Monday, November 1, 2010

48. Stay up all night in the City that Never Sleeps

Last night I realized that the year of 52 New Things is drawing to a close (as in 5/6 or 83% of the way done, for those who count such things). It doesn't really matter, since first, Leah, Siham and I have agreed to extend the "year" till the end of February and second, even after that, I've decided to extend the whole project into a Phase II (12 things continued from the original list, 12 new things and two things off the Life List). But still, it's funny to think how many things have happened over the past year, and that I'm now actually entering New Thing #48 on the list.

New Thing #48 is in the category of things-I've-always-wanted-to-do-but-never-figured-out-how. But now I have. I'm grateful to Chris, who was totally up for spending the past Halloween weekend in New York City and the first part of it was spent Staying Up All Night in the City that Never Sleeps. Should anyone else have secretly wanted to do this, the options below, which are the ones we chose, might be helpful. Here's a play-by-play of how one stays up all night and keeps going the following day.

8 PM: Arrive in New York City and drive to Manhattan to a garage where the car will be deposited for the weekend.

9:30 -- 11 PM: Get some dinner. I'd recommend the spot we chose, the Greek Kitchen, where we feasted on stuffed grape leaves, hummus, Greek salad and gemistes and pastitso, and Chris even tried my retsina, which to the uninitiated tastes a bit like Pine Sol (it's white wine cured in barrels coated with pine sap -- definitely an acquired taste).

11:30 PM Head over to the IFC theatre for a midnight movie only to find that neither of us really want to see it.

MIDNIGHT: Pop into an Irish bar for a drink and a chance to see what people on their way to and from Friday night Halloween parties are wearing this year (the cat costume is a perennial favorite for women -- especially the low effort cat ears plus painted whisker version).

1:30 AM Decide to take a really, really long walk down Broadway. Pass through Times Square, which is in full swing, and where you can buy anything at all (though we didn't). Take a detour around Central Park to walk through some posh neighborhoods that clearly in a competition for best Halloween decorations and snap some photos there. Watch a couple in their Halloween costumes have an argument and try not to laugh as Howdy Doody and the Swiss Miss exchange serious words.

3 AM: Go to an all-night diner, the West Side Restaurant, for eggs, toast and pancakes, and watch the other early-morning people drink their coffee and/or bring in the early morning deliveries.

4:00 - 7 AM: Take the subway all the way from uptown Manhattan to the end of the line at Coney Island. Get out and peruse the wall of Champion hot dog eaters at the original Nathan's hot dogs, and wander through the boarded-up buildings and rides that have closed for the season. Coney Island may have seen better days, but the newly-reconstructed boardwalk is wide and walkable and the perfect place to watch the sun come up (with a fake palm tree in the background!). Then take the subway all the way back.

7:30 AM: Head to the Trump Tower for coffee and tea and strategically place yourself to scoop up the two comfy chairs in order to stretch out and lounge around for a lazy hour. Check out the gardens up top.

10 AM Go window shopping at FAO Schwartz, watch people dance on the giant piano that Tom Hanks made famous in the movie Big, and look through all the candy that you haven't seen since you were a kid, like pop rocks and candy necklaces and those wax bottles of colored sugar syrup. Don't forget to say hi to Chewbacca from Star Wars in the Lego exhibit.

11 AM Walk to Central Park. Lay around in the sunshine, walk through the forested area called the Ramble, listen to musicians playing near the merry-go-round, visit the Belvedere Castle, watch the ice skaters (and be bummed that neither of you brought either skates or rollerblades since it would have been a perfect day for either) and watch hundreds of kids in costumes wind their way through the Pumpkin Festival.

2 PM Walk over to Zabar's, a giant and legendary deli/specialty food store that Chris introduced me to on this trip. He warned me before we went in that the store is not for agoraphobics or anyone who can't stand someone else in their space. But if you can handle being packed in like a sardine and constantly backing into someone you can buy smoked salmon (NOT lox, which I learned from Chris is an inferior substitute) and all manner of tasty bakery and deli items for do-it-yourself picnic fun.

4 PM Check-in at the Portland Square Hotel. What the hotel lacks in charm, amenities and towels, it makes up for in location (a stone's throw from Time Square) and price (sort of -- for New York, anyway). Plus, when the people staying there have been up for about 32 hours straight, anyplace to take a nap looks pretty good.

We went to bed very early that night and slept pretty soundly. The next day we had an awesome walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and mosied on back through Chinatown, where I took the opportunity to buy some steamed buns filled with red bean curd that I thought were great and Chris thought resembled rubber cat toys. One more trip to Zabar's to load up on more fun foods for the ride home and some kitchenware, and we were back in the car and on our way home.

Even when I was a little kid, I thought New York City was a fascinating place. It really was a memorable experience to get to see a lot of it -- from Coney Island to uptown Manhattan -- at all hours of the day. Of course, it wouldn't have been any fun at all if Chris hadn't been totally game to explore the corners of the city at all hours of the day and night. But his superior sense of direction, greater knowledge of the city and willingness to explore all manner of new things in one of the greatest cities on earth helped make the most of the adventure. Everyone should be so lucky, at least once in their life.

Coming Attractions The weather is getting colder, which means it's time to kick some of the winter sports I tried last year plus some of the ones I didn't get to, into high gear. Definitely time, for instance, to get going on my still-unaccomplished ice skating new things. But there are also some more events on the horizon, namely:

Go to Quebec City. Siham, Leah and I are headed up for a glorious weekend in a new place November 19-21.

Do nothing. I'm going to do this on Thanksgiving, but haven't decided whether it's going to be in my own home (when I really will do absolutely have as little contact with others, and as little activity as possible) or in Quebec at an Ashram where I will meditate and do yoga for a couple of days with my friend Paul. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like.

Learn how to make homemade yogurt. The dinner in New York City at the Greek Kitchen made me remember how much I like Greek food, and I decided to add a new culinary skill to the list. Chris thinks he might want to learn, too: anyone know how to do it, or want to learn with us in the next month or so?

Get a tattoo. Still planning on getting my "52" tattoo on my birthday (December 10). Details to be determined.

52 Ways to Say I Love American Sign Language My friend and colleague, Valerie, had her sister, Judith Miller, demonstrate the four phrases in American Sign Language. However, after spending too much time fruitlessly trying to embed the video, I've decided to save this one for another New Thing. Watch for it -- it's great.


  1. That sounds so fun. What a weekend! I want to do that now..

  2. This is the best/longest year ever. I like how we get to define a "year".

  3. I can't believe I missed this one--in MY town! Sounds like a blast!