memorial day weekend

 manhattan for free! :: travel notes and photos

deception is taxing :: more deception is taxing ::  yet more deception is taxing

all photos


Memorial Day weekend, we surprised Bruce in NYC.  He never suspected a thing.  John had never been to NYC, so we had a great time showing him the sights.
manhattan for free!
What did you say? Manhattan for free? You heard right! Here is a list of amazing but true free items and activities right in the heart of Manhattan Island that will make your stay, well, FREE!

1. The Concerts in the Tunnels
Jazz / Blues / Gospel artists, from clarinets, to trumpets, to steel drums, to vocals, these concerts are grand and free! (Standing room only in most cases.)

2. Jesus Pamphlets
All you want (although "you don't HAVE to take them"). No charge.

3. Grant's Tomb
Think of how difficult it was to approach him only a few years ago. Now YOU can walk right up and determine for yourself the age-old question, "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" Free viewing.

4. Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Exquisitely constructed, and free to roam (but the "suggested donation" is $5.00). Sure, we'll get right on it.

5. Appetizers
Free! Just make up some tear-jerker story about your brother and the food begins to flow right alongside the tears!

5. Candle-lit Desserts
You guessed it, free! Just tell 'em it's someone's birthday! No identification or proof required.

6. Ground Zero
What more can we say? Close to a great deli. Fee: Zero

7. Street walking
Absolutely free, and faster than a cab in many places. Sightsee while you save time AND money! Good shoes and lower back brace recommended.

8. The "Idiots Abound" Show
Close to Broadway and almost as entertaining, it's the story of foolish children who spend their time looking like idiots in public, opening and closing subway doors for no real good reason, while annoyed on-lookers prepare to beat them to a pulp! (Make sure you don't need to be anywhere soon, the acts sometimes run over.)

9. Bags, sacks, gift-wrapping
In many stores throughout the city. Free with purchase of souvenirs.

10. The Elevator Challenger
Think elevators are simple to operate? Not hardly. This amazing display of planning and engineering at the Marriott Hotel will keep you baffled and guessing for hours! Free of charge 24 hours a day.

11. City Tours
Local tours of the city. We caught one in Greenwich Village. Walk along side the group like a leech and catch the tour guide information as you pretend to be bead shopping. Free (but don't ask).

12. Roundtrip Airfare
You may have to know the right person, but if you do, you're in! Include the free pretzels and soft drinks, and you've got a profit deal going! Heck, you could even hide a Sky Mall magazine in your carry-on!

13. Staten Island Ferry / Statue of Liberty sail-by
We couldn't believe it! What a view of the statue and the city! We bought a beer along the way just because we felt guilty! Round trip fare: Free!

14. Bowls of Chex mix
We could have made a meal of them with our low cost beverage, but decided we traveled too far for that. Mix given without asking. Price? Absolutely free!

15. "I'm blind, please help, God bless" flyers
These nifty items make great paper airplanes for a number of activities, and fly well during an afternoon wind and rainstorm. Easily obtained in large numbers by passing by the same unknowing person over and over several times. Yep, every pass-by you get one free.

16. Napkins and Ice Water
At virtually every eating and drinking establishment throughout the island, with careful planning, you could never have to buy these items again! No charge whatsoever!


travel notes and photos

Lottery Numbers
50 (birthday)
39 (39th Street nightmares)
8 (Marriott, 8:00 on the 8th floor)
42nd (Street - back and forth and back and forth and back and forth walking)
5 (a.m.)
99 (nine? nein!)  Actually, we were reminded it's only about six.

