Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Travelogue, Part IV

(Yes, I skipped III - that was yesterday's post, it just deserved a bit nicer title.)

Today was mostly uneventful, except I didn't know until about 4:00 p.m. where I'd be sleeping--this week is actually two separate training sessions--one ended today, and a new one starts tomorrow.  Quite a few people are taking both, and it's what the company recommends, in fact.  Anyway, the hotel it has been in is under construction, and they were doing the construction right outside the windows of the conference room we were in, right during the hours we were using it (doesn't bother me on the 35th floor at midnight, which is when I've been going to bed lately, unfortunately).  The conference guys were actually trying to ask the hotel to ask the (union) workers to not work during the conference, which worked about as well as you might imagine.  So they worked it out that the Thursday-Friday session will be at a whole different hotel, across town and up a few blocks, right near Times Square.  But I had this show to go to tonight, and wasn't keen on packing, moving my stuff, and having to check in there at the same time as 20 other people and still make it to the show on time.  So I asked if I could move Thursday instead.  I also reminded the person arranging everything that I'm staying through Sunday morning, and asked if the new hotel would honor that, too, and she had to check into all that, and hence I didn't know until late this afternoon whether I had to pack up and move today, or if it could wait till tomorrow.  Luckily it's tomorrow. I came up to my room, did NOT pack frantically, and gathered what I would need for my evening adventure.  I'd already dressed casually with comfortable shoes, as instructed.  They also recommend you not bring any coat or bags, as you will have to check them (for $3).  So I put my drivers' license, credit card, room key, and metro card into a "secret" pocket in my pants (well, not very secret, but it buttons shut and would be hard to pickpocket OR have stuff fall out of), taking care to keep the magnetic areas away from each other.  I brought chapstick, my cell phone, and the "reservation" for the show in my normal pockets, and that was it.  No big fancy camera, no purse, no map (have a couple versions in my phone).  I used my handy-dandy iPhone app for the subway system--in addition to a normal color-coded map, they also have a feature where you plug in the stations you want to go from and to, whether you want the fastest, easiest, etc., route, and what time of day it is, and click find, and it tells you what route to take, including color coding.  There isn't a straight shot from here to there, which is I why I used this function, and indeed, it told me to take the green line south (downtown) to Union Square, then take the grey line east to the end of the line at 14th/8th, then back north (uptown) on the blue line.  They have actual numbers/letters, too, but since my routes have been in the sections they share, it doesn't matter--just follow the colored dots in the subway stations.  I've actually done really well with the subways, between common sense, map reading, and this app.  I lucked out today, too, with arriving on foot to see a train waiting for me, and express trains when that was possible.  Woo!  So my commute to the play was easy.

Oops...getting ahead of myself a bit.  I needed to refill my metro card, so I went to the kiosk and followed the steps, and it wouldn't read my credit card.  I realized then that I'd forgotten my hotel key isn't just a magnetic stripe.  It has a chip of some kind, you just pass it in front of this big button-looking thing on the door, instead of swiping it or doing the push/pull thing.  I was worried I'd demagnetized my credit card, and of course didn't have ANY other payment methods with me, and once again needed to worry whether my checking account balance would even pay for this trip (they have my credit card on file at this hotel, but not sure if they'll need it again to charge me when I check out, and the next hotel will certainly want it).  Luckily, I moved over a kiosk and it worked.  Whew!  I put my hotel key into one of my unsecured pockets, far away.  I figured worst case, I'd have to show my ID at the hotel to get them to let me in my room (where I have another key, since they gave me two).

Anyway, got to Chelsea, and had to walk 2 1/2 long blocks plus four short blocks.  It was a nice walk, again, it seems like a nice neighborhood.  I passed row houses with actual FRONT YARDS.  With bushes and a little path to their steps and everything!

I needed to eat, but I like to GET to where I'm going, then look for a place to eat where I know the timeframe I have to work with, so I'd purposely waited until I got to the neighborhood.  I saw a Thai place, and Thai food sounded good, so I went for it.  I had Phad Garlic tofu.  Mmmmm...

Then I wandered a bit, saw an Argentinian restaurant and decided to have dessert, too.  I had chocolate mousse with a fresh strawberry and raspberry on top.  Mnmmmm....

My "reservation" was for 7:45, but I headed there at 7:30, and barely waited until I was let in with a group of other people.  The schtick is that they're pretending it's a hotel, but really it's a made over warehouse.  So you have a "reservation," they have the "baggage" check (coats and bags), then you "check in" and they hand you a "room key" (really a playing card, which I believe denotes what time your "reservation" was for, as apparently you're welcome to show up early and hang out in the bar...but I'm getting ahead of myself again.  So the hallway to the "check in" counter is pretty dark, and oddly echo-y, but not too big a deal.

Oh, and I guess at some point, I should warn people...if you think you'll come to this show (Sleep No More in NYC), then I recommend you don't actually read the reviews (much, or at all if you can stand it) on places like Yelp, and don't read the rest of my post, either.  There are a few things you need to know, like wear comfortable shoes/clothes, contacts instead of glasses if you can, and when you see an actor walking/running by, follow them unless you're really enthralled with what you're doing.  Okay, NOW go away if you don't want to be "spoiled" because I'm not going to hold back.

Okay, where was I?  Okay, you "check in," and they point you to a stairway and tell you to go up and up and you'll know where to go.  So I climbed the stairs.  It got darker and darker.  At the top of the stairs, the path was delineated by velvet curtains with VERY dim lights in SOME of the corners, such that you could usually determine your next turn, but a couple of places, it was PITCH black.  Then all of a sudden you were in the lobby area of a bar, and were greeted and welcomed in by people in character for the 20s/30s.  There was nice music playing, and beautiful women (and a couple men) welcoming you in and inviting you to drink.  They had absinthe, and I decided I should try it.  How often do you get the chance?  They took my credit card and said they'd start a tab and I could get the card back when I cashed out at the end of the night.  Okay.  The absinthe smelled like black licorice, but luckily didn't taste much like it...very herbal.  I'd only had a few sips when they called people with cards Ace, Two, or Three (I had a Two, so I guess I could have shown up even earlier and been ushered in right away...oops!).  I tossed back the rest of the absinthe, almost tossed it back up, and followed the throng.  We were ushered into a small room, given masks, and told we must wear them the entire time, and from this point on, we could not talk.  We also couldn't hold hands, but since I'd come there alone, I didn't really plan to hold hands with random strangers anyway, so no biggie.  Of course, there had to be "that" couple, that still kept talking intermittently, and had to be reminded a few times.  Wonder if they were the same people who got shushed by staff a time or two, too.  Ah, yes, so all the "audience" was wearing white masks with a beak-like appendage (but it allowed for easier mouth-breathing (my nose was pinched off by the nose of the mask anyway), and eating (more on that later)), the staff were wearing black masks, and were also silent (unless they had to shush people, apparently) and were there mostly to prevent issues, keep you from going into an area you didn't belong (either permanently or temporarily due to the acts), or help with ushering people around out of the way of the action during an act.  Lastly, the actors were NOT wearing masks, so it was pretty easy to determine who they were.

