Friday, November 20, 2009

My Annual Holiday Tips for Tourists Coming To NYC

All but a few of the leaves have now fallen from the trees and more often than not I have to scrape some frost from my windows as I venture out in the morning for my train. Halloween is forgotten except for the stray Almond Joy or Mounds in one of the swamprat’s pumpkin buckets and the wild turkeys scampering across the backyard have become scarce. It’s that time of year again, the holiday season has come back to New York and if you plan on coming to my fair city to see the lights & the sights, let me give you some words of advice…..

Don’t !!! Stay the hell away !!! You are just going to make my daily commute a living hell !!!

But considering that no one, most of all my wife & kids, ever listens to me anyway, I might as well be a nice guy (for once) and give those of you making the holiday pilgrimage to the Big Apple a few helpful hints to make your stay in NYC the best it can possibly be….

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving and that means that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be wending it’s way through midtown (and not down Broadway thanks to the Mayor For Life’s decision to give reserved seating to the tourists & the homeless in the middle of Times Square) with cheesy floats, high school bands, singers & entertainers that will leave you saying “Who the hell was that ?” and of course there will be the balloons. If they don’t have Underdog, then it isn’t a real parade in my mind but then again, I am old so that is probably why I have latched on to that particular character balloon. A word of warning though, just about every year some balloon, usually the Al Roker balloon, gets a little wild and hits a street light or a road sign causing stuff to break and fall on some dumb tourist’s head so if you are going to brave the elements and the crowds, look up to see if you are standing under something that could potentially put a dent in your cranium.

Now since we are speaking of Macy’s, lets talk about the windows and the famous Christmas displays that are behind the glass. Since early November you have been able to see the classic “Miracle on 34th Street” windows on the 34th street side (the 35th street side has the miracle of smelly dumpsters and bums so you can skip that part altogether). These windows show scenes from the classic movie starring a young Natalie Wood who would one day grow up to be the kind of woman you would want wearing only stockings under your tree but I digress…..the main windows and the ones that draw largest crowds are the windows that face out onto Broadway – right where all the singers stop to lip sync on Thursday. These windows will be the most colorful & complex and they will have music blasting as loud as possible. In fact, I can hear it over the music playing on the world’s worst iPod which come to think of it, may not be such a bad thing after all. Now as an added tip for you men, if you are tired of oohing & ahhing over the windows, turn around 180 degrees and look across Broadway & 6th where you will find the never ending loop of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Maybe Adrianna Lima will wink & blow kisses at you like she does to me. There are other stores in New York that have window displays and most of them are on 5th Avenue closer to Rockefeller Center but I never go north of 42nd street if I can help it so don’t look at me to tell you which ones to go look for like Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales, Tiffany, FAO Schwartz & the American Girl Store. I suggest you go wander around on your own and annoy the commuters trying to get to Grand Central instead of me.

Now speaking of Rockefeller Center, the tree is up and yes it came from Easton, PA this year (possibly the ONLY good thing to come out of PA this year). It’s 76 feet tall and will have 30,000 LED lights powered by solar panels. It hasn’t been lit up yet but that will come soon enough. If you haven’t seen the tree at Rockefeller Center before than you really should. It really is impressive. Especially since they augment the tree each year like a stripper augments her chest. It holds court over the world’s most famous patch of ice where for a ridiculous amount of money, you can put on crappy skates and have other tourists make fun of you while you pretend to be Peggy Fleming, Jojo Starbuck or Dorothy Hamill. Personally I think that the rink at Rockefeller Center is entirely overrated and you are much better off going to either the rink at Bryant Park or even better yet, (mainly because it is even farther away from me and my commute) may I suggest skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. True it is a Trump property and nothing says crap like a Trump property but the thought of skating among the trees & midtown skyline does it a lot more for me than over at 30 Rock.

Now how do I suggest that you get around in the city ? Well that is simple. You can take the subway and miss the sights or you can take a cab and pay through your nose or you can walk and take the chance of me stepping on you on my way to & from the train. The one thing I forbid all of you from doing is riding in a pedalcab. I hate these people with a white hot burning passion that has sometimes been mistaken for a shining star in the eastern sky. If I find you in a pedalcab, I will not only have to beat you but I will also have to beat the pedalcab driver. (and completely off the holiday topic but on topic as far as it concerns pedalcabs, there is now a “Poledancing Pedalcab” working the streets of NYC. It started as a Halloween Float but is now available for Bachelor Parties at $200-$300 per hour – though I wonder what kind of lame ass bachelor party would hire a fully clothed poledancer to ride past them on the sidewalk) That being said, let me give you a couple of quick tips about walking on the streets of New York. Holding hands is fine but holding hands or linking arms 3 or more across is just plain rude & obnoxious. Expect someone to walk right through all of you. (It will most likely be me) Don’t stand in an aimless group on a busy corner clogging up the flow of pedestrian traffic. The Empire State Building will be there before 5pm and after 6pm so don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk & stare and stay the hell away as I try to make my way to the train. Walk & Don’t Walk signs are optional for pedestrians and stop lights are optional for bicyclists (or so they think – some SOB bicyclist actually punched me last week as he rode by me while I was jaywalking. If it hadn’t been such a lame punch I probably would have dragged him off his bike by his fanny pack and stomped a mudhole in him but I was feeling magnanimous so I didn’t.) Oh yeah, jaywalking is completely legit and expected so the only person that might hit you would be an out of town driver because cabs aren’t going to hit you since they don’t want to deal with the paperwork involved in hitting a tourist or the inevitable tv camera crews. Speaking of out of town drivers, please try to remember there is no such thing as “Right Turn On Red’ in NYC and DON’T BLOCK THE BOX !!!.

