Act II: Lawmommy and Brother J~ visit Manhattan, as does Hurricane Ernesto
Scene 1: Saturday morning in a hotel room.
The day dawned gray and gloomy and rainy. Brother J~ asks me if I seriously want to go into the City in the rain. I respond, “what else are we going to do? Look at Aaron Burr’s grave in the rain?” (Much ado had been made among certain relatives that a trip to Princeton, NJ would not be complete without a trip to the Princeton Cemetery. Where, evidently, Aaron Burr is interred. Also some other important dead people.) Brother J~ says, “what the hey. Let’s go.” (I should note that my brother, who formerly worked in broadcasting, before he figured out that there is more money to be made in other pursuits, has been to New York City many, many times. I had only been one other time, about 18 months ago.)
Scene 2: After breakfast, same hotel room
Lawmommy telephones her cousin Gwen, who is, allegedly, doing a show on Saturday. This is the same cousin Gwen whose show was reviewed a while back in the New York Times, who said that she “might be a genius.” (You can read my post about it, with a link the to the Times article, here http://adventuresoflawmommy.blogspot.com/2006/06/new-york-times.html
). Gwen answers the phone and says that, yes, she is doing a show, but, it’s in the Hamptons, two hours north of the city. Then she says, “You and J~ are seriously coming into the city today?” And I said, “Yes.” Gwen laughs, “You want to go to China Town don’t you?” (This refers to the fact that the last time I came to New York, I really wanted to go to China Town, and was thwarted at every attempt. When Gwen dropped Husband and I off at a cab stand to take us to the airport to go home, she said, ‘I promise, next time, we’ll make sure you get to go to China Town.”) So, I said, “Yes, come hell or high water, I’m going to China Town.” Gwen is quiet for a second and says, “Um…bring an umbrella and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Scene 3: A New Jersey Transit Train into Manhattan
It is raining. Hard. Brother J~ is listening to his MP3 player. I am looking through a 2001 AAA Guide to NYC that was found in the back of our van, and pointing out that it still has a listing for the World Trade Center observation deck. This gives me the creepy chills.
Scene 4: Penn Station
One of the things I really really really want to do in New York is go to a restaurant at W. 49th Street between 6th and 7th Ave, called Sapporo
. According to my vast internet research on the topic of authentic ramen shops in the US
is supposed to be THE most authentic ramen shop in North America. (Or, at least the most authentic ramen shop in North America, west of Seattle.) (Ramen shops in Japan are ubiquitous, and, some of the most delicious food ever. It is not dissimilar to the 12 cent packages of ramen available in the grocery store in the same way that Spaghetti-Os are not dissimilar to the best homemade spaghetti your grandma makes, or, if your grandma makes lousy spaghetti, like the grandma of an Italian family you know makes – you get my drift. Not so much the same, is the point I am trying to make.) For reasons that I do not understand, Japanese restaurants in the Midwest do not serve ramen soups on their menus. Which is a crying shame. Imagine a huge huge steaming bowl of wonderful-smelling soup, brimming with vegetables and pork and long fabulous noodles…I crave
this, I long for
this, my favorite meal from my year in Japan, and it’s something that I CANNOT obtain in my town, or anywhere near it. The closest place I know of is a place in Chicago – which is a six hour drive from my house. The point is, I WANTED RAMEN
. REAL, AUTHENTIC, MISO RAMEN
. And I wanted it in a BIG BIG WAY. My quest for ramen had been thwarted the last time I was in New York City by my attendance at a party in Harlem. (Really really long story.) The point is, I didn’t see China Town and I didn’t eat Ramen that last time I was in NYC, and I was DETERMINED to do both on Saturday.)
We leave Penn Station and get on a red-line train for 50th Street. When we exited the subway at 50th street, it was still raining, but, not terribly hard. I have been talking to J~ about how wonderful real ramen is, and how he is not going to be sorry about coming into the city, even in the rain, because lunch is going to be SO SO SO delicious, when he says, “Hey, there is it. Sapporo.” We see the sign and we hurry down the street, where we are confronted by a paper notice, in both English and Japanese, that says, “Sorry for the Inconvenience. We are closed for remodeling from August 25 to Sept 7. Please join us for our grand re-opening on September 8 and receive a free drink with any entrée.” NO, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Outside the ramen shop, there is a group of four people speaking Japanese to each other. From what I gather of their conversation, they are also disappointed about the restaurant being closed, so, I turned to them and said, “Eigo o hanasemasuka?” which means, “Do you speak English?” They all turned and looked at me. Silently, and with eyes that got huge. Like they thought maybe I was a crazy person. Crazy, Japanese-speaking blonde woman in the rain… I asked again, and again they were silent. (Let me stress that they were SPEAKING JAPANESE only moments before – it’s not like I had approached a group of people speaking Mandarin or Cantonese or Malai or something and started talking to them in Japanese – THEY WERE JAPANESE!! I SWEAR!) Finally, I said, in English, “are any of you living here in New York? Because I am looking for an authentic ramen shop.” All of them pointed, in unison, to the shop in front of us, and said, in sad voices, “is closed now.” “No others?” I asked. “We don’t know any others, but, very good sushi over there” said one of them (as she pointed to a place up the street). “Arigato.” I said. “Sayonara,” she said, as I walked away.
