New York, I was so excited to get there, but also nervous about how my dad would react. I knew that Dad would not tolerate driving around the city and camping was not really an option within any of the boroughs. So New York was our only hotel stay on the visit. I found a few apps that have made this journey simpler, and Hotels Tonight is a great example. We found the Fairfield Inn in downtown Brooklyn for a fantastic price that included breakfast and they had onsite parking for a nominal fee. For future visits, I would definitely stay at this hotel again.
We made it into Brooklyn missing a lot of the bad traffic since we were heading into the city and got to the hotel around 3 pm. I’ve been to NYC a few times, so I was trying to do more road trip style things that Dad might enjoy. Friday night we headed over to Coney Island. I had thought the boardwalk would still be open since it said it was open on Weekends, but nope everything was closed up on Friday night. Luckily, Nathan’s was still open so we could eat a dog from the place they originated. I’ll be honest, definitely not my favorite dogs. They were super thin and only six inches long (shame on you for what you are thinking!), I like my dogs a bit meatier.
Even though the rides were closed, the sun was setting on the boardwalk, so we took a short stroll. The entire wooden walk is brand new since the original was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Dad was having a bad OCD moment, because he couldn’t handle all the bolts weren’t screwed in a straight line down the boardwalk. The clouds were breaking up from an earlier storm so the skies were lovely. A great time for photos even if they rides aren’t going.
As we were wandering around, we found one open arcade. There were two reasons for me to go to Coney Island, one – Nathan’s; and two – skeeball. I really wasn’t bothered the rides were closed once I found some skeeball to play. Dad was laughing at me as I hurled the small balls up the skeeball ramp to earn my points. There was no resting between balls or games. My style is just to throw, throw, throw, down the middle. I rushed through $5.00 dollars and got my skeeball fix. As we headed to the subway to return to downtown Brooklyn, I gave the tickets I won to a young boy also enjoying the games in the arcade.
We got off the subway in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. First stop was a fantastic beer bar, Owl Farm. It was dark and warm with hand-drawn owls on the walls. I wish I could have grabbed a picture, but it was too dark. The beer list was long, and I tried a local Saison and a Belgian style. The bar was also loud and crowded even though we were able to find a seat. I enjoyed the beers, but dad was completely out of place. Considering is mostly deaf in one ear and half in another, he couldn’t hear anything in the bar. So he hurried me out of the bar. As we walked around the corner, there was the perfect old man bar for dad. We walked in, football was on tv, and it was quite enough to have a conversation. I tell dad we can go hang out in the old man bar, but as I go to sit down he says to continue on. We continue down the block, and across the street is Ginger’s Bar. I do think that all Ginger’s should support other Gingers so we head over for a drink. Immediately, I know this is the first gay bar I’ve taken dad too. It was interesting to watch the bartender flirt with dad and touch his arm, and dad’s arm would slow move back towards himself. I finish my beer (I wanted a whiskey and ginger, but this Ginger bar didn’t have ginger beer 😦 ) and we head back out into the neighborhood. After the tinny hot dog at Nathan’s, I realize I’m still hungry so we go to Juventino across the street. The food is fantastic and extremely well priced. We had the butternut squash soup and roasted quail. After so many pubs, it was a good reminder of what great food is. Finally, we head back to the hotel.
The next morning we wake up to rain, rain, rain! Neither of us a ready for rain, and the ponchos we bought in Salem stink. I grab a trash bag from the hotel and head out where that to keep dry. We get on the subway to head out to the Natural History Museum. But with the rain, that was everyone else’s idea too. The line to get in was all the way back out to the subway entrance. With not much time, I’m not big on waiting in lines so we head out into the rain. We are walking along the outer edge of Central Park heading to Columbus Circle when a Big Bus arrives. We both hop on. As a continuation of the road trip, dealing with the rain, and just a great way to see all the skyscrapers in the city, taking the big bus tour was perfect. We had crashed the Uptown tour which headed around Central Park, Harlem, and 5th Ave. We dried off and enjoyed the sites. Dad did ask the tour guide questions every two minutes, but she didn’t mind even though he was the only one asking.
Then we made it over to Time Square and finally the rain had broke. It was still overcast but the skies were getting lighter. We decide to take the downtown tour as well to see all the large skyscrapers. Since the rain had stopped, we could now sit on top of the tour bus which gives a great view of the Manhattan skyline. This tour took us past the Empire State Building, Flat Iron Building, NYU, SOHO, Battery Park, World Trade Center Tower One, and back up the Westside Highway.
After the tours, I’m ready for some good beer. We go to my favorite bar in the city, Cannibal. I have a local Octoberfest beer which was super tasty. Dad had coffee and we had a charcuterie plate for a snack. For a Saturday afternoon, the bar was mellow and relaxing. Then we head out exploring, and walk down through Union Square and into the Eastside Village along Bowery. I keep looking for a reasonably priced place for dinner that was still super tasty. Finally, I find an Italian restaurant that seems like it will fit the bill.
