Or, things I learned on my second ever trip to New York (from which I’m just now recovering!):
1) Amtrak: Not bad. Time-consuming yes. But the accommodations are no worse than air travel, the food’s considerably better and never once was I treated like a terrorist.
2) Never get into an unmarked taxi. If you do, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself trying to program a GPS for a guy who has to give you a flat rate because, in addition to being only vaguely familiar with the geographic layout of the city, he has no meter installed. You can be reasonably certain that he will charge you twice the going rate (though, to be fair, he didn’t grouse when I explained why I wasn’t adding a tip).
You can also take it on faith that his GPS unit will not function, no matter who is programming it. Not even if it is pitch dark and the very nice cabbie is holding–or anyway bobbing–a flashlight at the stoplights so you can at least see which buttons aren’t responding. (The idea of having me program a GPS under any circumstances will have extra resonance for those who know me well enough to laugh about my edgy, quasi-paranoid relationship with any technological device that has been developed since the punch-button land-line.)
Oh, and there’s also a chance–just a chance mind you–that, after the GPS thing doesn’t work out–he’ll roll down the window and ask another cabbie if he knows where your hotel is. And that the other cabbie will reply. “I don’t know exactly man. But this is Brooklyn. You need to be in Queens!”
On the other hand, I had no repeat of my most memorable cabbie adventure from my last trip seven years ago, which involved another extremely nice young man riding me around and around the block looking for the Barrow Street Theater, while occasionally muttering things like. “All this will be gone soon. The prophet has foretold it.” (To be fair again, he had turned the meter off and sworn repeatedly he did not mind taking any time required to deliver me safe and sound to my very specific destination. He even seemed a little offended when I stopped him the third time around and decided–correctly as it turned out–that I would be better off looking for it on foot. The Barrow Street Theater turned out to be a place that could not be found by riding around and around the block, but rather by wandering down the alley. I agreed with him on the prophet, incidentally, though I didn’t press on to see if we were talking about the same one. Some things are better left to be sorted out in the end times.)
3) Note to self: If everything you want to see and do on any particular trip is located in Midtown, then book early so you can afford to stay in Midtown.
4) If you ask where the “nearest restaurants” are, you better be pretty specific about what you mean by that tricky word “restaurant.” Evidently, New Yorkers are more than a little likely to count bagel shops. Thus, there’s a fair chance the street with all the “restaurants” you’ve been told about six blocks back will add up to a very long line of windows that say “Bagels and Muffins,” “Bagels and Coffee,” “Bagels and Smoothies,” “Gourmet Bagels,” and, my favorite (though I’ll admit I could have been hallucinating by then), “Bagels, Bagels, Bagels, Bagels and Bagels.” If by chance there is something the rest of the world calls a restaurant stuck in there somewhere, it will probably be a French place with a dress code.
And no, I have nothing whatsoever against bagels. It’s just wasn’t what I had in mind for the occasion.
5) Which leads me to my Corollary: The only possible way to avoid finding a soup and sandwich deli/cafe/luncheonette/etc. on every stretch of pavement in Manhattan is to be from out of town and go looking for one. (Granted, when you do find one, it will probably be awesome.)
6) If you retrace your steps say, three blocks west and six blocks south, so you can ask the people who sent you looking for the restaurants whether it will be better to hail a cab or take the subway to get to your next destination, you will definitely be told the subway is by far the better option. And you will find that the nearest subway station is back the way you came: Just reverse your course and proceed six blocks north and…wait for it… four blocks east.
7) Any town in the world, the UPS guy will be the one who knows how to find the place you are looking for.
8) I had never actually been in an elevator that required pushing the button twice. Once to get to the floor required. A second time to actually open the door. I’m really happy to have acquired this experience. It’s possible I was in a handicapped elevator. It wasn’t marked handicapped or special access but there was probably some invisible code operating that I didn’t catch. If I used it improperly, I apologize. Having avoided suffocation, I find myself perhaps experiencing a bit of survivor guilt. Did I mention suffocation just there? Why yes I did. I also think there should be ventilation in all elevators. Not just the ones with tricky doors. Really.
9) If you end up in the first row of a Broadway theater and it’s close enough to the stage for James Earl Jones to spray some spit on you, rest assured he won’t. Neither will John Laroquette or Candice Bergen or Angela Lansbury or any of the less well known names. Not only are they fabulous actors in a wonderful show, they’re also classy that way.
10) The Metropolitan Museum of Art is overwhelming to a degree I had not previously experienced in a museum of any kind. I spent eight hours there, six and a half of them on my feet, at least five of those walking. I doubt very seriously that I saw even forty percent of it. This in a museum where almost any given room could, by itself, reward a full day’s attention. Yes, I think overwhelming is the word.
11) The portrait of Emma Hamilton at the Frick still makes it easy to understand why Olivier–er, Nelson–fell for her.
12) Turn every inconvenience into an actual sacrifice, times the sacrifices by ten, take a chance on traveling a thousand miles specifically to catch Saint Joan at the Access Theater…and it will have been worth it.