New York City Travel Log, Several Weeks Later

Ever since moving away from regularly journaling/blogging and instead actively posting in smaller posts on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I’ve occasionally started a blog post only to leave it in my computer or iPhone notepad in partially finished form. Tonight, it seemed like this might be a good time to revisit one of those incomplete blog fragments and finally post them online. The following was an originally a series of brief thoughts that occurred to me while Sally and I were in New York back for a few days during the second week of November.

This is my second trip to New York City in two years. Before these two trips, I was last here in the spring of 2007. Both of these visits have been heavily laden with nostalgia for the two years I lived here after graduating from Rutgers — as well as some wonderful memories from the few trips back up here after moving back to the DC area in 1998. Ideally, it seems clear that making regular visits is a moral imperative. However, the cost of these trips mean that we simply can’t do this every year. Train fare (the only civilized way of traveling from DC to NYC,) staying multiple nights in a hotel in Manhattan, and the other necessary expenses incurred in a multi-day stay here make this a rather expensive proposition. So, while three trips in three years appears unlikely, maybe we can be back here again in 2024…

One of the things I miss most from my time living in New York is The Strand. It remains a wonder of a bookshop, but it has undergone one significant change in the nearly 25 years since I lived here: the “review copy” section of the basement is no more. One of my favorite things to do when living here was going through those shelves and coming home with a number of recently published hardcovers for far less than cover price. Given the changes in the book industry in the interim, it’s disappearance comes as no surprise. It’s still fun to come in and browse the shelves, but the absence of the review copy section means that coming here just isn’t the same for me. Alas, that’s just something time does to all things…

This trip included an afternoon where Sally and I are off doing separate things. She planned well in advance to join a gathering of women who love Gudrun clothing. I, however, didn’t plan anything on anything in particular while on my own, and started by simply wandering around the area and seeing what I might find. Eventually, I decided that I should go to McSorely’s — an option I considered in advance but hadn’t made any previous decisions about. I suppose I get why people still go there — I mean, where else can you go that both John Lennon and Abraham Lincoln both drank at? — but I wonder if it’s now something where you’re primarily paying for an experience more than anything else. If I lived here still, I wouldn’t feel the need to return. Oh, thank goodness I actually did have cash on me — it’s hard to believe that there are cash-only establishments in this day and age…

One thing we generally didn’t plan in advance for either of our visits was where we were going to eat. When the time to do so came, Sally and I did a lot of just walking around and checking the menus of restaurants as we passed by. Inevitably we would find a place that looked like a great place to try — though on a couple occasions this took longer than we liked. It was kind of surprising how large a percentage of the restaurant didn’t provide vegetarian fare. It was certainly larger than the percentage of restaurants in our section of Northern Virginia not providing meatless meals. Not willing to make any kind of conjectures as to why the weird dichotomy exists. To me, a city as diverse as New York would mean that more restaurants made an effort at accommodating both vegetarians and omnivores…

One of the exceptions to meal planning was a visit to The Cauldron. During our visit list year, we had such a wonderful time doing the potions making class that we made another visit to simply enjoy the atmosphere and the fantasy themed cocktails. Alas, this year’s visit was somewhat disappointing. The place was more plainly decorated, the waitstaff less personable, and the vibe very much subdued. We still enjoyed ourselves, as well as had a great time with an old of mine, Erica, I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, but some of the magic (pun fully intended) we encountered last year vanished…

One return to a favorite from the time I lived in NYC that didn’t disappoint was The Cloisters. It was on our list of places to see last year, but we just weren’t able to get up there. This time, we purposefully set aside a specific date and time to go up. It was everything I remembered. It helped immensely that it was a gorgeous day outside, which made the gardens and balcony overlooking the river…

On our visit last year, we went to the observations decks on both the Empire State Building and One Vanderbilt. This year, we thought that checking out the 30 Rockefeller observation deck would provide an interesting change of perspective. It absolutely exceeded any expectations. Although we visited the top of Empire State at nearly the exact same date and time, the colors from just after sunset were absolutely breathtaking. I don’t think I’ve ever taken as many pictures in as short a time period as I did that night. I don’t recall the exact verbiage from the moment, but while pausing between photos, I said to Sally that the impending environmental collapse and global warming crisis make it hard to be excited about the future, but at least the view before the shit hits the fan is amazing…

If there is one part of this trip I wish for a second stab it, it’s visiting Oscar Wilde. It would have been smart to get there earlier in the day than during the after work rush. It was just one of those places where the combination of decor and drink menu was just awesome. If there was a downside, it’s that it was clearly a trendy place for the 20-something crowd. I think that I single-handedly lowered the coolness quotient of the establishment while Sally and I wear at the bar.

Finally — though by no means the last thing about the trip worth noting — R.I.P. The Slaughtered Lamb and Jeckyll & Hyde. Both of these establishments were casualties of the pandemic during the (relatively) short time between Sally’s and my two trips to NYC. We made to it the Slaughtered Lamb during our first trip, but it was clear at the time that the bar was a shell of its former glory. Despite the fact that both locales were kitschy destinations designed with tourists in mind, I nonetheless had fond memories of both places both from my time living in New York and during a couple of my subsequent visits before meeting Sally. It’s always sad to see a notable physical part of your past disappear, and these two spots were certainly no exception.

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