Back in February of 2020, we had a summer trip booked to New York with Daughter. She was really into Billy Joel Radio at the time, and it seemed like all the good movies and video games take place there. Heck, she was playing (or trying to play) Marvel Lego Super Heroes, where Magneto literally makes the Statue of Liberty walk off her pedestal and attack the Lego heroes. Not sure how that works with said statue having no actual legs. But other that that minor squabble, the physics of a Lego video game are entirely spot on.
Somehow that vacation fell apart. Can’t put my finger on it. Did anything major happen in March or 2020?
Regardless, we finally decided that two years was long enough a wait. Billy Joel wasn’t getting any younger, there was a new favorite band playing the same weekend as him, and the time share was going to keep charging us “maintenance” fees whether we used the room or not.
So in June of 2022, we finally made our 2020 trip to New York. I’ll break this into a couple of posts, one about the generic New York kinda touristy stuff, and then a second one about some of the experiences more personal to us.
No true Travelblog this decade is complete without an update on when and where, and under which conditions, we must mask and/or show proof of vaccination and/or bend over and have a random stranger shove something up our ass.
Wait, that last one isn’t a Covid precaution? Damn, I want my money back from that dude in the trench coat.
Most of New York is mask-free these days, with some notable exceptions. JFK Airport required masks, even though the planes didn’t anymore, so as we landed, the flight attendants told us to put our masks on before leaving the plane. Would’ve been a nice thing for them to tell us before we checked our baggage. Fortunately I had one in my carry-on because we connected through Seattle, which I figured was second on the list of places most likely to still impose masks. Turns out we only needed the mask to get off the plane. Once in the terminal, many people weren’t wearing masks and nobody bothered to enforce it. And I’m not talking pulled down in chin diaper fashion, I mean no sign of cloth anywhere near their face. The situation was similar in the subways. Masks are required, but only about fifty percent complied and nobody gave a shit.
Where we had to mask the longest was the American Museum of Natural History. We went there on our first day, before we were even able to check into our hotel and shower. So the other people in the museum were probably happy to be wearing masks. The museum was one of the first places on our go-to list because we’d made Daughter watch the Night at the Museum movies as prep, so she was jazzed to go. Her favorite movie was the sequel, which took place at the Smithsonian, but she still couldn’t wait to see the statue of President Robin Williams. Unfortunately, the one on horseback has been removed because it had Native Americans in it. I was also worried she wouldn’t be able to find Sacajawea, who features prominently in the movies., but we finally found her tucked away in the back of the fourth floor. Unfortunately, no Egyptian pharaoh or magical tablet that brings them all to life. Daughter was pissed.
We also had to wear a mask en route to the Statue of Liberty, but only for the one airport-style security room. Then the masks came back off. I think we had to wear them in the Statue of Liberty museum, as well. Because, you know, liberty! Ironically, the one other place where we were harangued about wearing a mask was the Hamilton store. Similar to the Statue, Hamilton is an endearing symbol of standing up to an arbitrary, overreaching government…
After New York, we went on to Boston, where masks were less mandated but more prominent. Imagine that, people wearing masks only out of concern for their fellow humans. Almost as if, with freedom and liberty ought to also come respect and responsibility. Ha ha, jk. This is ‘Murica, where freedom means I don’t gotta do shit while everybody else needs to kowtow to whatever made up offense I’m feigning this week.
Taxi in from Airport
Last time in New York, when it was just we adults, we took the subway in from JFK. Easy enough. But arriving after a red-eye from the west coast during morning commute, with an eight-year-old not accustomed to mass transit, we figured we’d splurge for a taxi. It was the first of many “We haven’t vacayed in three years” splurges over the next six days.
In retrospect, maybe not the best decision from a timing perspective. Holy crap, that morning commute is brutal. I thought nobody drove in New York? Those streets and freeways (sorry, “turnpikes,” cause they ain’t free) were bumper to bumper! It took us well over an hour to get to midtown from JFK. It was a half hour before we realized that the tiny windows on the side of the minivan/prison-transport hybrid could open. That was a blessing, because it’d been 24 hours since we showered and the Plexiglass partition was making the environment moist.
At first I thought a $52 fixed fare seemed a bit steep, but it ended up a blessing. If we paid normal taxi “idling time” surcharges, it would’ve been in the triple digits. A few days later, I checked Uber to Coney Island, which is a little bit farther than the airport, and it would’ve been $80. Plus that wasn’t during morning commute, which I’m guessing would’ve been prime surge time. So yeah, $52 was a screaming deal.
