Welcome to the chronicle of my east coast adventures this Spring Break. It was mostly college visitations but there was a ton of other fun stuff too!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Day Four: Manhattan!

This was, by far, and unquestionably, and uncontested, and definitely, the loooonnnnggggeeeesssttt day of the entire trip. No joke, we were at it all day long. We woke up at about 8 o'clock and were out in the city by 9. We didn't get back to the hotel until 8 o'clock that evening. This particular day was fairly episodic so I'll try to split this entry into chunks, detailing all the little events that happened. Enjoy!

  • Pre-Columbia: Before I had to head to columbia for an information session at 10:30 we decided just to wander around. First stop was right outside our hotel, Good Morning America. There were people crowded outside and inside, but there really wasn't anything to see because George Bush was talking about his Chief of Staff leaving. I caught a picture of people outside, inside, and Bush. After that we headed for the Empire State Building. It was so sad, we just wandered aimlessly and were looking up trying to find it, forget maps. Eventually we saw what we thought might be it, but it didn't seem big enough. It looks so much bigger on TV than in real life. Anyways, we decided to check and sure enough, it was the real deal. We went inside and checked out the lobby and figured that we should go to the top. We got to the place to pay for the top-tour and then quickly decided that there wasn't enough time. This of course had absolutely no correlation to price at all. We went back outside and decided that we'd spent enough time wandering and that it was time to head to Columbia. Time to test out Michael's Taxi hailing skills. It was fairly straightforward, just step up to the street, extend arm, and boom! One turban-clad taxi driver pulls up and we hop in. Simple. We told him where we wanted to go and off we went. What? You don't believe me that he was wearing a turban? We arrived at Columbia and as we got out of the cab we realized that cabs were a bit expensive for that type of traveling, so we decided to find an alternative mode of transportation. It took $15 to get to Columbia, half the length of Manhattan. Anyways, that's the conclusion of the pre-Columbia day. Believe me, the other stories get much better. . .
  • Columbia: Of course we hit the Columbia bookstore first. Again, I took digital camera shots of everything I found that I wanted, but we had to leave for the info session after a while. The info session was nice, but it revealed some things about Columbia that I wasn't impressed with. First off, their main focus is not engineering in the slightest. There were only three people in that room of a hundred that were interested in pursuing engineering. Also, their core curriculum I think would have killed me. Foreign languages, humanities, literature, writing, and ancient cultures, amongst other things. I don't want to study any of those things, but it's their core, so I would have to. As an engineer I wouldn't have to do all, but I'd have to do some. Also, their engineering department is separated from the rest of the campus physically and socially, not good. And, it appears that the main social aspect of Columbia is going across the street at 2 AM, hitting up the bar, and coming home entirely too wasted. They even have Columbia drinking games. This didn't come out in the info session, but I read it in a book written by Columbia students. After the info session we started a tour, but after about a half hour of touring we decided just to stop and explore on our own. Some funny things about the tour though. The astronomy building had an observatory on the top, but somebody asked about smog. "Simple!" replied the tour guide, "We work in association with an observatory in Switzerland so they just beam their images to us and instead of actually looking at the sky through our observatory dome we just look at a screen." Um. Not impressed. Another interesting tidbit was that Columbia used to be an insane asylum. Mmmm, great. After that we went to a café on campus to get food. I had a shitaki mushroom sandwich which was very good. We decided that we'd had enough of Columbia and that it was time to go somewhere else, so off we went.
  • First Subway Adventure: We decided that cabs were too expensive, right? Well, the only other thing was subways. I had discovered that in our possession we had a really cool New York City flip map that had not only streets but also subway routes. I studied it for a while and learned how to read it, and found the appropriate subway line. This little map was my best friend this day! I plotted all of our routes, subway lines, and navigated through all of the weird blocks and stuff with this one little map that fit in my back pocket. It was almost something of a love affair. . . .anywho, we found that we needed to find a red subway. We found it and went down. We each bought a ticket and then just waited for the train. The train came, we got in. This is when we discovered the interesting side of NYC. We soon heard a loud voice from one end of the car "Please help me help myself. I am homeless but I am trying. I am not one of those people holding out a cup and begging for money, I am selling papers and trying to help myself. It is a job, maybe not a job that you would have, but I am trying. I am homeless and 4 months pregnant, please help me help myself." Sure enough, this really raggedy homeless lady was working her way down the car, holding a bag of newspapers. She acted like she was mentally ill and just kept on saying the same thing over and over. At the next stop she got off, singing. We all just sat there as if nothing had happened, it was bizarre. Then, all of a sudden, we heard singing again, but this time it was good! A group of 4 black guys had gotten on and were singing barbershop. They were actually entertaining and when they walked downthe aisle with a bucket for tips they actually got money. They got off on the next stop, but I wouldn't have minded if they had stayed. Evnetually we reached our stop, we hopped out, and headed up to ground level. We got our bearings, checked the flip-map, and headed to our next location, which was. . . .
