Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Local's Guide to Visiting NYC

A few months ago, I offered to take requests for blog posts, and someone asked for suggestions for visiting NYC. Since I'm THE WORST, I'm only just getting to it. 

So here are my tips for visiting NYC.

Double Decker Buses

I've never ridden one myself since locals just take the subway, but my mother-in-law enjoys them when she visits. You get to see all the interesting details on the buildings when you ride above ground. Also, you can buy a ticket and hop on and off, so you can take them everywhere. 

Unlike the subway and regular buses, they're staffed by people used to dealing with tourists who have no idea where they're going. So giving directions is kind of their thing. Ask a local for directions and we may not be sure because you're trying to go someplace where we've been once in ten years. We'll do our best, then realize we made a mistake 5 minutes later.

If you have a large group, or are intimated by the subway, the double decker buses are the way to go.

The Subway

It's a lot safer now than it was back in the 70s and 80s. So if you avoid the subway because you fear for your safety, don't. But the map can be hard to figure out and things move more quickly than you're used to. But that applies to all of NYC, which leads me to…

Get Out of the Way

New Yorkers aren't rude. They're just pissed off because you're in the way. Approach walking in NYC like driving. You wouldn't stop your car at the mouth of a highway exit, would you? So don't stop at the top or bottom of stairways or block doors to restaurants while you discuss whether to go in or not. We've got places to be and a little situational awareness will improve your experience.

Top of the Rock

Why ride to the top of the Empire State Building when Top of the Rock gives you a view that includes the ESB? With shorter lines. If you only have time to do one, the choice is clear. Besides, a lot of TV is made in that building, which is where you know NYC from. Which leads me to…

The World Trade Center Memorial

To you, 9/11 is something that happened on TV. I'm sure you were very upset by it. To many New Yorkers, it happened in real life, complete with the smell of burning flesh permeating the city, weeks with a smoking pit of wreckage downtown, and franticly tracking down friends and family - not always successfully.

By all means, go to the museum, but be aware that there may be someone grieving standing 5 feet away from you. 

Shopping

While you're downtown, stop by Century 21 for some designer bargains. I also like Pearl River Mart for cool Asian stuff. Don't miss the basement level where they have loads of housewares. That's also where they keep the paper fans - stock up and you'll be glad come summer. Don't miss Macy's Herald Square. It gets considerably less insane away from the ground floor. Keep riding the escalators up until you hit the old wooden escalators- they're very old New York. Speaking of which…

Food

You don't get much more Old New York than the '21' Club. The food is great, but pricy. More affordable is P.J. Clarke's. Get the burger. Trust me on this. Pizza in Manhattan can be iffy. Go to a place known for pizza, or head out to Brooklyn. Bagels are more reliable - I like Ess-A-Bagel. If you're seeing a Broadway Show, eat at Virgil's BBQ, Carmine's (Italian food) or Le Rivage (French food). Most of the other theater district restaurants are so-so, though I may be missing some of the good ones. Carmine's is better Italian food than you'll get in Little Italy. 

Eat at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co. or the Hard Rock Cafe if you must, but what's the point of traveling if you're going to eat at the Olive Garden in a city that has loads of much better Italian food?

Shake Shack is totally worth the long line. Just don't be one of the assholes who reserves a table before they've even ordered. A table will clear up while your order is being prepared. There's no need to take a table from someone who's food will be ready 20 minutes before yours. Avoid the Theater District location because it's full of tourists who panic when they don't see any free tables and send someone off to grab a table when they're still going to be on line for half an hour. You know better, so avoid those jerks.

Oh, and FYI, they don't serve breakfast at Tiffany's. If you've seen the movie, Audrey Hepburn eats a bagel or some such while looking at Tiffany's windows. That's it. Yet some people think there's a restaurant in the store. So now you know.

Get Out of Manhattan

NYC is actually 5 boroughs, so get out of the city and see how the rest of us live. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It's really short. Ride the subway out to Coney Island in the summer - don't bother the rest of the year. Go to Queens for authentic international cuisine from Salvadoran to Indian and Thai. Visit the Bronx Zoo - The Botanic Garden and Belmont (aka Little Italy in the Bronx) are both within walking distance of the zoo. Even Staten Island has a zoo and a Botanic Garden complete with a replica of a Chinese Scholar's Garden.