I had read lots of reviews and been "spoiled," so I was on the lookout for a few things during the play, and managed to see all of them.  I think I also saw all the rooms, though probably not all the acts, because I found myself seeing the same acts over and over as they repeated.

Anyway, from the room with the masks, we were ushered into another "room," which was actually an elevator.  The doors opened and the elevator man ushered the group out the door, except he stepped in the way after a few people had passed, separating a twosome from each other (probably the ones who were talking), which they were NOT happy about).  It stopped two more times.  I'd heard if you could arrange to be the last one on the elevator, you would get let out onto a floor by yourself and see an act one-on-one with the actor, but alas, even though I hung back, I got let out with the last ten or so people.  It was dim (the WHOLE night, throughout the WHOLE place, with very few exceptions), but not dark.  The experience would have been a whole lot scarier if I hadn't read the reviews promising that while it has a haunted house feel, and some creepy elements, there are NO people (or things) jumping out at you--the "scariness" is entirely psychological.  And that's true.  I like creepy and scary and weird, just not being startled, and there was only one time I was scared the whole time, and it didn't turn out to be scary.

Pretty much right away, I saw an actor run by.  I'd heard the advice I gave above, to follow, so I did.  He ran up the stairs.  I think I'd been let out on the third floor, and the actor ran up and up and up, possibly to the sixth floor, I wasn't keeping good track.  Every time I tried to access the sixth floor later, though, it had a chain across it and a staff member guarding it, not sure if that was the case the whole evening, or if I was just unlucky.  Anyway, I was running out of steam, and fell behind a bit, and sure enough, the actor went through a door and it slammed, and was locked.  I had to go through the door that wasn't locked, and he wasn't behind it.  Whatever, I saw plenty throughout the night.

So yeah, basically imagine a psychological-but-not-startling haunted house to the HILT.  Six-plus floors, rooms upon rooms upon rooms, with various "themes."  The fifth floor was hospital themed, and had a ward of beds as well as a ward of bathtubs.  There was a child's room with a bed with a teddy bear on it, but when you looked in the mirrors in the room, they showed the "reflected" room had a bed with a bloody child in it.  (I'd been spoiled on that, so pointed it out to some people, silently.  They didn't get it at first, so I pointed to the mirror, then to the actual bed.  Then again, THEN they finally saw it.)  There was a room with tons of dolls hanging from the ceiling.  Quite a few Catholic-themed shrines or whatever you want to call them.  A TON of taxidermy, some rooms full of it, some more subtle.  There was an entire room full of pheasants hanging all around.  There was also a room with a winter woodland forest, a "room" that was meant to be a cemetery, an outdoor courtyard, quite a few bedrooms, some bathrooms (presumably operational, but I didn't test them out), libarary-type rooms, a candy store (I'd heard of it online, and people seemed to be hinting that there was something cool about being able to eat the candy, so I presumed some sort of clue or something, but I ate some candy and didn't "get it," but hey, my mouth had been dry, so it solved that problem).  Like I said, I'd heard about the candy store online, so when it seemed to be time for the thing to wind down, I started looking in earnest, and started at the top floor all over again, poking into places I hadn't been (or thought I hadn't been), until FINALLY, not a moment too soon, I found the candy store just before the finale.  Like I said, though, it didn't seem all that important.  Guess people just thought it was cool to eat the "props."

Anyway, so yeah, imagine the coolest haunted house EVER.  Oh, and part of it is like a hotel, with a front desk, maintenance man's office, etc., and even a basement (with a morgue?  or did that table just happen to be handy for laying a dead person on?  It didn't always make SENSE, mind you.)  But unlike most haunted houses, this is a totally elaborate setup, with a TON of details, and when being realistic won't work, they create it (they had "dust" that was actually glued on or something, so you couldn't just wipe it away on accident).  And you can touch anything and everything.  They didn't explicitly say that, but I'd read it online.  And people seemed to take it seriously, touching and snooping, but yet respect it, and replace things the way they found them.

However, the one downside is that in all my reading, it seemed that there wasn't much of a "plot," and snooping didn't have much point to it, other than admiring how cool it all was.  You wouldn't really find clues that would help you solve a mystery.  Maybe if you REALLY followed the story, and REALLY searched for clues, they might fill in details, but it really doesn't matter.  It'd be SOOOooo cool if a company this devoted could have taken it that extra step and made it so that snooping had some sort of reward--a murder mystery with a really high production value.  Obviously, you couldn't make it necessary to find every clue in order to figure anything out, but even if the action revealed it all by the end, maybe the clues could help you know "who done it" just a little sooner, or tell you "who done" some other crime not crucial to the plot, or SOMETHING.

Anyway, so even without any live actors, the experience was pretty cool.  But there WERE live actors.  And how cool is it to be there, with live action going on, and you're RIGHT THERE.  We audience members often had to step out of the way (some of the scenes, the staff would position you to be out of the way, but others, you just crowded around to watch, and if the actors needed you to move, they'd just take your elbow and move you, or wave the crowd away).

So, some of the scenes I saw.  And yes, I'd been warned there was nudity, and oh, there was.  I saw a guy walk into the cemetery, dig a small hole, and bury a doll's arm in it, and say a little prayer over it.  Then I saw Lady MacBeth (this play is loosely based around MacBeth, and also a couple of Hitchcock movies I haven't seen and didn't have time to Netflix before coming) doing a dance around the bathtub, then Mr. MacBeth came in all bloody and got in the bath.  There was full frontal nudity for some of the crowd (theater in the round right up close), but it was pretty discrete rear-end nudity from where I was standing.  Then he got out of the bath and into the bed, then finally put some clothes back on.  I forget who I followed then, and whether I followed them all the way or just wandered in randomly, but the next scene I saw was the "orgy" scene that all the reviews said you had to make sure to see.  It had techno music, and a few actors dancing.  Oh, I forgot to mention--there's very little speaking in this performance, and in fact much of the vocalization is nonsense sounds--there were only a few words of actual English spoken, that I caught anyway.  Most of it is dance only, with the occasional choreographed fight and very few speaking parts, like I said.

Anyway, the orgy.  Yeah, I walked into the room (set up like a bar) and there was a couple kissing at a table, but soon a woman with a shaved head joined in, then there was a naked guy with a goat head.  Then the room went black, and strobe lights started.  First very slowly (where you couldn't see except every couple of seconds, and only a glimpse, so it wasn't even to the point of being herky-jerky like you think of with strobe lights), then it sped up little by little.  The women's dresses ended up down to their waists, and the guy stayed naked the whole time.  Not quite sure what it meant or represented, but it was very intense, and kind of cool, in any case.

