A few weeks ago, we took my eight-year-old daughter to New York for a trip originally planned before the pandemic. In my last post, I wrote about the touristy stuff we did, like Statue of Liberty and Coney Island. This post will delve more into the personal things, the people and oddities we encountered that you won’t exactly be able to book through a travel agent.
While in New York and Boston, we did two concerts and a Broadway show. The show was Aladdin, which was neither great nor terrible. There isn’t much chance for surprise from a show that follows a 30-year-old movie beat by beat. Unlike the Frozen musical, which adds a song, “Hygge,” that might be better than any in the original movie, the only songs worth knowing in Aladdin are all from the movie. The magic carpet ride, however, was pretty fucking cool. Daughter was mostly “meh” throughout the first act, but when everything went dark and the carpet took off, she couldn’t lean forward enough.
The second concert we went to was Lake Street Dive in Boston. I’ll review it in my normal year-end post. Normal as in “every year up until 2019.” Pretty sure that’s the dictionary definition now. Normal (adj): occurring regularly prior to 2020.” We also spent a few days at the Great Wolf Lodge, an experience which will get its own addendum after I post these two New York writings, because I’ve got a LOT to say about that juvenile bacchanal.
But the first concert we saw was Billy Joel, performing his 80th “straight” show in his Madison Square Garde “residency.” I don’t know how it qualifies as a residency if it’s only one show a month. I also question the designation of “80 straight,” for which they raised a banner to the rafters next to those of the Knicks and Rangers. After all, we originally had tickets for a Billy Joel concert at the Garden in June, 2020 that didn’t happen. Perhaps “residency with 80 straight concerts” is just a fancy way for Billy Joel to say, “I ain’t coming to your town, you’ve got to come to mine.”Not that I’m knocking it. If I could just roll out of bed once a month for my job, sign me up. On second thought, Billy Joel is over 70. I sure as shit hope I’m not still teaching then, even if it’s only once a month.
Billy Joel is known for giving away his front row seats. He got tired of looking into the audience and only seeing super richies who didn’t give a shit about the concert. Next time you watch a baseball game, check out how many people behind home plate aren’t watching the game. So Billy Joel sends his band members and/or security out into the crowds before the concert starts and hands out front row upgrades. That way, not only does he get a “real fan” who was willing to see him from a half-mile away, but he also gets a real fan who is super excited to no longer be seeing him from a half-mile away.
Evidently, now that it’s a well known practice, many fans go to the shows looking for the undercover ticket people. Then they loudly talk about how excited they are to have these Row ZZZ tickets to see their FAVORITE artist of ALL TIME. With signs to boot.
I was not one of those people. I was just a dumbass tourist trying to figure out how to get up to the nosebleeds of an arena I’d never been in before. We were supposed to be on the fourth floor (which, oddly, is beneath the third floor) behind the stage. The fourth floor, or I suppose I should call it the 400s section, only exists in one area of the arena, only accessible by one set of stairs. It isn’t by any arena entrance and isn’t referenced on many of the signs showing people where to go to find their more plentiful sections.
“I think we’re up here,” I said to my family when we found a random staircase in the general section of the arena where I thought our seats were. I’m still not entirely sure the staircase was marked with the sections it led to.
I’m not entirely sure what the guy in the suit first said as Daughter barreled past him. It was something along the lines of “Why are you going up there?” Although it might’ve been more directed, like “You don’t wanna go up there” or “That’s the wrong direction.”
Still completely obtuse, I responded something like, “We’re in section 413,” showing him my phone.
“No, you don’t want those seats. Do you want to sit somewhere closer? “
At this point, I’m thinking the guy is trying to swindle us. Been to far too many ballgames where the “I need tickets” guy is 50 yards away from the “I’ve got tickets” guy. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I slowly realized that, wait a second, we’re already inside the arena. Not the smartest place to engage in ticket scalping when all your customers already have tickets. Like the T-Rex at the Natural History Museum waking up from a nap in the tar pits, I remember we are at a Billy Joel concert, and Billy Joel is famous for…
Fortunately, Wife was much quicker in the uptake. “We’d love better seats. We came all the way from California and it’s her-,” puts hands on Daughter’s head, “first concert. She loves Billy Joel.”