- Fleet week in NYC!  Sailors from all over the world are visiting the city.
- Chris, John and Shaune (our local operative) arrive early
- V&T's Pizza for lunch.  Shaune:  "I like Domino's better."
- John gets real New York Cheesecake!
- Not St. John the Divine goes to St. John the Divine
- John finds out who's buried in Grant's Tomb (Mrs. Grant, too)
- Susan arrives later; races to Marriott to beat Bruce
- Shaune invites Bruce to the Marriott Marquis - Broadway Lounge
- Siblings are revealed one by one:  first Chris, then Susan, then John | 1 | 2 | for the enharmonic sibling convergence
- Bruce is shocked; revelry ensues
- High fives all around
- Dinner at Film Center Cafe; no celebrities spotted
- John and Bruce continue to the Chelsea Grill (the number 5 rings a bell)

- John and Bruce get to sleep about the time the city wakes up
- Chris and Susan get yummy cheap breakfast at Villa Pizza, with about 12 slices of bacon each
- John is still asleep
- Chris and Susan find Fountain Pen Hospital after much walking
- John is still asleep
- Gay bars offer "Uniforms first drink free", in honor of Fleet Week.  We wonder aloud where we could get a construction worker or nurse's uniform, to see if it would work. Probably.
- We meet up with John (FINALLY) and visit Ground Zero | 2 |
- We discover the Stage Door Deli: great experience.  Busy, funny, abrupt and delicious.  "Roll or hoagie?  Hoagie or roll?" 
- Find creepy mannequins and...um...interesting light fixtures.
- Cheap shopping on Canal Street; discovered Pearl River Mart, an Asian gift superstore.  Definitely a place to go back to.
- Meet up with Bruce near his place
- Drinks at beautiful Cedar Tavern | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
- Bruce goes back home to get some catchup sleep
- Walking, walking, walking and more walking
- Chris nearly buys a dark-skinned musical angel table lamp with fiber-optic lighted wings (on sale!) for Shaune, but they don't have a box (dang)
- Susan goes back to Port Authority Bus Terminal to buy a Lucky Cat
- We meet at Washington Square, where "John the 'Hey, Camera Man!'" is challenged to a pickup game of chess
- On the subway, the Jesus pamphlet guy harasses the Pakistani Navy guys, and Supergirl puts him on the defensive.  She was our hero.
- We meet at the Village Restaurant where we are given free appetizers.  The unique feature of the Village Restaurant urinal is discovered by all.  Hilarity ensues.
- Dinner at Union Square Cafe, where Bruce gets free dessert
- Shaune is invited to Pillow Movie Night at the Classical Singers' Conference.  The idea is that you bring your hotel bed pillow to a hotel conference room and watch a rented movie with a bunch of other singers.  The movie is the critically panned "Phantom of the Opera".  She declines, because that's a REALLY STUPID THING TO DO WHEN YOU ARE VISITING NYC.  Puh-lease.  Couldn't you folks come up with something better?  Or, maybe that's so people could say, "I went to New York and saw 'Phantom'!"

- Chris goes to Port Authority Bus Terminal to buy a Lucky Cat
- Empire State Building: in line (twice!). TWO HOURS to get to the top.  "Photo Staff" (probably a.k.a. Homeland Security) take a photo of EVERY visitor, which you can then purchase after your visit | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | (This item has lots of photos because we had to wait so flippin' long.)
- Susan mentions about every half hour that she REALLY needs to read the manual for her new camera
- Lunch at The Ginger Man; beautiful bar with a view of the Empire State Building, couches (for which the lower back says, "thank you!") and lovely sandwiches
- Guys on the corner selling bubble blowers:  "Give these to your kids, and they won't bother you all afternoon!"
- Staten Island Ferry at its new terminal, and FREE! Great views of the Statue of Liberty, including a view of a view. | 1 | 2 | 34 | Susan bought a bag of plantain strips, which she couldn't pay people to eat.  They were really good on the plane Monday.  Bet you wish you had them now, don't you?  Yeah, you do.
- Shaune thinks she saw Al Roker driving an SUV
- Chris finds out from Shaune that most of the staff from the Philadelphia Opera (where he sings) have been fired
- Gorgeous Grand Central Station and Michael Jordan's Restaurant (where Bruce gets another dessert).  DeLoach wine is admired by all.  Bruce receives loud, enharmonic birthday wishes
(1.3Mb WMV video), and some wishes from strangers.  Waiter (obviously bucking for a big tip) compliments the harmony. 
- Whispering Room and a real, live New York City rat downstairs