Back to the streets though, the shopping in NYC is second to none and there are stores for just about anything & everything that you could need or not need in your lifetime but during the holiday season, the street vendors come out in force. Some have licenses and some don’t. Some have real merchandise and some don’t. Some have stuff that “fell off a truck” and some are selling things boosted from your hotel room earlier in the day. Suffice to say, that Rolex you just bought for Uncle Lenny for $20 probably isn’t real and that DVD you got for a movie that just opened last weekend was probably filmed with a camcorder from the back of the theater. The best salesman I ever saw was back in the early 90’s before the widespread advent of cell phones - when a guy plopped his table down in the middle of Fulton Street and let everyone know that his gold was freshly stolen from Macy’s and you could call and check for yourself but guaranteed by the time you got back, he would be gone. Deals can be had and the price on the tag isn’t necessarily the price that you will have to pay and the best deals on everything can be found from the street vendors on Canal Street & Mulberry Street in Chinatown & Little Italy.

Times Square was once a den on iniquity and on every corner you could find hookers, pimps, con artists, drug addicts and bums but America's Mayor, Rudy Guiliani, started cleaning things up and had all the hookers, pimps, con artists & drug addicts relocated and he had all the bums killed. Times Square is now a boundless sea of lights and a mish mash cornucopia of stores that can be found in any mall in middle America. If you speak english, you are most definitely in the minority and all the character that the old Times Square had, has been sanitized and swept under the rug. I can also report that under self proclaimed Mayor for Life, King Bloomberg, the bums have returned to NYC like the swallows to Capistrano and that does leave a slight taste in your mouth and smudge on my shoe. Of course you can always take advantage of one of the free Charmin Holiday Port-a-Potties complete with Tuxedoed Attendant to take care of the smudge…..

Now speaking of taste in your mouth, while you are in New York I am sure that you will get hungry and that is a good thing as New York is home to approximately 1,000,000 places to eat so whatever you do, please skip McDonalds and other fast food chains and try to experience New York. You can go to one of the 3,000 Original Ray's Pizza Places or get a dirty water dog from a street vendor (trust me, I don't care how long it's been boiling, there is stuff in that water that could kill Godzilla) or to a Korean Bodega like my favorite, Sick Charlies on 40th, or to an irish pub for bad burgers and bangers & mash or to one of the 1,000 Original Frankie & Johnny's or to any number of 5 star restaurants or theme restaurants that seem to abound in midtown. The varieties are endless and the combinations intriguing so think twice about that Big Mac and go get some cuban chinese instead. And yes, there are street vendors that do have chestnuts roasting on an open fire but I ain't touching those myself......just like I am never touching the extruded meat from Rafiqi's Falafel cart but that is another blog for another time. As far as entertainment goes NYC offers the visitor a veritable melange of culture. People watch and check out the funky shops & markets in Greenwich Village & Washington Park. There are museums & art galleries out the wazoo. The Rangers & Knicks both play at Madison Square Garden and tickets are always available. You can tell by the number of scalpers working the games. I have absolutely no idea what the hottest shows on Broadway are these days but if you head over to the TKTS booth in Times Square they can help you. It's the booth under the giant glass staircase. If music is your thing than you have come to the right city because there are concerts every night and great acts working the nightclubs. I have no idea which of those nightclubs are the best but I am sure that I might have one reader or follower who might actually know.

And if being a freak is your thing, may I suggest craigslist.

Finally, I realize that the holidays are a time of giving and charity but a quick word of warning. Not everyone in the city asking you for $$$ is on the up & up. Beware of the red clad workers of the UHO (United Homeless Organization) with their card tables & water jugs. These leeches upon society pay $15 a day to rent the table & jug and they get to keep every last cent that they can collect during their shift. I have no problem calling them out when I walk by and one guy on 7th Avenue has a special 2 word greeting for me whenever he sees me coming his way. It makes me feel all warm & fuzzy.

In all seriousness there really is no place quite New York during the holidays. There is a vibe in the city that helps put an extra bounce in a New Yorker’s step as they step on you. Well that isn't true of all New Yorkers, most are friendly & helpful - though that guy who's offering to help you with your bag at the Port Authority probably doesn't work with the taxi drivers like he says and he will take off with your bag as soon as you let go. Don't expect a cab driver to start singing Silver Bells either but you will probably get a lot fewer "up yours" than you would on an average day. Hell, even the snow, when it comes, doesn't seem quite as dirty. So enjoy your visit to New York this holiday season. Just do me one favor, stay out of my way when I am trying to get to Penn Station to catch my train. I will cut you off, knock you down or step on you. If you have a rolling backpack, I will go out of my way to kick it but that rant is for another blog at another time too......

Now just because I talked about New York City during the holidays doesn’t mean that you have to talk about New York City during the holidays. We can talk about anything you want to talk about. You can pimp yourself. You can pimp your latest blog. You can pimp your favorite pilgrim, it doesn’t matter. As always, creative bloggobbling is not only allowed but encouraged and while there are relatively few rules in the swamp, the gators are slow roasting their turkeys so they have the time to be watching & waiting to snap up a few sides……

That’s the view for now from Behind The Shades…..quietly making whipped butternut squash, cranberry salad & mini corn muffins……swampy abides…..

6 comments:

Kathy said...

I am so glad you are occasionally posting a blog. I miss Swampy. I will be going to NC for Christmas to see both my girl and beautiful Kaiya bear.

Have a great Thanksgiving! Post again soon!

kiki_55

swampy said...

Thanks Kiki - say aloha to the keiki - Have a great turkey day

Despedida said...

Informative content, In bachelor party you can drink all night but between the beer and the strippers, wouldn't it be fun to have a few bachelor party games such as Despedida Soltero.

swampy said...

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