Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New York, New York

Thursday evening, we left town to go to my mom's house in Springfield. I had taken Friday off of work so I could fly out to New York City for the weekend. It had been approximately seven years since I last set foot there, and when I saw Common Rotation was playing both Friday and Saturday shows, I knew it was time to get back.
An interesting building in the Village.

My flight left at 7am on Friday morning from SPI, so it was up at 5am to make sure I was able to get ready and find my way to the airport. I was going minimalist on this trip, so I had everything packed into my camera backpack (including my T1i and two lenses) and a messenger bag for my laptop, charger, DVDs, and book. I checked and double-checked to make sure I had everything, but somehow my oatmeal soap got left behind. (Which I did not discover until Saturday morning resulting in my using the hotel's Aveeno soap which then resulted in my skin going mad red and irritated. Thanks, "natural" Aveeno!) This is where Wendy would say, "crunch, crunch."

If you don't feel like reading the details, feel free to head over to Flickr to view my set of pictures. I certainly won't be putting them all in this post, so you may want to head that way eventually anyway.

My flight to ORD was quick and uneventful. I had a short layover, and for once I did not need to run from one gate to the next in fear of missing a connection. Doubly amazing, my connecting flight to LGA left and landed (relatively) on time. We touched down at LGA and were able to leave the plane at approximately 12:15pm. No checked bags means I get to buy my MTA pass and hop right on the M60 to get over to Manhattan. The bus is always interesting, and other than a slightly grumpy girl who decided she did not want to sit next to me and my bags, it was uneventful.

Once we were in Manhattan, my stop was at Lexington so I could get on the 6 to head downtown. Wendy had booked a room at "her hotel" and generously let me stay there with her. The Hotel Roger Williams is at 31st Street and Madison Avenue, but I got off at 42nd Street to walk the rest of the way. It was a nice 15-minute walk to reacquaint myself with the Streets and Avenues. I got to the hotel right at 1:30pm as predicted.

After I dropped my stuff in the room, Wendy and I grabbed a quick bite at the hotel's little lounge area. I didn't want a lot, and the vegan options were slim, so I had a plate of their homemade thin french fries with ketchup. When I shared with Jack that they cost $10 USD, he was astounded. Yes, this is why I didn't eat at the hotel much, in fact, at all (except for the breakfast which was included in Wendy's room) after that. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the fries. You know what fries look like though, right? No big loss.

The Common Rotation show (opening for Bleu and Tracy Bonham) at 92Y Tribeca didn't start until 8pm (well, 9pm, but the Facebook event said 8pm), so I had a couple of hours to wander around before we would need to head down to the venue. I decided I would head further downtown myself so I could obtain some vegan ice cream at Lula's Sweet Apothecary. Feather from Vegan Around the World had just finished her stay in NYC and shared the existence of Lula's with me. Thank goodness she did! They make all of their ice creams from scratch, and I am betting the flavors rotate daily. Most were cashew-based, which was a welcome surprise. I opted for a two scoop cone which was worth it at $5.50 USD. Yes, technically I could have purchased a pint of vegan ice cream from the store for that cost and received (almost) double the amount of ice cream, but that simply does not compare to a fresh, delicious ice cream cone while walking down the street in NYC. (The building in the photo above was just down the street from Lula's.)

My flavor choices? Pecan Caramel Fudge and Caramel Ginger Cookies.
I had taken the 6 down from our hotel and planned to take it back, but since I was so close to NYU I decided to spend a little more time in the area. Heading back west, I found some NYU buildings and Washington Square Park. I snagged a picture of the Deutsches Haus (for a certain friend in the D.C. area), and a picture of La Maison Francaise (for any friends who like French (bread, dressing, fries); I know there a couple of you).

NYU Deutsches Haus.
NYU Deutsches Haus doorway.
NYU La Maison Francaise.
While in Washington Square Park, I came across the chess corner. After observing the players and games, I decided to take a few shots of the surrounding buildings and trees. Unfortunately, one of the players thought I was taking pictures of people and started yelling at me from across the park. He was at least 30-40' from me, and I did not have a zoom lens on the camera, so I really don't know why he freaked out so completely, but I ignored him and moved on.

Washington Square Park entrance.
At that point, it was getting to be time to head back to the hotel so we could get dinner before the show. I took the green line back north and got ready to go. Wendy picked out the restaurant since I didn't think I would be very hungry after my ice cream treat. We ended up at Bubby's (via cab). Since I couldn't find anything on their menu that was explicitly vegan (veggie burger most likely had egg in it, and the veggie chili is not always a guarantee), I went with a salad and a side of steamed asparagus. The plus side of Bubby's is, actually, the sides. A lot of them are fresh, local veggies. Another positive in Bubby's corner is the fairly swift response to my email inquiring about vegan options. Chili, yes. Pretty much everything else, no. (I still have not received a response from the hotel.)