At some point, I saw a choreographed fight scene, which was kind of cheesy seeing it that close up and how obvious it was that it was choreographed, but what are you going to do--the show goes on like eight times a week or something, so they can't actually beat each other up.  :-)  There was a pregnant woman I followed a while, but I couldn't quite get what her "story" was, so I followed her so long trying to find out whether she would ever give birth to the baby (there was a bloody baby in the MacBeth scene earlier I forgot to mention, and clearly dead/maimed babies were a theme, what with the decor in some of the rooms), but she just kept dancing and crying and dancing, so I wandered away after a while.  There were a couple of lover's quarrel / jealousy scenes, and a dentist/butcher/taxidermist person who was very intently looking at stuff, then examining audience members (to see if they had wings?  birds and feathers also were a big theme...and eggs).  There was a hotel employee who wandered off, a few of us followed, and he went to the maintenance office and made a paper hat/boat, then left it there.  Not sure what that was about.  See, that's the thing...even HAVING recently read the SparkNotes to MacBeth, there were a couple of scenes that were obviously about MacBeth, but plenty were not so obvious, and also weren't obviously about ANYTHING.  Maybe if you were better about following just one actor?  But from the reviews I've read, it just seems that between the lack of speaking, and how hard it is to see one story completely through, let alone piece them all together in the order the supposedly occurred, it's hard to "get" this play.  So I went into it with the mindset that I would just enjoy the experience, and not worry about plot or story or anything, and that's exactly what I did.  But if you went in expecting a story, and a plot, and a build-up, climax, and resolution, you'd be very disappointed.  It's literally wandering around a VERY elaborate set, and wandering into very intimate theater, but it's very disjointed and also very...esoteric?

Anyway, I also saw a scene where they discovered a man dead (not sure how he died--I managed to miss that part), and carried him to the aforementioned "morgue" or whatever.  I thought about sticking around to see the actor come back to life, but figured a staff member would just usher us out rather than let us witness that, so I didn't bother.  At some point, I found myself on the second floor, watching a ball on the first floor, and most of the actors dancing with each other, except the guy I was standing next to.  I think that was also straight out of MacBeth.  Hmm...I think that about covers all the scenes I saw, except the finale.

I think I mentioned above, but I kept stumbling into scenes I'd already seen before, and I wanted to see different stuff, so I'd wander off and go looking for stuff, then end up in a scene I'd already seen before again.  So I'm guessing I must've cycled through the floors in roughly the same order or something, and probably missed stuff at the top of the "hotel" while I was at the bottom (multiple different times) and vice versa, but oh well.

Oh, I just remembered the one "scary" moment.  So sometimes the floors, while large, were laid out fairly logically, and it was pretty easy to find your way around (there were two stairwells, one at either end of the building, labeled 3W (for third floor, west end), for example.  However, some of the areas with lots of smaller rooms got pretty labyrinthine, so it was fun to explore.  I was on a floor I'd been to a couple times, but found a new area, because the door was kind of in a dark alcove, and I happened to see some other people go in there.  Nothing too exciting (the room at the end of that "maze" had a bunch of pans with dirt and bird wings half-buried in them, plus candles).  But as I was leaving, I saw an area that went off to the side.  It was dark, so I couldn't tell how far back it went.  I reached out my hand, and didn't feel the end.  I stepped into the blackness, and still couldn't feel the end.  Oh well...I wandered off.  But now I was curious about that area, and how far back it went (the parallel hallway was LONG, and I could tell it was possible for that room to be very deep).  So I went back and started deeper into the blackness.  And that's where I was nervous.  I was afraid there WAS going to be something scary back there to startle me, a person lurking in the shadows or something.  I chickened out again and went back to the light.  Then, bolstered with courage due to the anonymity of the masks, I found a stranger who seemed to be wandering alone (not one of the many couples who were clinging to each other the whole time), tapped his shoulder, and beckoned for him to follow me.  I was hoping he'd be more curious than I was, and would venture in first.  No luck.  He followed me a bit, then wandered off, leaving me deeper in the blackness than I'd been yet.  Finally I chickened out and turned on my cell phone (we were instructed to turn them completely off before entering).  Turns out it was a long rectangular room with a chair in it, and a light fixture hanging so low above it as to be impractical, and that was it.  It was centered, so when I was clinging to the wall, I hadn't bumped it.  I also hadn't QUITE reached the end of the room, but almost.  I have no idea if they perform a scene in there, or if it's just there and meant to be black.

Oh yeah, so it's not just dim lighting the whole time.  They totally use the lighting just as they would on an actual stage, to spotlight action, hide things you shouldn't see, and highlight things you should.  It just always varying shades of dim light, instead of super bright.  But I wandered through the same rooms quite a few different times, and they looked different each time due to the lighting.  And then when the actors would appear and do a scene, the lighting would highlight them at the right moments.  There was also music piped in throughout the entire place, and it often corresponded with the action during scenes, and was just good background music when there weren't any actors around.

I'm probably forgetting a ton of stuff, but I guess I'll have to supplement this post tomorrow if so, because it's already 1:00 a.m. here.  Okay, so I knew the time was nearing the end (it ends at 10:30), but they did make it pretty natural to have all the audience end up gathered in one spot together.  Even if you didn't know going in, you quickly gather that following an actor is better than just letting them wander away and not knowing when you'll see more "action."  So when all the actors end up in one place, so does the audience.  But also, I think they had the "staff" block off lower and lower floors, and probably even (especially toward the very end) sweep looking for people.  I'd actually seen the beginning of the finale scene earlier, but they didn't finish it, of course, just kind of wandered off.  They're having a banquet on a big raised "stage" area in the ballroom where the dancing also had been.  The actors are all acting in slow motion, drinking and kissing and slapping each other.  Some of them have blood on them.  Then most of the actors kind of fade into the background, and just three men are left on the stage.  A fourth actor wanders over to a rope and lowers a noose.  One of the actors on the "stage" places the noose around the other guy's neck (MacBeth?) and also not-so-discreetly hooks a line attached to it onto the actor's harness, and there's a bit more dancing resulting in the about-to-be-hanged actor standing on a chair on the stage, then in a rage, he kicks off the chair and swings out over the audience, and it goes dark.  We're all shuffled back into the bar where the whole thing began.

And now there are 200 people in the bar, and everyone needs to cash out at the same time.  Why did I agree to that scheme?  Luckily, there was a singer who was quite good, so it was fairly nice to wait around, though a bit stuffy.  I checked out, then even hung around a while longer to wait for the next band to start and stand in the breeze from the AC.  But it was 11:00, and I still needed to take my convoluted subway route home (I checked the app, changing it to evening instead of rush hour, but it still recommended the same route back).

The walk back to the subway was nice.  It was weird, though, I was relatively alone at the beginning of my walk, then as I got closer to the subway station, there were THRONGS of people (on both sides of the road) all heading the same direction.  It wasn't from the play I was at (we got to keep our masks, and these people didn't have any), so I don't know if some other event was also ending, or what.  The subway ride home was nearly as uneventful, though I did have to wait a while at one stop.  It's just so miserably HOT in those stations.  Hotter and humider than Bangkok (city or subway), I'm pretty sure.  Ugh.  So I arrived back in my hotel room, cranked the AC down to 65, and parked myself in its path.  I'm cooler now, though, and need to get to bed, so I'm turning it back up and doing just that.  Oh, and my feet and legs are tired from all those stairs--four subway stations plus a six-story "hotel" I explored on foot for three hours, then four more subway stations, plus lots of blocks of just plain walking...  Man, I'm going to be tired AND sore tomorrow, and will have to lug my suitcase like a mile.  Maybe I'll take a cab...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

...not necessarily in that order.

First, to catch up, yesterday I had class all day, then a conference call with my team all evening, so I just ran across the street to a little Italian place and back to my hotel room--no exploring.

