Sunday, 13 December 2015

New York Part 6: Day 2 Begins

Central Park, Its' Zoo, And Maybe I Was a Bit Harsh

Today my personal expert New York City tour guide has us starting with exploring Central Park further on the way to the Central Park Zoo.

Central Park (like pretty well the rest of the city) is iconic and once you visit it you will realize how many scenes in movies are shot here and begin annoying those around you while watching such films by incessantly pointing out that you've been there.

It's actually really gorgeous.  It has cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, beautiful huge trees, and lots of green space.

It never quite makes me forget that i'm surrounded by a steal jungle (with the omnipresent, yet dazzling, New York City skyline always in the distance), but it really is quite charming.

The cities energy is certainly flowing through it's park as well.  We actually took a moment to just sit on a bench and people watch for a short while and it was really great.

You'll have your joggers, your dog walkers, your office people out for a stroll, lots of nannies pushing rich peoples kids around, tourists like us and horse drawn carriages going by.  

Meanwhile throughout the rest of the park you'll have people kayaking, picnicking, enjoying a small carnival, or performing for a crowd.

It was really pleasing just walking from one musician to another.

One performer was actually doing a psychic act that Penn had both performed and educated us on the night before.

A little bit more exploring and then off to the Central Park Zoo.
She always has a drink in her hand.  At least this one isn't alcoholic...wait is it?

So here's the thing.  All I knew about the central park zoo was derived from the Dreamworks Madagascar kids film.

Which means that everything I knew about the park was wrong.

Contrary to what the film depicts, there are no lions, zebras, giraffes or hippos.  There were penguins but not a single one of em talked!

I was disappointed, dismayed, and deceived and declared, from that day forward, to never to stray from the safety of Disney films ever again.

Silliness aside.  The zoo actually did a remarkable job with such a small space.  The zoo is very small but they did manage to have an acceptable ammount of animals and experiences.  They also did a great job with themeing and created seemingly lush flora environment, fittingly nestled within central park.

That being said, I really couldn't help thinking about the quality of life, or lack thereof, of the animals.  They really were very small enclosures.

While we did have a nice time in the zoo we actually had to rush through it since my personal tour guide (Amy) had to hurry us to another Broadway show.

Before I get to that I do have to point out a realization I had this day.  I'm not sure if any of you have noticed but I was decidedly critical and downright cranky of alot of my views of the city.

I found it dirty, stinky, noisy, crowded and often refer it to a steel jungle.

Heres the thing though.  I didn't realize I had been experiencing all the symptoms of a migriane the previous day until today.

I get headaches and migraines regularly.  As such I know that certain circumstances are likely to trigger an episode and I knew travelling and experiencing New York would be a definite trigger.  So prior, and during, our visit I made sure to take pain medication pre emptively as it is much easier to stop a migraine from coming on then it is to stop it.

Therefore the day before I wasn't experiencing any pain (due to the pain pills) but I was experiencing all of my other symptoms of migraines.  Such as extreme sensitivity to light, sound, smells or pretty well all sensory input of which a city like New York is on overdrive.

Furthermore I also had tunnel vision which forces my vision to narrow (probable as a means to limit my sensory input) eliminating all perepheral vision and kind of forcing me to look down at the ground instead of experiencing the city as a whole.

So I was absolutely viewing tons of filth in New York.  But thats because I was looking down at the ground for the most part.  I was missing out, for the most part, of the beauty that New York had to offer.

I realized this on the way out of Central Park when, due to no more migraine, I was able to appreciate all of the beauty of architecture around me.  So while Amy handled all the directions and navigating through the city (Truly an excellent personal tour guide) I just started looking up and taking pictures of the buildings.

I also felt immensely comfortable in the big city.  Felt like being back home in Montreal.  Sure Montreal isn't as large but it does have a similar feeling to it.  For example I had jay walking perfected.  Honestly Montrealers have New Yorkers beat on this front.

But overall this day was where my love of New York began to grow and I was really started to appreciate what this city had to offer.

Speaking of which, it's time to get back to Broadway and watch that play.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

New York Part 5: New York at Night

New York at night

Penn and Teller performed in the Marquis Theatre which is within New York Marriott Marquis hotel.  This hotel offers one of the best views of the city.

