Despite being cream-crackered last night, this morning we both woke full of beans before the alarm – though given our bodies believed it to be gone 10am, that’s to be expected. We surveyed our domain in the daylight, noting that some office workers were at their desks across the road admirably early, and that the tourists cognate damn early in TImes Square. It was only much later that we realised that where most of the crowds were congregating was the studios of ABC’s Good Morning America – the ground floor studio deliberately using the crowds as a backdrop.
Despite our relatively early wakening, it was 09:00ish that we hit the streets. Plan for the morning was to follow Broadway and see where we end up. It was slow progress at first, with plenty of photo stops and, hush my mouth, diversions into clones shops. Not that I’ve any real cause for concern, this is New York and while Kay’s inside ‘window’ shopping, there’s an entire city’s worth of activity to keep me entertained.
We’d not even cleared Times Square when Kay was accosted by Elmo from Sesame Street. Well, it might be the other way round, but a photo was definitely posed for. Times Square is literally infested with cartoon characters, few of whom actually remotely resemble the character they are supposed to be and certainly don’t carry and form of licensing approval. To illustrate the point, I don’t recall either Buzz Lightyear nor Woody being drawn with large pouches marked “tips”. Elmo didn’t get a tip, and whilst the costume masked the exact words, the syllables used as we departed didn’t sound like the sort of dialogue that Jim Henderson would have written!
Morning coffee was taken at Cafe Metro at Broadway and 36th St. It was just beyond there that we happened across the Manhattan Mall and the J.C.Penny store which occupied Kay for the best part of an hour. Still not complaining. Honestly. The Ron Johnson reference at the bottom of the last post refers to the former VP of Retail at Apple who is now head honcho at JCP. The word is he isn’t settling in well with the locals and the most visible innovation he has brought to the chain thus far is the aforementioned free WiFi – which it has to be said is not really part of the the chain’s way of working.
We continued along Broadway and into the greenery of Madison Square Park (quite distinct from the Garden of the same name!). A mutant squirrel, whose fur was a bizarre shade of ginger, sat and posed for us. Its contempt for the lack of reward for its ‘performance’ was as palpable as that of Elmo earlier!
Lunch called and it was provided by Hill Country Chicken, a ‘homely’ diner/fast food place which was evidently popular with students/young locals in particular. We both had a ‘chickwich’ and I added the cheesy fried mashed potatoes to mine. A meal without chips, goodness me! What we had was extremely pleasant, if a little on the stingy, and maybe slightly over-priced, side. Still, I’d recommend the place – just order two!
Back out on Broadway, the ‘vibe’ of the street changes discernibly almost block-by-block as it progresses south. Kay commented on the number of ‘dress’ jewellery shops and even more prevalent ‘wholesale’ perfume suppliers. Legit? maybe. Well protected? definitely.
Next stop was Union Square, where the regular fruit & fresh produce market was in full swing, along with various ‘art’ sellers, ongoing games of street chess, and a very small anti-capitialism demo which was attracting considerable numbers of New York’s Finest to supervise. Our target was Strand Books, just south of Union Square. This is a well renowned bookstore, mainly selling ‘second user’ books, but chock full of a mind-bogglingly large inventory of reading. It would take a full day to browse properly, but we were both starting to feel the effects of our walk – even if it had, nominally at least, been a mere two miles.
Back to Union Square and we went down to the Subway to get a brace of Metro Cards to service our transport needs for the week. The Friday rush was in full effect and working our way down to the platform for the 6 train (Lexington Ave local to Pelham Parkway – I hope it didn’t leave at 1.23pm!) involved a minor amount of superficial jostling. A recorded announcement on the train to the effect that ‘soliciting money’ was illegal and passengers were urged not to give to beggars, was the prelude to our in-journey entertainment. A middle-aged African American boarded at 23rd St and began ‘crooning’ loudly. To be fair, he wasn’t tuneless, but his performance was quickly curtailed by his manifesto that he wasn’t begging he was entertaining the public and payment for his ‘service’ was quite reasonable. Amazingly (well, I was amazed) a preppy-student looking youth handed over a handful of change.
We got off at Grand Central and on reaching the street, we were briefly disoriented insofar as deciding which way we needed to go on 42nd Street. Kay very sensibly suggested we find the nearest coffee establishment – regardless of direction – and work it out from there. As it happened, the direction we set off in was correct and we found ourselves in Grand Central Terminal itself. We went down to the food court in the naive belief that it would be there that we’d find a coffee type place. As it is, they’re all fast food concessions, but we eventually found an Italian place (with surly server) who provided us with what we sought. We sat and discussed our onward options, with a homeless guy fast asleep on one side, and two guys who looked like they were on someone’s clock, fast asleep at a table on the other side. Nice work.
I agreed that I wouldn’t drag Kay around the Grand Central Apple Store, so the compromise was that she stood and people-watched in the terminal while I had a quick wander around the sprawling but hugely impressive store. Like a good many others, I spent a little while taking photos from the balcony, trying to capture the frenetic activity of Friday evening commuters heading home.
Back to the room to catch our breath (exaggeration) and rest our weary feet (no exaggeration) before heading back out in the evening chaos of Times Square. Kay’s eyes boggled as we encountered the infamous Naked Cowboy busking outside the hotel (he keeps his y-fronts on – this is America!). He certainly attracts the crowds though.
Our target for the evening was the Heartland Brewery. A good night was had in there with one particularly remarkable event I really must report – I had a Caesar Salad as my starter! And enjoyed it! Must have been the beer.
Back to the room via Walgreens for vital supplies. Blog and bed.