This morning, as I was gathering my things to go downstairs to the training, I somehow noticed I was missing the credit card I'd used to pay for dinner last night.  I googled the place, and they don't open until 11:30, so I wouldn't know whether they still had it or not for a while, so I tried to forget about it and focus on the training, though I did find myself looking up my bank balance to see whether I could make it the rest of the trip (and until pay day) on my cash balance (maybe, but barely, and I wouldn't be able to see any more shows).  On a bathroom break sometime after 10:00, I tried calling to see if they were answering the phone yet, and they did pick up, and they did have my credit card.  Woo!  So on our lunch break, I went there and got my card.

Then I went to a cafe next door to grab lunch, and I think I found the place I'll be eating all of my future meals.  90% of their menu is vegetarian, and SO many good flavors!  It's just sandwiches and salads, but I think there are like 10 more things on the menu I want to try.  We'll see...

More training in the afternoon, blah blah blah.  Except I got an e-mail about a survey we're currently fielding right now, and I asked to change the wording on a question because when Nathan took the survey, he was a little confused by the existing wording, and now we suspect that wording might be making it harder to find people who qualify for our survey.  Crap.  My boss doesn't blame me, and says IF that's even why, it's still something that she and the vendor, as the more experienced people in this equation, could have (and should have?) vetoed the change, so she doesn't blame me at all.

Anyway, the training ended, and I went back to my room to regroup and plan my evening.  I'd already researched, and Avenue Q isn't playing on Tuesdays, and Book of Mormon starts at 7, therefore the lottery is at 5, and my training ends at 5, so I can't make it up there for the lottery until Friday, when the show is at 8 and the lottery is at 6.  Those are the two shows I want to focus on, so I decided to do something else.  I want to do The Central Park area and the south end of Manhattan, so I decided to do the south end of Manhattan tonight.

I decided to go to Brooklyn Bridge first, and walk at least partway across it, taking pictures in the daylight, then check out the World Trade Center site and possibly the Statue of Liberty.  I took the subway down to the Brooklyn Bridge (wow, the express trains are awesome when they make sense--only one stop between here and there).  I followed signs toward the bridge, and sure enough, there was the bridge--easy peasy.  I walked out onto it.  The sun was pretty bright, reflecting off all different buildings.  It occurred to me that I could just not bother with sunglasses, which worked well enough when on the city streets, but I decided to put them on.  I should have swapped my regular glasses into the glasses case, but I figured I'd be switching back soon, and just hooked my normal glasses on the front of my shirt, and put the glasses case back in my bag, empty.  I walked along the bridge, taking pictures as I went, and as I headed toward the rail to get a more unobstructed picture, and lifted my camera, the strap caught on my glasses, and I wondered what was happening just as my glasses fell through the railing and onto the roadway below.

My glasses, laying on the pavement just below the yellow line, slightly left of center.
 At this part of the bridge, the pedestrian walkway is raised about 10 feet above and in between the two directions of car travel.  The yellow line of the road coming from Brooklyn was about 2 inches from the center divider, and my glasses were sitting in that very narrow space.  There was also no shoulder on the other side of the road, making it impossible to actually go fetch my glasses.  I hemmed and hawed and cursed.  I actually stood there a while, incredulous.  Then I realized I was standing next to a call box, and rather than use it, I googled the non-emergency number for the police in Manhattan, and it said to call 311.  I did, and there was a whole phone tree to go through, and I finally had to just press zero for the operator.  She didn't seem to believe my story at first, but clarified it, put me on hold for a bit, then said that I would need to talk to the local precinct, and she needed my nearest cross-street.  I explained again that I was on the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge, blah blah blah, but that wasn't good enough.  I named the street names I could see on the signs for traffic arriving in Manhattan from Brooklyn, but she said she still couldn't locate me in the computer.  Surely she had better access to a map than I did, since I was on my phone, and she had a computer,  but I remembered I had a paper map in my bag, pulled it out, and gave her an intersection.  She transferred me to the 54th precinct.

I explained what happened to the operator/dispatcher there, and she had the temerity to LAUGH at me.  Then she put me on hold, came back after a bit, and made me explain it again (probably for a friend of hers).  She clarified what I was saying, and asked what I expected them to do.  I forgot the first and simplest option, having a long reachy-thingie from the pedestrian walkway where I was, but said that maybe if someone--a police officer, city employee, someone with lights on their vehicle--was coming back from Brooklyn, maybe they could be in the left lane, put their lights on, slow to a stop, get out and get my glasses without getting hit thanks to the lights and the vehicle blocking the lane, and I'd meet them wherever to get them back.  I didn't even get all the way through that explanation when she laughed and put me on hold again.  For 25 minutes.  She'd come back every 10 minutes or so, and ask me to continue holding.  Eventually she came back on the line and dropped the call.  I have no idea whether it was purposeful or not.  Meanwhile, I'd been sitting there on the bridge, wasting time, for about half an hour.  I decided to make the most of the sunset, and walked to the first tower of the bridge and took some pictures.

I think I took this picture just after dropping my glasses, after talking to the dispatcher

When the call dropped, I decided to check out optometrists in the area.  I'm due for a visit, and maybe Manhattan has 1-hour optometrists, and maybe they'll even take my insurance!  Or, I could get contacts--the show I'm going to tomorrow recommends them instead of glasses due to the masks they make you wear.  Anyway...there was a 1-hour optometrist nearby, but they close at 7, and it was now 7:15.  I called them to verify their hours, and they answered and confirmed they had just closed.  Oh well, I'd have to go tomorrow, and probably miss some of the conference in order not to miss the show I'd already bought tickets to.  Ugh.

But then it occurred to me, that maybe I could try fetching them from above, by MacGuyver-ing my own reachy-thingie.  Worst case, my glasses were still down there on the road, and I wasted a few bucks and less than an hour.  I figured it was worth it.  I looked up the nearest CVS (none in downtown, apparently), then Duane Reade, a ubiquitous drugstore here.  Sure enough, there were about 5 within easy walking distance.  I picked the nearest and easiest to get to, just on the other side of City Hall, right at the end of the bridge.  It was a pretty walk through the grounds of City Hall, and I found the drugstore easily.  I wandered the aisles looking for appropriate items.  I noticed the gift wrap section first, but they only had bows, not rolls of ribbons.  However, the next aisle over had various supplies including both twine and duct tape--perfect!  In case the duct tape wasn't sticky enough, I also picked up some hair clips (just like the ones back in my hotel room, ugh) and some hair bands I could use to create a mousetrap effect if I had to (hold it open with the hair tie, with a separate length of twine attached to it, and use the second piece of twine to pull the rubber band off the clip, causing it to clamp shut, hopefully around part of the glasses).  Either scenario was going to need something heavier than any of these supplies.  What would be heavy but relatively inexpensive?  I bought a bottle of Suave conditioner for $3.  I realized I would need to be able to cut the twine if I was going to make two separate pieces, and bought some cheap nail clippers.  It all cost $24.  Sheesh!  But if it worked, I'd be saving myself a few hundred bucks.

