So, Anne and I spent the weekend in New York with a friend of ours, Allyson Edwards, and several other of her friends to celebrate Allyson’s birthday.
The fact is, I’ve only ever been in Manhattan one other time, in May of 2003, when my occasional boss, Tim Brack, had Chet and I up to i.e. Marketing’s backwoods-NJ HQ for a design-and-work meeting and dragged us into Manhattan one night to meet some of the people from Universal. It was fun, but I only saw a fraction of it over the course of a few hours.
h4. The flight out
So after work on Friday, I took the Metro down to Reagan National and caught a Delta Shuttle to La Guardia. National is sixteen zillion times easier to get to than Dulles–it’s a 20-minute Metro ride that drops you right at the terminal, rather than a 30-minute Metro ride that puts you at a twice-an-hour shuttle. I’m hoping I can find reasonable flights home from there in the future because it’s just so much easier.
Anyway, I made it in plenty of time for my flight, got on, and found out that on flights between DC and New York, there is _No Standing_. As in, the airplane might as well not have a lavatory because you will not be allowed to make use of it. And if you try, they will land the plane as fast as possible and let you speak to some Federal Marshals about how you’re not allowed to stand.
I think if my outrage-ometer weren’t so consistently pegged these days I’d be a lot more pissed-off, or at least snarky, about how police-state it is to tell people that they can’t even use the bathroom without having to talk to the cops. As it is, I just make sure I don’t drink a lot of water beforehand.
The view flying in, shortly after the sun had set, was truly amazing.
h4. The entry to Manhattan
I got into La Guardia and caught a cab to our hotel, the Doubletree Times Square.
This was something of a silly ride, as I was alternatively taking down numbers of the limo that was going to pick me up at the hotel and take me to the restaurant everyone had already gone to and using my Treo to try and deal with some AnteSpam issues–our DNS server went down and it was causing sever mail processing delays.
Times Square does nothing for me–too many people, too fast, too…too. Edgy only does it for me after I’ve worked up to it–most of the time, it’s just not interesting. Inside the hotel (which had guards who wouldn’t let you in without a key, which presented an interesting problem since the reservation was in Anne’s name, not mine, etc.) was calm. I dropped off my stuff, called the aforementioned limo rider and then went downstairs to wait.
h4. Am I a celebrity?
There is something surreal when a huge limo wallows up to the curb to pick you, and you alone, up. The limo had a bar–whiskey and vodka, with a couple of bottles of wine the other participants had brought along earlier. I passed for the moment, preferring to watch the landscape drift by, and to notice that the little star-lights in the roof gradually changed color.
I eventually arrived at Trattoria Sambuca, where the meal had only just gotten started. It was nice, and I got introduced to the other ten or so people there, including the two women named Ann (this becomes a source of amusement during later events). I forgot pretty much all of the new names immediately, as is my unfortunate wont. I suck, suck, suck at remembering names. It probably guarantees that I have no future in politics.
It was a nice meal, done somewhat family-style (since there were so many people)–I would be willing to eat there again. When everyone was done, we called back up the limo and took off to drive around until the limo turned into a pumpkin at midnight.
We stopped once to replenish the wine stores–a Hess Chardonnay and a Ravenswood Zinfandel (inexpensive and reliable both) and something else that I forget but was pretty good.
We also stopped to take a picture at Rockefeller Center, which was kind of fun since I’ve been reading ??Live from New York??, the oral history of SNL, most of which takes right there at 30 Rock.
I had occasion to call Chet to ask a question that I had already forgotten the answer to by the time I hung up (sad, isn’t it–a little wine and the short-term memory goes to shit). It was mostly an excuse to be able to deliver the amusing line that I was cruising around Manhattan in a limo full of women.
We made it back to the hotel around midnight and everyone piled in to sleep off their sulfites.
h4. Shambling to consciousness
We woke up relatively late, and convened in the lobby around 9:30am to catch the subway to attend the organized bit of the trip, the U.S. Open. We took the subway out to Flushing Meadows–right next to Shea Stadium and, in fact, La Guardia–which was a good 40 minute ride. The NY subway system is probably an order of magnitude bigger than any other I had direct experience with except possibly the London Underground. It is also by far the shabbiest. Still, it’s not outrageously expensive, and it’s a boatload cheaper than taxis.
h4. And we’re at the U.S. Open
We got to the Tennis Center (after a bit of standing on line for bag checks) and found our way to Arthur Ashe stadium, where we watched Roger Federer pretty much demolish Fabrice Santoro from the shade at the side of of the big press box–the seats weren’t actually ours, but the shade was worth it, and we got away with it. 😉
Once that match was over, we ducked out and got something to eat. That was not cheap, though the food was better than you might have expected–they had the only Indian fast-food kiosk I’ve ever seen, complete with Mango Lassis.
