New York City, 2013

A Facebook discussion about Sola wanting to go and see Sleep No More prompted me to pipe up and say that I'd go with her. Once we settled on a date, and she offered crash space, I booked a bus ticket and took off for 20 hours in NYC. Another FB post about snow leopard cubs at the Central Park Zoo added another stop to the trip. :-)

Saturday November 23, 2013

I wanted to avoid bringing a bag since I didn't want to have to haul it around the city and then worry about checking it at the Sleep No More venue (an old hotel). I ended up just bringing a change of top and underwear and stuffing mini travel toiletries into a purse to get me through the day and night. The weather forecast changed right before my trip too, so I went from rain jacket and umbrella to winter coat, scarf, gloves, and hat. I was up at 5:30am (tired but not destroyed, I'd managed to make it to sleep by 10:30pm the night before) and had a semi relaxed breakfast of tea and granola while doing last minute packing. I was out the door 10 minutes before NextBus predicted that the 88 was coming at 6:36am. I had to recharge my CharlieCard on the bus, thankfully the driver talked me through the steps (you have to tap the card about 3-4 times with not too much delay or it issues you a CharlieTicket instead (higher fare charges). The trip down to Davis Square went quickly, I'm always surprised by how cities never sleep, we had to stop a few times to pick up and drop off people. I'd forgotten about the Red line construction, I could only take it to Kendall and then had to climb above ground and take a shuttle bus to Park St (luckily there wasn't a lot of traffic downtown and it was a quick drive). Then a couple more stops underground to get to South Station, but luckily I'd allocated an hour to get there with half an hour left before my 8am departure. The web site and ticket said to arrive an hour before, but I bet successfully on the early morning buses not being that busy (don't do this on a Friday night). Luckily they'd put up ribbons to mark lines separating passengers by group number (sets of 10), so it wasn't a free for all (might only be for the Express bus?). I got in my corral (first person in the third one) and zoned out as people filled in behind me. I was able to get a window seat on the right side of the bus (hoping to avoid sun streaming right in on me) and an elderly woman took the seat next to me, with her travel companion across the aisle from her.

Luckily we didn't hit the horrible traffic that we did the previous weekend, no one lane traffic jam, just a smooth left lane trip to NYC. I think I dozed a little bit but mostly watched the scenery and looked stuff up on my phone so I could plan my afternoon in NYC. I looked up the restaurants that Sola had suggested and sent her my votes. I checked transit directions between points of interest - I'd noted down how to get to the Zoo but then decided to check if the $5 bling store that Miss J had shown me was still going. Smart phones are great, I ssh'd into my silentq account and did a text search on my previous NYC diaries and found out that it was the Jewelry Exchange and it was about 10 blocks from Port Authority, where the bus would drop me. I wasn't meeting Sola or rufus at the Zoo until 2pm, and despite hitting a bit of traffic once we got into Manhattan (the bus inserted in Harlem and took surface roads south, going right past Central Park), I got there at around 12:30. I was able to orient myself and get walking, stopping for a breakfast sandwhich on a croissant and some tea on the way there. I made a wrong turn trying to follow Broadway through a confusing intersection (mostly due to it being in NYC where I expect a grid, not Bostonian levels of multi intersection confusion), but was reassured when I heard a woman complaining that she did the same thing. Found it eventually, and walked in with a budget of $20. That was more than generous as the most expensive thing I walked out with was $3 - my total was $17 for a huge haul of $1 and $2 necklaces, plus one bracelet. Turns out that despite wanting to buy more bracelets like the one I got last time and still wear and love, there was only one that worked with my current wrist size. It's sparkly though so it's all good, and I got a lot of dark coloured necklaces.