But first you have to go up the incredibly scary elevators.  They are housed in clear glass and shoot you up to the upper floors of the super tall skyscraper.  Really did feel like a mini ride.

Upstairs is a bar and desert buffet.  The drinks are overpriced, while tasty, and we forgo the expensive desert buffet (which also looked tasty).

However the price of the drinks really reflect the incredible view that you get to witness within New Yorks only rotating restaurant that gives you a 360 degree experience of the city.  It's actually a really cheap and relaxing way to view all the major skyline landmarks while also avoiding the super touristy empire state building.

Now remember when I said those drinks were tasty?  Well I actually meant to say incredibly strong!  I asked the waiter what he recommended and he asked if I didn't mind stronger drinks.  I said no and boy oh boy people should really heed his warning.  Pretty sure those drinks were pure liquor and since we wanted to get back down to the city we pretty well chugged em.

As such we were certainly a little tipsy as we head out looking for some late night food.  Luckly my sweet, lovely, so helpfull, beautifull....i just love her soooooomuuuuuuch......woah.  Did I mention those drinks were a bit strong?

Anyway she had researched a perfect late night eatery afterwards.

Shack Shack!
Now I don't know if it was our slightly inebriated state or our super late night dinner but we absolutely loved this place.
Sure it was just burgers and fries but it was burgers and fries to perfection.  Nothing fancy.  Just exactly what burgers and fries should be.  And just to keep our buzz going we ordered a couple of beers.  That were served in fairly large cups, and unbeknownst to us prior to ordering, they were about to close.  So we kind of had to chug some more alcohol....

But that is ok because were were about to get blasted by the crazy never sleeps New York times square mega illumination to help wake us up.

Yep definitely a little buzzed

It truly is the city that never sleeps and really appeals to the late owl insomniac inside of me.  It is so bright that even in the dead of night its as if the cities glow is an artificial sun in of itself.  Everything is still packed and we saw plenty of kids milling about at midnight.

Now there really isn't much to Times-Square.  Other then the fact that its an iconic landmark that we've seen in countless films and shows there isn't any real activity going on here, unless you are into getting your picture taken with some random super heroes with questionable costumes.

But Times Square does serve as an energy hub that expands for countless blocks throughout the city where the energy keeps on flowing and you'll find all the clubs, shows and lounges to keep you busy throughout the night.

We only decided to go to shake shack at like 11pm at night and were surprised when they were closing shortly afterwards.  This being due to the fact that the energy of the city puts you in a (not so) false state of believing the city never winds down.

Brought me back to my youth where I would revel in the night and stay up till I heard the birds chirping and heralding the start of a new day, bringing me much dread that I had once again forgotten to sleep that night.

Hmm upon further thought, and reflection of my current struggles with insomnia, maybe this whole city that never sleeps isn't such a good thing.  As a matter of fact, despite my internal urges to the contrary, my better half reminded me we had another big day tomorrow and we probably should get to bed.

 So until tomorrow city of light.  Let us see what you will bring us in the day.

Friday, 27 November 2015

New York City Part 4: Penn and Teller

Penn and Teller; Magic act or public service humanitarians?

I initially started this blog stating that the sole purpose of visiting New York was for a magic act.  This naturally should lead you to believe i'm kind of a geeky dork to get so excited about glorified quarters behind the ear tricks.

While the dork part is absolutely true, I am, nonetheless, doing myself a disservice by mischaracterizing my actual draw to the Penn and Teller act.

While their act is definately the accumulation of years of experience, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It is actually Penn who I am in love with despite the fact, by Penn's own admission, that Teller is the brains behind the group.

I fell in love with his articulate, passionate and reason based views on all forms of social issues and most importantly his insistence on preaching love.

Hes an ardent atheist who reads the bible every day and has nothing but love, respect and admiration for Christians and followers of other faiths.  He has absolutely no issue in calling out what he believes to be bullshit but still respecting the people who hold these views.

More so than that.  Because of his time on The Apprentice, as well as Trumps current popularity in the republican polls, he has been asked by many news sites his views on Donald Trump.

On one such news show Penn offered numerous compliments of Donald Trump and said that America just wanted somebody who would speak their mind openly and honestly.  While also stating it just so happens that Trump is wrong on everything since Penn is a pretty extreme Libertarian.

