New York City: in the footsteps of Holden Caulfield

This part of our trip is probably the bit I secretly was looking forward to the most – hanging out in New York City! Our last trip to NYC was in 2011 where we spent three days doing our best to navigate the place! The second trip to any city is always easier and usually better. This was definitely true of our recent visit to Seattle (having previously visited in 2012) and it most certainly is true of this trip to NYC! We were so much more relaxed, despite only having three nights and two days to explore the city.
The first night doesn’t really qualify as a night in NYC, given that our train from AMTRAK was four hours late into Penn Station and then our baggage claim was delayed another hour, meaning after a cab trip up to the Upper West Side we got to our hotel after midnight! We didn’t go to sleep until 3am, not because we couldn’t tear our eyes from Storage Wars, but simply because we had West-East coast ‘jet lag’. Our minds were still functioning on Montanan time, so we just couldn’t sleep!
Having such a late night meant we found it super hard to get up early the next morning – my plan cos I wanted to pack in as many sights as possible. After breakfast (provided by our hotel, it was great) we made it out of the hotel by a smidgen after 10. Our first destination was Central Park, of course. We all fell in love with Central Park in 2011 and adding to that the fact that Lee, Keenan and I are massive fans of The Catcher in the Rye and we’re ALL big fans of The Beatles, well, it’s obvious why we love the place. I kinda worried that after hanging out in ‘big sky country’ the week before, we might not be as enamoured with Central Park… but, I was wrong and happy to be! There’s just something SOO cool about being in such a wide open natural space and ALSO being in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities.
Our first steps into the park led up to Strawberry Fields – the John Lennon memorial. Before the memorial there is a man selling badges – cool badges – and Balin and I both bought one. I was keen to get a couple of framed photos of the park but decided to wait until we return on the 12th. I hope he’s still there when we get back! At the memorial – a mosaic circle with the word ‘imagine’ at its centre – was a man playing The Beatles classics on his acoustic guitar… badly, lol. He was singing them like Buddy Holly! It was pretty funny. Even though the place is busy, I always find it really touching. I’ve grown up loving The Beatles and John Lennon is a massive inspiration. The memorial is directly across the street from where he was killed, which gives it an added eeriness. The apartment block where he lived is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture that I’ve seen – all gothic and grand. I took a picture of the front gates and quickly appreciated the tragic convergence of my two loves – The Catcher in the Rye and John Lennon.
We then headed for the Museum of Natural History which is only a few blocks north of Strawberry Fields. Did I mention it was really hot? About 90 degrees Fahrenheit which is about 30 degrees Celsius – hot considering it’s winter in Australia right now! Oh, and it was humid. We were all stoked to enter the museum and its intense air conditioning. The museum has this deal where you can ‘make an offer’ for how much admission you want to pay, we just paid the recommended the price, it was worth it. There’s two reasons why we wanted to see the museum – Holden goes there in The Catcher in the Rye and we are big fans of the Night at the Museum movies! OK, we also think museums are cool and love taking our boys to them. Finally, we’re also fans of Teddy Roosevelt – we really appreciate his contribution to the conservation of our national parks around the world. I wish more politicians had his commitment to protecting our planet. At the museum we enjoyed the African Mammals exhibition, the evolution of man exhibition, the Teddy Roosevelt exhibition and the Native American exhibition. It’s definitely worth the cost of admission!
Next we walked back through Central Park on our way to find lunch. We ended up somewhere between 59th St and 6th Ave at a pizzeria called Luigi’s. The pizza was divine – I recommend the mushroom, broccoli and spinach. Yummy! After feeling full for the first time in two days – we literally ate nothing on the train from Chicago to NYC – we had enough energy to visit the Museum of Modern Art. Kids get in free which is awesome and Lee and I bought a ticket combining our entry to the gallery and Top of the Rock for $44 each. The museum was cool, even if it was busy! The very helpful staff pointed out that the best art is on level 5 and 6, so we headed there first. Level 5 had the early modern artists, my favourites – Picasso, Monet, Matisse, VanGogh and Dali. It was an emotional experience to see Monet’s Waterlillies (which are HUGE!), Van Gogh’s Starry Night with its rich, thick oil paint strokes, and, Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’ which is TINY and AMAZING and which we visited twice, lol. The postmodern art wasn’t as popular with my family – it was cool, and got my boys really thinking, but it didn’t imbue the same kind of awe in us that the modern art did.