Cafe Bianca had a 45 minute wait, but it was next to a cafe so we decided to stay. This was the place my dad was going to get his true NYC experience. First, the host treated everyone like they were his best friend. He kept telling dad, “Just a few more minutes, Lou Miller”. Then we watched a doggie birthday party leave the bar next door. There are 6 people and 6 dogs as they leave. I was already surprised that you could go to a bar and have a party for the dogs, but that wasn’t even the interesting part. Three people in the party ended up owning all 6 of those dogs. The first gentleman flagged a cab and got in with his Boston Terrier, but his two friends then jump in with a Scottie, Yorkie, Chihuahua, and another in a bag. The taxi driver then asks them to get out of the car because he can only have 4 passengers including the dogs. This argument goes on for 15 minutes before the taxi finally drives away with the pack.
Finally, we get seated in the restaurant, which lively and full. However, we get seated next to the drunk lady fighting with her friend. I don’t think the restaurant would have been anywhere as loud if everyone wasn’t trying to talk over and ignore her screaming. It was two couples dining in the front window. All I know was that the woman was offended because her friend, the guy in the other couple, did not like her new boyfriend. She was also upset because he told her how to act. I can understand being upset, but drunk makes you forget that you should go outside to have the fight and not disrupt the entire restaurant. Dad ended up talking to the other woman at the table who was visiting from Venezuela. She seemed relieved to be able to have a normal conversation with someone.
We then headed back to the subway to return to Brooklyn. Along the way, we found some fantastic street art on Houston. A mural from Brazilian Brothers Osgemeos and an abstract man from Fumero.
The next morning, I was hoping we could hop on the Brooklyn tour bus and have that take us over to Manhattan. So we walk over to Prospect Park through rows of incredible Brownstones that have been restored and beautifully maintained. The grand circle has a incredible fountain in the center and the outskirts are surrounded by food trucks. We head over to where I hope the bus will stop and I realized they only come once every hour. So we head back to get on the subway.
Dad and I have been really good about taking the subway, which has allowed us to see the wonderful mosaic art in the subway stations. For another trip, it would be so cool to photograph the murals in each of the stations. That would be such an fantastic way to experience the city with all the people I’d see, learn the subway intimately, and discover all the murals that hide underground!
Straight into Greenwich Village we rise onto the Manhattan streets. I’ve only seen Washington Square Park in the winter when there is not many people and the water was not flowing in the fountain. It was the opposite this day! Street performers, families playing, musicians sending their melodies into the air. I could have sat there all afternoon and watched all the activity, but with this being our last day in NYC I knew I had to move on.
So we walked over into Little Italy to look for pizza. On a Sunday afternoon, a search for pizza in Little Italy is not the brightest idea. The place I was hoping for had over an hour wait to get a slice of pizza. So we crossed the street into a great little coffee shop, Little Fox Cafe. I had a tasty cappuccino and a sandwich with peppers. Damn, those peppers were hot.
Even though I didn’t get my slice of pizza, I found some of my favorite street art in that area. Ever since the Bean in Chicago I’ve been thinking about the power of art that makes people interact with it and bring joy. I found this incredible angel wings mural, which had a line of people wanting to wear the wings in the mural. I didn’t wait in line to grab my own picture, but I snagged one of young woman who looked really happy. As I practice and study more about art, I really think this is where I want to go – art that brings joy.
We the head down the Bowery past Canal Street into Chinatown. Even though we stayed out of the heart of Chinatown it was still easy to look down each street and see the bubbling life overwhelming the area. We continue down towards the water and over to Pier 15.
One of the tours included in our package was a one hour boar tour to see the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. It was sunny, but the wind was crisp on the boat. However, the sky was perfectly clear, so the views of the skyline were amazing. Dad was also enjoying the boat trip. As we were walking away, he said damn that was amazing. I’m really enjoying this city. Yes, I about fell over in shock when I heard that!
We are cold and need to use the bathroom after the East River voyage, and Dad finds an old Irish Pub to walk into. Irish Pubs all over the world always look old, so I didn’t expect to find an Irish Pub that was actually old in the Financial district. Ended up, Beekman Pub was built in 1931. They served local beer from Brooklyn Brewery, and fantastic buffalo wings. Dad and I scarfed the food down. Then we decided to head back to Time Square to take the Night Lights tour of Manhattan.
I loved the Night Lights Tour. Our tour guide, Abraham, was wonderful. First, we learned that when we see the NYPD a Dunken Doughnut would not be far. Usually, it was less than block. We also learned that there are 7 Starbucks in the Empire State Building. Speaking of the Empire State Building, did you know that those 103 floors make up one zip code in NYC! With all the traffic and all the lights, the city seemed even more alive at night. This tour was definitely a great way to close out our NYC visit. In the morning, the journey would continue south into Philadelphia as soon as rush hour would let us escape.