10/12/11 - MAAAAAH, SAMWENYA BAGA BEEDUDUDAAH
So much like yesterday, today started quite late. I seem to be getting into a good habit of this…
Firstly, Emma came over to my hotel and we went to check out a local Flea Market in the Hell’s Kitchen district. Emma picked up some very nice clothes and jewellery, while I stood there, offering supportive commentary on her purchases. My legs also began to freeze solid.
We then headed to get some pizza at a local pizza joint. They have some fantastic deals on pizza in New York – I got two slices of cheese pizza and a can of drink for $2.75. I challenge anybody to find a deal that good in Australia!
Then, we headed back to the room to drop off Emma’s haul of shopping, and then we continued on to East Village to an indie video game store. I had a great look around, and they stocked a large range of first and second hand games from all generations. This was a pretty fantastic store. You could find copies of the original Legend of Zelda, right next to Playstation 3’s signed by Hideo Kojima. It was an amazing mix and was really fun to look around. What’s better is that their prices for new games were the same as all the big shops, so I felt good that I was supporting an independent business by buying through them.
Emma then had a look around some of the clothing shops in the district, including “Fabulous Fanny’s”, a place I visited last time. She seemed to be all shopped out though, so we only had a quick look. We then headed to a Japanese restaurant for an early dinner. To be quite honest, the food was fairly disappointing. Nothing special about it, and Emma’s udon soup was quite salty. Now that I remember, I was meant to get a soup with my meal, too, and I didn’t get it! OUTRAGE!
We then headed back to the room, and on to Broadway to see another show. Tonight, we were seeing one of the most famous productions currently showing on Broadway – “The Lion King”. From what I had heard about it, I was certainly looking forward to it.
To be honest, I don’t 100% know what to think of it. At time of writing, it has been over 24 hours since I saw it. From an artistic point of view, the costumes were breathtaking, and the mechanics behind them was very clever. Entertainment-wise, I think it was a bad thing that I recently watched “The Lion King” at the cinema. It was fresh in my mind, and as such, I had certain expectations towards the play. Not only in things like how musical numbers are sung, but also the script and delivery of particular lines. The difference between what occurs on stage and what you are used to in the film does cause a jarring effect.
I also found that the elaborate costumes seemed to detract from the “humanity” of the performances. That combined with the fact that two of the main characters change actors halfway through the performance (with the progression of time and Simba/Nala’s from child to adulthood), it made me not really care much for the characters in the film.
As an art piece, it is fantastic. As an entertainment piece, there are much better options available on Broadway at the moment. It is definitely a show that you should see if you are in New York – providing you can afford the $150 admission price.
I then headed back with Emma, Jen (Emma’s Mum), and her troupe of highschoolers back to their hotel. After they went to their rooms, Emma, Jen and I had a quiet drink in the hotel lobby. A nice end to a very fun day.
Today started with a trip to Emma’s hotel. It was Jen and her school girl’s last day in New York, and they were going to spend the morning at Central Park, and the Museum of Modern art.
After a tasty breakfast at Smith’s restaurant (just over the road from their hotel), we got ready to head out and see Central Park. This meant catching the subway north to Columbus Circle. While this usually is a very easy task, when you have eleven other people all requiring a ticket with you, it quickly becomes a serious mission to get stuff done.
Eventually, we got on the subway, and made our way to Columbus Circle. After exiting the subway station, we had a look through the markets nearby. They had a good mix of merchandise, and most of it seemed to be independently made.
After a good bit of browsing, we headed off for a wander through Central Park. As we were on a strict time limit, I was careful not to wander too far into the park, and instead stuck to the southern end of the park. It was a good experience to share with Jen and her school kids, as they were yet to visit Central Park on their trip – something that is an essential part of any visit to New York.
We then headed down through 5th Avenue, looking at the Apple Store, FAO Schwarz and Tiffany’s. All the girls loved seeing Tiffany’s, as apparently it was the store from the opening scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I should really watch some more classic films…
Sadly, we had ran out of time and were now not going to be able to get to the Museum of Modern Art. Instead, we had to high-tail it out of there and make our way back to Times Square. So, we took on the Subway again and went through the same epic ticket-buying shenanigans as last time.
After arriving back at Times Square, the girls got a coffee from Starbucks, which took eleven times longer than usual. Because of this, Jen was quickly running out of time before their bus to the airport departed, so they all had to make a beeline for their hotel and get their bags for the long journey home.
After all of this, Emma and I were buggered, so we headed back to my hotel for a nap.
In the evening, we had been invited to dinner at Ben Cheah’s house. For reference, Ben Cheah is a Sound Designer that I contacted in the leadup to this trip in hopes of meeting with him and other colleagues he has worked with throughout his career.
