Sunday, January 17, 2016

Escape to New York

Facing Boston Roads Again

This time I didn't wake up at 6AM, which was a major improvement from the day before. Charlie was about to become the only person to accompany for a stretch of the trip in the car with me. This is a big distinction that I hope he still cherishes to this day ;)

We got on the road mid-morning, with the goal of having brunch in Plymouth with one of Charlie's former bosses. As you can tell from the following picture of Plymouth Rock, which is surprisingly small, Plymouth is closing in on 400 years old:

We didn't encounter any traffic on the way out of Boston, and let me tell you, it was real nice having a navigator tell me how to negotiate all those convoluted exits, ramps, loops, etc rather than having to do it all myself! And, this meant Charlie could take pics of the Duckies safely too:

Before we the audience leave Boston behind, let's savor one of my other Boston favorites! Incidentally, this song helped me overcome my indecision on whether or not to go to ACL with my friend Justin a year later (I did go):


Plymouth is exactly the kind of quaint, bed and breakfasty oceanside New England town you'd expect it to be. In addition to seeing the rock, we ran across this little monument with words from William Bradford:

We had brunch with Charlie's former boss (we'll call him "Ed" because I have no idea what his real name is), and the food was really great! I felt very satisfied, and his former boss was an entertaining fellow with a wit similar to Charlie's. Given its four-star rating on Yelp, I'm assuming we breakfasted at Cornerstone Cafe, as Charlie can't remember where we ate either :\

Here's a vague look at the rest of Plymouth:

I love those kind of New England towns, as I'm sure my Ode to Maine addendum in my Day 26 post indicates. We had to get moving, as for the first time driving between states, I had someone else's agenda to keep in mind who was actually with me...and here is the benefit of Charlie taking pics, of the odometer crossing 8,000 miles for the trip total:

"Some Kind of New England Hole"

Being a movie buff, I had a very specific place I wanted to reach in Rhode Island: the main house from Dan In Real Life! This film might be a guilty pleasure for me, I haven't heard universally glowing feedback about it. It did make me really want to visit New England back when I saw it in 2007. I mean c'mon, how can your heart not be softened by songs like To Be Surprised and Let My Love Open the Door?

Speaking of me, Charlie made sure to feature me in photos, which isn't something I'm prone to obviously:

And this is me sneering in shadow at Charlie's objections on how long it's taking to get to Riven Rock:

Dang, they have way better pictures of the house than I do...
Charlie was right to an extent though, we had been cruising easily along I-195 in southern Mass for a while, but had to traverse a bewildering set of bridges to reach several different Rhode islands to get to Jamestown, which was kind of near the house:

When we got to Jamestown, we made maybe ONE, just ONE, wrong turn, and Charlie's all like, "you've gotten us into some kind of...New England hole here!" And it was scenic for sure, too bad the owner of the Riven Rock house wouldn't let us get closer than the driveway:

Like, he was insistent on us keeping our distance. Very unlike the owner of the Easy A house in Ojai, CA. Ah well, I made the best of what I had:

I mean, did I sneak in for closer shots when the owner had his back turned?

Yes, yes I did! Now, getting into and out of that weird little island in Rhode Island (Department of Redundancy Department?) was a good indication that you can take more than 10 minutes to cross the whole state.

"Connecticut Sucks"

This sounds like a harsh indictment, and I'm sure my friend Brumbalow will very respectfully disagree, but this is something Charlie said. He claimed it first as we were entering the state, right before he conked out in the passenger seat for an hour and a half. He woke up only once we were halfway through the state in New Haven, where we sat in a little bit of random rush hour traffic. Once the car had come to a halt, Charlie cracks open one eye, observes the choking blanket of stopped cars all around us, and mutters, "told you Connecticut sucks!" before falling back asleep! Sigh...

