OK, I am back from the Big Apple and had a fabulous time. My mind is still there. Hmmm, where to begin...
We planned this trip because NJG scored tickets to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees battle the first place Tampa Rays. We had tickets to both the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon games.
We took off on Friday morning for the three hour trip from Baltimore. We checked in to the Red Roof Inn in Seacaucus, NJ. This is located on the "Mighty Hackensack" River. It is a quick trip through the Lincoln Tunnel and NJG doesn't mind battling the traffic. Actually, we didn't have any trouble parking, not once did we pay, we parked on the street everywhere. So, we checked in at about 1 in the afternoon.
The Yankee game started at 7:05, so we headed into town and went to the Museum of Natural History for a while. I had never been, we saw all the dinosaur bones and all the other tourists. I don't know which was more interesting. There were times that we were the only English speaking people around. It seemed to be a popular place to duck out of the rain for the stroller crowd that had been in Central Park. There is a planetarium, we didn't go inside, but the exhibit set up around the huge sphere was interesting and informative. The human origins exhibit was also fascinating to me. The exhibits are so life-like.
We left the museum and it was raining. We were ready to go straight to the game which is what we did. I had my Orioles t-shirt on, although the Yankees were not hosting the O's, I wanted to see if I would get hassled by Yankee fans, like I do when I wear my gear to see an Oriole/Yankee game in my own fair city. Of course, it was raining so I had my rain jacket on over my shirt. We parked on the street near the new Yankee Stadium, which is right beside the current stadium. For those of you who don't already know, this is the last year for the old stadium. This was the whole reason for our trip, NJG thought I just must see old Yankee stadium. The new stadium looks like a real beauty, the words "Yankee Stadium" are engraved prominently in gold lettering, no worry of a corporate name on it. The current stadium is a real hole. If ever there was a stadium in need of being torn down, it is this one. It is hard to believe that any professional sports team plays in a place like this. If you get at all claustrophobic, you would never want to try to come to a game, the passageways are so narrow and there is little headroom as well. The place smells pretty bad in spots. There are signs of deterioration everywhere. The place has no charm to it. It has been remodeled and updated so many times that it is easy to see why it is not eligible for a spot on the National Historic Preservation list. Apparently, they cantilevered the place years ago to remove the poles that once supported the upper levels. They removed the old decorative facade and now have a cheap looking replication in the outfield only. We grabbed a beer and sought shelter in seats that were not ours, under cover. This area was so dismal, the ceiling covered in some sort of unappealing, dented, siding. The aisles are very narrow. The service however, is excellent. The people working the concessions are friendly, taking the time to talk to children and make the experience as pleasant as possible. I was impressed. The concession people at Oriole Park are some of the most surly people on earth. We did get to see Freddy, in the very next section. He bangs a pot and holds up a sign, all over the stadium to keep the spirits up. We waited until they officially called off the game. Then we headed out into the drizzle, across the street to Stan's.
Stan's Sports Bar is a must see if you are going to the Yankee game at night and don't have children with you. We walked it and it was packed, but there was no wait for a beer. We managed to find a spot to stand at the bar and I got to see the photos under the glass. There are photos of baseball heroes from every team. There are no names, which makes it fun to guess who they are since most are old and on some you can't even see the jersey number. The guy standing beside me pointed out that I was right near Jim Palmer. I also spotted Brooks Robinson. It was cool, the music was loud and fitting for a sports bar. The beer selection was really good. There are very few places to sit, but the absence of bar stools makes it so much easier to fit more people around the bar and standing there, you don't miss the stool at all.
Since the game was cancelled and the night was young, NJG was happy that we would not miss the Heath Brothers at Birdland. We called and made a reservation for the 11 pm show. We headed over to 44th street and found free street parking just about three blocks away. I had wisely brought a more appropriate shirt and shoes to replace the bright orange Orioles shirt and sneakers. I changed right there on 44th street, in the car. I still don't know if NJG was impressed or appalled. We were greeted and escorted to our white table clothed seats in the section towards the back that is reserved for the no admission crowd. We were pretty hungry, so we ordered a late dinner and relaxed while we waited for the show. The club reminds me of a place that you might see Ricky Ricardo perform. It is classy and the service is great. The Heath Brothers were wonderful. Jimmy Heath plays tenor sax and his brother Tootie is on the drums. They obviously enjoy what they do. They both engage the crowd and joke and have fun. I have never heard anyone play the tambourine as well as Tootie, I guess I never considered the tambourine to be a "real instrument", just an accessory of sorts. Tootie joked that you have to look real serious while doing this or people would laugh at you. No one was laughing at his performance. I especially loved their rendition of Round Midnight. We headed back to the motel, tired and fully satisfied.