We did get two “congestion charges” of $2.50 each, added at the thirty and sixty minute marks. Plus a six dollar charge going through one of the tunnels. But how often do you ride in a taxi for over an hour and add less than $10 to the fare?
I kinda felt bad for the driver. Sure, we tipped him 20%, but that still only came out to $16, which might not even be minimum wage in New York City. Hopefully he hung around Manhattan and picked up a bunch of $20 fares in rapid succession.
Next time I’ll splurge the $3 for a subway ride and all those commuters can just deal with my luggage.
Statue of Liberty
When I went to New York with Wife in 2018, we intentionally skipped some of the more kid-friendly attractions, like Coney Island and the Statue of Liberty, in favor of stuff like the 9/11 Memorial and Avenue Q, figuring we’d be bringing Daughter back with us at some point. So this time we did all the stuff that she’ll roll her eyes at when she’s a teenager.
I did the Statue once on my first trip to New York in the 1990s. Back then you could go up into the crown, which I did. When my mom first visited in the 1950s, you could still go up to the torch. Now you can’t do either. Turns out the Statue of Liberty is a great metaphor for the lives and restrictions of Boomers vs. Gen X vs. Gen Z, or whatever the hell they’ll call Daughter’s generation. Can’t wait to have my grandkids on my knee some day, while looking at the Statue from the boat, the closest we’re able to get by that time, regaling them with stories about lawn darts.
Allegedly they’re going to bring back crown access at some point, but I can’t find reasoning for shutting down in the first place. It doesn’t seem to be a Covid restriction, since you’re still allowed in the pedestal which necessitates many people in small confines. I don’t think it’s a remnant of 9/11, per se, but I think since then, they’re looking for any and every excuse to shut it down. They’re doing some construction refurbishment on the former military fort under the pedestal. Maybe that’s their excuse. Although, again, pedestal access would be just as damage to the base as going to the crown. Then again, they’re also drastically limiting pedestal access – it was sold out for all three days we were there. That’s what happens when it only costs thirty cents more than regular ol’ island access.
At least we took the correct ferry. We almost got duped into the “Liberty Cruise” from one of those hop-on/hop-off busses. The wording is very questionable, claiming to be the only bus tour with “close up” views of the Statue. Complete with a “live audio tour.” And a “Statue Selfie Spot.” Good thing yours truly considers himself well versed in the English language. I became skeptical that the boat tour started over near the Brooklyn Bridge, not Battery Park, and if you look closely at the map, it doesn’t actually dock at the island. Once I saw how the dock is actually run, there’s no way they could have more than one operating companies. We were on the bus when a whole bunch of excited people got off to go “see the Statue.” Totally wish I could’ve been on the bus that collects a bunch of pissed off patrons afterward.
If we wanted a “close up” look, we also could’ve taken a helicopter. Not that I saw any advertisements for that. They don’t cater to the TKTS crowd. But I saw a heck of a lot of them flying around. Many of them were black, a detail I might not have noticed with my vision topping out at about ten yards. But Daughter noticed. “Look, it’s another black helicopter. There sure are a lot of black helicopters flying around the Statue.”
Of course there are. The real question is: government? Or aliens?
Turns out there’s an even better way to get up close. Walking around the island is kinda groovy.
The Statue is, who woulda guessed it, majestic and beautiful. I don’t think I bothered to look up in awe much back when my primary goal was to climb upher insides. Probably a metaphor for a lot of my twenties. But when you’re staring out from the crown, all you’re see is Manhattan, a view you can find from many locations. Including a “Liberty Cruise.” But this shot can only be found in one spot:
The audio tour has some great info, too. Sure, a lot of it I already knew because I’ve taught U.S. History many times. So I only yawned while Wife and Daughter were fascinated about Pulitzer’s fundraising drive and Gustave Eiffel building the superstructure ten years before he repeated the process with a minor tower in Paris you’ve probably never heard of.
But all the scientific and construction stuff was news to me. Turns out the outer “skin” of copper is only the thickness of two pennies. The individual sheets could be bent to conform to Eiffel’s structure. If you look close enough, you can see the seams between one plate and the next. Impressive, to be sure, but all I could think is that’s an awful lot of coaxial cable. I mean, aren’t people stealing catalytic converters for a couple ounces of copper? Liberty’s got 62,000 pounds!
I’m envisioning a heist story. Kinda like Die Hard, the assumption will be that the criminals are storming the Statue for terrorism reasons, but the twist will be that they’re just trying to take off her dress. And face.
I think I just figured out why they won’t let us in the crown anymore. Bring a file and you can buy your own Liberty Cruise.