We decided to bring cupcakes and flowers to the dinner, so we first headed to Rockefeller Plaza to get cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. What they say about Rockefeller plaza at Christmas time couldn’t be more true – stay away from the area if you can, as it is more packed than a Japanese subway train during peak hour. We sunk a good half hour into trying make our way through the crowds, and in the end decided to just jump on the subway and get to Ben’s house as quick as we could.
The Subway journey took us out to Brooklyn, to a wonderful neighbourhood full of old red brick houses. For the Aussies reading this – picture Sesame Street, but minus all of the Muppets.
Meeting with Ben was fantastic. Him and his wife, Megan, made us feel very welcome, and the advice that he offered me was tremendously insightful. It was also very cool to hear who he has worked with over his career. He has either worked with or knows personally three out of four of my top favourite Sound Designers – Gary Rydstrom, Richard King and Christopher Boyes. I just wish that he told me this sooner as I would have loved to have met some of them in Los Angeles when I was there. Still, it is my fault for not mentioning them to him in previous emails. Ben was also kind enough to give me some of his books on sound for film – some excellent reading material for my future career.
For dinner, we had a delicious roast chicken, and some very nice wine to go with it. Probably my favourite meal of the trip, and Emma and I both agreed that the night as a whole was the highlight of the trip so far.
Like many days on this holiday, this one started quite late. I suppose that this is a side effect of a holiday – the whole relaxing thing, but I think so far I’ve only had one day in New York where I’ve left the room before 11am.
Our first goal was breakfast, which by now was moreso lunch. We decided to catch the subway to north Manhattan, up to Harlem. We had read about (and seen on Masterchef) a restaurant called “Sylvia’s”. It is famous for its “Soul Food”, a type of food that has its origins in the southern states. Sylvia’s is a restaurant that maintains the tradition of this particular type of food.
I had the fried chicken, with a side of collard greens and macaroni and cheese. The food was fairly “monoflavoursome” – each dish had a single flavour to it. The macaroni and cheese was very cheesy, the chicken was salty, and the collard greens were very sweet. This wasn’t detrimental to the food, as each dish did the flavour very well. The food was also very fattening, but I doubt that I would be eating it on a regular basis, anyway. What I really liked about the restaurant was the kindness of the staff – they were all so friendly, treating you like family. You definitely did feel very welcome, as if you were eating in their house.
Afterwards, we headed back on the subway down to Central Park, and went for a long walk across it from the west to the east side. On the way, we did some major squirrel spotting – we even through acorns at them for them to eat. We got some great photos, and some great looks from the locals, wondering why on earth we were taking photos of what they consider to be vermin.
We then took a bus down to FAO Schwarz, and had another quick look through this fantastic toy store. I found a massive Gummy Bear in their candy section – it was a good 20cm tall, and weighed at least a couple of kilos. It puzzled me how someone could ever eat a whole one of these.
That evening, we met up with two friends of ours from Australia, Steff and Ben (a different Ben to the one I met yesterday). It was quite surreal meeting up with our mates on the other side of the world, but it was still really cool to share travel stories. Naturally, we went to the most awesome restaurant for dinner – Bubba Gump’s. Once again, I had the gigantic pile of shrimp. Delicious as always. We also tried out some of their alcoholic drinks, but to be honest, we weren’t sure if they actually put any alcohol in them…
After dinner, we went to see “Avenue Q”. Yes, I saw this play last time I came to New York. Yes, it was just as awesome as I remembered. After seeing other Broadway plays on this trip, it is obvious to me that it isn’t the most technical of plays, but it more than makes up with it in its clever writing and “did that just really happen” moments. I’m not sure if I’ll see it again, but it was definitely still very enjoyable.
Afterwards, we went to have drinks at a bar called the “Sky Room”, right next to our hotel. Unfortunately, it was closed, or had a private event on, or something. Therefore, we had to go to our far less exciting hotel bar. We all ordered a fancy drink, except for Ben, who ordered water. He was given a fancy bottle of water when he wanted tap water, but it was more funny that annoying. The bottle of water only was $2 anyways, so it wasn’t a major deal.
Then, after chatting for a few hours, Ben and Steff had to head back to their hotel, as they had to catch their flight home the next day. It was great fun to meet up with them on the other side of the world.
Today we did pretty much sweet f-all. All of these late nights caught up with Emma and I, so we spent most of the day chilling in the hotel.
When we did go out, we went to the Empire State Building. We tried “Chipotle” Mexican for a late lunch, and then went up to the observation deck. We got there just on sunset, so we got to see the city transition from daytime to twilight. Very pretty views, and strangely, no lines either. Most of the time the average wait time to go to the observation deck is three hours, so we definitely lucked out.
We then had a look around a clothing store, H&M, and then headed back to the room for some takeaway dinner. I had delicious $1 slices of pizza and Emma had some tasty Indian food.
Now I’m going to go back to watching TV. Kthx.