On Saturday, we had tickets for the 1 o'clock game. We slept in and took our time getting ready for the game. We had the same good luck finding a close, free parking spot. We made our way to a concession for a Diet Coke, there was no ice, I took it anyway. NJG got is beer at a Beers of the World concession. We found our seats along the first base side in the upper reserved section. It was warm and muggy. I was glad I wore shorts. The trip up to our seats was fairly steep and narrow. The game was not a pleasant one for the local fans. The Yankees were being soundly defeated for most of the game. This made it great for me, not because I cared about the outcome, but because it was so entertaining to listen to the things that New Yorkers say when things are not going there way. One guy asked another what A-Rod had in common with an automatic transmission. The answer was "no clutch". The fans were really irritated with Jason Giambi, who seemed unable to make the most basic of plays. NJG left to get me a hot dog so that he didn't have to witness the whole YMCA thing that the grounds crew does. He hates that. He also missed the stirring rendition of God Bless America by Kate Smith. I heard the guy behind me say "no, not Kate Smith" as we were asked to stand. It was funny. Oh, also before the game started, they had a moment of silence for the people lost on 9/11/2001. You really could have heard a pin drop in that place. So, the Yankees lost and the fans were bummed out about it.
We went back to the motel and showered and changed for a nice dinner. NJG took me to the Park and Orchard in East Rutherford. I love this place. From the white and black tile floors to the olive green and grape purple walls to the menu offering the new and the familiar, it is wonderful. The owner comes out of the kitchen and mingles with the diners. The service is perfect. The menu has something for everyone. I wasn't feeling adventurous and my stomach had not been feeling right all day. I ordered the pot roast, choosing to be safe. NJG had something called ants on a tree. It was some kind of pasta. I let him order the appetizers. He is so good at this. We had a salmon appetizer and humus. It was really good, as was everything. It was the most tender pot roast ever and the mashed squash dish was really excellent.
We had tickets to the 11 pm show at the Village Vanguard. We got there just before the show, which was Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frissel. I was glad NJG had purchased the ticket online and we got to stand in the line of people who were going to the show, not the line that was hoping to go. We got a seat along the wall where the musicians walk by on their way to the stage. The walls are red. The tables are tiny. You are underground so it is dark and cozy. It has that cave-like feel and you can feel the history in the room. When our waitress heads our way, NJG says, "Here's my girl, I thought they fired her years ago." She had this clueless look about her as if it were her first day on the job. She was wearing a red shawl draped over one shoulder. She carried drinks in her hand instead of using a tray. She often had an empty glass or bottle of Pellegrino tucked in the crook of her arm. She looked around, trying hard to remember who ordered all these drinks. NJG caught her attention right away by offering to take them off her hands. She delivered them and then came right back to us to get our order even though we were not the next who should have been served. I loved the way she walked. I told NJG that watching her was worth the price of admission. Paul Motian and Joe Lovano walked right past us. The more reclusive Bill Frissel seemed to be on stage out of no where. They did not introduce themselves, after 25 years of playing together at the Vanguard they don't have to, they are home. They are so wonderful. I don't even know what to say about them. I am already a huge Frissel fan, I had never seen Joe Lovano or Paul Motian. They obviously know each other well, they play their riffs and move seamlessly through the evening. The lights come up and they leave the stage way too soon.
We headed over to Fat Cat at about 1 am. If NJG could live in Fat Cat he would. He just loves it. I understand the appeal to a point, but not as much as NJG. He must have been the kind of kid who wanted to live at the circus, I am happy to visit once in a while, but couldn't make it a regular part of my existence. The music is very good. They have an endless number of musicians waiting their turn to jump in with the others. It would seem to be disorganized and unplanned, but in reality, only standards are played there, so anyone can jump in and not be thrown off. The place has lots of small couches to sit on and enjoy the music. The rest of this, huge underground space is full of games. You can play ping pong, shot some pool, sit down to a game of chess or Scrabble, play Foosball or shuffleboard. It is pretty wild. It is a very young crowd and it is good to see the younger people digging and playing jazz.
We left after 2:30 am.
Check out was at noon and we needed every minute to prepare to leave. We decided to head to Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was hot and humid. It was not a good idea for us to take the Subaru, with the broken air conditioning. We made it after a few detours. I got to see Chinatown on the way to the Manhattan Bridge, from the car. It was pretty amazing. It seemed funny to find the street name of Delancey Street. We also drove down the Bowery, it was great to see more and more of NYC than I had ever seen before. Anyway, the garden is spectacular. We will have to go back in June to better see the roses, but I enjoyed them anyway. We had a wonderful lunch there too. We reluctantly left the Big Apple and took our time getting home, not arriving home until midnight.
I really could use a day off just to decompress.