I didn’t want sushi. I WANTED RAMEN!!! I pouted
. J~ laughed and said, “that, is IRONY. If you looked irony
up in the dictionary, this whole scene would be there. Let’s go get some pizza, they have the best pizza in New York.” We went into a place two doors down, and I will say, they had the best pizza I have ever eaten, hands down. But, it wasn’t ramen…
Scene 5: Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue
J~ and I wander around happily, as the rain has let up for a brief period. The backstage door to Radio City Music Hall is open, and we peek in, as the stage hands haul curious looking equipment inside. We try to peek into the Today Show studios, but, the windows are covered. We look into the windows of the stores on 5th Avenue that are full of items so expensive it boggles our minds. (We look like tourists and we know it, but, hey, we were tourists!) We go into a store on 5th Avenue called Takashimaya, and goggle at a pair of $165 gardening shears and $1000 sheets for a queen sized bed. $1000. FOR SHEETS. (They were really really soft, I have to say…)
After wandering for about 2 hours, the rain starts coming down harder. “Let’s take the subway to China Town” I say. We walk down into the subway and head for a blue line train downtown. As we approach the track, I notice a RAT, the size of a GUINEA PIG, sitting on the tracks. “OH MY GOD,” I say. J~ shushes me, ‘Geez, do you want everyone to know we are TOURISTS?? Stop it.” The train is an unusually long time in coming, and J~ and I are both eavesdropping on the conversation of two unusual people next to us. They were both very very nicely dressed – the boy, about 16, was wearing a three piece suit and was holding a beautiful briefcase. It was just a gorgeous brief case, far nicer than any brief case I own, and I was thinking, “what does a 16 year old boy need a briefcase for in the first place? And especially a brief case that NICE? And why is he wearing a three piece suit? On a Saturday??” The mother was also dressed up. They were arguing about the fact that the boy wouldn’t put the mother’s copy of the New York Times in his brief case. “It won’t fit, MOTHER, there isn't enough ROOM in there," he kept saying. Then, the boy said to his mother, ‘You know, it is going to cost us $4.00 dollars more to go this way. FOUR DOLLARS. We should have taken the way I wanted to go. It would have saved us four dollars” Nonsensically, this was followed a few minutes later by THIS exchange:
Son: I can’t believe dad won’t let me have that turtleneck.
Mother: He thinks $1500 is too much to spend on a turtleneck.
Son: I agree, $1500 is A LOT for a turtleneck. But, it’s a beautiful turtleneck. The stitching is just gorgeous. It’s a beautiful turtleneck.
Mother: Well, there’s no arguing with your father once he’s made up his mind about something.
Um…NO. I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP EITHER. I don’t think I have the kind of imagination that could conjure up the image of a $1500 turtleneck. What could it possibly have been made of? Cashmere and diamonds?? Plutonium?
Scene 6: Canal Street
We exit the subway at Canal Street, and the sky has opened up and buckets of rain are falling - it is the wrath of the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto. Two steps out of the subway station and we are soaked through, dripping wet. My umbrella, which was fairly useless against what appeared to be horizontal rain, is gathered up in a gust of wind and turned inside out. J~ and I look at eachother. “Let’s go back to Princeton,” I say. “Good idea,” says J.
We head back to Penn Station and board a train bound for Princeton. Halfway through the trip, it is RAINING INSIDE THE TRAIN. And we are inexplicably stopped. Not moving
. With enormous raindrops falling through the ceiling of the train. Eventually, the conductor made an announcement that a tree had fallen over the tracks and we would delayed. We sat for a LONG time. Eventually the train started moving again. Not until we exit the train at Princeton does J~ say to me, “did you notice the downed power line sitting in the puddle on the tracks next to the place we were stopped for so long?” “No!” I say. “Yeah, I didn’t want to point it out to you, while were sitting there next to it. I’m just, uh, glad we got off the train alive.” And I said, “Me too...and I cannot believe, that I still haven’t seen China Town.”
Scene 7: At the Mall Next to Our Hotel
J~ and I have come out to find some dinner at the mall next to our hotel, as we were not invited to the rehearsal dinner. We have no car, so, we have no choices other than the mall next to the hotel. We choose Big Fish (a resturant about which I am sorely tempted to complain loudly and longwindedly, but, I will spare you the sage of the lobster bisque)
, where we have a ridiculously overpriced meal that we are both ticked off about. We are wandering through the mall when we see a Brookstone store, with four massage chairs in the window. J~ looks at me and slyly says, “hey…free massages.” We each sat in a massage chair and “tried them out” – and then we tried all the other chairs out. We spent about 30 minutes, sitting in different massage chairs in Brookstone, getting massages. And laughing about what goobers we were being, which put us in a much better mood after our dinner at Big Fish. We decided the best massages came from the $4200 dollar chair. So, if you are ever in the market for a massage chair, and you have $4200 to spend, I highly recommend the deluxe model from Brookstone.
Much relaxed, we head back to the hotel, for the post rehearsal dinner party in one of the hotel’s suites.
Check back next time for Act III – Enter the Whack-Job.