Connecticut really was just a haze of tightly knitted forest on either side of I-95, occasionally broken up by an old city or two, and the speed limits were low (50-55mph, 80ish kph if you're Canadian eh), and the traffic was seemingly constant. We did stop so that Charlie could buy me a tank of expensive gasoline, that was nice of him. We didn't give the state a chance at all, considering that's all we got out of the car for. Charlie had made an appointment with another photographer in Manhattan for the early evening, so he kept me moving along.

The Boroughs, and Skyline Majesty

New York City has five boroughs, and the Bronx isn't one of the prettier ones. We had to pass through that first, and those high-rise brown brick buildings weren't really picture-worthy. They reminded me of something out of the intro to the show Good Times.

Even though Good Times was set in Chicago haha! Fact time: even though The Bronx ranks 4 out of 5 in population among NYC's boroughs, it would still be ranked number 8 in the US as of 2014 if it was a separate city!

Google Maps projects that to drive from Plymouth to Brooklyn would take about 4 hours, and I can guarantee that with the movie location side quest that it took well over 4 hours to make the journey. We came over the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, which is I-678, to get from The Bronx into Queens.

As we went over the bridge, I was treated to a truly breathtaking sight: my first ever view of the Manhattan skyline:

Bear in mind, these pictures don't remotely do justice to that first image that's burned into my mind forever. It was an incredibly majestic moment, as it appeared as though the tall towers were floating on clouds of fog from such a great distance. The verticality of the whole island was like nothing I'd ever seen!

It's not Charlie's fault that the pics don't do the first skyline view justice, he was working hard at navigating me through Queens and eventually Brooklyn. We eventually wound our way almost through an entire loop of all of Brooklyn, and even I, a fairly "assertive" driver, felt cramped by the narrow highways and high walls separating them from the densely packed neighborhoods. Charlie was being very helpful in telling me each step, each turn to take, and would verbally encourage every time I accomplished the next piece of the puzzle so to speak. However, since we were behind schedule to meet his photographer friend in The City, he was also applying gentle pressure for me to drive faster! Not what I wanted to do my first time in such a giant city but we made it fine.

We dropped off all our stuff at his friend Jeremy's row house after finding what I hoped was a semi-permanent parking spot for the remainder of our time there. Introductions to Jeremy were made, then we walked down the street to the Q train, got weeklong passes, and took a slightly cliched photo of the train track:

It took over 30 minutes by subway to cross over to Manhattan because the train stopped at every single station, and we started deep in Brooklyn. Stopping at every station is called a local train, more on that in future posts.

On the way across one of the bridges over the East River, Charlie explained that the names of the three bridges between Brooklyn and Manhattan make the acronym BMW: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg. Easy enough!

We popped up out of the earth like gophers in Union Square Park, at roughly 14th Street and Broadway. This park became like base camp for all future incursions into Manhattan. I'd been in some pretty big cities on this now monthlong trip, but none compared to the buzzing anthill sensation of being in Manhattan. Charlie could see me struggling to comprehend the frenzy of activity all around us, and he said, "There's probably 10,000 people in your line of sight right now. I'm going to leave you to absorb all this for a minute while I go find our photographer friend." So I whipped out the camera and tried to capture the surrounding atmosphere as best I could:

There was even a random child prodigy playing keyboard for us in the park!

Union Square Park has statues of both Lincoln and Washington, the latter shown on horseback here:

Charlie found his photographer friend, and we wandered through Union Square and down 5th Ave to Washington Square Park, where Charlie got some good shots of him featuring the big arch in the park, and I took a few pics that now felt extremely amateur hour next to the two actual photographers:

This photographer we met only shoots in film, which requires painstaking patience in the setup process. Charlie was pleased with the eventual results, and I got one of him goofing in between takes:


After the photoshoot, we ate dinner nearby and then headed back home to Brooklyn. I hope you've gotten a good sense of the feeling of awe and wonder I felt as I experienced New York City for the first time. I'd wanted to go there since I was a small child looking at pictures of all the tall buildings, so it was a dream come true in a way. As I flopped down on the couch to sleep that night, one could say I was in an Empire State of Mind...