House salad with balsamic vinaigrette
(which I opted out of once I saw the creaminess, just in case).
Steamed asparagus with lemon.
When dinner was over, we walked down to 92Y and arrived right at 8pm ... only to find out that the doors wouldn't actually open until close to 9pm for the show. That was okay, though, because right then Erika arrived, followed shortly by her fiance, Mike. They hadn't yet had dinner, so we sat and chatted with them while they ate at the 92Y cafe. It is a nice little cafe with a variety of options. I indulged in a (soy) Chai latte. Mmm.

I believe I said on my Flickr photos that I quite enjoyed the venue at 92Y. The staff were very mellow, and we were able to secure a seat up towards the front. Wendy offered me the front seat since she had seen the guys the night before and knew I would be taking pictures. Pictures without other people's heads in them? Always nice.
92Y stage.

Since the guys were opening for two other acts, their set was relatively short. It was great to be back in NYC watching them play and observing reactions in the crowd by those less familiar with their act. Long pause in the song? It might not be over, but thanks for clapping anyway. Tuning forever? Adam will stare at his harmonica for as long as it takes. Free songs? Yes, they have them.

Adam and Eric early in the show.
Singing with closed eyes? All the time.
Sometimes in between the harmonica playing.
Awkwardness. It's a trait, not a consequence.
The venue did not allow video recording, so I did not try to record any of their songs. They came down off the stage after about thirty minutes and did an acoustic version of "Dream." Bleu played his set next, and while I was intrigued enough to look him up down the road, we did have to step away a few times to remove ourselves from the overwhelming loudness of his act. Quite eccentric at times. Tracy Bonham was surprising since I really only knew her from her debut album. She had quite a bit of twang to her sound, but I would not call her country. She is a unique act, and I will probably pick up her newest CDs.

By the time we got back to the hotel (via cab) and relaxed a bit, it was 2am. We both crashed since the goal was to get up and take full advantage of Saturday. Surprisingly, we were up at 7am, and I was out the door by 9am with a lofty list of activities. My first goal was to take the N over to Long Island City and the Socrates Sculpture Park. I was a little underwhelmed by the park, but I also didn't get to explore very much because a large number of people were taking a yoga class near what appeared to be the main area. Instead, I walked around the periphery, talked to some folks, and petted a few of their dogs before heading back toward the subway. (En route, I spotted a bus that appeared to be heading to an earlier subway station, so I hopped on and made my way there. Mastering the MTA one day at a time!)

Looking back at Manhattan from the park.
I got off the N at the Times Square and 42nd Street station to transfer to the 1. It would take me uptown to the west side of Central Park. My goal was to stop at the Cafe Blossom and Peacefood Cafe for some food. Sadly, though it was 11:15am when I arrived at the Cafe Blossom, they still had their sidewalk entry blocked with their sandwich board, so I had to assume they were not ready to provide service.

The problem was easily solved, though, as I simply walked around the block to Peacefood Cafe. My food luck was obviously not high that morning. I wanted to order the Brazilian Nut Chai, which I was told was made with Brazilian Nut milk which they made themselves, but it failed to arrive as I was finishing my sandwich (Tempeh Avocado yumminess).

Baked marinated tempeh, creamy avocado, pickled radishes, shredded carrots and cilantro on toasted whole spelt rye bread. The sprouts and jicama/pear/apple (?) on the side were also very good.
I flagged down my waitress, and she informed me they were out. Of the milk? Of chai? I don't really know. What I do know is this meant I could order dessert. I really intended to get the lemon cake Feather raved above, I did, but somehow I ended up with the Chocolate Ganache cake instead. This was the richest chocolate cake I have ever had. The frosting was so thick and dense, I simply could not finish it. Keep in mind, my only food all day at this point was the sandwich I had just eaten, and it was now going on 12 noon. I ended up leaving a good quarter of the slice on the plate with a lot of frosting because I knew I would feel ill if I tried to finish it. So delicious.

Chocolate Ganache cake.
The rest of my plan for the day included walking west to see some of Central Park, stopping by the Candle Cafe for a snack, and then taking the 6 back downtown with a possible stop at the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge. However, once I meandered through Central Park, I realized I was right by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It had been on my list of potential things to do, so I decided I would.
An artist at work in Central Park.
Outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I spent a solid two hours or more wandering through the first floor. (I spent a few minutes on the roof to see the Big Bambu exhibit.) Other than the brief escape for fresh air on the roof, I spent all of my time on the first floor, and I still didn't see everything. I honestly belief a person could get lost there. It's no wonder they have employees stationed in almost every room. Yes, they want to keep an eye on you and make sure you are behaving, but I also overheard plenty of people asking "How do I get out of here?"

