Wednesday, June 13, 2012
We elected to stay right in Manhattan this year to save time on the commute from the hotel in New Jersey. The downside to this is that my dad had to drive in Manhattan. Other cars didn’t pose much of a problem; the people, however, seemed to think yellow means “go” for pedestrians. I don’t think too many people run red lights in New York — unless they’re okay with hitting pedestrians. Anyway, it was not too painful getting to the hotel, though our GPS took us down through Connecticut and over a bridge on the east side of Manhattan, while our hotel was on the west side and probably a hundred streets south, so we did a lot more Manhattan driving than if we came through New Jersey.
We arrived at our hotel and went up to our very small hotel room. There was no fridge, and if you wanted ice, you had to take the elevator down ten floors to the ice machine. You know how when movies take place in New York, you can always see the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty out the window? (warning: TV Tropes link) Well, we actually could see the Empire State Building from our hotel room.
It was time for supper, so we went back downstairs and went to Times Square. We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way. Oh yes, did I mention that this vacation we planned on eating at places we don’t normally eat? Oh well. A guy asked for a cheeseburger.
Then we walked around Times Square for a bit. There were lots of cartoon-y characters hanging around, mostly Elmos. We went into Toys R Us, then came back out, and there was an Elmo with his head off yelling at the people crowded around another Elmo and saying something like “the people who sell him this suit are harassing people!”. I think some police officers came over to him after. There were also two chickens with their heads off.
My mom and brother and I were thinking of seeing Ghost: The Musical, since the movie is awesome, and also the guy playing Sam was Craig Harris in Coronation Street. My dad didn’t like Rock of Ages (“I didn’t realize this was going to be so gay”), so he didn’t want to go. I don’t know why, but he changed his mind. We went down to the TKTS booth and asked how much tickets were. The price was $57 online, but at the booth, they said it was $69.50, and that was with a 50% discount; I’m assuming those were for the good seats. We just wanted the cheap seats, but they said they didn’t have any cheaper tickets. We sat on the red steps and tried a couple more times before showtime. One time when I asked, the price went up to $75. We planned on asking again just after the show had started, but the booths all closed right at 8:00. We figured we’d try one more time down at the theatre. Success! $47 tickets. That’s the way you do it.
When we went to Rock of Ages a few years ago, they checked our bags and told me I wasn’t to take any pictures with my camera. This time, they didn’t check, though there were signs saying “no photography”. We went up to our seats in the balcony or whatevs Broadway folks call the nosebleeds. Unfortunately, sitting up there made some of the illusions not look so great.
The show was pretty good. I don’t particularly enjoy concerts where I don’t know any of the songs, so I wasn’t crazy about the songs. I would have liked it better if it was just a play and not a musical, but I appreciate turning non-musicals into musicals and just the silliness of musicals and Broadway in general. I’m not sure if the songs weren’t very strong, or if I just needed to hear them a few more times. Oda Mae’s first song was good, but it went on too long. I wasn’t crazy about any of Molly’s ballads, but I don’t like that genre in general. Speaking of Molly’s ballads, one had the lines “I don’t know why, I don’t know why” and “I started to cry, I started to cry”. I was immediately reminded of a Dolez, Jones, Boyce & Hart song.
They did a great job of including all the funny and memorable lines from the original movie; from what I’ve read, the guy who wrote the script for the movie also wrote the script for the musical, so I guess that’s why. The only scenes I remember being shorter than the original were Willie’s chase/death (they didn’t show him in Oda Mae’s house at all) and Carl’s chase/death scenes. Carl died by gunshot and not head cut off by window. I guess that might be more complicated, but Alice Cooper does it every night, so I don’t see why they couldn’t.
I wasn’t crazy about them changing the subway ghost into a punk. There was a bit with the pop can illusion where he set it down, but it didn’t go where he put it. I don’t know exactly how it works (probably a Pepper’s ghost thing), but it was jarring. Another bit they changed was the “push a penny under the door” scene. I’m sure they’d be able to convincingly float a penny, but I guess it’s just too small for the audience to see. It’s too bad they couldn’t have done some other effect there instead of what they did do (having Oda Mae read Molly a letter in her apartment from the other side of the door). The hospital ghost at the beginning was played by the same actor who later played Orlando with seemingly no costume change. This didn’t make sense to me because the hospital ghost said he was waiting for his wife, but then Orticia is Orlando’s wife, isn’t she?
