Thursday, 17 November 2016

NYC Diaries: Day 2

Today I have the second instalment from my NYC travel journal: a diary I wrote while the Man and I spent a week in the city over half term. I'm blogging it mostly for me, which is why it's so lengthy and lacking anything remotely approaching a sensible edit, but also to organise by thoughts and pictures for my scrapbook.  You can read about Day 1 here, and while it doesn't seem possible that I can have trimmed this narrative much, I assure you that I cut out a lot of my thoughts on Paramour (se below for excessive detail).  Actually Paramour was a trip highlight for me which is why I gushed so much in my journal.  But enough pre-amble: here we go!
 Radish fact of the day: radishes can germinate quickly and smaller varieties are ready to harvest in a month. I told you I'd look up some radish facts.

Our second day in NYC dawned and it was a lovely morning; a little cooler than the previous day, and just the sort of weather that made me fling open the patio doors as I put the kettle on the stove to boil. I quickly got confused had to go back and ask the Man three times how to use the coffee pot as it had different sections. Then I laid the table while things boiled, genuinely enjoying simple domestic tasks that feel like a holiday when it's someone else's pretty crockery and there is sunlight peeping through the curtains.

I volunteered to head out to the bakery arm of Saraghina (yesterday's breakfast joint) on the condition that the Man made the next round of drinks. He duly agreed so I shared radish fact of the day with him (he was unimpressed so I need a better fact for tomorrow) showered, threw on a dress and tripped out of the flat, down the stoop and out into the world. I was keen to go: to be out in the fresh air, enjoying the neighbourhood of a morning and the sunshine. Plus I had a craving for cinnamon rolls that needed to be satisfied.

I popped to a local grocery on the way to pick up some tea (the chap saying "see you later, hon" as I left) and then proceeded to the bakery. The bakery turned out to be a cornucopia of delicious delights and I was hard pressed to just buy two things. Hopefully we will do this again before the end of our week! In end I found cinnamon buns and blueberry muffins then somehow bought two cantucci (why are they not called biscotti?) which all came to ten even - maths satisfaction - and so I tripped home again feeling gleeful. I popped the fruits of my morning's outing onto the plates and the table looked very attractive. And we ate!

The morning took us on the A train and then the R to 28th street to find the Empire State Building. We wandered up Broadway for a few blocks and I was just musing out loud that I wasn't sure which street it was on when we saw it. It's quite tall.

We headed into the fabulously Art Deco lobby and went through security before joining the massive queue (or line, as we're in America) for tickets. Actually it didn't take all that long and the Man got us tickets to go to the very top, the 102nd floor which I hadn't been to before.

We first went to the 80th floor to see the exhibition, made up of notes and photographs which had been compiled into a huge scrapbook by the project manager during construction. Ultimate peak scrapbooking I think. We learned...

 Empire State Building State Building facts:

The mast was originally designed for mooring dirigibles (blimps) but high winds mean that no one has ever done this.

The 102nd floor is 1250 feet up, which is a lot of feet, and also about a quarter of a mile.

Construction on the Empire State Building proceeded at a rate of a story per day, and the building reached completion one month early.

So much steel was required that the fabrication was split between 2 different mills.

Then we jumped the queue and used the stairs to get to the 86th floor, the main outside viewing deck. We got some photos and while it was a grey day in Manhattan, we could still see the top of the island, the tiny little Statue of Liberty in the distance, the rectangular formation of Central Park and the shiny peak of the Chrysler building. We then climbed up to the 102nd floor inside the blimp-anchoring mast and enjoyed seeing the little city far below spread out like a map.

Back down at street level, we went hunting for lunch in Madison Square Garden, which I wanted to visit as it had good views of the Flatiron. It did, we saw it. We also went there as I thought a park would be a good magnet for hot dog sellers. Well it wasn't quite, but there was a Shake Shack. An enormously popular Shake Shack, outdoors in the park. We decided to bite the bullet and join the huge queue but it moved pretty quickly and I was amused by the plethora of chubby squirrels digging up the grass with mouths crammed full of nuts. We ordered, found a table and waited for our buzzer to go off. Which it did in due course and I picked up our hot dogs, a portion of crinkle cut fries, a root beer float for the Man and a 50/50 for me (half lemonade, half iced tea, all yummy). Photos happened.

Next stop was MoMath, the Museum of Math(s) which is right by the park and we pottered inside to play with the exhibits and tut over the missing 's'. It was fun! Real emphasis on interactivity and screens which would give you basic information or full on mathematics if you wanted it.  The Man was slightly disappointed as he's been continually referring to it as the Mouse Museum and was sad to find no actual mouses inside.

We rode bikes with square wheels (which work because the floor is arched into inverted catenary shapes) and we tried to make the fastest slope for a car to run down under gravity, and there was a right-turns only maze, a traffic jam puzzle, a normal distribution generator, a car with a webcam you could drive round a Möbius strip in multiple dimensions... it was cool. We also got to design our own polyhedrons which they then get people to vote on and they 3D print the winner each day. I had a go, but when I saw the others mine was disappointing. Oh dear.

Following our Maths Museum adventures we decided to head home for a sit down and a cuppa before returning to the city for dinner and a show. WHOOP! The Man suggested we hit 5 Guys for food as it's another famous American joint that has arrived in London but I've never actually tried. We rode the subway to 42nd street and strolled to Times Square. It was dark when we arrived but the signs are so brightly lit that it seems like daylight; a sort of electric saturated daylight that fluctuates and ripples as the giant images move. It was packed with angry cars and excited tourists, building site paraphernalia and officials. A public installation of two angled mirrors allowed you to step inside and see the lights reflected back to you infinitely.  It was manic and cool and oh so New York.

