In my previous post I mentioned that we’d already done the Empire State Building. One thing I forgot to mention is that the whole place still smells faintly of ape-feet. Neither time nor bleach can take out some odors, lemme tell you.
Afterwards, we couldn’t get into the American Museum of Natural History because it was going to close so we ended up chatting with people, eating pizza and generally taking it easy because Wednesday started early.
We’d been told to arrive by 7:30 at Battery Park to avoid the line for the ferry to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty. This meant we got up at 5:30, found breakfast, rode the subway, etc etc. Of course we were there way early, and my son and I had a chance to wander around the park a little while my wife waited in line (the tickets were in her name).
Did you know there’s a labyrinth you can walk in the park? I do now. Turns out that walking the whole thing transports you to Amber, the one true city. Weirdly, Amber looks exactly like Manhattan, except that the souvenir T-shirts all read: “I [cloudy yellow block] NY”. Luckily, walking the pattern in reverse transported me back.
Did I mention we got up at 5:30 am? That’s 2:30 Seattle time, and my son, who went to bed way early the night before, still didn’t get enough sleep. You know how you get a whole bunch of people together, there’s always one family with a whiny, inconsolable child? That was us.
Anyway, the statue itself was pretty awesome–I have pictures I’ll post later. Being right next to it, looking up, was overpowering. What’s more, it’s gorgeous as a physical object. Sadly, we didn’t buy our tickets early enough to get up to the crown so we didn’t have a close-up view of the stunt show all the way up on the torch. We didn’t see the whole thing, since it started while we were on the ferry to Ellis Island, but some folks nearby told us it was about communists in some way and we saw the big fall, so that was cool.
Ellis Island was amazing (for grownups). I got to stand where countless immigrants (possibly my own) waited on line to be allowed into the country. Kids, it turns out, don’t give a crap. Not too surprising, I guess, but I was glad to be the one who kept him occupied while my wife looked into her ancestry.
Wednesday night was the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading. I met Rose Fox and Josh Jasper there. Also Nick Kaufmann and his wife Alexa (who may have a blog, but I don’t know what it is) were both there, as was Priscilla (known to me as @priscellie on Twitter).
Did you know New Yorkers are all eight-feet tall? Even sitting, they blocked my view of the readers, but that only helped me focus in. Both authors were terrific, but Glen Hirshberg was really startlingly good.
Me, I was feeling my usual discomfort about being in a large group of people I didn’t really know, but folks were very nice and helped me acclimate at both the bar (which was crowded and loud–but not as much as usual) and the meal afterward.
The big deal for Thursday was that we’d set it aside to simply walk around the city, and we were lucky enough to have Rose and Josh to show us around. If the first two days were for big tourist attractions, this was a chance to visit a particular Malaysian restaurant, shop at the last remaining pickle sellers on the Lower East Side, stroll through Greenwich Village and stopping at a little mystery bookstore where I was able to pick up Nick Kaufmann’s Gabe Hunter novel (I’d already read his Chasing the Dragon, but not this.) In the end we watched a routine by Organized CHAOS at High Line Park–and while that may sound like one of my jokes, it’s not.
The visit to the High Line Park and the Meatpacking District lead to a more general discussion of the changes the city has undergone since my wife lived there in the seventies and eighties. The places that used to be havens for prostitutes and drug addicts are now fancy parks and sidewalk cafes. We rode the subways for most of a week and never felt unsafe. Rose explained that the C.H.U.D.s all live aboveground now (making them “C.H.A.D.s” now). And while we were passing a wine bar, who did I see sitting inside at one of the tables? A half-dozen Baseball Furies.
I guess I stared at them a little too long while we were waiting to cross the street, because a couple of them started reaching for their bats. At that point I raised my fist and said “Jeeeeeettteerrrrrrr!” and then everything was golden.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful city, nothing at all like the hellhole of the movies of my youth. It’s filled with people, activity, and life. I saw young people of different races sitting together on the subway talking like close friends (something I almost never see in Seattle, I’m sorry to say). The public transit system is fantastic and comprehensive, and best of all the city isn’t built to accommodate cars; it’s made for people. Lots of them.
And everything they say about the pizza? It’s all true! Bagels, too, omg.
Friday I visited the offices at Del Rey. I stupidly forgot to bring the address with me, although I knew the street and general location. I told my wife “The address has a five in it,” which did not amuse her as much as I’d hoped. Luckily, the building had been remodeled into a gigantic replica of George R.R. Martin’s face.
Lemme tell you, the security there was something else. As we entered the lobby, some security personnel were standing over a bloody corpse with a crayon-scrawled manuscript scattered around it. The woman who checked us in explained several times how we should use our badges to keep the elevator gas vents shut, and the actual doors out of the elevator lobby had a machine gun next to it.
Luckily, we were approved to pass through. Much Secret Writer Talk went on, and then we snuck out to Central Park for a picnic lunch and a ride on the carousel.
Actually, come to think of it I met my editor, her boss, and one of their marketing folks… and that’s it. There was, like, no one else there. Remember that Star Trek episode when Kirk beams a space gangster to the Enterprise and the gangster is all “I only saw one guy!” Well, I think about that big office building and that handful of people and… Nah, that’d be crazy!
After that we spent some time at the playground, then tried the natural history museum again. We got in this time, and I learned that Ben Stiller movies truly do not prepare us for the awesomeness of the real world.
We did other things, too, of course. I had lunch with my agent, saw something strung between midtown traffic lights that I took to be fishing line but which I now realize was Spider-webbing, ate incredible smoked salmon, signed copies of my books on bookshelves (btw reader of this post: buy my books), and sweltered on subway platforms waiting to be let into the cool, comfy subway cars themselves. God, it’s the first real vacation we’ve taken in years.
It’s a fantastic city. I wish we lived closer so my son wouldn’t get violently ill on the long plane ride.
Pictures in a future post.