A New York Snapshot

ARKANSAS
BY

Richard Mason
A New York City Snapshot
A middle-aged woman pushing a baby carriage passed us as we walked down 51st Street, and I glanced down at the carriage. I looked at Vertis, my wife, with a puzzled look.
“Did you see that?” I whispered.
“Yes, that’s hard to believe.”
It was a rather fancy baby carriage, but the occupant was a little unusual—a fair sized, black poodle with its front hair over its eyes bleached blonde, sitting there in a dress—like a baby—enjoying the ride.
“Well, we’re in New York,” I said to Vertis. She smiled.
We travel to New York because my idea of a vacation is to do something, or be somewhere that is completely different from where we live. New York City fits the bill perfectly.
We left Little Rock at 6:45 a. m. on an American Airlines flight, and arrived in New York’s La Guardia Airport at 12:05. Our flight was smooth and soon we had grabbed our bags and were headed into the City. It was time for a late lunch, so our immediate destination was Grand Central Station to dine at the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar—a great seafood restaurant. A visit to Grand Central Station should be on everyone’s list of to-dos in the city, even if you don’t eat at the Oyster Bar.
After a great lunch, of fresh seafood, we headed for the Michelangelo Hotel, an Italian owned hotel, just a block off Broadway. It advertises itself as the best location in the city—and it is. Two block south of Rockefeller Plaza and a short few blocks to most of the Broadway theaters. You can walk to more of the “must see” and “must eat” places from this hotel than almost any other hotel in the city, and if you want to take a subway, a station is right around the corner. The Michelangelo is a little pricy, but there are hundreds of reasonably priced hotels scattered around Times Square, which seems to be the area that most people gravitate to, and little restaurants with delicious lunch or dinner specials are there by the score. Venture off the main streets and stop in the small restaurants, and you will find restaurants that serve everything from catfish to Afghanistan kabobs—at a reasonable price. However, if you want to splurge, try Le Bernadine, a French three star restaurant that can easily cost $200 per person, or have the best seafood in the city, at Milos, a Greek Restaurant on 56th Street, or if you’re in the mood for an out-of-this-world Italian meal go to Del Posto down on 10th Street. Still hungry? Well, check out the delis, and if you want to save a few bucks, order one entrée and split it. Don’t worry: It will be plenty.
I have found it is always a good idea to have a list of ‘do and don’ts’ when you’re in New York. If you don’t, you’ll waste hours trying to decide where to go and what to do.
Now let’s cover a few of the more obvious dos: (1) Eat a corn-beef sandwich from a deli on Broadway. (2) Go to one of the many concerts at Carnegie Hall. (3) Ditto for Lincoln Center. (4) And if you love Jazz, go to Birdland or Blue Smoke for a live performance. (5) Jog or walk early on a Saturday morning in Central Park and check out the dogs, cute girls, and guys, and marvel how New York managed to keep this beautiful park from being developed. (6) Walk down Broadway to Times Square at night to see the overwhelming light and advertising display signs. (7) Take your walking shoes and window shop up 57th Street until you are tired and then up and down 5th Avenue with a stop at the Plaza Hotel food court. (8) Go to the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, and the American Museum of Modern Art—even if you hate museums. (9) If you’re there on Sunday, go to either Calvary Baptist Church on 57th Street or to the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
However, there are a few things I recommend you skip, and I will start by knocking one of the most obvious. (1) Don’t go to the top of the Empire State Building. That is unless you want to stand in line and fight the crowds for several hours just to see the skyline you looked at on your flight in. (2) Don’t buy knock-off goods from the hundreds of street vendors. The stuff they sell is a shoddy imitation and worth almost nothing. (3) Don’t ride the buses that the tour guides on nearly every corner are hawking. It’s a slow way to see the city, and by the time you’ve made the trip you swear to never ride one again. (4) Don’t attempt to actually go up to the top of the Statue of Liberty—(see the Empire State Building above for the reason.)—view it from the Staten Island Ferry. (5) Don’t go in any of the discount electronic stores on Broadway or 7th Avenue—trust me on this one. (6) Don’t rent a bike and try to navigate it through New York traffic—(If the weather is nice, you’ll be hit up on every corner.) You do want to come home, don’t you?
Well, what’s the bottom line on New York City? I think the city can best be described in a statement made by my son when he was 13. We had a family trip planned to New York, and it started the day after Ashley returned from a wilderness trip on the Buffalo River. As soon as we arrived, we walked up to 5th Avenue, and he looked out at the throng of people coming up and down the sidewalk, heard the fire trucks, horns honking, and the general overwhelming noise of the city, and he said to me, “Dad, I think New York is a visiting city, not a living city.” I certainly agree with my son, but I would add one thing to it. You will enjoy a trip to New York, eat a lot of good food, and marvel at Times Square. However, the bonus will be when you return home. You’ll have a new appreciation for the life we have here in Arkansas.

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