What ensued as a result of this is typical The Donald:

Penn isn't just taking the high ground.  He both lives and believes what he preaches.  On his podcast (where I further got to know Penn) Donalds trump reaction only made him love him more because he exalts honesty above all else.  Now he disputes the validity of Trumps statement as he was a large success (admitably made larger by NBC's exposure) but truly loves a person who can give their honest opinion.

More so he claims that Trump not only likes Penn but is actually a good person.

I have to call bullshit on that but this does demonstrate just one of many characteristics of Penn that I've fallen in love with.

All this and I haven't even mentioned anything of the actual show yet.  This is because i'm trying to setup a little bit of who Penn is.  This is important as Penn (along with Teller who shares very similar views) impart their beliefs on the audience through their magic act.

Thereby transforming a simple illusion show (nothing wrong with that, saw Copperfield and he was great) into a multi layered introspective experience.

So now i'll get into the show so that I can further explain what I mean.

Love, honesty and freedom are probably the three simple concepts that ties together Penn's entire worldview.

I've already explained how Penn can very easily continue to love those who take to personal attacks on his very livelihood.

But I do believe Penn would be quite hard pressed to find love for those who were intentionally dishonest by attempting to deceive others.

As such I do not believe it to be mere happenstance that his set design includes the means by which some of the more common, but simple, tracks are actually achieved.

The purpose of this is for the audience to know immediately that this is a show.  There is no magic, only illusion and tricks.  And that Penn has no interest in attempting to get the audience to believe in some sort of metaphysical power.

This may seem obvious to some, but in reality there are many swindlers and deceivers out there who have entire careers devoted to tricking others.  Those deceived come from all walks of life both well educated and otherwise.

In fact the person who was seminal in honing Penns passion in magic was a never young Amazing Randi.  A man who has taught Penn that honesty be taught above all else and Randi has spent the latter portion of his life debunking swindlers such as Uri Geller.

I actually intend on writing a blog about some of the things that Randi has down that are truly amazing and just how dangerous some of these swindlers are but that will be for a different time.  This is just to show how much honesty matters to Penn and that this theme will be sprinkled throughout the show.

Speaking of which.  We got some great seats.  We were on the 2nd floor balcony that overhangs the audience on the main floor.  We had the front seats so we were not only close to the stage but had absolutely nobody in front of us to block our view.

While waiting for the show to begin the audience is asked to come up on stage to inspect some of the props.  Each of them will make an appearance at various stages of the show.  Just in case anybody plans on seeing their act I wont spoil anything.

This is not only to get the audience to feel more connected to the show but to allow Penn to get more connected with his audience.  Because unbeknownst to the regular audience members who arn't Penn obsessed like myself, Penn is actually playing base to the side of the stage.

However when I say Penn is trying to get more connected to his audience I actually mean it in the most basic of ways.  As admitted by Penn he is really using this opportunity to be silent, for once, as well as to just check out all the attractive woman who are going up and down the stairs directly adjacent from where he is playing in the shadows.  Creepy?  Sure.  Doesn't mean every other guy wouldn't also jump on the opportunity if given the chance.

Unfortunately once the show starts there are no more pictures so from this point, till the end of the show, you are going to be submitted to my poetic waxing, pontificating and general musings where i'm continuously going off topic....oh wait i've already been doing nauseam....alright time to tighten up this blog some.

They anticipated that this is likely to be their last time performing on broadway.  Penn and Teller are in their early and late 60's and, as Penn has mentioned, isn't getting any younger.  Therefore this stint on broadway is a showcase of their decades long career.

They deliver bits as far back as when Penn first met Teller as a fan in a crowd watching him perform, as well as some of their newest material.

Rather then actually summarize their acts it is actually best if someone not familiar with their work went to their show cold.  That is not having watched countless videos of them online like yours truly.

But just as a tease:
They will bring the basic sawing a woman in half trick to a whole new level.
Teller will eat an ungodly amount of needles.
Penn will eat an ungodly amount of fire.
You will be lectured on surrendering your rights in the name of security.
                    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety,                       deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
And most importantly you will be educated against trusting those who treat these tricks as a supernatural power or ability. (Penn still gets people after his show believing him to be psychic only to have to re explain these are all just tricks).

After every show Penn and Teller will meet and pose with everyone who wishes to.  Just because they are so anti establishment they don't believe in forming lines and instead masses will sort of huddle around them and they will slowly get to everyone.