The other child-friendly locale we skipped last time was Coney Island. Or I guess we didn’t “skip” it, so much as didn’t give it much of a thought. We “skipped” the Empire State Building, meaning we went past it, discussed going in, but decided to move on. If you aren’t partaking in Coney Island, being an hour-plus trip on the subway, it’s easier to just ignore it.
I assumed Coney Island would be kinda sleepy, kinda sleazy. And yeah… As long as you’re expectation is a bastardized love-child of a Six Flags and a county fair, you’ll be fine. Honestly, the midway was fun. The rides were fine. The only thing that this SoCal-raised guy found truly beneath me was what they passed off as a beach. So maybe they should just move it to the Upper East Side.
The rides were expensive, but that’s to be expected when it isn’t one-ticket-for-all access. Most of the rides worth riding were in the eight to ten dollar range, depending on what bulk you bought the tickets. Considering the rides last, on average, a quarter to a third of the time a Disneyland ride lasts, it doesn’t take long for the trip to cost in the Disneyland range. I think Daughter and I rode six rides each, so that’s over $100.
It was only supposed to be five rides each, but we got duped into the “Liberty Cruise” scam of Coney Island. There are two companies that run the amusement parks, but they own random lots that aren’t always adjacent. So you’re in Luna Park, but to get to another Luna ride, you have to walk through Deno’s, where you’ll have to buy a different ticket card. Overall. we did a pretty good job of purchasing tickets a la carte (a.k.a. more expensively), for specific rides we could see nearby, to make sure we didn’t waste money.
Until we didn’t.
One of the biggest rides, viewable from blocks away and one of the first you see when exiting the subway, is called the Thunderbolt. It goes straight up, then straight down. Sign me up. It’s a Luna Park property, although there’s nothing on the ride that designates it as such. Nor was it referenced at the other Luna Park a few blocks away, where we rode a painful ride that lays you down flat and then cracks your back more than a chiropractor, but not as therapeutic. Reminds me of the signs I saw at a water slide. Don’t go on if you have back or neck problems. What do you mean? I’m using this water slide to FIX my back and neck problems.
Deno’s also has a ride called the Thunderbolt. Not that I rode it. I don’t even know if I saw it. I only know they have a Thunderbolt because the sign with ticket prices, in plain view of the legit Thunderbolt, said that the I could buy ten tickets to ride the Thunderbolt. A block away, when the Thunderbolt employee told me my tickets wouldn’t work, I explained where I bought them and they said, “Yeah, that happens a lot.” Kinda weird in a city renowned for an overly aggressive government that likes to regulate what size soda you can get.
We didn’t go to the Freak Show. I didn’t even notice it until we were on our way back to the subway. That’s another thing I’m surprised is still allowed in twenty-first century NYC. You can’t call her a bearded woman anymore, she’s a bearded birthing human. Unless she can’t give birth. And to be fair, the sign didn’t specify bearded women, it only listed “Weird Women,” which is kinda worse. I mean, I’m far from uber-woke, but who the fuck are the proprietors to designate what is weird and, by extension, what is normal. They run a business at Coney Island, for chrissakes. I don’t think I saw a normal person the entire time I was there, present company included.
The one Coney Island attraction we didn’t partake was the only fucking one I wanted to do in the first place, which was the Cyclone. It’s the original wooden roller coaster that’s been there for almost one hundred years. It’s a Luna Park property, but we actually had the correct tickets that time. The problem came down to weights and measures. The ticket lady didn’t want to let us get in line until after she’d measured Daughter to ensure she was 54 inches. She failed.
I’m not saying, for sure, that Daughter is at the magical height. Its damn close, but I feel like she hit 54 at all the other measuring spots. But the measuring stick they used here wasn’t a permanent fixture, but a pole they lugged out of the ticket booth and held up next to the child being measured. From my vantage point, it appeared the sidewalk was on an uphill slant. Well, not really uphill, more 95-year-old heaving pavement. They put the stick on the uphill side of her and she ended up being just under it. It was close. Kinda like the when the NFL brings the chains out to measure first down, despite having not placed the ball at the correct forward progress. And I couldn’t ask for video replay to confirm the stick wasn’t on level ground.
I was about to point this out, but figured the most likely result would be they take my money and still not let her on when the numbnut at the front of the line was just at inept at measuring children as the one at the end of the line. So I guess I have to wait until next time to ride the Cyclone. Not sure if there’ll ever be a next time I visit Coney Island, but whatever. It’s been there for ninety-five years, so maybe when I have grandkids. Not that they’ll be tall enough to ride.
Come back next week to hear about our hotel bathroom, marijuana, the most awesome thing that can happen at a Billy Joel concert.