Unique New York

I recently wrote about taking Cousin around New York and opening my eyes and my mind in order to continue to enjoy the tourists’ spots around the city. I wrote about enjoying some of the places I’d seen a dozen times, and I’d already tired of visiting. I did not, however; get a chance to describe some of the new or never-before mentioned places. This post is dedicated to those people looking for something unique to do in Manhattan.

In Chelsea Market there is a really great venue called The Filling Station. The Filling Station is a shop full of extra virgin olive oils, various specialty oils, balsamic vinegars, and exotic salts. They provide an endless supply of tiny paper cups for all the visitors to use for tasting. It’s so much fun to choose one of each filling, and create your own delicious combination. You could do chipotle olive oil, honey ginger vinegar, and Spanish rosemary salt or even Persian lime olive oil, coconut vinegar, and Hawaiian Hiwakai salt. It’s the most fun!

 

When you are tired of tasting dozens of oils and salts, just walk around the corner to People’s Pops for a Popsicle made from sustainable grown fruits and herbs.

 

Even in Time Square, which I must have visited a thousand times this year, we came across a few places we’ve never ventured.

There is a visitors’ center in Time Square that has an old New Year’s Eve ball. It’s covered in crystals, lights up, and they even have a countdown every 20 minutes that finishes in cheering crowds and Auld Lang Syne. The center is lined with Broadway memorabilia, and loads of historical information about the square. One wall is covered with pieces of confetti that have people’s wishes written on them. Apparently, anyone can write a wish on a piece of confetti, pin it on the wall, and on New Year’s Eve it will be released upon the crowd gathered in the middle of Time Square.

 

In the enormous Toys R’ Us store in the middle of Time Square is a four-story high Ferris wheel. Cousin decided she wanted to go for a ride, which was great, because this was one ride Husband and I had never ridden. It must have been our lucky day too because we got the best ride on the whole wheel.

 

Turn onto West 47th St in the Square and you’ll find Baked by Melissa. Melissa makes the teeniest cutest cupcakes I’ve ever seen. They are as wide as a quarter and about an inch thick. She makes the best flavor combinations! There’s peanut butter and jelly, chocolate mint chip, red velvet, peanut butter cup, and several more. It’s the best bite-sized baked good you’ll ever have.

 

A few blocks southeast of Time Square is New York’s Public Library on 5th Avenue. Husband and I have only been here once before and we spent all of our time in the “Lunch Hour NYC” exhibit on the first floor. (Excellent exhibit BTW) This visit, I decided to explore the rest of this crazy big library. I walked down the marble covered halls, and up the giant Sex and The City-wedding staircases to find room after room of beautiful books and long wooden tables. Studious people and tourists littered the chairs, floors, and aisles.

I sat in a chair for a few minutes to watch and reflect. There were so many people working around me, on what? I don’t know, but I know I want to go back with my laptop and write and write and write. With an iced latte in hand I just know it will be the perfect place of inspiration to focus and be productive.

I have exactly 2 more weeks of summer left to enjoy these great places before full-time hours come crashing down on me, better make the most of it!

Cheers!

Time Square is No Disney World

Disney has spoiled Husband and I tremendously. Every place we visit, and any entertainment we watch is compared to Disney and it’s high standards. When we were hired to work for Disney we had to go through lots of intense customer service (or as Disney calls it “guest relations” training. During these training hours we were taught that the most important rule at Disney is keeping the customers happy and making their day magical.

If a guest tells you they dropped their hamburger, you give them a new one. If a child is crying because he can’t ride Space Mountain, you tell him a joke, give him a sticker, or allow him to hop to the front of the line at Buzz Light-year.  But, keeping the customers happy is not the only part of keeping the magic alive. There are so many rules, tips, and tricks.

You are referred to as a “cast member” not an employee. You must point with two fingers or an open palm (which creates a weird habit). If you see trash you must pick it up. All cast members must look clean, straight-laced, and presentable (no facial hair, no crazy piercing, no tattoos, etc, etc.). If a guest asks what time the 3 o’clock parade is you must answer them without sarcasm. Everyone should always be smiling, friendly, and willing to help. AND, if you are a character you have a whole different mess of rules.