I’m pretty sure they used the same bank account number for Rita Miller’s account as the number in the movie, because I could hear Whoopi saying “oh-four-three” in my head. I noticed Willie was no longer “Prospect Place Willie”; I don’t know why they changed his address, since the original address doesn’t exist. I didn’t realize the money had gone up from “four million dollars?!” to ten until after I’d seen it pointed out in a review. I wasn’t crazy about the camera phone and the non-early-nineties computer. I was sad they didn’t use “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”, but I guess they couldn’t get the rights. I understood when they didn’t have the pottery scene in the beginning, because it would be messy, but instead, they moved it to later in the show. Why?
The effects were fun, and there was a scene towards the end with fog and black and white umbrellas that looked really great. Afterwards, my dad said he enjoyed it; more than Rock of Ages, at least. Then it was back to the hotel through the 11 o’clock crowds.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
First stop today was the subway station to go downtown. I looked on Google Maps to see which subway to take, but I hadn’t realized there was an uptown and a downtown and sometimes, the uptown and downtown stations weren’t in the same spot. We asked the subway lady, and she told us to go down the stairs across the street. All went well and we arrived downtown near our first stop, the World Trade Center. We took some pictures of the new building being constructed, then went in search of the WTC Tribute Visitor Center. I’d previously been there on my high school trip to New York and had no desire to see it again, and I knew that my brother would not enjoy it, so we planned to wait outside nearby while my parents went in. We had a bit of trouble finding the place, since I thought it was at a different number, but we eventually found it. My parents went inside, and I took a picture of the outside of the building. Seconds later, my parents came out after deciding they didn’t really want to see it.
So, we kept walking downtown to the Battery Maritime Building, where we got our free tickets for a Governor’s Island tour. We still had some time before the tour started, so we walked down to Wall Street. On the way there, we passed by some dudes in uniforms, and there was a sign that said “Sons of the Revolutions”; don’t know exactly what they were doing though. We went into the Trump Building for bathrooms, but there weren’t any. Then McDonald’s again for hot fudge sundaes.
We went back to the Battery Maritime Building, and then we boarded the boat to Governor’s Island. It was a short ride there, and we could see the Statue of Liberty. On the island, we met up with our park ranger guide. She took us to Castle Williams, which used to be a fort and a prison and a haunted house and it was pretty cool. Then over to Fort Jay, which looked more like a nice little neighbourhood than a fort. I enjoyed the tour, and it being free was a bonus. On the boat ride back, there were a bunch of dudes in business suits. I wonder what they were doing there.
Back on the subway. At one of the stops, a group of five or so men got on, and one of them said they were going to sing a song for us, and then they did “Stand By Me”. I was entertained. At another stop, a guy got on and made a speech about how he hasn’t eaten in three days and he would appreciate any help. I was not entertained.
The next stop was the Paley Center for Media. I didn’t know exactly what this place was, but I’ve heard of them doing panels with cast/crew of TV shows like Lost, so I figured it would be a cool place, a television museum. We went inside and the guy at the front desk told us it was not like typical museums because most of our time would be spent watching and listening to things. I had a bad feeling, but no one else seemed to, so we paid our ten dollars (eight dollars for students, which was nice) and went on in.
We went into the theatre first, which looked like a regular movie theatre. There were maybe five other people there. They were playing a film about the American teenager, I believe, which was hosted by Melissa Joan Hart and consisted of clips from TV shows like Roseanne, The Wonder Years, and My So Called Life. At first, I was glad to see it wasn’t all modern shows, but then I realized that was probably only because the film was fairly old; Melissa Joan Hart looked pretty young — Sabrina young, not Clarissa young. At the end, there was a graduation montage that had a short clip from The Monkees’ “Monkee Mother” episode, when they start cheering when Rose Marie is having dinner with the moving man.
Next up was The Beatles (and also Davy) on Ed Sullivan. I’ve never seen the show in full, so that was kind of neat (although, I’ve never tried to see the show in full, and I know I easily could have found it online if I wanted to). I was surprised that the Beatles were the first act on the show. Also, I Wanna Hold Your Hand lied; there was no dog act or spinning plates or whatever was going on when Grace was hiding in the hotel room. Little Davy was adorable, of course. I wonder how much else film there is of him in Oliver? The commercials were awesome; one very upbeat commercial about cigarettes, another commercial Ed introduced by saying it was something for the ladies… and it was about like detergent. Oh yeah, and one for Anacin that went: “Pain. Depression. Pain. Tension. Pain. Anxiety. Pain. Fatigue. Pain. Pain.” There was an act at the end which immediately made me think of acts I’ve seen get the buzzer on America’s Got Talent.
