New York City

Earlier this month, I spent about nine hours in New York City, a place I've been wanting to visit for years.

Obviously there's way more to experience in Manhattan alone than can be done in nine hours, but I made sure to hit the high points as I planned out the route. Thanks to the internet for providing all the information I needed, and to the Metro Transit Authority for rendering travel around Manhattan relatively simple and extremely affordable.

And now, with apologies to Lore Sjöberg, I will now grade the various attractions we visited in our short time on the island.

Ground Zero

This was our first stop once we disembarked the Chinatown bus. Getting east and west figured out was our first order of business, and then we made our way to Ground Zero. This would clearly have been a lot easier to find back in 2001.

Once we made it, all we really saw was a big block that had been roped off and some cranes working in the distance. Nothing was really there to indicate that anything monumental had happened there. Maybe once Freedom Tower is completed there will be a museum or something, but almost seven years after the fact, it's like the City has all but tried to forget what used to stand there.

Here's where I'll say something positive about Oklahoma: The bombing memorial in place there, while fairly simple, is a fitting tribute to those who died there. No one who perished in the WTC has anything resembling that at this point.

What a bummer way to start the day. Grade: D+

Hudson River/Statue of Liberty

Next stop: a boat tour that will take us south to the Statue of Liberty. Excitement!

There were several tours offered: a 180-minute circuit around all of Manhattan, a 90-minute tour around the south end of Manhattan, a 75-minute trip to the Statue of Liberty, and a 30-minute speedboat ride along the same route as the 75-minute tour.

Speedboat? Awesome.

The captain was completely nuts and sprayed us with his super soaker when he wasn't pointing out landmarks or rocking out to classic metal. He buzzed us right up to the Statue and idled there long enough for our touristy photo-ops, then buzzed right back to the dock.

I don't think anyone has an attention span that could endure the 75-minute tour at 30 knots.

Yeah, Lady Liberty is smaller than you'd expect, but I mainly blame Ghostbusters for that one. Considering the time she was built and the size of the pedestal she's on, it's a pretty impressive sculpture. Not impressive enough for me to want to get reservations and go through security to stand on the same patch of land as it, but impressive in its own right. Grade: B+

Tom's Restaurant

Next on the agenda: Lunch!

You've seen the place. Blue awning with "RESTAURANT" on it in red neon. It's the place Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld ate at when they lived in New York.

And if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

It was a trip actually walking up to this location, still in the same condition it was in when it was being filmed for second unit material for the show. We went right in and sat down. It wasn't too busy and the waitress was incredibly nice. Seinfeld memorabilia was on each wall, including a replica of "The Kramer".

I had a sandwich and wasn't disappointed. Brandon had apple pie and enjoyed every bite.

This stop, at 112th and Broadway, was a bit off the beaten path for most first-time tourists in the Big Apple, but for fans of Seinfeld and a more down-to-earth experience of the city, Tom's Restaurant was certainly worth the trip. Grade: A

Ed Sullivan Theatre

We didn't have tickets, but everyone who's ever been to New York has a picture of the Ed Sullivan Theatre from the street. Fewer people have shots of Rupert Jee's Hello Deli, but you can get that same view from Google Street View. Grade: C-

Times Square

Here's what you see in TV and movies when they want to establish you in New York. Midtown. Broadway. Marquees bigger than aircraft. Everything on and above the street is yelling as loud as it can in hopes of catching your attention. Crowds of people as far as the eye can see. Which isn't that far, really, because your view is obstructed by crowds of people.

I felt an overpowering sense of claustrophobia, and the only place I stepped into was a Chase branch to grab some cash for the rest of our visit. Grade: D

30 Rockefeller Plaza

Yes, the home of NBC and Studio 8H. We were one of the last groups of the day to go through, and since Conan was taping, we didn't get to see his studio. And since the entire building is evidently protected by copyright law (according to our guide), photography was prohibited.

That made the NBC tour more of an SNL history tour that I've already forgotten since the only souvenir I ended up with was the ticket stub and a receipt.

Still, being inside the most storied studios in TV and Radio history was worth going on the tour, even if it was during the summer hiatus.

More impressive than the NBC tour was the GE building itself. Just looking at it from the Plaza is awe-inspiring. Grade: C+

The Subways

I know, most people don't consider the New York Subway system a thing to go and see, but I have some sick fascination with public transit. For urban travel, it makes a lot of sense to me. I enjoy using public transit to get lost, and I enjoy it even more when I use it to return to familiar ground.

On the Subway, every sector of life converges with a common goal: to get where they need to be. It doesn't matter if you're poor, rich, or middle class: at some point in your life in New York, you're bound to jump on the subway. It's crowded, it's noisy, but it gets you where you're headed faster than walking or driving can.

And it's a place where you can get away from being marketed to. There's no blaring radio ads, no TV screens, just a few small billboards, most of which were public service announcements.

We were headed to Coney Island (not knowing how long it was going to take us to arrive there). Once we crossed over into Brooklyn, it became evident that we would be unable to get there and back to Chinatown in order to catch our bus. So Brooklyn became our destination.

We ducked up to street level to see what could be seen, then took the train back to Chinatown so we could catch our bus. Grade: B+


Most people end up dropping thousands of dollars when they visit NYC. I spent less than $100. Grade: A+

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