I headed back onto the bridge.  The sun was starting to go down, and the skies were really dramatic from the storm that had passed over, thankfully only dropping a few drops, so I took some pictures while I walked.  Might as well, right?  I walked back to where my glasses were, and warily peered over the railing at them.  Still intact.  I was almost hoping they were crushed to oblivion, as at least I could walk away knowing I couldn't do any more.  They were fine, which was both annoying and a HUGE relief.  Oh, and remember I'm wearing my prescription sunglasses this whole time--in the store, in the darkening dusk with storm clouds overhead.

I retired to a nearby bench to assemble my fishing gear.  I started with using the hair clip, but only as a medium to hold the inside-out duct tape.  I tied the twine to the clip, wrapped duct tape around it inside-out, and dangled it over the edge to the glasses.  It was pretty light, and the traffic would create a breeze as a car went by, then it would suck back in the opposite direction, then another breeze with the next car...  I took advantage of the breezes to have them blow the sticky tape toward the glasses, but it just wasn't heavy enough to stick to the glasses.  I pulled it back up and went back to the bench.  Time to pull out the big gun--the conditioner bottle.  I held the string and made sure it went between the layers of duct tape, with the ball end sticking out toward the top of the bottle.  I wrapped the entire bottle in duct tape, sticky side out, including covering the bottom and top of the bottle.  I went back over to where the glasses were, and they were still lying there, taunting me.  I'm the sort of person who gets into these kinds of messes quite easily.  But I'm not the kind of person that these kind of solutions EVER work for.  Ever.  But I gamely lowered the conditioner over the side, onto the glasses, and it seemed like they might have stuck.  I gingerly lifted it back up, and sure enough, the glasses came, too.  At first, it seemed like they might fall off, but I think it was just the whole operation shifting as it cleared the ground.  I carefully lifted it up.  I knew I could easily screw the whole thing up if the glasses tapped against something (or even got hit by a breeze, but there's only so much I can control) and fell off, probably getting crushed by traffic this time.

Slowly, slowly, I reeled in the conditioner, tape, and glasses at the end of the twine.  I had a breathtaking moment when it came close to knocking into the railing, but eventually they were back onto the pedestrian side of the railing, and I grabbed the glasses and dropped the ball of twine.  WOO!!!  I carefully put those glasses on and my sunglasses safely into the glasses case in my bag.  I started putting the twine, etc., into my bag, and realized they'd served their purpose and I didn't really need to lug the conditioner around the rest of my evening.  So I tossed the supplies that weren't already in my bag and headed to the benches to sit down and revel in my success (and post about it on Facebook).  A family sitting there had seen the whole thing, and the guy exclaimed how awesome it was that it worked.  I was pretty pleased with myself, and couldn't stop grinning, so it was nice that someone else saw it and appreciated the awesomeness.  Like I said, stuff like that NEVER happens to me.  The rest of the evening, I kept marveling that I was wearing my glasses, and could just have easily been having to wear my sunglasses so I could see.

Since the sun was rapidly descending, I took some more photos of the bridge, then tried to make it to the west side of the island before the sun was completely gone.  I booked it off the bridge, and headed west, jogging south whenever necessary.  Sure enough, I found myself right at the WTC.  Nothing much to see--it's been nearly 11 years since the attacks, of course, and the whole area is blocked off for the construction they're doing.  But I took some photos of the towers they're building, plus just the general downtown area (again, you'll have to wait till after I get home for my "real" photos).  I made it to the water in time to get some sunset photos of the New Jersey skyline.  :-)  Seriously, though, it was pretty.  There weren't any good Manhattan skyline photos to be had, because of the construction (the pedestrian walkway was completely blocked in with metal siding), at least not without walking all the way to Brooklyn, which I didn't want to do with the rest of the stuff on my agenda.  Anyway, got some photos of New Jersey, plus the buildings there in Manhattan...good stuff.

Some panoramas - click to view larger

I wandered south along the water, and got a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.  But by now it was 9:00 p.m., and I hadn't eaten a thing since lunch, and was starting to get shaky, so I stopped and got dinner.  I didn't feel like walking any further south to see the Statue any closer.  Oh well.  If I have a few hours to kill some other day, I may go back down there and take the Staten Island ferry.  But at least I've seen her, from the air and now from the ground, so I won't feel like I missed out TOO much if I don't make it back down there.

I wandered back east and south a block or more each direction to head to the nearest subway station.  It was a nice neighborhood, expensive I'm sure, but pretty homey nonetheless.  I asked a few people directions to the subway station, and they were very nice about it.  I haven't felt unsafe here in the city yet, though until this evening, I'd mostly been in touristy areas.  This felt much more "normal," but really nice.  (It was the Rector St station on the red line, for the locals reading.)  Anyway, it was amazing how much longer the ride back north took, since it was a local train, not express.  But eventually I arrived, and was too lazy to walk back all the way from Times Square, so I transferred to an eastbound train to ride a couple of long blocks to Grand Central and then I only had a block and a half (or 2 1/2?) to walk.  The blocks here are very different from San Francisco, and I think even from Chicago, though that was a LONG time ago.  The long blocks are VERY long, and the short blocks are VERY short.  Crazy.

Anyway, made it back to my room safely, called Nathan briefly (one thing this time difference is good for!), and typed this up.  It's now after midnight, and my alarm is going off at 6:30, so I need to get to bed.  Oh, to top off the calamities of today, I also got an e-mail that due to the construction noises that have been annoying us during the training, they're changing the venue to a different hotel across town.  They'll move my reservation, so I probably have to move out tomorrow, which means packing everything up in the morning, stashing it somewhere all day, then hauling it across town tomorrow evening before that show I'm supposed to be getting to.  Ugh.  I e-mailed my boss about all the stuff I'd been through today, and she, too, had a crappy day (though not with the upsides I had). She remarked, "I hope our tomorrows are better (than we are today)," which made me laugh out loud--our company's slogan is "Better tomorrow than we are today."  :-)

I'm really excited about the show I'm going to tomorrow night.  Hopefully I'll feel up for blogging about it tomorrow night.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Travelogue, Part II

I set my alarm for 8:30 so I could go downstairs around 9:30, when the nail salon next door opened.  I'd submitted an appointment request via their website for 9:30, but never heard back from them to confirm.  Whatever.  Anyway, I did get down there around 9:30, and buzzed the bell (it's on the second floor, and the door to the stairs is locked but has a buzzer.  No response.  I checked that the sign says they open at 9:30 on Sundays.  I called them.  No answer.  So I gave up.  I considered stopping into one of the many other nail salons I saw, but decided not to bother with the time and expense.  I'll buy some nail polish remover to strip my toes, and just go bare.