I was not a character, but I can share would I learned from character friends.

First, you never ever ever take your head off, for any reason. Once, Goofy was at the water park taking pictures with guests on the beach and got over heated. He passed out, but because heads are not to be removed, his two helpers had to carry him “backstage” completely limp, all the while telling guests and little kids that Goofy was just being goofy and playing around.

Second, no two characters are ever in the same location. There is only ONE Mickey Mouse. There is only ONE Cinderella. There is only ONE of any character. So if I guest asks where to take pictures with Mickey you tell them the one closest location where Mickey is scheduled to be at that particular park. There is no way Mickey could possibly be in Toon Town and Tomorrow Land, he’s just one mouse!

Third, there are all sorts of physical requirements when someone is a character. Most fur characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, the chipmunks, and so on) must all be short. It doesn’t matter if they are old, young, male, or female, as long as they’re short. Often when someone is flirting with Mickey and kissing his cheek, there is a middle-aged woman inside that head playing along with him or her. The face characters must resemble their character and are often on the taller side (minus Alice or Tinkerbell). So if you are 5’8, wide eyed, clear faced, and have a bright smile, you can probably pass as a few different princesses.

There are lots more rules and secrets, but I’d hate to ruin all the magic. Just keep in mind that these sorts of rules and policies are now what Husband and I expect from basically everyone.

We are shocked when we stand in line somewhere and do not have songs and games on big screen TV’s to entertain us as we wait. We are appalled when we are unhappy with something at a restaurant or store and no one seems to care. Then there’s the enormous disappointment we have while watching parades or fireworks, none can compare to Spectromagic or Wishes. Where’s the magic?!?!

However, the worst, the absolute worst are the characters in Time Square. There are dozens of people who show up at Time Square everyday dressed as famous characters. They follow tourist around, flirt with them, take pictures, and then inform them that they must pay them for their services. WTF? Mickey Mouse doesn’t charge children to take pictures with him!

 

What’s worse is that these characters are filthy. Their faces are always distorted and on crooked, and the whole costumes looks like it’s been handed down over the last 50 years and rolled through the dumpster a few times. The “characters” even have the nerve to take their heads off! And, do not even get me started on the fanny packs they all wear.

 

It’s despicable.

There are also lots of not–so-famous characters hanging around. There is usually a man painted in silver from head to toe, another guy holding up the “I need money for weed” poster, and the infamous naked Cowboy. The Naked Cowboy has been around for about 20 years. He was originally one guy (Robert Burck), but has become so popular that the he trademarked himself….

“Burck owns the trademark to his Naked Cowboy character and operates it as a franchise. Franchisees must undergo a screening process, and are required to pay Naked Cowboy Enterprises $500 per month or $5,000 per year, which authorizes a person to operate as a “Naked Cowboy” or “Naked Cowgirl”.[16] There are a number of franchisees,[17] with the third and fourth recruits Burck’s fellowSecaucus, New Jersey resident Robert Coffman and Burck’s girlfriend, Cindy Fox.” ~Wikipedia

He’s prove to be so successful that besides a naked Cowgirl there is also a naked Native American, and a naked Statue of Liberty.

 

These aren’t as sacrilegious as the out of place Disney characters, but still just as dirty.

As grubby as these “characters” are, I guess they have to stay, because Time Square without the crazies would be like Magic Kingdom without the princesses. Husband and I will just have to accept the fact that not everyone was trained by Disney brainwashers professionals. Time Square is nothing like Disney World, but it does have it’s own bit of magic.

Cheers!

The People-Watching Train

One of the best things about living in a really big city is the people. I am a people watcher, and there is no better place to people-watch than NYC, except maybe Disney World. In any case, NY is full of interesting characters, enough to inspire thousands of hit movies, TV shows, and books, which is saying something.

