Those of you who read Day 4 may not be surprised (but may be amused nonetheless) to hear that I woke up this morning with the tops of my arms and, inexplicably, my kneecaps a bright shade of crimson. The Yankee Curse had struck again and given me a nasty, nasty sunburn. Fortunately it was overcast and threatening rain all day long so my choice of jeans and a long-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt did not feel out of place. Actually, I have noticed that that sort of attire doesn't really ever feel out of place in NYC except when it's dressed too far down. New York is a place where people like to look decent at all times.
I started with the Empire State Building, fully prepared to get into a long, long line and walk out without seeing it at all. I don't remember who exactly recommended against this place - this forum? My Lonely Planet guide? Friends? - but other than the cost it's really not all that bad. I even checked this with one of the security guards on the way out: as long as you go during the day (I went at 11:30 in the morning) and as long as you don't go on Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, the wait time is 10-20 minutes. I've waited 6 times that long to go on rides at Disneyland, and that was 16 years ago when I did that (I hear the lines are even worse now).
The other thing you might hear about the ESB is that:
a. it's basically the same as Top of the Rock, and
b. At ESB, unlike TOTR, you don't get to see the coolest building in town, which is the ESB.
To point a., I haven't been on TOTR yet but I can't imagine it's better. The ESB is currently the highest observation deck in Manhattan (once they get the WTC building up I am sure it will once again beat out Empire) and on top of that this is the vantage point that so many movies and other moments in US culture cite, not TOTR (my own ESB/culture pick is Sleepless in Seattle for obvious reasons, but I am sure you have your own if you're reading this).
As for b., as cool as the Empire State Building is from the inside - and folks, it is fan-freaking-tastic inside from top to bottom - from the outside it is a distant, distant second to the Chrysler Building. Don't get me wrong, the ESB is art deco and cool in its own right but the Chrysler is made out of rocket fuel and steampunk. I mean, come on now.
Speaking of steampunk, reason #1 to see the ESB observation deck in person: if you look up you can see the 102nd "floor", which was originally going to be a mooring station for dirigibles. Yes, you read that correctly. FREAKING ZEPPELINS WERE GOING TO TIE THEMSELVES TO THE FREAKING EMPIRE STATE BUILDING LIKE A FREAKING FRITZ LANG MOVIE. This is awesome on the level of finding out that the White House has a secret room inside of it that allows the President to travel back in time (which does not exist) (to my knowledge).
From the ESB I took a quick jaunt into Little Korea, where I stopped at a restaurant for lunch/technically late breakfast I guess since it was my first meal of the day. I believe it was called Bulwari's. Whatever the name, it was good stuff. I think I mentioned this in my Day 3 recap but I wanted to re-iterate: one of the things that makes NYC so awesome is that it's the City of the World. It behooves you, therefore, to try on as many cultures as you can find while you're there. In this case, I ended up eating a very spicy vegetable-and-tofu meal which was just about the best thing I've ever eaten and even with a 20% tip only ran me a little over $30. Oh yeah, and also the tea. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. I am a big fan of tea in general, and this... this was some good, good tea.
Then I took a trip up to Grand Center Terminal (appparently, Grand Central Station is incorrect nomenclature). Sadly, my most recent association with this place was the remake of the movie [i]Arthur[/i] with Russell Brand; there's a scene in which he buys out the whole place for one evening to impress a girl. Well, having walked through it in person now, I think it's safe to say that if I was a girl I would be impressed by this. GCT has an audiotour now and while normally I am a big audiotour fan I decided to skip it; it was already almost 2 in the afternoon and I still had so much to do. I did manage to go down to the basement and add to my Facebook photo list entitled "Mobile Phone Pictures Taken In Other Peoples' Bathrooms" (yes, that is a real thing).
From GCT I passed the Chrysler Building without realizing I'd passed it and then went on into the United Nations. The UN as a body has always fascinated me. I don't want to get into politics too much here so I'll just leave it at this: there is so much that they do in the world beyond settling (or not settling, as the case may be) conflicts before they escalate into war. I took the guided tour, which was very, very dry and additionally there was not a lot to see outside of the General Assembly Hall and the Security Council room. I realize that this isn't the primary intent of the UN but I really think that they could gain a lot of easy PR and have people understand their goal much, much better if they added a bit more... oomph to this. Like maybe a ride, like the Boutros Boutros Roller Roller Coaster Coaster. OMG I AM JUST KIDDING ABOUT THAT. Seriously though, maybe they could contact the Brits and see if they can appropriate the Museum of War's Holocaust Exhibit into the UN building; after all, this is an organization that was founded in part to ensure that another Holocaust never happened.