After that, we decided to go upstairs to the library, which I hoped would be a bit more interesting than the theatre. There, we were greeted by a woman who asked if we had been there before. We said no, so she took us over to some computers and asked if there was anything in particular we wanted to watch. We said no. She showed us how to look at the featured shows. My dad asked if they had things like sports, and she said they have everything, almost. She told us we had an hour and a half of viewing time and to let her know if we needed any help. We each sat down at a computer and put on our headphones. I looked at the featured shows and decided to watch some more commercials. They were all pretty boring, so I looked through some of the other genres and settled on the first episode of Sesame Street. I also searched for the Monkees and got twelve results: eleven episodes and the ’90s TV special.
Okay. Eleven episodes from a series with fifty-eight episodes is not “everything”. And no TV appearances, Head, 33 1/3? I checked out Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees to see how the quality compared to my crappy VHS-taped download with a bit after a commercial break missing. It was better quality, but not amazing. Also, the original commercials were all there, which is neat, but not if you just want to watch the show.
A year ago, before I had seen the special, that would have been awesome. And maybe ten years ago, before YouTube, this would have been a pretty cool place. But now, I don’t get the point. I saw other people there watching episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld. Isn’t that what DVDs are for? Why would you pay ten dollars to watch three episodes of a TV show you can buy (or download) and watch whenever you want, as many times as you want, for as long as you want?
My dad and brother came over to my mom and I and said they were going back to the theatre since they couldn’t find anything to watch. My dad said he hardly found anything for hockey; I think he wanted to see the Stanley Cup games with Bobby Orr, but they didn’t even have that. So the claim of “everything, almost” is pretty debatable. Afterwards, I realized I should have searched for old episodes of Corrie, but if the search on their website is the same they have at the center, it doesn’t look like they had anything interesting.
Anyway, I watched Sesame Street for about half an hour while my mom watched the last episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Big Bird looked different and Oscar was yellow. I learned Ernie and Bert lived in the basement of that building on the street with the stairs. There was a terribly long segment with a terribly boring song about cows “making the milk”, “eating the grass”, and “waiting for milking time”. We went back down to the theatre to get my dad and brother and then left.
By this time, we were all pretty hungry. I had originally planned for us to look around Chinatown for a bit and then Little Italy for dinner, but since I had moved the Paley Center from Friday to Thursday, we were uptown instead of downtown, and we didn’t want to go back downtown. So, to Times Square again. We were going to have Sbarro pizza, but I pointed out it’s not that good, and we were in Times Square, so why not go somewhere else better? We went to Junior’s, since we were going to stop there anyway for cheesecake. I seem to remember last time not being crazy about Junior’s, but I figured chicken is chicken, so whatever. Well, no. Junior’s chicken is just not my kind of chicken. Note to self: Do not eat there any more, and if you do, do not get the chicken. You do not like Junior’s chicken. Seriously.
While we were waiting for our food, we noticed a crowd of people across the street. There was a group of guys getting their picture taken. We had seen three nice cars parked down the street earlier with Florida license plates that said “Miami Heat”; now, maybe they were just some fans who had travelled together, but we thought they might be on the team. My mom and I went outside to see what was going on; the backdrop said “Songwriters Hall of Fame”, and from what I googled afterwards, I’m going to guess the guys we saw were a band called Take 6. I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures. My mom identified Emmylou Harris and Gordon Lightfoot. You could always tell when someone important was arriving because you would see and old guy with a girl in a fancy dress. The next one we saw was Bob Seger, but none of us recognized him at the time.
Next up was Meat Loaf. My dad crossed the street where there were people behind barriers and stood by the sidewalk where people were walking by. I went up to my dad and said, “Dad, did you see Meat –” and then I realized Meat Loaf was standing five feet in front of us signing autographs for people. I figured my dad saw him, so I stopped and took one terrible picture because I didn’t want to look like a crazy person. My dad later told me he didn’t see Meat Loaf. Some security guards told the people standing on the sidewalk that they had to keep moving, so I went back across the street.