I checked my phone as I was walking to the subway stop to head to the Zoo and saw a text from rufus saying that the snow leopard cubs were supposed to leave the exhibit at 2pm. Crap! I was already running a tiny bit late, but luckily only had one subway line to take and then could hustle on foot to the entrance. I texted rufus and Sola that I was going in and that they could meet me inside after hearing from the ticket taker that the cubs were still out at 2:05. Turns out the web site didn't meant the cubs would disappear at 2pm that day, they were still frolicking when we managed to tear ourselves away from the uber cuteness most of an hour later. Rufus came and found me first, we had to track down Sola as she'd been hanging out in the other viewing hut with the male snow leopard who was lounging regally on a rock in full view. The mother and the twins were ranging around the whole enclosure, the cubs taking turns playing with sticks, trees, a red ball, and each other. One was much more prone to stalking and pouncing on the other. At one point the cubs were just behind a ridge and I'd just see a back and tail as one would jump and pounce on a regular basis. :-) The zoo employees with the info cards kept disappearing in the crush of visitors who would ooh and ah and take pictures and then wander off when the cats would go out of view. I was enchanted and waited out quite a few lulls and was always rewarded my more cat cuteness. :-) We went back to the first enclosure to bask in the beauty of the papa cat for a while as well. The information plaques around the enclosure were spot on, they even had a familiar looking sheep skull showing the prey animal, as well as paw and scat markings representations. Oh, and we also saw the 2 red pandas with hidden four hoofed animal foraging next door, as well as lots of ducks and the awesome penguins. The polar bears weren't there, their enclosure was being remodelled, but the penguins more than made up for it. A zookeper was in the enclosure hosing down the rocks and the birds were hopping and diving and jumping and being playful. The viewing area was behind glass that went down below the water level so we could clearly see them swimming (sometimes a bit too clearly...).

It was getting close to 4, and the play started at 7, so it was time to head to the theatre area to grab dinner. We walked around the end of Central Park, past a group of dancers setting up for their next set ("Don't worry people, lots of police around, it's just black people dancing!"), and lines of carriage horses waiting for their next fares. I think it was just one subway line to get to the stop in Chelsea, where one of the first things we saw while walking down the street was the Sheep Station public art project at Getty Station, apparently catching it on it's last weekend. For dinner, we'd decided on Pepe Gaillo and were soon seated in the cozy dining room. The group at the table next to us was wrapping up to leave, but started asking us if any of us spoke French and what certain things were in French. I answered but felt a bit put upon when the one woman asked again later as we were getting into our conversation. Our waiter was hard to flag down as well, it looked like he had to cover the whole front room. Luckily we had a couple of hours, so didn't fret too much, just asking for the bill with dessert. I had a glass of the Pinot grigio on vacation principles, the apple and goat cheese salad, the balsamic chicken with spinach, and chocolate cake for dessert, also on vacation principles (as well as hunger from walking around all day, being awake so long, and about to run around a hotel for SNM). It was delicious and really reasonable, coming out to $36 without tax or tip. I think Boston's gotten a bit more expensive lately, or else I've just been going out to more expensive restaurants.