(Never mind that Daughter’s way more excited about Lake Street Dive in a couple of days and, while she does know most of his songs, is mainly just tagging along for this leg of the journey.)
“Are you okay with her being in the floor?” the guy asks.
Are you fucking kidding me? Of fucking course she’s fine sitting on the fucking floor and if she isn’t, then she best be shutting the fuck up about it right the fuck now. We paid $100 for these tickets and were about to be sitting in $1000 seats.
Remember that whole thing about wanting excited fans in the front row? I think my last comment is what he’s going for.
Of course, once we had the tickets, we had no fucking clue where to go. We returned to the spot at the bottom of the stairs to ask the guy, but he was gone. They’ve got to keep moving. As soon as attendees see other random attendees being handed tickets, the swarm is on. After our exchange, we heard other people muttering, “No, it’s usually a lady, but this time it’s a guy in a suit. Look for a guy in a black suit.”
Eventually, three elevators and four or five confused ushers (“Those are floor seats. What are you doing up here in the nose bleeds?”), we finally made our way to the floor. The last usher knew the score. “Hey, you’ve been upgraded!”
So anyway, on the left is a picture of where our original seats were. Third row, right above the Bud Light sign. The picture on the right is the view from our actual seats. Not bad for $110 on the secondary market, huh?
In the past, Billy Joel was criticized for having hot women in the front row. He explained that he gave the tickets to his band members and roadies to hand out to whoever they thought would be good for the front row and, well, guess who they want looking back at them? Not a couple approaching their fifties with an eight-year-old who kinda sorta knows some of the songs.
I assume Billy Joel has adjusted who gets to hand out tickets, and presumably now that he’s playing the same spot every month, he’s switching up who hands out the goods. That’s why the other fans expected a woman. And clearly the guy who gave us the tickets wasn’t going to be staring into our bosoms for the whole concert. Billy Joel now has a daughter close to my daughter’s age, so maybe there are general instructions to find families with kids. Or maybe it’s just to look for the numbnuts who clearly have no idea what they’re doing. That fit us to a T.
Either way, Daughter’s has a lifetime of concert disappointment in front of her after getting front row at Madison Square Garden for her first.
I’ve got to save a few column inches to discuss the bathroom at our hotel. Not that I have any clue what the fuck was going on in said bathroom. I assume it had something to do with New York being visited by many Europeans, so maybe it’s what happens when you translate bathroom into metric? I know it fucked up the Hubble Telescope. And I might’ve been able to see alien galaxies with the contraptions in there, if only I could figure out how to use them.
First up was Toilet 2.0. What’s that? You didn’t think toilets could grow sentient?
Of course, it had a bidet. That’s to be expected if you cater to foreigners. I’ve dealt with them before, and by “dealt with them,” I mean I’ve largely ignored them because, thankfully I’ve never used a toilet that was bidet only, like many bathrooms give you no paper towel option, only air dryers. How did Covid not do away with those germ spreaders? Every person leaving a dryer-only bathroom is still shaking water from their hands.
While I didn’t use this bidet, I did at least take note of it. It’s got your normal settings for back wash and front wash. The person requesting the front wash looks suspiciously female, which would seem to be a no-no these days. There’s also an option for soft or hard, which makes sense on the back end. Some visits require more aftermath, if you know what I mean. Although I don’t know how a bidet user knows which visit is which. I usually need to check the damage on the TP to know how the rest of the visit will go.
What strikes me most about this bidet is that you can program in two user profiles. What is there to do beyond front or back, hard or soft? I’m trying to think of the person who has a specific bidet method that requires a complex procession and progression through the four options, such that they must save the profile. Add to that the fact that this is a hotel, so you’re really only using this bidet for a few days. And he’s probably still wiping when he’s out and about. Oh, and he’s got someone else in this very hotel room that needs their own super secret, super special progression of H2O up the Wazoo.