Even though our feet ached from walking, we found the energy to check out the Tiffany’s flagship store, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I secretly was keen to get a cute piece of jewelry, but after ten minutes of checking out the shiny, sparkly things they had housed in their little glass cases, I chose to keep my money. Seriously, $480 for a chain ring with a tiny jewel? Not likely! Instead, we walked the couple of blocks to FAO Schwartz – the world’s largest toy store – and bought an Avengers comic for me and some Lego for Baz, lol. Finally, we headed back to Central Park and paid $30 to get the boys sketched comically by one of the little venders that line the path. It is so fun! The boys then spent some time feeding the ducks, fish and turtles that all live in the pond – the same one that fascinated Holden, who wondered were the ducks go in winter.
That night we were so exhausted that we got more pizza to eat in our hotel room and crashed out watching Storage Wars.
Wednesday was similarly a massive day… I spent a bit of time the night before creating a list of things to do. We started earlier than the day before, getting out of the hotel at 9.30, lol. We did meet some Aussies at breakfast and shared a laugh about America’s lack of hot tea and Vegemite. Jeff would be proud of me!
If the day before was hot, Wednesday was sweltering! It was so humid – dark clouds loomed far in the West, thickening the air. We walked ALL the was down to the Rockefeller Building – where The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is filmed! – which required us to walk about 20 blocks down Broadway, right into the heart of the entertainment district. To say it was busy is daft – it was manic! Humid weather, lots of people and lots of cars makes for an uncomfortable but exhilarating experience. No complaints from us though, we were in NYC damn you!
So the Rockefeller Building is really tall… and that’s why we went there. I’m scared of heights, a bit. Despite this, I braved the lift with its fancy clear lit up ceiling (crazy) that felt like a Disneyland ride. The lift was the bit I was most worried about and it was sweet. Being up on the roof was fine – the views were too cool to give me a moment of fear. Central Park from way up high is even more special. It’s huge! No, not Montana huge, but city huge. I loved seeing its expanse below me. I fell in love with it all over again. Top of the Rock provides you with great views of the Empire State Building – picture perfect unless it’s a humid day, and then it’s a bit hazy. I still got cool pictures though! After celebrating my survival, we sought out the Rockefeller skate rink – where Holden takes Sally for a rather unsuccessful date – but it was shut, it being summer and all.
Our next mission was to find the Midtown Comic Store. Keenan wanted to get a fully articulated Batman figure and Balin wanted the last two Scott Pilgrim graph novels. I wanted anything Avengers, lol. After two hours in the store – it could easily have been more – we left with a Batman comic, Godzilla comic, Avengers journal and a copy of V for Vendetta. Oh, and Lee got two comics for his class. We did well to leave with money left in our bank!
The next part of the day was in lower Manhattan, so we headed to the subway. Lower Manhattan is massive. It’s a sprawl of cool. I definitely wanted to see Greenwich and SoHo and had my sights on lunch – a late lunch – at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. I feel like we squeezed all of that in… we definitely got a good look of the iron district of SoHo – pretty!! The hipsters were out on the streets providing much amusement for our boys. The dumplings and sesame (faux) chicken at Vegetarian Dim Sum in China Town were delicious! Our plan had been to ride across the Brooklyn Bridge but we had already packed so much in that we decided to jump on the 1 and head back to our hotel, picking up some craft beer and edamame on the way. Rad day.
Our final day was really half a day because we had to pick up our RV in New Jersey. We spent the morning cycling around Central Park (so worth the money cos the park is huge, did I say that already?!) and then went on the carousel – just like Holden’s kid sister Phoebe did at the end of the The Catcher in the Rye. The cool thing is that we all got on a horse, there’s no way Lee and I would sit on the bench and just watch the boys ride. It got me thinking about Holden’s decision not to ride – typically read as a metaphor for his acceptance that he must grow up – and I think we challenge it. I agree that modern life is bizarre, almost inhuman, but I don’t think we need to accept that growing up is inevitable… And just what does it mean to be ‘grown up’? I imagine one day our boys will laugh that their parents had brightly coloured hair when we traversed North America. It was another emotional experience riding that carousel, as I imagined Salinger sitting on the bench outside, loving the joyful innocence of the young riders. Pretty neat. And so ended our time in NYC. Once again, it was a pleasure.

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