  • The World Trade Center: We ended up on the back side of ground zero so we had to walk around it. We got to the frount and went downstairs into the subway station that ran next to it that had re-opened since 9/11. Ground zero wasn't anything like I expected it to be. It basically just looked like a giant construction site, equipment piled everywhere and tractors going everywhere. You couldn't even tell that anything had happened, other than the fact that they were bulding something. Here are some pictures. We went back up to street level and walked around the perimeter of ground zero. They had a big fence around it with signs that had timelines, talked about the event, and all sorts of commemerative stuff. The coolest part about the WTC site, in my opinion, was the i-beam cross. Remember on tv when after everything happened there were two pieces of steel i-beam that fused into a cross? They had that displayed, which was really cool to see in real life. Other than that, I may be shallow and unsympathetic, but even though everybody else was talking about feeling all of those spirits and feeling really emotional because of the sheer awe of the site, I just didn't get any of that. The cross, if anything, was the only thing, but the WTC site just seemed like a giant construction site and I didn't feel any spirits. Sorry.
  • Dunkin Donuts: So, those of you from where I live will know that Dunkin Donuts, although existent, don't really do a lot for the economy. We have one, that's it. The east coast, however, has about eighteen gazillion quadrillion. Every block has a dunkin donuts! We chose dunkin donuts as our headquarters to chart out the rest of our stops for the day because we had already gone from midtown to the upper west side and then all the way to the south end, and we didn't want keep going up and down. We checked the addresses for the places that we wanted to go and I used my handy map to chart everything out. After we had everything charted out we headed back to the subway.
  • The Sock Man: Yes, there's a store called "The Sock Man" and we went to it. Basically, more socks than I've ever seen before in my life! The strangest part though, is that the people working there weren't middle-aged women like I had expected, but were instead tatooed guys with wife-beaters and weird hair. They all seemed like they should have been at some bar somewhere, not selling womens' socks, but whatever I guess. Three things were cool about the sock place, and two of them weren't even in the sock place. The first was, and that was a sock monkey I found there. It's about 2.5 inches tall and pretty cool, so of course we bought it. I want to work it into my speech somehow but I don't know how yet. The second cool thing was the rabid gremlin thing at the shop next door. It was a statue and it was really random and out of place. It had big red eyes and sharp teeth and a sombrero. It, as you can tell in the picture, had also gotten a hold of some cotton candy. I thought it was pretty funny. The third thing was the shop on the other side of the sock place. The ONLY things it sold were bongs. That's it. They had big bongs, little bongs, colorful bongs, plain bongs, expensive bongs, cheap bongs, everything that is bong. The name of their shop? "Glassworks". Riiiigggghhhhtttt. Ok, then it was off to our next location, again, via subway.
  • Dylan's Candy Bar: Do you like candy? Dylan certainly does, because he has an entire shop devoted to it! There was candy everyhwere! I bought two presents here, both Harry Potter candies (chocolate frog and fizzing whisbees). It was two levels and in order to get to the bottom level you had to walk down clear steps inlaid with candy. Downstairs was more candy, including ipod lolly pops, and the highlight of the place. A big display had little glass containers with different kinds of candy in each. Above each container was the name of some famous person who had also signed a container. Basically, famous people come and pick out there favorite candy and put it into a container and sign it. They had about a hundred of these things and they were interesting to see. Of course Michael Phelps had red white and blue M&M's, duh! lol.
  • Tender Buttons: My mom wanted to go to a place called "Tender Buttons" because apparently they had a lot of buttons. We soon discovered that statement to be quite true. OMG THE BUTTONS! SO MANY BUTTONS *twirls around and then passes out*! Just look! There isn't really an interesting story tied to the button store, other than the sheer amount of buttons. My mom bought nine for a friend, but then we left. Next stop. . .
  • FAO Schwarz: The only time I'd ever seen this place is on "Big", but it was cool so we needed to check it out. The first thing we saw that was neat were the life-sized stuffed animals. Deer, elk, elephants, bears, ostriches, everything! All life-sized and all VERY expensive. The most expensive, surprisingly, was not the huge elephant, but the ostrich, which was $1,200. But. . . .we couldn't find it! We looked everywhere to try to figure out what would make an ostrich so expensive but it wasn't there. The most likely reason? SOMEBODY HAD ACTUALLY PURCHASED IT! wow, that's just. . . .wow. Then we went upstairs and saw some cool Star Wars stuff (lightsabers, models, chess sets) and then we found it. The walk-on piano, featured in Big. The cool part is that there was no line, so we could go right on without waiting! I did my school proud and played "A Touch of Baroque" on it. Other than that, I'm gonna have to say that Toys 'R Us (which you'll hear more about later) was cooler. Our next adventure was probably the most exciting. . . ready for it??????