Some of the people behind the barriers had albums, so I used my 20x zoom (yes, I love it) to see what they were. From the track listing on the back of an album, we discerned Kenny Rogers would be there, but we never saw him. Someone in the crowd on the street also said Stevie Nicks had been there. People kept coming up to us and asking what was going on. A guy who was obviously a New Yorker stopped and looked to see what the fuss was, and then said “Songwriters Hall of Fame? Pfft.” and walked off.
I’ve got some pictures of people who seem to be called Ne-Yo, Swizz Beatz, and Adrienne Bailon. My brother identified Clive Davis getting out of a limo. One of the security guards looked like Randy Jackson, but obviously it wasn’t really him. My dad wanted us to get going, but I didn’t want to leave in case someone really cool showed up. The professional camera people started packing up just after 7:00, so we left shortly after that. Back at the hotel, I googled to find out what was going on. Sounds like we had seen most of the cool people who were there. Even though the dinner wasn’t great, I was glad we went to Junior’s. I always hoped I would see someone famous accidentally when I was in New York, and I ended up seeing a bunch.
We also picked up some cherry cheesecake from Junior’s bakery and ate it back at the hotel. It was of course very good, though I wasn’t crazy about the crumbly bits they had on top of the cherries.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Back on the subway the next morning, uptown to Central Park Zoo. It opens at 10 am, but we got there a bit before that, and there was already a long line. I don’t think they opened the ticket booths ’til 10, and once they did, the line moved pretty quickly. My dad asked what the 4D experience was. I looked around the park quickly and determined it was Dora the Explorer, and no, we didn’t want to see it. My brother and I sat on a bench while my dad got the tickets and my mom got some drinks. There was a pigeon on the ground in front of us, and my brother asked if I was going to take a picture of it. I zoomed in on the bird and said, “Come on, turn around”. The bird obliged and walked towards us. “No! No! Don’t come here!”. My brother laughed and said if he ever got to see me locked in a room with a bird, he would die happy. I do not like birds.
Into the park, and first up are the sea lions. They are fun and cute, but they mostly stay under the water. Then some monkeys, an owl, and some ducks. Next is a very cute polar bear apparently named Gus. He’s swimming and playing with a plastic box with a hole that has fish in it. Every once in awhile, he would fall backwards into the water and swim around on his back. Next, there were some cute fox-like things called red pandas. There were a bunch of turtles in some water all piled on top of each other. Also a swam, which I’m going to assume was a trumpeter swan; it was very noisy. We went to check out the snow leopards, but they seemed to be hiding, so we decided to come back later. There was an energetic little monkey behind a wire mesh fence, and I found my camera couldn’t focus on him. A woman noticed my camera and asked if I could help with her camera. It would only record things, not take pictures. There was a little switch in the corner that I flipped that seemed to fix it.
Next was the tropic zone, which was a big hot room filled with… birds. There were two big peacocks right up at the top of a tree by the ceiling. Lots of strange birds. Every time one of them flew around, I would duck. As we were leaving, I think one of the peacocks, or at least a very big bird, flew just over my mom. There was an area through some curtains with reptiles and things behind glass. I heard someone say to check out the mousedeer — it was the weirdest thing you’d ever see — but I didn’t see them. Back into the bird room and out; I was glad to leave there. I guess my brother got his wish.
We went back to the sea lions since they had started jumping up on the rocks and being cute. We decided to go into the penguin area since everyone else would be outside for the sea lions feeding time. My camera had a hard time focussing again since the penguins were behind glass and there were lots of water droplets on the glass. It was also dark in there, so not any good pictures in there. There was also another area with puffins and other sea birds. One of the birds was treading water, and it looked like he was trying to walk on the water.
We went back to look at the snow leopards again, but we still didn’t see them. There was a young boy with his dad, and his dad asked him, “Do you know why they call them snow leopards? Because they’re snow leopards” (“there’s no leopards”). My dad laughed and said, “Hey, that’s a good one!”. Pfft. Dad jokes.