You'd think that would be chaotic but it actually does work quite well.  No pushing in front of anyone and everyone is quite polite and friendly.  While I don't believe to always apply but there is some merit to Penns views that left to their own devices people are generally good and well behaved.

In any event people would take turns holding fellow strangers cameras to take pictures.  However once Amy volunteered to take pictures the crowd quickly realized that she was a natural and everyone enlisted her help.  Unfortunately the same was not true of who we selected as we ended up with this fuzzy photo.

It was actually quite the contrast of seeing Penn on stage who is quite the loud presence to seeing him subdued after the show as if he had given his all and was spent.

Overall was a great experience but our trip was not over yet.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

New York City Part 3: Central Park, The MET, and Pizza

Central Park, The MET, and Pizza

Walking to Central Park

Amy being reminded of children left behind
First stop is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  But even though we only planned on exploring central park tomorrow we have to cut through the park in order to get to the museum.  So we took a couple of pictures along the way.

Then we arrived at the met.  What every patron should know going in is that admission is pay as you wish.  You can be admitted to the museum for a mere penny if you so incline.  However this is not noticeably advertised inside as it appears as though the admission is a set 25$ for an adult.  Considering we only had an hour that 50$ would be an absurd entry price.  Instead we opted for a much more reasonable 10$ admission to be boosted later on by drinks in their upstairs bar.

As it turns out an hour for the largest art museum in the United States is not nearly enough time and we found ourselves just hurrying through the insane never ending maze of rooms that the museum housed.

I actually find art immensely interesting as it is a glimpse in time of certain eras.  I find the amount of history gleamed through the different art styles very interesting and if I had the time i'd definitely pick it up as a hobby.

But alas I chose children instead and we instead found ourselves gravitating towards the rooftop bar.

Before I get to that i'd like to setup the pre reveal of the bar.

While going through the museum I did find myself feeling a similar claustrophobia that I experienced both in the subway and the very crowded and busy city.  This being due to the aforementioned maze like layout of the museum.

Adding to this was the incredibly narrow corridor that led to the bar.

While this may sound like a bad thing it actually really enhanced the experience of the bar.
This is because the bar is located on the roof in the middle of central park.

So you go from this narrow confined hallway and are greeted by this:

Its a phenomenal location that the museum is really not taking advantage of.  The bar was really just a makeshift location whos bartenders were both poorly trained and not particularly friendly.  There was also no seating.

However, ongoing criticisms aside, the view was stellar and more then made up for any shortcomings and everyone should make this a must do while in New York.  Heck pay a penny a person and bypass the art if you simply want the view.

By this point we were running pretty short on time (that broken down subway really set us back) and we still needed to eat.  But I had to insist on visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral on the way.

Being an atheist this may seem like a strange insistence.  But I care for a devout catholic in a long term care facility who said I had to check it out.  If for no other reason than his idol John F Kenedy had his funerals mass there.

We were actually fortunate to visit when they were doing mass as the church is currently under renovation but construction is halted during mass.

As always these big massive religious buildings are impressive and awe inspiring while also being incredibly expensive to build and maintain.

I have to stop myself for going into a diatribe about all of this money spent on a building with the various homeless and needy people right outside its doors, as well as Jesus's own teachings on the matter (which include a table being thrown over), but I suppose there was already a pretty bloody reformation fought on this, among many other, premise and i'm late to the fight on this one.

So instead.  Pizza time!

Being from Montreal and being proud of the pizzas it has to offer I sought out one of the better reviewed pizza places to see how New York compared.

Now the best Pizzas i've had from back home have thick bubbly and doughy crust with incredibly jam packed and thick toppings with much grease mixed in there (which is what probably softens the crust).


New York pizzas are also known for their thick toppings but opt for a thinner crust (but not Italy style thin) and apparently (or foolishly I say) less grease.

Very good and I suspect most would actually argue for New Yorks style over Montreals.  The pizza had high quality ingredients and was very flavorful.

However I much prefer feeling like I've had an entire meal with just one slice of pizza.  The amount of jam packed goodness in just one slice is where my vote goes.

That being said we did have to rush through the experience as our time was quickly ticking by and we still had to return to our room to change and get to the main event of the trip.