  • Harlem: Yes, that's right, we ended up in Harlem, and wasn't that exciting! The best way to get to our next location was to take the subway up past central park and then walk across Manhattan, but what I had failed to notice was that the place we popped out of was smack dab in the middle of Harlem. My mom and I walked up from the subway and instantly thought "Um, uh-oh. We are definitely the only white tourists here. Who feels safe? NOT US!" My plan was just to start walking, get to our location as fast as we could, but my mom just wanted out of there, not that I blame her. We looked and sure enough, no cabs. Great, the one time we need one. Soon enough we found two police officers, a black lady and a white guy, and hung out with them until we found a cab. I hailed one and we hopped in and took off for our next location. As we drove I looked around at what we would have been walking through. Um, I'm glad we didn't. We prolly would have died. Not to be racist or stereotypical or anything, but it was exactly like you see in the movies and that's not very reassuring. Bars on windows, everything tagged and broken, people wandering around in typical gang/hipster clothing. Yeah, not safe, but eventually we were back near Columbia and in our next stop, which was the amazing. . .
  • Tom's Restaraunt: Yes, Tom's Restaurant, the one on Seinfeld. You know the one, the one that has the sign on the outside that says "Restaurant" and the gang always eats in? Well, we found it, and went inside in hopes of sitting Jerry's seat, only to find our hopes shattered. The inside looked nothing at all like the one on the show. It was all cramped and brown. We sat down and drankthe water on the tables, but weren't hungry enough to get anything and didn't want to spoil our dinner. Then we noticed that there was a minimum $5 order per person. We looked for something small but couldn't find anything so basically we just said "Screw it, we're leaving". We stood up and left, after having drank our water. We did, however, get a picture of me in front of the restauraunt and under the sign.
  • Dinner at Zabars: For dinner we went to a place called Zabars. Now, Zabars was a really interesting place because it was a market and a café, but I didn't really think it was as cool as everybody else did. Since this is my blog, I won't be talking about it a whole bunch. I will say that there was a lot of really weird and different food there and that my panini I had for dinner tasted very good. Other than that, yeah, Zabars. w00t.
  • The Jar: We decided after dinner to head back to the hotel before going to Toys 'R Us and take pictures. As we were heading down the elevator to the main level one of the weirdest things on the whole trip happened. At the 4th floor the elevator stops and the door opens. An old man peeks in and says "I'm just gonna set this here" and proceeds to place a jar on the ground. He walked away and the doors closed and the elevator went down. My mom and I just kinda looked at each other. Um, what just happened and why is there a jar here? Is it dangerous? Why didn't the guy get on? WTF!?!?!? We got to the ground floor and got off, warning the people about to get in but they got in anyways. We figured if the hotel blew up at least we'd be busy at Toys R Us and we'd know what the jar was. When we got back later the jar was gone so we figured it was harmless, but we never found out what it was.
  • Toys 'R Us: I'm gonna do this section a little differently. I'm going to put all the pictures first and then talk about them. First off is LEGOS. They had huge lego sculptures here, and the one I was most impressed with was the empire state building with King Kong on the top. It was huge and very detailed. They even had a LEGO central area with bubbles filled with LEGOS. You build a LEGO thing and then put it in the bag and buy the creation, no kits, no nothing. It was very neat. Next was the candy section. Everybody has played Candyland as a little person, but here they had life-sized Candyland figures! There's me with the candy cane man (ignore the red-eye and the gum in my mouth), Plumpy, and one of the game pieces! That was SOOOO cool, I really liked seeing all the characters. They also had a wall of Elmos. They had all different kinds but all of them talked. I'm not sure why this intrigued me so much, but it did, so that's why there's a picture of it. Of course there was the giant ferris wheel that was inside the store. The cars all had themes, like Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, and Toy Story among others. I didn't go on it, but it was cool! Next is one of my more favorite moments, a photo shoot with my favorite Italian Plumber. Mario and I posed for a bunch of photos but I'm only posting one. That's me honking Mario's nose. It was just so big that it seemed appropriate! Other neat things about Toys 'R Us? The background music most always consisted of a jazz/techno arrangement of the Sesame Street song, Geoffery was there, and the video game section was huge! There were so many video games. They had about 90 xbox360 controllers but, gasp, no systems. I wonder why that is Microsoft? Also, by the elmo wall on the counter was sitting a scrambled Rubik's Cube. I couldn't help myself, so I solved it really quickly, just to surprise whoever's it was when they got back to work the counter. Yes, Toys 'R Us was a highlight, we loved it.
  • Sleep: So, by this time we are absolutely exhausted. We've been travelling Manhattan all day and are finally ready for sleep so we go into the hotel room, get ready, and again, crash. Another day completed.


Blogger Saurav said...

hey nice post..
can u tell me what the MIT librarian and the MIT student told you in the library? plz?


12:07 AM

Blogger Christina Ventura-Dipersia said...

This was seriously one of the worst blog posts I have ever read in my entire life. Your interpretation of my city (NYC) infuriated me greatly. I am hoping that you have since grown up and aren't like this anymore.

6:44 PM


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