We found 5 Guys and ordered burgers - I had a regular cheeseburger and the Man had a little one and it turns out that the only difference is that mine had two patties in it. Also all the toppings are free so I had relish and BBQ sauce and onions. And also fries and a milkshake, where flavours are also free so peanut butter and banana for me then. It was so good and I cheerfully scarfed it all down. For those of you that don't know, I am a bottomless pit and can pretty much eat all day and still wonder what dinner will be.

We then went to the Lyric theatre for the show: Paramour, a Cirque du Soleil musical on Broadway. There were glittering lights everywhere and once we entered the lobby the theatre was huge: brightly lit, balconys, swirling staircases and people's milling excitedly around. We found our seats: smack bang in the middle of the dress circle. The view could not have been better. Absolutely top of the line tickets! So a big thank you to the Man as he picked them and treated!

The show was wonderful: it had all the amazing acrobatics you expect from a Cirque show but with a proper Broadway story of fame and fortune and love triangles which all work out alright in the end (spoiler!). It was energetic and wonderfully overwhelming and I can barely describe it. The plot goes like this: jaded director finds a muse for his new films. She is a lowly singer in a bar, accompanied by an even lowlier (but obvs good-hearted) songwriter who totes has all the hots for her. The director chappie makes her a star and promises our lowly songwriter he will use his songs in his pictures. But then doesn't: Dramatic Conflict! Meanwhile the director decides he is in love with our little starlet and will marry her. Her opinions on the subject being deemed somewhat irrelevant. The songwriter kicks into action and also proposes. Our starlet has to choose between the soul-sucking movie business and glamour, or love. So...[moment of extreme tension and unpredictability}...chooses love because hurrah! It's Broadway. So here are a few bits I loved:

A bar scene where the director finds the budding starlet. There's so much to see: a unicycle act takes centre stage where a pair of performers do crazy tricks on a unicycle that by all rights and gravity ought to fall over. In the background, waiters balance and pose impossibly, acrobats perch on chairs balanced on two legs balanced on other chairs balanced on pianos and trapeze artists swing from chandeliers. It was a complete spectacle with so much Vaudeville glamour and it was hard to know where to look!

One of my favourite scenes was when the stage morphed into a film strip: a whole section of the floor rose up revealing seven back-lit little rooms and dancers performed a whole routine in them, each delayed a fraction behind the next simulating celluloid unravelling before our eyes. It was magical; pure, seemingly effortless coordination as the dancers twirled and oscillated and moved to the music. The effect was incredible; the sort of thing that when you see it you can barely imagine anyone even conceiving of the idea to begin with, let alone pulling it off.
The Calamity Jane scene was fab: lots of dancing with the most beautiful circle skirts and acrobats performing a see-saw springboard jumping act. Meanwhile the director got crosser and crosser, demanding more and more flips from the acrobats until they were performing hugely high, seemingly death-defying mid-air rolls and tumbles until I was sure that they wouldn't be able to do it but they somehow always landed it. Amazing!
There was a great scene towards the climax where our heroine was caught between the demands of her two rascals and they sang a song about love triangles. Meanwhile, three acrobats in leotards which mimicked their costumes appeared on stage. One of the men was up on a trapeze and the other was on the floor and they performed a mesmerising push-and-pull, lifting and flinging around the starlet acrobat between them, balancing her between floor and trapeze and tearing her from one to the other. It was a very powerful visual.
In the finale, our heroine and the songwriter get together (hurrah!) and the ornate, fabric shades from the onstage lamps rise up around them and dance, beautiful and glowing from within. They had drones inside and they looped and circled and dodged so that after a a few seconds you know they aren't on strings and that this is something special.
After the show, we hopped round to the stage door where the security guard checked our names off his list (sooooo VIP darling) and one of the Man's old work friends, came to meet us.  It was amazing to get a tour backstage. We emerged into the stage peering up into the 1800 seater auditorium. The Lyric is the second biggest theatre on Broadway, about twice the size of most as the average size is around 900. The set was impressive close up, as always. We saw the drone lampshades, ("we don't call them drones, drones kill people, these are our flying machines") each custom made in Austria for $10000 and using 48 points around the stage area for GPS navigation. Genius! We saw the film strip section which raises and lowers, and rows and rows of costumes in glittering neoprene and spandex - if it doesn't have glitter, what's the point?! We saw the tiny workout area under the stage with a practice trapeze and pole and ring and we saw the cabinets and consoles. Like I said: impressive.
After the tour, we all absconded to a local bar frequented by theatre crew types on 50th street. We sat at a long bar, were advised to make friends with the bartender (apparently the first thing you should always do in a bar is ask the bartender's name) and we ordered drinks. Beer for them, whiskey and ginger beer for me. Three of them as the Matt (the bartender) kept swooping by, offering another round and then magically producing it.  Actually it may not have been magic but the more of them I had the less I noticed the production of the next drink. I also think they may have been doubles.
We gossiped and nattered, the Man catching up on work chat, and we got some NYC tips which sounded fab. By the time we left, some time after 1:00am the express A train had become local and with the next one not due for about half an hour (apologies TFL, I love you and your regular, regular service) we tottered back to 42nd street to wait. Swaying gently on the platform. Or perhaps the platform was swaying gently but it was disconcerting. The A eventually showed up and I half dozed as it stopped at every single station before finally transporting us back to Brooklyn. A great night out (it sounds very NYC to say we hit Broadway and then went out with theatre people before staggering home at 2:30am) but we were definitely ready for some snoozing with NO morning alarm.
Kisses xxx
P.S. That' right, you guessed it: the next instalment will be all about Day 3!