Anyway, back to the trip. Following the UN, I retraced my steps long enough to go into the Chrysler Building lobby (which was impressive, I will grant you, but that's all you can see, of course, and even at that it's no ESB with its MASSIVE vaulted ceiling and cool Art Deco murals) and then walked down to the NY Public Library. Inside there, what I did was mostly research for a project I'm working on which I will not bore you with, but I'm going to be going back tomorrow for more research and in the offing will probably be walking around what looks like an awesome, awesome place.
It was also the research bug which caused me to travel to Roosevelt Island. Again, I won't bore you with the details except to say that back in the 19th century this little strip of land in between Queens and Manhattan housed an insane asylum (it was actually called the Blackwell Island Lunatic Asylum), a special hospital where they sent patients with severe, contagious diseases such as smallpox, and a penitentiary. Nowadays it's a small little residential community which is surprisingly (to me, anyway) middle class (in that I would assume by the location that it would be super-ritzy and upper class). At places the island is only about a football field long and you can walk up and down the whole thing in around 30-40 minutes. It's like a piece of Mayberry in the heart of New York.
I took a couple subways from there to the Union Square area because I wanted to go down the old Book Row. First I stopped in The Forbidden Planet, a place that is so cool I'm pretty sure it's banned in several states. It's got a wide selection of comic books, mangas, Doctor Who DVDs, action figures (THEY ARE NOT DOLLS DAMMIT)... basically anything nerdy which is not also electronic can be found there.
I am, admittedly, a huge nerd (you saw how the word "single" is in the title of this series, right?) but also, admittedly, kind of a failed one in that I am not as up on things like comic bookiana as I could be, and so it was with more than a little trepidation that I approached the clerks for recommendations. You know that character on the Simpsons called Comic Book Guy? Yeah. He wasn't a complete fabrication by Matt Groening. In my experience, the average comic book store salesman will treat you the way Jack Black treated his customers in "High Fidelity": with scorn and, when scorn is not available, outright rudeitude. So imagine my surprise when, speaking with a comic book store clerk in New York City - a combination of things which ought to produce a literal supernova of rudeness - the guy I talked to was not only *extremely* helpful, but so were the 2 employees he enlisted to help me find stuff, and also the - this AMAZES me here - CUSTOMER who helped to answer my vague, poorly worded question (I believe it was "hey, can you guys recommend anything kind of steampunky I can read on my trip home?"). I am glad I do not have a weak heart because as it was the sheer shock almost caused me to keel over right then and there.
(Okay, so jokes aside, the longer I'm in New York, the more I realize that New Yorkers aren't rude at all. In fact, they are really, really helpful and nice. They talk a little faster than the average person, and, as one person who did not get a tongue-in-cheek remark I made in an earlier edition of this series said, they do not suffer fools gladly, but those things do not equal impolite. Indeed, wasting time exchanging pleasantries when in fact you both have somewhere you'd rather be is the impolite thing in my book.)
I went down to The Strand from there. The Strand boasts that it contains 18 miles worth of books. That's a lot of books and it creates all that acreage the way an amoeba increases its overall surface area: by creating lots of little nooks and crannies. I'm sure I've been in Barnes and Nobles which had more square footage of floor space and maybe even some with comparable shelf space but none with as many different books. It's basically a B&N combined with a Half Price Books (that's a chain store in my hometown), which is not the worst thing in the world. I was able to find yet another piece in my research puzzle, with even more help from the customer service reps, and was on my way.
Before heading home, I decided to go one final place: the Shake Shack up at Madison Park. I kind of wanted to get up there when it was light out because this is, if memory serves, the site of the very first baseball game played under rules we'd (sort of) recognize as baseball. That wasn't in the cards - it was past 9 by the time I got up there - but I did get a chance to try one of the frozen-custard "Concretes" my NYC friends had told me so much about. I am pretty sure custard is the devil; the item that I got was sort of like a Dairy Queen Blizzard only 10 times as tasty.
That's enough for one day, right? It better be, because that's when I went home.