Friday, July 2, 2010

Arrival (With Apologies for Going On.)

I thought for sure we were home free when my bag appeared fairly early on at the baggage claim. But then we waited for Shaun's bag. And waited. And waited. Until finally all the people were gone and it was just the two of us standing there, staring at the circling black belt.

An Alaska agent approached us; she was already aware that the bag hadn't made it. She took our information and told us the bag would be delivered to our hotel the next day. Let it be stated for the record that Shaun was an absolute hero about the entire situation. He didn't complain AT ALL. I think we all know how I would have handled it if it had been my bag that didn't make it. Let's not even think about it.

We took a taxi from the Newark airport into Manhattan, and arrived at our hotel in Chelsea at about midnight. The decor was a little cheesier than I'd anticipated (it was brand new, so there had only been renderings available online rather than actual photographs), but the location was great and the bed was super comfortable.

It had been a long day, but thanks to the time change we weren't ready for bed. And we hadn't had a proper dinner. So we made the fateful decision to go find some food. By staying up so late the first night, we committed ourselves to staying on west coast time. Which actually works pretty well in NYC, but it does put a damper on the sight-seeing schedule.

We don't have pictures from that first walk around the city, but of all the things we did on our trip, it made the strongest impression. It was warm (still in the upper 70's) and breezy. The streets were quiet but not empty. All the lights on the buildings and signs were still on, and the streetlights cast everything in yellow.

On our walk we saw the other part of the 24-hour city, the one that works through the night before handing things off to the daylight. There were street vendors seated on folding chairs dozing next to their fruit carts, the mounds of bananas and oranges carefully restocked and covered with blankets of newspaper. Delivery trucks resupplied the restaurants; in one remarkable instance our path along the sidewalk was blocked by a waist-high conveyor belt that issued from the back of a truck and disappeared down a steep staircase into a basement next to a McDonald's.

We walked past piles of garbage heaped up on the sidewalks in front of the buildings, awaiting collection. In Camas you are charged extra if you can't put down the lid of your city-provided garbage can. In Manhattan, anything goes. Just put it in the pile. Plastic garbage bags, paper bags, a chair, even a laptop.

Every block had a food cart or two, still open at 2 in the morning, which surprised me until I realized that all of those working men (I didn't see any women) would need to take a lunch. When we got to the Skylight Diner (it was recommended by the guy at the hotel desk, and I see now that it gets good reviews) the thought of sitting at a table under the fluorescent lights was rather depressing, so we bought a hot dog on the street and walked back towards our hotel.

The stroll along the quiet streets in the dim light with the wind blowing in my hair felt like a dream. Reality intruded, however, when we stopped for a drink at the Black Door, a bar on the same block as our hotel that had been recommended by our guidebook.

The 80's music was blaring and the young couples at the bar all needed to get a room already. We never went back, but the drinks were generous and we only had to walk a few doors down to get to bed. At 3 in the morning, that's a good thing.

Well, thanks if you've stuck with me this far. If you skipped to this, I don't blame you. Posts chock-full of pictures are on their way. I promise.

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