More unusual than the programmable bidet, however, was that it appeared to be a self-cleaning toilet. Not in the manner of a self-cleaning oven or coffee maker, where you can set it to a cycle. More like a Hal-9000, Terminator gaining sentience style of self-cleaning. Every time one of us walked in the room, we would hear the water running. Not like a full flush or anything, but a trickle of water, a sprinkling, like a pre-lubrication of the bowl.
At first we worried that it would run all night, but it seemed tied to movement. It ran even if we kept the light off. So now my toilet is taking notes of how often I’m visiting. Should I expect an introductory email from my friendly neighborhood proctologist by the time I return home?
Oh yeah, and the seat was warm. At first I thought I was imaging it, but Wife and Daughter confirmed. It was like the car seat warmers, except that those can be turned on and off. The toilet seat was on ALL the time. Sometimes when I’m back from walking Central Park on a muggy June day in New York, I might want to deposit funds in the porcelain bank without scalding my sack.
Considering the damn thing had AI and enough energy to power a nuclear power plant, it isn’t surprising that this toilet came with an extensive list of rules and regulations, a standard list of dos and don’ts to avoid liability when it leaves the hotel room to kill Sarah Connor.
The list took up the entire inside of the lid, and while I didn’t read all the terms and conditions before accepting (I had to pee, after all), I noted the first warning, which was “Don’t get water inside.” Um… it’s s toilet. Do… do they not know how toilets work? It takes some water to help alleviate the skid marks. Because even after an overnight of self cleaning, they were still noticeable.
Next to the toilet was a shower that had not two, nor three, but FOUR shower heads. None of which were a standard shower head. First up was a hand held wand, like an old game show microphone with the water coming out the sides. Then you had the overhead waterfall spigot. We’ve got one in our house and I don’t fucking get it. Who the hell wants the water to be dumping down on them from above? Such that, if any of your skin gets merely a splash of water, your entire body is also drenched. How does one lather up or apply shampoo?
The final two shower heads were in the wall, one about chest height and the other at my thigh. They were adjustable to a point, but their sprays were still only able to make it up to my chin and waist, respectively. The spray also maxed out maybe two feet from the wall, with a force equivalent to a water fountain. Not enough to rinse off my armpits or undercarriage, two spots I also couldn’t hit from the overhead. And the microphone came out with too much force for the giblets.
There was only one handle to control all four spigots. Turn it a little bit and you’ll have both microphone and wall. Go too far and you’ll cycle back around to the waterfall. Another handle controlled the temperature, but it didn’t matter, because all four started out frigid.
By day three I figured out how to conduct a masterpiece like I was a few blocks over at Carnegie Hall. Use the wall to get wet, use the microphone to rinse off. Try not to teabag the wall. Turn the microphone on to wet the hair, then off while I shampoo, then back on to rinse. Avoid the third rail of the waterfall faucet at all costs.
Do I get a doctorate at Columbia for figuring all that out?
1. Daughter doesn’t know what cigarettes are. Not sure if this is a sign that we’ve parented well or poorly. Maybe it says more about the times. She thinks she knows what cigarettes are, but what she’s actually smelling is marijuana. She doesn’t like the smell, and she doesn’t encounter it often, but now that I think of it, she probably encounters it a hell of a lot more often than cigarettes. I mean, who smokes tobacco anymore? Anyway, whenever she smelled weed (and trust me, it’s all over the place in New York, and that’s coming from a California guy), she’d plug her nose and whine, “Ugh, really? Why do people have to smoke cigarettes here, too?” I’ll be curious to see what she calls it if she ever smells a legitimate cigarette.