- Sibs meet up with Bruce at Christopher Park.
- Not St. John the Divine goes with sibs to John's Pizza (now run by Peter, not John).  John doesn't like Domino's better.
- Awesome gourmet peanut butter cookies from Murray's
- Plenty of street shopping for Susan; sibs are bored
- A final beer with John at the White Horse Tavern in the Dylan Thomas Room (more info copied from this site:   pbs.org
).  "The Scottish poet Ruthven Todd introduced Dylan Thomas to the bar, and the great Welsh bard was soon quaffing oceans of ale in the Horse's back room. Thomas made the place his headquarters on his tumultuous stateside forays, and soon tourists were lining up eight deep at the bar to watch him carouse. Today a plaque on the wall commemorates the November night in 1953 when the poet, still only 39, downed one last shot (the 18th, allegedly), staggered outside and collapsed. After falling into a coma at the nearby Chelsea Hotel, he was whisked to St. Vincent's Hospital where he died."  Cheerful.
- We agree that it's a good thing we're all young enough to make this trip while we can navigate NYC without assistance of walkers and canes
- We all take a cab uptown
- John departs, tears streaming down his face (not really)
- Chris, Shaune and Susan see the (not so) Naked Cowboy, who's gotten a haircut since last year, or is a different person altogether.  I heard something about year ago that mentioned he makes about $60K a year from tourist tips.  Great job!
- Bruce, tiring of us, resumes some semblance of normal life and goes to theater with a friend
- Shaune mentions that she did, indeed, meet my friend Momoko (her site) at her conference, and tells us what she learned about how singers should dress.  Despite the past 20 years, they recommended shoulder pads.  We quickly start scavenging stores for epaulettes to go with our shoulder pads (not really).
- Chris, Shaune and Susan find a couple of sidewalk places in Greenwich Village to sit and people-watch:  The Slaughtered Lamb is one, with a nearby car alarm that goes off continuously for about 45 minutes until the police come and find a way to shut it off
- "Tanqueray Martini."  "What's that?"  "A martini with Tanqueray." "Do you have wine by the glass?"  "What do you mean, 'by the glass'?"  "Wine, in a glass." As opposed to you pouring it directly into my mouth?
- Chris, Shaune and Susan have lovely dinner at the Garage in Greenwich Village.  39 strikes again.

- Check out of hotels
- Meet up with Chris, Shaune; leave bags at Marriott
- To 2nd Ave Deli, per Jim's recommendation
- A VERY old man with a cane walks past us, taps his cane on the photo of Abe (the proprietor of 2nd Ave Deli who was murdered in 1996), and mumbles almost incomprehensibly that the mafia ("mafioso") actually killed Abe and made it look like a robbery.  We imagined that he was the only person alive who knew the truth, and he was telling us the story because he knew he didn't have much time left.  Or, maybe just another conspiracy theorist.
- Bruce runs into Joe, an old friend he hasn't seen in 10 years, who works at 2nd Ave Deli.
- FOOOOOOD.  Sandwiches the size of your head.  Chicken in a pot that straddles the table.  Handmade pickles and yummy cole slaw.  Matzo ball soup almost as big as the sandwiches.
- Three interesting houses, next door to each other | 1 | 2 | 3 |
- Bruce almost purchases sunglasses that make him look like "The Fly" (sorry; no photos of that)
- To Matador for awesome sangria; celebrity local newscaster spotted
- Wall of Tiles for America, including tiles for the rescue dogs who gave their lives to save people
- Subway uptown to retrieve luggage
- Cab to Penn Station
- Susan takes NJTransit to Newark Airport.  She realizes she still has that stupid mug she brought to Bruce.  Carried it to and from New York in her backpack.
- Chris and Shaune take Amtrak to Philly
- Tears stream down all our faces (not really)

deception is taxing
e-mails during the planning phase

From Bruce to Susan


Paris - May 19-23 (approx. - because my friend David Hult will be there, Chair of the UC Berkeley Dept. of French) Never been there!


