess, we opted for the Metro to Rockefeller Center, where we hoped to do some shopping. We didn't find anything of interest to buy, but we got to see the big Christmas tree and the ice-skating rink there. We also finally bought one of those soft pretzels with mustard from a street vendor, but the guy never took my $2, so I got my pretzel for free. It was actually kinda nice for a change. Getting something free, heh. We had made dinner reservations at a place called Carmine's for 7:00 that evening, so we decided to walk back home to get ready.

We grabbed the Metro up to Carmine's, which is an Italian place between 90th and 91st on Broadway. We waited a good little while to get our table, but the food there was really good. The plates were so huge, and we shared a house salad, a plate of lasagna, and a plate of veal saltimboca... with the celebratory bottle of white wine, of course. The only flaw was that Sus found a little bug in her salad... no, seriously. We weren't trying to get out of paying for the meal or anything, so don't get that idea! Actually, all the guy did was bring the manager over to apologize. We didn't get anything free. We finished up our meal and took the Metro back to the hotel, not knowing what we'd be in for. We had underestimated the security that would be on the streets in Times Square starting around 8:00 that evening. As we were walking home, there were all these barricades and security checkpoints, and some officers were refusing to let us through. Even after we flashed our Crowne Plaza room key, they were hesitant to let us pass. One officer said something like, "Keep that key out, you'll need it!" We had to come in through the side entrance of the hotel, and as we were approaching the hotel security guard by the escalators, Yep got all nervous and dropped the key on the ground. We found it quite silly and made jokes about it, and the security guy laughed. Once we were back in the room, we decided to stay put for the evening. We had a nice little celebration watching the crowd below, and toasting with "sparkling wine" that tasted more like slightly carbonated apple juice. Sus went off to sleep, as Yep and I had some late night Mille Bornes games.

Monday, January 1, 2001
Ah, my last day in the big city... we got up at 10:00 or shortly thereafter, and began plans for locating decent transportation to JFK airport. We had been warned by the news not to believe limo or taxi companies if they said they had raised their prices for the holidays, and sure enough... the first place we called quoted us a price higher than their advertised rate of $40. When we asked why the difference, they said something about it being the holidays. Whatever. So I decided that I just wanted to take a cab. I got all packed up and headed downstairs, where the "door dude" hailed a cab for us. And ironically, the cab ride only cost $40, so we made out rather well there. I had to go through all the random airport stuff of checking in and getting my baggage scanned and all that, and I had to say goodbye to Yep and Sus rather quickly. I thought they would be able to come to the gate with me and all that, but no. It was not to be. So I made my way to various gates in three different terminals before I found myself in the right place. I went from Terminal 5 (the TWA terminal) to Gate 32 (where I lost Yep and Sus) to the shuttle to Terminal 2 (where I was given my boarding pass), then walked to Gate 11E in Terminal 3 (where I was to board). My flight was delayed from 2:20 pm to 3:30 pm, but it was a nice flight with only mild turbulence. The flight was supposedly sold out, but I think I saw two empty seats on the plane, and the guy I was assigned to sit with decided to move to one of them at the beginning of the flight. I was glad because he kinda freaked me out, heh. Anyway, I met my mom and aunt in Norfolk and we came home. The end. :)

Random Closing Comments
Overall, the trip absolutely rocked. I'd never been to New York before, and I guess I'll just make random closing comments here, as the title of this section implies. The first thing you notice about New York is that it's very vertical. Then you notice all the lights, and that they stay on all night, hence "the city that never sleeps". Yep complained of the water being too chlorinated, but I was used to that kind of thing, and drank plenty of it. I was pleased to find Miss Cleo commercials on TV, even though both Yep and I agree that she rips people off from their money. I guess that's about it. I had a great time. Sus is a really nice and fun person to hang around with, and I'd definitely do it all again... perhaps some other time. :)

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