We then went into the general admission part of the Louis Armstrong stadium, and watched the beginning of Carlos Moya’s match against Olivier Rochus. It began to get intolerably hot (I had, it a fit of fuckwittedness, not packed shorts, had no sunglasses, and was stubborn enough not to want to wear a hat), so Anne and I ducked out, found some shade, drank a lot of water and watched Moya go down on a monitor outside. I napped a bit.
In all truth, we weren’t having a huge amount of fun in the middle there; it was too hot and uncomfortable. But about 3:45, the sun started to abate, and we went to watch Agassi play. And that definitely redeemed the experience.
Agassi just powered his way through Jiri Novak. For a guy who, at 34, is apparently being accused of being washed up at the beginning of each season, he certainly seems to be doing OK. This is his 18th U.S. Open, and I guess he’s making up what he doesn’t have in raw speed and endurance with experience and cunning, because he was playing good tennis.
It wasn’t all one big service game, either. There were some long volleys and hard-won points. It really did make up for having to endure the heat in the middle of the day. We’re already contemplating coming back next year.
The final game actually had a point when it was advantage Agassi, and he hit a shot that everyone thought was in–everyone stood up, many started clapping–and then it was called out. People actually _booed_ the call.
Agassi proceeded to take the next two points with no fuss, as if to prove a point.
And then, we left.
h4. Dinner in the Village (or three women named Ann (or Anne) and Steve)
No, not “that Village”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0368447/, Greenwich Village.
So, we got back from the Open, and many of the party were going to some bar where the local Alabama Alumni association convenes to watch football games–there was a game last night. The three women named Ann (or Anne) and I had no interest in that, so we decided to go get dinner. Ann Jones’s brother had recommended “Lupa”:http://luparestaurant.com/, so we decided to go there, and if we had to wait, well, there are worse ways to pass the time than walking around the Village.
Indeed, we didn’t even get seated until after 10pm.
Dinner was wonderful. To start we had a nice escarole and onion salad, a cold squash soup and the absolute stomp-down best thing in a night that had a lot of really good food, a salad of beets and pistachios with a creme fraisch sort of dressing.
I don’t care if you don’t like beets, this is not to be missed.
After that we had a tuna belly (think skirt steak) with a puttanesca-style dressing, a striped bass that was crusted with something and pan fried, a “minute steak” (beaten skirt steak) that enclosed braised radiccio and arugula and other things, and a fish the name of which I forget that was served whole, battered and fried (and was presented on the plate as if it were swimming through the water.
It was all amazing. If we hadn’t gotten beers while we were walking around, we probably would have had dessert. It did look quite wonderful, but no one had the wherewithall to handle it.
Having mentioned the menu, it should come as no surprise that picking a wine to go with all of those dishes is a little hard. And the wine list is all Italian, and the only Italian wines I knew about are Chiantis and Moscatos, neither of which really applied here.
So we asked for recommendations, and our waitress referred us to Zack, who we assume is the sommelier despite the fact that his sense of appropriate work dress and facial heair is apparently about the same as mine. He was impressed by our dilemma–and in fact ended up suggesting a bottle of _A Maccia_ Pigato for the three people with fish and a glass of red for Ann Jones’s beef.
I really liked the Pigato–it’s a very crisp and cool white, not very acid or oakey, and it cut through the saltiness of the puttanesca that came with my fish very well.
He was even more impressed, though, that I was sitting at a table with three attractive women all named Anne. And he misremembered my name as Steve at one point, which became something of a running joke.
It was a lot of fun, and, frankly, pretty goddamn reasonable considering the quality.
(Perhaps some day I will declaim about how I much prefer hanging out with women than men. The short version is that they’re infinitely more willing to listen to me yammer incessantly and drunkenly about myself.)
Finally, some time early, early this morning, we got back to the hotel and got to sleep.
h4. Getting the Hell out of Dodge
So we got up at 9:30, in time to see everyone off to another day of the U.S. Open, including some Serena Williams action. We, however, needed to kill a few hours and then catch our planes.
We packed up, checked out and decided to go look at the Met. When we got to the Met, though, we discovered that they will not allow you in with any luggage, and they have no place to hold it. So we moved on, and walked along Central Park for a bit, and then went and sat near a pond where people were playing with their radio-controlled boats and talked and enjoyed the 70 degree weather.
Then we adjourned to One c.s.p, the bistro in the Plaza Hotel, where we had a lovely lunch of a mixed greens salad, some sun-dried tomato and ricotta ravioli and some quite wonderful onion soup that was topped with puff-pastry and gruyere melted onto it–a great variation on the traditional French onion soup.
And then we caught a cab to the airport.