2. On our first day in New York, after checking into the 44th floor of our hotel, Daughter looked out the window at the 57th Street abomination. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but it looks like a damn pole. It only takes up maybe 100 feet by 100 feet of real estate, but then shoots up 90-odd floors. The top floors aren’t finished yet and are currently on the market for $180 million. What a bargain. Anyway, when she saw it, she asked, “Is that a skyscraper? I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen one.” Bear in mind she’s visited her aunt in San Francisco no fewer than twenty times. And did I mention we were on the 44th floor of our own hotel? Not sure what them kids are calling skyscrapers these days.
3. She ended up being fine with the subway, but her only complaint was that it should be more like Disneyland. Shouldn’t everything? But what she was specifically looking for was the part of the Disneyland train where you go through the dinosaurs and Native American lands. I mean, what good is an underground train system that transports you miles closer to where you need to go for three dollars if it doesn’t also have some racist animatronics?
4. In my whole trip, three people jumped out at me that I needed to note. First was the lady wearing her Miller High Life t-shirt to see Aladdin. Look, I know it’s a show for kids and all, but it is a Broadway theater. She couldn’t upgraded to her nice MGD shirt? Second was the dude wearing a “Don’t California My Texas” t-shirt. At the Statue of Liberty. In New York, which is neither Texas nor California and probably doesn’t want us apply either of the latter two locations to their former.
Third was the guitar dude at the Imagine mosaic in Central Park near the Dakota building where Lennon lived and was shot. Seems it used to be a quiet, contemplative spot, but the last two times I’ve been, it’s a spot for selfies and self-important douchebags who bust out their accoustics for poor renditions of Beatles songs that nobody requested, as if two of them being dead wasn’t bad enough. Anyway, when we walked by this time, Dude was playing “Get Back,” which… um… is a Paul McCartney song? Under normal circumstances I might not critique a guy for not knowing that John had nothing to do with the writing or performance of that song, but Peter Jackson just made a nine-hour documentary, that anybody with the audacity to think they deserve to play their own instrument at a John Lennon memorial ought to have seen, which showed “Get Back” being created from scratch while John was still sleeping off a heroin hangover.
5. Last time I was in New York, I made sure to have pizza from Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in America. This time I added a few more iconic food items: cheesecake from Junior’s and a hot dog from Nathan’s. I mistakenly thought Junior’s was the cheesecake referenced in Guys and Dolls, but apparently that’s Lindy’s, which has closed. Good thing, too, because the cheesecake was just kinda meh. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it didn’t have much flavor to it. It was sweeter than I expected, more cream than cheese. I’ve had plenty of better cheesecakes in my life.
The Nathan’s, on the other hand, was solid. I’ve had a ton of Nathan’s dogs at various establishments, but the ones at the original location are different. They grill the buns, which the ones in the mall don’t. They also seem longer and thinner than the ones you find in the store, and the griddling (not boiling or grilling) is uniform and thorough. My only regret was standing in the long line with the people who wanted burgers or who knew they served clams, before I realized there was a hot dog express lane where I could’ve got my dog and fries twenty minutes earlier.
6. I don’t mean to criticize these photo op guys in Times Square, but…
*Hulk needs to work out a bit. You wouldn’t like me when I get a beer belly.
*Spiderman, a secret identity does no good if you stand around with your mask off the whole time.
*Grodd is a DC property, not a Marvel property. Shouldn’t be hanging out with Avengers. Oh wait, is that supposed to be King Kong? Dude, he doesn’t even HAVE a comic book title.
7. I only found one sign to add to my collection. If you’ve followed my other travelbolg posts, you know I love signs that are a little too cutesy or on-the-nose. The sign on this particular trip that amused me was neither of those. In fact, the only thing I enjoyed about it was a missing letter.
Sure, I know it’s really just a room. But am I alone in thinking a luggage storage ‘roo would be much better? I mean, it already has a pouch. And then when I’m finally able to get in my room, it can just hop them up there for me instead of making me do the schlepping my own shit after hours of walking around Central Park after minimal sleep on a red-eye. Imagine my disappointment when it was only a closet manned by a human being. I guess I’ll swap the tip for a smaller bill.
I probably need to visit Sydney to find an actual Luggage Storage ‘Roo.