We just had a short walk of a few blocks to get the venue, passing along the route of the High Line (I'd hoped to get a chance to go up and explore but didn't end up having time). We were there a bit before 7, they sent us up to the dinner/bar area because the doors weren't open yet. They had an elevator operator (with drink in hand) and he started the interactive theatre experience as he Acted at us. :-) Sleep No More was taking over the old McKittrick Hotel and it was nice to see the lounge spaces somewhat restored. We just had time to hit up the bathrooms then head back downstairs without grabbing a drink to get into the main venue through the big doors. Coat check was $4 and I could have brought a bigger bag, but was happy to have my waist pouch to keep my phone, id, and some money with me. We were given playing cards to determine our entry order into the main experience (rufus and I had the same one, Sola a different one) and we were ushered into a speak easy type lounge with flirty flappers offering us cocktails. I wasn't quite feeling it just yet, so just grabbed some water (the were using fake smoke to make atmosphere so I was drying out). Soon Sola's group went in, and then it was our turn. We were issued masks and told no more talking as we were the silent chorus. I was a bit nervous about getting separated, so held onto rufus's hand until we made sure we got out of the elevator together (I'd seen it in Brookline as well, they tend to throw someone out on their own). We were in there for a full 3 hours and I don't think I saw more than a tiny bit more than I found in Brookline. I did get to follow a nurse for most of her cycle, she wasn't running. :-) A lot of the other actors would dash or dart or disappear behind locked doors. Crowds would gather to watch a scene then split as the actors split to go on to other vignettes. I got to see the knock down drag out fight in the cardboard bar. Rufus was interacted with a lot, probably because she wasn't cringing away from the actors. The tree maze was lovely and was the set I most wanted to live in. The rock garden kinda freaked me out because I'm sure that the statues changed. I got to explore lots of the ephemera of the set, opening books and looking at inscriptions, reading case studies in the hospital. I just barely caught the blood washing scenes with Lady Macbeth. All the actors were very physical, at one point one did a headstand on a pillar pedestal and almost took out a wandering audience member when he came out of it. Rufus and I repaired to the lounge about halfway through to get some restorative water and to listen to a lovely singer do a few songs. I also saw one actor do an amazing lip synch to a song in the in play lounge. We found Sola at one point as crowds merged for a scene, but by then I was feeling comfortable in the space (I'd found the bathrooms and had a mental map of what was on each floor) and struck off on my own. That was fun, I could make split second decisions on who to follow or let the crowd bleed away from me and poke around the sets. We were all led by the end to the ballroom with the table on the dias for the climactic scene and our trio reunited to head back into the lounge, and out. Sola's friend was supposed to join us for the play but was running late and missed our entry time - cut off was 8pm so she was able to get in, but not to find us once inside. We found her on the street after she moved her car to try and avoid a ticket (apparently the street goes no parking at the same time the play lets out) and she offered us a ride home. We accepted with alacrity, it turned out to be a fairly long trip even by car, it would have taken close to 2 hours by subway probably, with the line changes and construction. It gave us a chance to discuss our experiences of the play though, all generally positive. I hadn't quite grasped that Sola had 5 cats, but doubled up on my allergy meds and kept them out of the room where I was sleeping and was fine. I had an apple before bed, having walked and run and stair climbed off my supper calories, had a quick shower and was in bed around 12:30 or so?

Sunday November 24, 2013

My bus back to Boston wasn't leaving until 9am, but I still wanted to leave Sola's place around 7am just to be sure. Turned out to be a wise choice, as it was a longish walk to get to the subway line that would take me all the way to Times Square. I got dressed, relocked the outer door and tucked the key away, then walked over to Allerton and trekked toward the 2 line. I stopped after a bit at a convenience store to get some tea to keep me warm and a breakfast bar to break my fast. :-) It was cold and very windy, I wasn't sleepy for long. I just missed the train, seeing it rumble past as I was walking up to the intersection over which the rails ran. I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one, yay Sunday service, but at least I was able to wait inside on a bench. When the 2 train came, it was an express and seemed to make up a lot of the time that I'd spent waiting. I got off at Times Square and followed the signs in the tunnels to walk over to Port Authority. I got there at 8:20am and found my bus gate, where the driver said that if there was room he'd let me take that one instead. It was also an express, so I ran to grab a sandwich, muffin and some water (very good idea as we didn't actually stop at all on this route) and when I got on the bus was mostly empty. I sat on the non sun side of the bus and conked out for a while as we made our way back toward Boston. It was a bit disorienting, we went a different way, and the driver took a two lane road detour at one point that I thought was going to be a rest stop but wasn't. Going from NYC metropolitan area back into Boston was an interesting side to side comparison between the two cities, Boston is much more comfortable for me, the buildings are lower, there's more green space and a lot fewer people. I'd taken the early bus so that I could make a 2pm event that afternoon, and ended up a little bit early by going there directly from the bus station rather than being late due to going all the way home to pick up my bike and ride back.

It was a quick trip but I was happy to catch up with old friends and see Sleep No More again. The bling and cats and food and city wandering were nice extras. :-)

Back to my diary page.