Clueless in Manhattan

Tuesday 13 June 2006, 7:07 pm

More Sunday, June 11

After the show, we figured there must be something else we could do late on a Sunday night, because the last trains don't run until almost 2:00 am. We somehow decided the Empire State Building was nearby so we'd try that.

Of course, you can't go up for free. We bought the City Pass, which includes the ESB and several other attractions: a cruise on the Hudson, the Intrepid aircraft carrier museum, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art. It is supposed to be a great value. You roughly break even if you see only three of those attractions. The ESB ticket comes with the audio by Tony the Cab Driver. Mary and I have found the audio tours to be well worthwhile, starting with Carlsbad Caverns when we first went there last year.

At night, you can't see everything they're describing, but you sure do see a lot of pretty lights. We'd like to go back up there during the daylight, but we'll have to pay for another ticket. We'll see if we finish up all this other stuff first.

We finished up at ESB when they closed at 11:00 pm. By the time we wound our way back to Penn Station, found our train, waited for it to arrive, rode 70 minutes back out to the 'burbs, got lost because we forgot where we parked the truck, wandered around several Morristown streets until we found something that looked familiar, found the truck, and drove 20 minutes back to the hotel, it was almost 3:00 am.

We are going to sleep in tomorrow.

Monday, June 12

We were up real late last night and we wanted to sleep in today. So we didn't actually make it into town until about 2 or 3 pm. Well, actually, we got into Morristown and had a heck of a time finding a parking space. There are lots of reserved spaces but no daily spaces ... they were all taken by the commuters early in the morning. Finally, we ended up in the police department parking lot (after asking politely first). By the time we found a parking place and walked down the hill to the train station, we'd probably lost the good part of an hour.

What are we going to do today? Well, we don't know. We have signed up to go to the Letterman show, but our chances in the lottery are only 50/50 and they have not called us yet.

Our first stop was the east side again, this time to J G Melon on Third Avenue, which many consider to serve the best burger in town. Our verdict: a good burger, perhaps, but not nearly as friendly or as quirky a restaurant as the Burger Joint, where we ate yesterday.

What to do the rest of our day? We are wandering around clueless. I think we're just tired from being up so late last night. I look at the map to see if there is anything nearby worth seeing. Of course, there is lots, but at 4:00 pm all the museums are getting ready to close up. We walked to Grand Central Station. It is really something else! We tried walking around the balcony, but we went somewhere we weren't supposed to, and an employee politely but firmly shooed us away. GCS has this really weird thing I can't understand. There is a highway that goes over an overpass into the building on the seconnd floor! But if you go inside the building, there is no highway there! Where did it go? I can't figure it out. This is no joke. The building is beautiful, anyway, and Mary took lots of photos of the late afternoon sun coming through the windows in various ways. There is also a mall here and whatnot but we didn't really find it; what we did find was a nice grocery store somewhat like a Whole Foods or a Cosentino's. People can run through the store to pick up something quick to make for dinner when they get home, when they get on or off the train.

(By the way, we're told it's not Grand Central Station but Grand Central Terminal. The difference is that a terminal is at the end of the line, while a station is in the middle of the line. Even my map says Grand Central Terminal, and I was concerned that we might be going to the wrong place. No, just wrong words in our vocabulary.)

We have a ticket for a river cruise around the lower end of Manhattan. It's part of the City Pass packet. We still have time to do our choice of rides today: 6:00 pm "Beast" speedboat ride, or 7:00 pm "twilight" ride. We choose the slower ride. It's timed so that on the return trip you see the sun setting over the New Jersey skyline. We also went past the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

I've called to get information about the Statue of Liberty. You can take a ferry from the lower tip of Manhattan, Battery Park. Like the Washington Monument and some other sights we've seen, there are special tours inside but the number of tickets is limited. We've been advised that we need to get there very early in the morning, before 8:00 am, in order to get a ticket. Deja vu. We determine to wake up tomorrow at 5 am to catch the 6 am train, catch the subway downtown around 7:15 am to arrive at Battery Park before 7:45 am. Stay tuned for the story how that worked out.

Well, Mary wants to use the computer now, so you'll have to check back later to find out what happened to us on Tuesday, what we plan for Wednesday, and the special friend we will be visiting on Thursday.