It was time for lunch, so we left. I suggested we walk across Central Park, since we were going that way anyway, and I had found a restaurant over there that we would probably like; there weren’t as many McDonald’s and whatnot uptown. We walked down possibly the boringest part of Central Park, 65th Street, since last time we tried to cut across the park, we got lost. We stopped by the Dakota and Strawberry Fields. There was a guy at Strawberry Fields with a sign that said he would tell you a joke for a dollar, and you get your money back if you don’t laugh. I was hoping someone would pay him so I could hear a joke. I wondered how many people that come to Strawberry Fields are Beatles fans. My mom said she heard a little boy ask his dad “Whose grave is this?”. Can’t blame little kids for not knowing, but adults who take their picture with the Imagine mural? Do they all know what it is?
Next, we started walking uptown to the Natural History Museum. The Shake Shack, which seemed like a good place for us to eat, was very crowded, so we skipped it. My brother and I got hot dogs from a street vendor and my mom and dad went to a nearby deli.
Into the Natural History Museum. Online, it said the price was a suggested $19 donation. At the ticket booth, which was a computer screen, it said if you wanted to pay a different price, you had to go to the admissions desk. I bet that stops a lot of people from paying less. They had a student price, which was nice, but no one ever actually checked at any of these places if we were students or not.
First, we walked up the “cosmic pathway”, which was a path that curved alongside a large sphere, with time since the big bang marked along the path. There was one interesting picture of a bunch of galaxies that said it was a 130 hour exposure; I’ve seen pictures like that before, but never really realized how long it would take to take those pictures. Next, we went to the hall of planet Earth. I realized then that museums were much more fun when I was younger, and a museum is not the same thing as a science center, which are much cooler in my opinion. I didn’t fully enjoy myself because I could tell the rest of my family wasn’t enjoying themselves. My dad especially tends to make a lot of impatient noises when he’s bored. Next, we went into the hall of African animals. I’m not sure if the animals were all stuffed or just fake. My brother said later that it was kind of hard to follow real animals with dead ones; he was right. Then the Asian mammals and the hall of Asian peoples. I didn’t take many pictures in the museum because most of the rooms were very dark.
Next, we decided to go up to the fourth floor to look at the dinosaurs. That was a bit more fun because my brother and I went on a Power Rangers scavenger hunt. Though I wanted to find them all on my own, my brother pointed out most of them to me first, so I had to be the big sister and congratulate him. He took a picture of me with a pterosaurs picture (since all the skeletons were hanging from the ceiling) and made fun of me for trying to remember how Kimberly did her pose when calling the Pterodactyl Firebird Thunderzord (I didn’t quite get it right, but I did happen to be wearing pink that day).
I think everyone else was ready to leave, but we hadn’t gone to two whole floors. I took us down to the primates area, as I wondered whether “primape” was a real word or not. There was a strange monkey with a very long, almost beak-like nose.
Then we went down to the first floor, and my dad thought we were leaving. I said I wanted to see the whale — not because I’m interested in whales, but because of the Donovan song. We somehow ended up going to the hall of human origins, which looked interesting but I rushed through it, and then the halls of meteorites, minerals, and gems. Then back out and to the whale, which I couldn’t even get a good picture of because the hall of ocean life was so dark. And I couldn’t even meet anybody under it.
We walked back to Strawberry Fields, since the subway was near there anyway. My dad also wanted a better picture of the Imagine thing, since when we were there earlier, there was a flower on it. When we got there, there were some more flowers and some glasses and things, but it was not a particularly pretty display and didn’t make for good pictures. Oh well.
We took the subway back home, and stopped at a nearby pizza place. The pizza was good, considering I usually only eat Little Caesar’s pizza. More Junior’s cheesecake for dessert, and it was once again very good.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Time to leave. We got up very early to beat all the New York traffic; it worked. We made a stop about fifteen minutes away in Hoboken, New Jersey to visit Carlos’ Bake Shop from The Cake Boss. A guy stood at the door and handed us a take-a-number number. My mom got some crumb cake and my dad and brother each got chocolate cupcakes. We also got a small box of cookies. I had some of the cookies; they were not anything special. The cakes they had in the windows weren’t too special either.
We stopped at a Kohl’s and an IHOP for breakfast again. We went to a mall near our next hotel in Middletown, New York, since it wasn’t time to check in yet. After that, we checked in, and the hotel room was nice and big and had a fridge and microwave and we even could get a cot for my brother. We wanted to go to the nearby Outback for supper, but the directions from the GPS were confusing, and my dad made a wrong turn that took us on the highway for twenty minutes.
Then it was back to the hotel, and that night, off to Bethel for Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band in concert.