Pick someplace and go. If you spend your whole visit in places full of tourists (like Times Square), you'll think that New York is crowded, noisy and unlivable. Really, it's just a few spots that are like that. And locals don't go there except to remind themselves why they never go there.

Thanks For Coming

Speaking of 9/11, this city was fucking deserted for a couple of months while the tourists stayed away (unnecessarily, as it turned out). I'm not gonna lie - it was nice being able to walk down a sidewalk in Midtown without having to maneuver around herds of wandering tourists. But it was nicer when they started coming back. We really are happy to have you all here. Just try not to make us late for work.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Leaving the In Between

There's a certain appeal to those in between places. Like the waiting area outside the gate at the airport. You've made it on time, the security nonsense is behind you and you just have some time to fill. All you can do is wait (and try to ignore all the TVs blaring CNN), so there's nothing to stress about. You even have enough room to sit comfortably until boarding time.

But in between is no way to live a life. And that's where I've been living for the past 2 years. Since things ended badly with The Kid, we've been waiting to dive back into the whole fostering/adoption thing. The first year, we had to recover emotionally and financially. Adopting a child from the foster system is cheaper than other methods, but it's not free. We spent more than we could afford on the months of visits before she moved in with us, only to spend even more buying her a new wardrobe because her previous foster mother didn't buy her anything and nothing fit anymore. This was going to be OK financially because you get a $20,000 tax credit when you adopt a child, so we'd be getting all that money back. Plus there would be some reimbursements from the system when the adoption was final.

But when you end up not adopting the kid, you can pretty much go fuck yourself. Even when the adoption doesn't work out partially because of things workers in the system did. Or when the kid shouldn't have been placed for adoption in the first place because their past made living in a family setting so upsetting that they harm themselves and others.

So we had to get ourselves back to the point where we could afford to buy another kid a bunch of clothes if we had to. All while paying out of pocket for a shrink to help me deal with everything. (You know how incompetent new mothers feel? Try being a new mother with 3 social workers criticizing everything you do.)

But we got back on our feet a year ago. Yet we didn't move forward with the kid thing because we knew it would be hard enough without me getting a migraine every other day - and that was what I was averaging a year ago. So we agreed to wait for me to have a good month. Not a whole month without a migraine, but a month where I had more than one good day in a row several times. 

We're still waiting for that, though I did have 4 whole good days in a row this month, so progress. Though that was followed by 5 migraines in 6 days, so fuck my life.

All this time, we've been paying to live in a two bedroom apartment without using the second bedroom. His Awesomeness started making his evening business calls in there. But I kept my office where it was - in the living room. I kept the door of that room closed as often as possible because that empty, useless bed only reminded me of my failures. Not just as a mother, but as a human being healthy enough to leave the apartment without getting winded.

Meanwhile, I've been stuck trying to work at home while the hearing impaired retiree upstairs blasts the TV at all hours of the day and night (and slams the door in my face when I ask him to turn it down). Of course, his TV is directly above the part of the living room where my desk is. Wireless headphones helped with that, but then I realized there's a better solution.

I told my husband that I was tired of living in this pathetic in between state. The bed needed to go into storage so I could reclaim my office space in the spare room. He even figured out a way to rearrange the closets so we could store the bed ourselves instead of paying for a storage locker somewhere.

It took him a couple of hours to move things around. It took me a couple of weeks to get everything in order, and I'm still not done, because migraines, but things are running smoothly at least. And I don't hear the jerk upstairs while I'm working.

So I'm no longer in between. It doesn't mean much. We're still planning on adopting when I'm feeling better. I'm still in too much pain too often to get my novel revised. I doubt I'll be blogging daily any time soon because I still have to save my scant energy for work writing. All it means is that I'm no longer in a holding pattern waiting to get physically better. Because who knows when the fuck that's going to happen.