An artist at work.
Big Bambu on the roof.
Asmat canoe.
Silver armbands.
It got to be about 4pm, so I decided it was time to move on. Even though the Saturday night show was not until 10pm, I want to give myself plenty of time to get back to the hotel, download/upload pictures, and possibly even rest. On my way to the 6, I found the Candle Cafe. Since I knew Wendy would be getting dinner as a part of her plans for the day, I decided to take the opportunity for guaranteed vegan food while I had it. Sadly, once I had food in front of me, I realized I was still too full from my lunch to enjoy it. I ordered a (soy) Chai latte and one of the specials, the Indian Plate. (Side note: I am honestly surprised that more places in NYC didn't offer almond or rice milk in addition to soy milk.) The Chai was not nearly as good as the one at the 92Y Cafe, especially not for $5 USD. The food made up for it, and what I didn't eat they readily packed up for me.

Chai latte at the Candle Cafe.
The "Indian Plate" special at the Candle Cafe.
Warning, obligatory red door photo straight ahead.

Lovely red door.
I found my way back to the 6 and gratefully got on the subway. I hadn't realized how much I had been on my feet until that point. I made it back to the hotel by 5pm or so and proceeded to relax and process my pictures from the day. Wendy arrived from her day of the street fair, a movie, and dinner by 8pm, and we had to move pretty quickly to get downtown to the Livingroom. Since Common Rotation was playing their own show (with a few acts before and one after), it seemed like a good idea to get there a little early.

We arrive right at 9:30pm and waited for Wendy's friend, Jeff, to arrive as well. While in line, I got reacquainted with some familiar faces. It's amazing that I can still recognize the east coast fans. (Hi, Jo Ann!) The crowd got quickly denser the closer to 10pm the clock crept, but when they let everyone in we were able to secure another great table.

The Livingroom stage.
The guys had a full hour for their set this time, and many funny faces and moments were had. The venue did not say anything about video recording this time, so I did snag two small videos. (Jo Ann has a couple more that are posted over that The Union Maid.)

Set list plate.
Eric lost at sea.
Adam instructing the audience.
Jordan during "Dream."
Adam and Eric during "Dream."
Jeff stayed behind to watch Jason Crosby, but Wendy and I opted for an earlier night than the previous. We made it back to the hotel and crashed pre-2am. The next morning, we took a little more time to get our day started. Correction, Wendy got up and worked out just like she said she would, we had breakfast, and then we got our day started. My flight didn't leave until 4pm, so after waffling for a while I decided I would go down to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. I took the 6 once more to the Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall station. This is a great stop for architecture. Unfortunately, this was the only day where the overcast sky did not clear up by 10am, and there were people all over the place. Still, I walked the bridge and took (possibly too many) pictures.
The Brooklyn Bridges and its many cables.
The Statue of Liberty from the Brooklyn Bridge.
I walked around the courthouse, snapping a few last pictures, and then took the opportunity to use one of the many park benches in NYC. Even though I did not get that late of a start and the bridge isn't very long, it was close to 1pm before I was done exploring and decided to head back to the hotel. I snapped one last photo for my trip before getting on the subway to rush to the hotel.

I'm on a (horse) park bench.
The last photo from my trip.

I knew I needed to leave the hotel by 1:30pm if I was going to get to the airport on time. I walked to Penn Station and took the 1 to Columbia University to catch the M60. By the time we got to LGA, it was 3pm, and I got my tickets and through security by 3:15pm. Boarding time was at 3:30pm. Phew.

If you've read this far, congratulations! (Now that I have left NYC, let's get me home.) It took almost as long for me to get home as I imagine it took for you to get here. My flight out of LGA left relatively on-time (perhaps 15 minutes late), but I was not concerned because I knew I had almost two hours of layover time at ORD. I sat next to an older gentleman from Huntsville, Alabama who was traveling home with his older brother after visiting their nephew (son of another brother) who was graduating from West Point. He had never traveled through ORD, so I gave him some tips and directions on getting to his next gate.

My gate wasn't two miles away from the arrival gate, which I should have recognized was too good to be true. I moved slowly through the airport and even stopped at Argo Tea for a (soy) Maté Latte, a little business I had never noticed before during my normal dashes through the terminals. As I waited near my gate, I decided it might be worth paying $8 for the internet, but almost as soon as I had paid, the T-Mobile HotSpot starting dropping and failing and being a general pain. (Thanks a lot, T-Mobile!) I did try to contact them online for a refund, but they said I would have to call. (I haven't done it yet.)

It became even more frustrating that I could not use the internet connection I had just paid for when my flight to SPI got delayed. Thankfully, it was only delayed about thirty minutes, putting me on the ground around 9:25pm. I made it to my mother's house at 9:45pm. We spent a few minutes talking so she could debrief me on the latest family events, and then I collected the boy and headed home. We had the drive back to Champaign in front of us, not to mention his cross country practice at 8am and my full day of work the next morning.

We arrived home to two sleepy kitties at 11:45pm and almost immediately crashed. It was good to be back in our own beds.

So that was my weekend. Not too shabby considering I spent approximately 49 of the 57 hours since I woke at my mother's house exploring (38) or sleeping (11) in NYC. That's a pretty good ratio.

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