Spend one day walking through the city and you are likely to find a celebrity, a lesbian, a Mickey Mouse, a dog-walker, a homeless person, a private school kid, an Italian, a Priest, a Hasidic Jew, a drug-dealer, a guitar player, a psychic, a police officer, a tourist, a nanny, and soooo many more!

When Cousin was visiting us last week, we were lucky enough to catch some crazy (and some not-so-crazy, but equally entertaining) people at their best. It was a people-watcher’s paradise, and I’m taking you along for the trip.

First stop on the people-watcher train: Central Park.

We ran into a group of people playing some intense Frisbee. They were throwing the discs under their legs, catching them upside down, and bouncing them off every part of their body. We watched for a little while and found out that two of them are the Frisbee-throwing world champions! They had just come from Italy, and were stopping in New York for a couple days. I guess they’re doing a Frisbee throwing tour? Maybe you’ll see them at a park in your own neighborhood.

In Battery Park, we (minus Husband) were excited to find that a free dance production was happening! This free performance gives a chance for young dancers to perform and practice in front of hundreds of people. It’s a really great idea, and we stayed for the first two numbers.  We got good seats and sat down right as the show started. The first act was mostly 14-year-old girls. They were not great dancers, but it was interesting, and I still appreciated the idea behind the whole recital. I could have watched a while longer, but we were on a tight schedule.

While walking around Time Square (where there area ALWAYS a plethora of crazy/entertaining people) we ran into this van.

That’s me in the pink skirt and heels standing by the window…I was trying to ask if this was real or some sort of gimmick, but I ended up eavesdropping on the boys next to me who were buying 3 weed-induced lolly pops for $10. Then, I chickened out and decided not to ask for fear of being persuaded to make a purchase, and then get arrested by one of the hundred police officers around me.

We also spotted a chipmunk making a purchase in one of the sandwich shops in Time Square.

Just down the street, near Rockefeller Center, we got stuck in a ton of human traffic, which turned out to be a parade for the Dominican Republic. There always seems to be some sort of parade happening in Manhattan. None of them, with the exception of the Macy’s Day Parade, are impressive. Impressive or not, the Dominicans were VERY excited.

A few blocks North of 30 Rock is FAO Schwarz, where we saw this adorable Dad and his daughter. This girl has got her Daddy wrapped around her little finger for sure.

So sweet.

Finally, my people-watching train is coming to it’s final destination: Washing Square Park. Upon entering the park, we saw the original bird lady from Mary Poppins. I tried my best to convince Husband to give her his toppin’s (I obviously wasn’t about to go over there), but he had no interest in feeding the birds.

Even though I am a bird-aphobic, I loved this scene and could not stop singing “Feed the Birds”. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we ran into this guy…

This man, who made sure to tell us he is NOT crazy, LOVES pigeons, and spend lots of time educating park goers, much like myself, about the history of pigeons. I stood as safe 30 feet away from him and his birds while he explained all of this to Husband, Zoey, and Cousin, for a good long 15 minutes.

His “pets”.

We almost left the park, when a crowd at the large fountain caught my eye. We ran over to find the fountain full of people swimming (literally swimming!) and splashing around in the shallow murky water. It was so hot out that before we could even consider the sanitary condition of the fountain, we’d already pulled our shoes off and hopped in with the crowd.

Still loving my Nook.

The best part was catching this sign as we exited the fountain…guess this rule isn’t actually enforced.

That brings our people-watching trip to a conclusion. Hope you all enjoyed the ride. Please watch your head and step as you exit, and if you don’t watch your head and your step, then watch your language. This is a family ride! Thank you, thank you, come again!

Cheers!

Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned From Mary Poppins

Husband’s cousin is in town this week, which means we have another first time NYC visitor! I think that makes 15 visitors this year! This means we are yet again making our rounds to each Manhattan tourist spot. If any of you are ever planning a trip to the city and need help…you know who to ask! Seriously, why haven’t we started charging people for our services?