I headed towards Times Square.  There is a TKTS booth there, but one other show I want to see, Book of Mormon, doesn't sell through them.  Instead, you go to the theater, and can be in a drawing to get tickets on the day of a show.  When I got to the TKTS booth, it was about a half hour until they started selling tickets, and the line looked horrendous (and directly in the sun).  So I looked up the address to the theater Book of Mormon was playing in, and it wasn't too far to walk, so I headed that direction.  I found the theater without any trouble, but it was still too early to bother getting in line.  There were people camped out with chairs and everything, which I thought was pretty ridiculous.  To me, the fact that it's a lottery means it's not first-come-first-served, so I don't know what their strategy was, but decided it wasn't going to be my strategy.  I explored a bit, wandered into both the M&M store (huge!) and the Hershey store (tiny!), swung back past the theater a few times, but there still wasn't much of a line.  The sign on the doors clearly said it was a lottery.  You could put your name in at 2 1/2 hours prior to the show, (12:30), and the drawing was at 2 hours prior to the show (1:00).  It really sounded like getting there sooner wouldn't do you any good, but it still made me worry that there were people ensuring their place in line.  It was still only around 11, so I wanted to kill some MORE time.  I found an Italian restaurant that was open.  I wasn't very hungry, but I wanted to sit somewhere with air conditioning, so I went ahead and ordered a tomato and mozarella salad.  The waitress asked if I wanted some bread, so I said sure.  Well, it turns out my very simple meal cost like $20, because apparently the bread alone was $7.  Ridiculous!  Whatever...

I went back to the theater, and the line was getting longer, so I went ahead and stood in it.  What if they limit the number of people who can enter the drawing or something?  I stood there a while, when a theater employee came by and said that the line was for standing room only tickets, and there were only 25, so those of us who were there for the lottery, or simply didn't think we were going to be getting a SRO ticket if that's what we were there for, were free to leave, and that those of us doing the lottery should come back right at 12:30, since it was pointless to be there sooner.  Well, I'd had enough of killing time, so I just wandered down the street a bit until I found a ledge to sit on.

Sure enough, at 12:30, a guy came out and used a bullhorn to explain how it works.  You must be present at the time of the drawing, you can only fill out one slip per person (and they check through them after the drawing, and if one of the winners had multiple entries, their tickets are taken away when they come back for the show).  You have to have ID on you.  You can only buy either one or two seats per "win."  So anyway, I got a slip, wrote my name and info on it, and wandered back to my little ledge to wait for the drawing.

They called the names, and people standing all around me won, but not me.  Oh well.  I'll try again another couple nights.  If you win the lottery, you get tickets for $32 (or is it $37?) each, instead of like $155.  So I can't really afford to pay full price.  But I'll keep trying in the evenings--I should be able to just make it up to the theater in time for the drawing.

I wandered back toward where I'd come from, and saw the TKTS booth.  The line was more reasonable now, and the reader board showed both War Horse and Avenue Q, both of which I wanted to see.  So I got in line, and sure enough, both shows were still available.  I asked the ticket guy which one was more likely to also be sold out later, in case I wanted to come back and see the other one later.  He recommended I see War Horse now.  So I bought a ticket to it, and it was only about an hour from starting, and quite a few blocks north.  My handy-dandy iPhone app showed me where to go to get on the subway and which stop to get off at, so I was in business.

I showed up at Lincoln Center with plenty of time to spare, so I popped into a Mexican restaurant to get a cool refreshing drink.  Once again, I wasn't hungry, but didn't want to just take up space, so I ordered a quesadilla.  It hit the spot even though I thought I wasn't hungry.

Okay, so War Horse.  I haven't seen the movie.  I'd seen snippets of the play on TV or online or somewhere, and had seen the amazing puppetry.  And it WAS amazing.  The first horse we meet is the main horse, but as a foal.  There were three puppeteers, and since he was a foal, they didn't fit inside like they did with the older horses, so there was one puppeteer who controlled the hind legs, one who controlled the front legs and also the horse's breathing (he kind of heaved up and down), and a third puppeteer to control the head, including realistic ears.  The horse grazed, and the actors made chewing noises.  He snuffled, and the actors made the noises.  He whinnied, and the actors made the noises.  In fact, at least two of them made each of the noises, so they could be as complex as the noises an actual horse makes.  In that first scene, they show the unbroke foal being wary, then eventually checking the boy out, and it was amazing how realistic it was.  He stuck his neck out as far as possible to check things out, not committing his feet (the foal puppet had stiff legs, but his movements still seemed pretty realistic).  The actors worked in sync to even make realistic gaits--walking, trotting, and even cantering was true to form, best I could tell (though he did canter on the "wrong" lead, but then, it's a foal).  The horse sniffed at the boy, then scampered away.  So cute!  It really was pretty easy to forget about the puppeteers and just focus on the horse.

Then the grown-up horse (and later, a second horse just as elaborate as the main one) made his appearance.  I literally had tears well up.  He was HUGE (about 18 hands, probably, unless the actors were shorter than I pegged them at), and realistic without being realistic.  I mean, it was VERY clearly not a real horse, all tube frame and fabric mane and tail and such, but the movements were SO realistic.  The director and actors must have spent a ton of time studying real horses.  Again, realistic gaits, though these larger horses had fully articulating legs.  Realistic horse mannerisms, including ears.  Just amazing.  I do have to admit that sometimes the puppeteer of the head (who always had to stand near the head, and often had a hand on the cheek of the horse, presumably to help support the weight--they must have been HEAVY!) was a bit distracting--it seemed as if he (or she--the head puppeteer of the second horse was a woman) was an actor, holding the horse by the bridle or something.  The only other times that the puppeteers were a little more obvious was when the horse reared or kicked--you could obviously still see the front or hind puppeteers legs remaining on the ground while the horse's legs were airborne, so it was slightly distracting.  But there were long periods of time where it felt like I was watching a horse.  In fact, there were a couple times (gun fire) where I wondered how they got a horse that wouldn't spook at stuff like that, until I remembered it wasn't actually a horse.  :-)  My heart was also in my throat when the horse got caught in barbed wire, though of course it wouldn't really hurt the puppet even if the wire had been real.  The limping he did sure seemed real, though.

There were a few more minor horses with only one human--the framework was just the shoulder, back, and very top of the rump of the horse, plus a fully operational neck/head similar to the other puppets.  But one person supported the entire framework from the shoulder area, their legs represented the horse's front legs, and they also worked the head and neck from inside the horse.  Complicated, and HEAVY!  Less realistic, to be sure, but they were mostly in the background.

The story itself was predictable, especially having heard some of the hype about the movie.  But the acting/directing was fun and had comic relief.  The horses weren't the only puppets.  The show started with birds flying (on long slender poles), there was a goose who chased people around (on one wheel, but its neck was articulated by the puppeteer, who also voiced it and rolled it around as appropriate), and some crows.  The play is set during WW1, and they used accents (and uniforms for the soldiers, but there were civilians as characters, too) to show which country they each were from.  So the actors all spoke English, but in an English, German, or French accent.  And pretended not to understand each other's "language" as part of the story, showing that within the world of the play, they were actually speaking those foreign languages, but we only understood them because the director wanted us to.

The main horse was supposed to have been a thoroughbred / draft cross, and I thought it was funny that when they were trying to harness break him to pull, and he was freaking out at the harness, the guy said "I need to you show me your calm stable draft side, not your thoroughbred side right now." 

Anyway, amazing show, and totally deserved the standing ovation it got.  I'm not sure if I'm just overly emotional (again), or if it really was that amazing, but I totally cried (and not really at the story, just at the awesomeness of it all).