More, more, more!

Just a Travelin' Man

From Susan to John, Chris, Shaune

We may have to keep an eye on the Memorial Day weekend, in case Bruce does decide to go to Paris and extend his stay on the end into London.

He hasn't decided yet, but he's cutting it close.

Maybe a well-placed dinner invitation from Chris would be in order...

John to Susan, Chris, Shaune

Dang, that would suck!

more deception is taxing
From Susan to John, Chris, Shaune
Subject: Dinner 5/28

We have a reservation for five for 5/28 at Michael Jordan's, at 7:00
dinner, under the name Ramlet. Woo-hoo!

From "Michael Jordan's the Steakhouse N.Y.C. Reservations"  to Bruce Hodges
Subject: Your Michael Jordan's the Steakhouse N.Y.C. Reservation Confirmation

Dear Bruce,

Your reservation is confirmed<snip>
Bruce Hodges
Michael Jordan's the Steakhouse N.Y.C.
Saturday, 5/28/2005
8:00 PM
Party of 3

From Bruce to Chris, Shaune
Subject: Fwd: Your Michael Jordan's the Steakhouse N.Y.C. Reservation Confirmation

Woo-hoo! Well, THAT was easy...8:00 on May 28! (They had all times available, so let me know if you want earlier or later...)


From Chris to Susan, Shaune, John

Woo-hoo! That's great, Bruce, just freaking great!

Now what do we do? We have to square this with MJ's somehow; should we call them back and explain, changing that table at 8:00 for 3 to 5?


From Susan to Chris, Shaune, John

That's an option.

Another option: Can you tell him you had already made reservations at 7:00?

Another option: Our reservation is at 7:00, so we could keep both, and on Thursday, we could call to cancel the 8:00 one.

Is 7:00 too early? I guess the question is: when do we want to eat?


From John to Chris, Susan, Shaune

Let's change ours to 8:00 in Ramlet's name, not Hodges, for 5. That should keep anything from slipping out from the MJ people. (Hmm, I'm confused. I have another Hodges reservation here, sir, is your name John Houston?)

We can cancel Bruce's once the cat's out of the bag on Friday.

From Susan to John, Chris, Shaune

Okay, I've just changed it to 8:00. It was already under Ramlet, so we're good to go.

Maybe we could just keep calling reservations (Whaley...Houston...Christopher...) until we book the entire restaurant for ourselves!

From Susan to John

You know, it's going to be disappointing when it's over and we can't
think of scenarios any more. Isn't the anticipation great?

From John to Susan

Anticipation's the best part.
Yeah, calling me is the best idea. I could bump into his chair while I'm talking to you.

"I AM in New York! Where are you guys?"

From Chris to Susan, John, Shaune

OK, another mine avoided; the only thing is Bruce mentioned that his reservation was at the bar area (the part overlooking the station) which he likes. Is the Ramlet rez (now for 5 at 8:00) in said location?


From Susan to Chris, Shaune, John

I asked for the part overlooking the station, and she wasn't sure what I meant. Probably because I didn't ask for the "bar" area. I will call back to see if that's a possibility. Jim had recommended it, too.

From Susan to Chris, Shaune, John

I asked for that area, and the hostess said she'd put in the request and hopefully they can accommodate us. If not, the worst thing that happens is that we'll have an incredible meal together.

yet more deception is taxing
From John to Susan

Do be careful what you say this week!

From Susan to John


But...even if something slips (like if Andrew has actually been listening, and decides to start talking about me going to visit Uncle Bruce), you're still our ace in the hole. Or, I can say, "Mmmm...are you sure you're not talking about my trip to Seattle in September?

From John  to Susan

Yeah, have a couple of emergency responses thought up ahead of time.

1. "You mean the next time I go and visit him, whenever that may be?"
2. "Bedtime, Andrew."
3. "No more codeine in your cough medicine, young man!"

all photos from the narrative
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