Cousin has never been to a Broadway show, and was pretty excited about the chance to see a musical during her visit. Her show of choice ended up being Mary Poppins. I’d already seen this musical once, and I must say, it was even better the second time around!

 

Mary Poppins is my all time favorite Disney movie! I have seen it at least 900 times. I was super excited to see the musical the first time, but I left with mixed feelings. The acting, singing, dancing, the set (omg the set…it’s unbelievable!), and the costumes were are great, magical even. The story however… was quite different.

The musical is based on the stories from the children’s books, by P.L. Travers, and the story from the Disney film. So, some scenes from the books were added, and a couple from the movie was taken away. The added scenes and songs weren’t bad, in fact; they were actually pretty good. It’s just hard to swallow if you’ve had the movie memorized since you were ten years old.

This time though, I knew what to expect; I could truly appreciate the talent and the theatrics. This show is really beautiful and amazing… the best combination of Disney and Broadway I have ever seen. (I like it 10 times better then The Lion King Musical). While watching it again, I remembered just how smart this Nanny is, and how much I have always wanted to be like her.

In life, and certainly in my classroom, there are lots of very important lessons I learned from Miss Poppins. Here’s my top 10.

  1. Always carry a large purse full of surprises. This one is especially true for teachers, and Mother’s I assume. We need our bag of tricks.
  2. Be confident and always describe yourself as “practically perfect in everyway.” I have only said this to my students; I’m not quite confident enough to write it on a resume yet.
  3. Children love someone who is stern, honest, and knows how to throw in some “elements of fun”. I try my very best to use all 3 qualities when teaching.
  4. Every lady needs a man who can dance, make here laugh, adore her, and always have her back. I’m so glad I found my Bert.
  5. Never reveal too much information to your employers. AKA, do not friend your boss on Facebook! I don’t even friend my co-workers. Although, I’m pretty sure my current boss knows I’ll leave “as soon as the wind changes”. If only I had a large umbrella to travel by.
  6. Always look your best. People treat you as you appear.
  7. Never stop dreaming or using your imagination.
  8. Take medicine (and anything else hard to swallow or stomach) with spoonfuls of sugar. When I was teaching in Tennessee I played this famous song as our classroom “cleanup song”. It made the process much more cheerful, and I loved that all my students knew this song by heart.
  9. Remember it’s okay to get a little dirty. (Hey! Keep your mind out of the gutter!) Getting some soot and ash on your clothes and face is okay if you’re going to spend the night dancing on a roof top.
  10.  Be sure to take some time out to fly a kite, and enjoy time spent with your loved ones. Maybe even give the crazy bird lady your toppin’s.

Maybe I’ll make some time to watch the Mary Poppins the movie for 901st time this weekend. I could use a snuggle-up-in-my-pj’s-with-a-giant-bowl-of-popcorn–and-a-Disney-movie kind of night.

Cheers

Errands with Belle

Last weekend, Fiance and I had some last minute errands to run for the wedding. We have been feeling guilty about leaving Belle behind for almost 3 weeks, so we decided to take her with us, which just made the errands much more challenging...or errr..adventurous.

People on the train tend to love Belle and want to pet her and her and cuddle her. (Who can blame them.) Normally, Belle will bark fiercely and raise her mohawk at these people in an attempt to scare them away, but she’s different on the train. She’s nervous and clingy, and too concerned about the loud noises to care about the crowds around her, fawning over her. It’s nice for me because people on the train think she’s quiet, sweet, and well-behaved.

Belle in Time Square!
We took a pit stop at Bryant Park.

Happy Dog
Carrousel in the park.
A tiny library in the park!

After all the errand running, we were STARVING. We went to what may be the most amazing restaurant ever. Pommes Frites. They had two chairs outside, which means we could actually eat there with Belle, thank God.

ALL they serve are French Fries. The only thing you choose are your dips, and there are many many choices. If they served tacos I would dub this place Heaven. Either way…it’s pretty close.

The Perfect Dinner.

I hope Belle is having a good time with her doggy sitter this week. Maybe they’ll go run errands together.

Miss you pup!

Cheers.