When the show ended, I headed north (the wrong way) to the next stop, rather than the one right next to Lincoln Center, because the express train stops both there and Times Square, where I was heading.  Not sure if that made any sense, since it took me a while to walk.  Whatever.  At least I was only in the cramped train for one stop instead of three?  Found my next destination easily--the theater where Silence! The Musical was playing.  (It's a comedy musical based on Silence of the Lambs. ... I know!)  However, I was a little nervous about actually getting tickets.  The building that advertised the play didn't actually allow entrance.  Instead, you had to pass the neighboring adult "bookstore" (do they actually sell BOOKS?), and go to "Times Scare," a haunted house / restaurant / club / bar / apparently theater--you buy the tickets there, plus have to enter the theater through the establishment, though you only pass through one of the multiple bars, not the restaurant or the haunted house.  Weird.  But anyway, they had "rush" tickets for $25.  I'm pretty sure you're supposed to be a student to get them, and I was looking for my student ID, but they didn't actually ask for it.  Woo!  (I did find it, though, so I'll have to keep that in mind for other shows.)

I once again found myself with a bit of time to kill, and thirsty but not hungry.  I had vowed not to go to chain restaurants (other than Starbucks; sue me), but popped into a Chevys.  I wanted someplace that would be quick, and also less likely to mind me having yet another "light" meal.  I ordered a side of guac and a drink in addition to an ice water (which I needed seconds on--the water, not the drink or the guac), and successfully killed 30-45 minutes or so.

After the "grand" entrance to the theater for Silence!, and then seeing the interior of the theater and the stage, which seemed very much like a small community theater, I didn't have high hopes for the show, and was worried I'd wasted $25.  But it was AWESOME.  The book was my favorite as a teenager, and I read it over and over, plus have seen the movie a couple times.  Clarice wasn't much of a look-alike, but a hideous wig that they made fun of, and overdoing the voice of Clarice/Jodie Foster added some comedy.  Hannibal, however, was spot on.  He was thinner than Anthony Hopkins, but had the same hair, and had the voice down EXACTLY.  Totally awesome.

But yes, it was a comedy, and a musical.  It began with a musical number with five or six "lambs," explaining the back story and the characters, then got right into the story.  Okay, I don't want to offend people here, but if you've read/seen it, and remember what "Multiple Miggs" says to Clarice when she comes to see Hannibal, you've got to know that there's an entire musical number based around that phrase, and how Hannibal wishes HE could have smelled...what Miggs said he could smell.  Anyway, totally inappropriate, but absolutely hilarious.  There was also a musical number sung by the killer, who was a cross-dresser.  He was wearing a silky robe, just like the character in the book/movie, and showed off his nipple ring as part of the song, and talked about how he had to tuck his junk in order to look more feminine.  But then, as the finale to that song, he actually opened the robe WIDE open, and he had, indeed, actually tucked his junk.  Wow.  Anyway, I absolutely couldn't picture a musical comedy about that book/movie, but they really did it.  It was true to the actual story, yet musical and hilarious.  Not high-falutin' theater in any way, but totally worth the $25 and trip through the Times Scare place.

I headed back to my hotel, passing through Bryant Park again, taking slow-shutter photos of traffic, and going through Grand Central again, too.

And then I wrote up these two blog posts and am now heading to bed.  My computer says it's 9:13 at home, but I'm plenty exhausted.  More importantly, it's after midnight, and I have to be downstairs for my training class (the ACTUAL reason I'm here in New York) at 8:30 a.m.  Tomorrow, I have to have a quick dinner than come back to my room for a Skype call with my work team, so I won't be able to get out and have much fun--probably just head down the street, maybe the other direction or something.  I think I've already hit most of the touristy stuff in this neighborhood, though.  So yeah, I feel bad I haven't really hit any more touristy sites today, and that my time until War Horse at 3:00 was mostly wasted, but hey, I saw TWO shows today, so that's pretty good.  And while you can't see the Brooklyn Bridge or Statue of Liberty just anywhere, you CAN see bridges and statues in any old town, but you can't see shows like these just anywhere, so I'm kind of prioritizing seeing them.  I'll try and make it to at least some other sights by the time I go home on Sunday morning, though.

Travelogue, Part I

So, I'm in New York.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had the pleasure of waking up at 3:30, arriving at the airport at 4:30, and getting airborne at 6:00.  That all went smoothly, except for the annoyance of TWO people re-packing in front of the ticket counter because their checked luggage was over the allowed weight (or at least allowed without an overcharge).  Oh well.

Made it to SF just fine, the weather was fine.  However, I'd been warned with a 2:00 a.m. e-mail that my flight from SFO to Newark was going to be delayed.  Apparently this was due to the crew not having arrived.  This was through no fault of their own, but apparently the flight they were arriving to SFO on was canceled or delayed or whatever.

Now, I've been on my share of long flights in the past 6-18 months, but somehow I'd forgotten what fun they are.  Yes, that's sarcasm.  See, on the little puddle-jumper flights (which is what the majority of mine have been in the past six months), there might be one type of annoyance or another.  But when you spend five hours in a tin can with a couple hundred people, you're going to encounter a MUCH wider variety of annoyances.  It was too hot when we boarded, the air blowing on me was too cold (and blowing too hard.  There was a baby SHRIEKING intermittently, and someone kicking my seat intermittently.

However, at least the drinks were complimentary (they're not on Allegiant), and they gave me a WHOLE can of sprite plus a cup of ice.  It's the little things.  :-)

I saw some cool scenery in California, got a glimpse of Lake Tahoe, then tuned out for a while.  I think I also caught a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake, and some other cool scenery in Utah before it got cloudy and I tuned out again.  Then again over the plains, it's clear how flat and farm-oriented it is.

About an hour before we landed, I saw that we were flying over water, and thought that was weird.  It took me a minute to realize it must be one of the great lakes.  Boy, those things are big.  :-)

Also shortly before landing, my seat mate chatted with me a bit.  He's from India, but spoke pretty good English, though with a fairly thick accent.  I overestimated his English abilities at first, though, because when I told him I work for the company that makes Red Vines, he looked thoughtful for a minute.  Then he asked me how far Portland (not that I live in Portland, but whatever) is from the Napa Valley. I corrected him that I said Red VINES, not red WINE.  I explained "vines" like plants?  So then he wondered what we did with the plants that we put into the candy.  He'd never heard of licorice.  Oops.  So I told him it was just chewy candy.  :-)

So...the landing.

We flew across rural treed areas, some farm land, then it got a little more suburban, and then BAM, we were flying south off the west side of Manhattan.  Awesome.  I'd had the good luck to randomly choose the correct side of the plane to sit on, and got a perfect view of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, etc.  So that was the first exciting part of the landing.

By the time Manhattan was out of view, we were only a few hundred feet off the ground, flying over some pretty industrial areas.  Then we banked, HARD, and swooped right over the buildings.  It felt REALLY low, and it was, in perspective, but like I said, probably 150+ feet off the ground, the pilot leveled us out, bobbed and weaved a few more times to line it up straight, then a few seconds later, we touched down.  I don't recall a landing where the approach isn't lined up with the runway a couple miles out, but rather lines up at LESS than the last minute. 

