Sunday, July 24, 2005

NYC - Lower Manhattan

I write this in the Hotel's free breakfast room (Super 8 Hotel on 46th and 6th). CNN is broadcasting a story about a woman stabbed 13 times last night while trying to catch the J train. He was after her purse.

There is supposed to be free wireless Internet but I haven't found it yet. Ruth checked her email using the free computer provided just around the corner but the wireless is nonexistent. (I was able to upload yesterday's post at a Starbucks. I didn't use the T-Mobile they have there, it's not free. But it turns out that just about anywhere in NYC you'll find two or three wireless access points. Most are encrypted but at least the one at Starbucks in Tribeca (which is short for: triangle below canal), near City Hall in Manhattan. Today I just plugged into the network from their computers.)

I'm now sitting in lobby and I'm getting a weak signal from the wireless access point. I'm sitting right under the antenna. The hotel check-in clerk says: "Yeah, it's sometimes like that."

It's hard to concentrate here because there are these four white woman yelling across the lobby at each other about where they are going next. I don't care where they go, I just hope their exit is soon.

Just outside the hotel was some kind of street vendor bonanza. From 42nd to 59th on Broadway booths of food, clothes, trinkets, and art work were set up and people were swarming like bees to honey. (Actually the streets of NYC smell of sewage, so a better simile would be swarming like flies to manure, but this is a family blog.)

We bought a banana/strawberry smoothy for $4 and walked to the train station for a ride to Washington Square, where the chess players are. Soho (which means, south of Houston), starts from 14th and extends to Houston (pronounced How-ston). Washington Square is small and there wasn't much happening. There were many people sitting around reading the newspaper. And there were some chess players swatting their clocks after each move.

We walked all around, and I mean ALL around Little Italy AND China Town. Wow.

We came across this store called Evolution. Strange place. All kinds of skeletons and skulls, bugs and toad coin purses. Yeah, that's right, you heard it here. They gutted the toad, cut off it's rear legs, tanned his hide, and put a zipper in. What a great gift idea this would be. Completely disgusting. There it was, front legs, bumpy back and head, in gruesome detail. The owners looked a little weird too. The guy was short and grey, hey nothing wrong with that, but it was his wife/girlfriend that was odd. She had short pokey blond hair, tight spandex biking shorts, and dark makeup. She looked like a punker. She looked like a bomb about to go off, or had. I hate to ask folks like that any questions. I'm always afriad they'll go off on me.

The highlight was Little Italy and our lunch at Palazzo Ristorante Italiano. How did that woman eat so much? She was about 130 pounds and put away a huge rib eye and spinach greens! Ruth ordered some chicken and pasta and I? Just cappuccino. (I'd eaten at McDonalds about two hours back. Had too, I was dying but Ruth wanted to walk on.) Later, for desert, we had a cannoli with pistachios. Forest (Eric's friend. Yeah, that's right like the place with lots of trees.) had sorbet. Ruth had crapes souffle. Eric called them "soggy pancakes" but he didn't object when Ruth let him finish them up. Forest kept repeating the name of his desert with an Italian accent -- he's beginning to sound like an Italian. Of course, our waiter was the real thing. I really had to listen carefully so that I wouldn't embarrass myself by asking him to repeat the menu items.

Little Italy is great on Sunday's. All the restaurants place tables out on the sidewalk and they close the streets to car traffic. So you can just sit outside and enjoy the people while sipping your coffee and eating your cannoli. It was perfect weather, in the 80s with a breeze.

As we sat finishing up our great lunch I watched people buying sorbet from another street vendor next door who was selling sorbet by the cup or cone. Her features were unusual. She reminds me of Wendy in Peter Pan, short dark brown hair and pointed nose, sort of whimsical.

We finally reached China Town. We shopped through several stores and found some sea slugs for just $135/lb. Yeah, you read that right, $135/lb for sea slugs. the stench in China Town is is dizzying. One New Yorker said the streets smell like an armpit passed gas. I'd agree. At one point I held my breath as long as I could. Before I took a breath I had to decide it I wanted to pass out from street smells or lack of oxygen.

We decided to walk down to Ground Zero but heard some music that sounded like bagpipes. When we got there, three Chinese men were making all the noise. They were playing a fret-less, two-stringed instrument held between the knees. Eric held the camera up to take a picture but the Chinese man told him: "Can't take picture, no picture." Yeah, sure, no problem. He took it anyway. This is NYC. If you're out in the street, you're free game buddy. What is he thinking? If you want a private show, rent an auditorium and charge people.

We finally made it to Ground Zero but it's just a huge hole. It's rather somber. People everywhere recording video and taking pictures of some of the displays. One display lists heros who lost their lives trying to save the people trapped in the buildings. Engine #10, the closest fire station, had their doors up and the guys were all sitting out on the bumper of the fire engine talking and laughing.

By now, we'd walked about two or three miles so we had to take the train back to the hotel where we crashed in front of the TV and learned about Kats, a deli restaurant on Houston street. Awesome pastrami sandwiches. It's where the New Yorkers go. Okay, were going back.

"College girl: The real reason I went to San Francisco is that I wanted to go to Japan, but that was as far as I could afford." -Overheard at 14th Street 1/2/3 station