Collecting my luggage was blessedly uneventful (though it took a while for it to show up), then I headed out to find a taxi.  My hotel is near a subway line, so there was probably some combination of trains that would have gotten me there, but I didn't feel like dealing with it.  My seatmates on the plane thought a taxi ride would be 40 to 50 bucks.  Got to the taxi stand, and it's flat fares, and for mid-town Manhattan, east side (where my hotel is) was $65.  Well, that's not MUCH more than the upper end of the range, so oh well.  Except if you're paying by credit card, you have to pre-purchase a voucher, which adds a $5 "processing fee" and that fare quoted doesn't include the tolls, or tip of course.  So by the time all was said and done, my card is going to be hit with $101!!!  Guess I'll take the train(s) back to the airport.  Sure, the company is paying, but $100 seems excessive, to me.

But I'm glad I was in the cab, because I got to see other planes landing, and making the same swooping maneuver ours did.  It looks just as dramatic from the ground, honestly.  I guess with all the major airports packed together, plus possibly restricted airspace issues, they have to come in from the side until the last minute.

Approaching the tunnel that would bring us across to Manhattan, we were quite stuck in traffic, and I asked the cabbie if traffic is always that bad on a Saturday afternoon (curious if maybe there was a sporting event or something, though I have no clue if we were near any stadiums), and he said that was GOOD traffic.  Huh.  I live in a small town and all, but just drove around SF quite a bit, and this was MUCH worse traffic than I noticed there (granted, mostly on weekends or going against commute traffic, but still).

But we arrived safely at my hotel, I hopped out and gave the man his voucher (with the tip written in)--it seems a little weird not to hand over cash, but whatever.  I didn't bring enough cash--forgot to plan for that.  Check-in was uneventful.

My room is awesome.  More spacious than I imagined a room in downtown (okay, mid-town--they differentiate that sort of thing around here) Manhattan would be, and with a pretty awesome view.

Panorama of my room (click to view bigger)
View from my room

I hung out in my room for a little while, taking pictures of it and charging my phone, then hit the town.  I didn't feel hungry, but figured I should eat before bed--my last meal had been a crappy salad (bought in the airport, eaten on the plane).  I wandered down the street my hotel is on toward Times Square, but first had to stop at Bryant Park, which was gorgeous.  The areas flanking the grass in the middle were softly lit and treed, but the grass in the center of the park was brightly lit like daylight, with spotlights from the tall buildings overhead, so it wasn't patchy--it really was like it was daylight.  I also took photos of Grand Central Station from across the street--now THAT is an awesome building.

Bryant Park at night (the photos from my real camera will be better, but I can't download them until I'm at home)
Anyway, I made it to Times Square and explored a bit.  I can't even imagine what the crowds are like at New Years Eve (or other holidays, for that matter)--on a random Saturday night just past sunset, it was pretty crazy.

I walked back on 43rd to switch it up a bit (my hotel is on 42nd, and that's the street I walked down earlier), and smack into Grand Central Station.  Went inside and took more photos.

Panorama from Grand Central Station - again, click to view bigger
I walked past a little cupcake shop (both the cupcakes AND the shop were little), got a few of them, and headed back to my room.  Even though it was only 9:00 back home, I was up early, so I had NO trouble falling asleep around midnight.  I slept until my alarm went off at 8:30.  But now I'm getting ahead of myself, and need to save Sunday for another post.  :-)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pictures of Trigger, then shifting gears

Friday night, I went out to the barn to refill Trigger's baggies of feed.  They still had some of the trail obstacles set up in the arena, so I grabbed Tigger and took him to the arena to check them out.

First, I led him over to the pool noodles.

I tried marching him straight through them, but he wanted NONE of that, even reared up a bit.  So I gave him the opportunity to check it out first.  He's a very curious and smart horse.  So as long as he was either making forward progress oractively checking it out, I left him alone.  If he backed up or started spacing out, I tugged on the rope to urge him forward.  This actually worked out really well.  He checked it out VERY thoroughly.  He sniffed at the first few noodles, touched them with his nose, and stepped his feet across the first couple of them, but as soon as he felt them brushing his legs, he needed to triple-check that his data was correct.  He sniffed each color of noodle, sniffed a sampling of them from both sides, nibbled at one to be sure it wasn't food, and even flipped his nose under one and bent it upwards to reassure himself that they were REALLY bendy.  Once satisfied that they were harmless, he marched the rest of the way through without further hesitation.  I circled him around and led him through again (the same direction he'd already gone), and he plodded right through, no big deal.  I tried leading him through the opposite direction, and he had to check everything out again, though not quite so thoroughly this time.

Then I led him over to the ribbon-festooned pole-bending poles.  He again thought they were equine torture devices, but I let him sniff the ribbons, and rubbed his face all over with them, and then he figured they were no big deal.

Lastly, I took him over to the teeter-totter bridge.  He's already an old hat at bridges--he was good at them from his old house, and he has to cross one to get into the round pen.  He sniffed at it, but only because there was poop on it he wanted to thoroughly check out.  But then I told him to get down to business, and he marched right across it.  When it teetered, he seemed curious about why the ground just moved, but not alarmed, and he continued across it just fine.

So, my take is that if we had done the trail class cold, we would have FLUNKED it, but if he'd been allowed to thoroughly examine everything first?  He would have done just fine (well, minus the fact that I'm scared to ride him).

So, anyway, that's the last Trigger update for a while.  I'll probably list him for sale when I get back into town.  But for the next week plus, this will become a travel blog.  So if you don't care about my trip to NYC, skip my blog for the next couple weeks.  I'll try to blog throughout the trip, but can't download the photos from my good camera until I get home, so will only have iPhone photos in the blog during the trip.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bandit Springs

This past weekend, I went to my third endurance ride as a non-participant (still haven't participated in one, and if you read my last post, you'll see it's probably going to be a while until I do).

At my first ride, Grizzly, Hutch and her mom rode 10 miles together, so didn't need crew, and SweetPea had Rebel, so didn't need crew, so I scribed for the vet most of the day and learned a TON.

The second ride, Sunriver, I crewed for Hutch and SweetPea.

This time, I have FOUR friends riding--Hutch and SweetPea per usual, plus VH and her friend...what should her nickname be?  I can think of a few possibilities.  For now, I'll just call her K.  :-)  I arrived last out of everyone (and I didn't even have a horse to pack for), and helped VH set up the tent and moved my clothing in.  It made sense to leave the rest of my stuff in the car so I could haul it around to the vet checks tomorrow.

The ride meeting was held soon after I got there.  There were two loops for the people riding 50s (3/4 of my friends)--a 20 mile loop back to camp, then a 30 mile loop with an out check halfway through it.  VH, riding the 30, would do the same 30 mile loop, but even starting an hour later than the others, would likely be through with the out check (15 miles in) before the others got there 35 miles plus a 45-minute hold through their ride.  So we wouldn't be seeing each other until everyone was done.

After the ride meeting, we headed back to camp.  I took some photos of the horses...

Flash and Leo - they're totally bros.

Flash and Leo had nice corrals to stay in, but the three horses K and VH brought were tied to the trailer, so I went along with K and VH to take them for a little meadow walk to stretch their legs and graze a bit.

K and her handsome stallion, Monster.

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VH and her handsome gelding, Bobblehead, I mean DeWayne Brown

K and her handsome gelding Zephyr.  He's not pink, just fleabitten at sunset.

I walked Zephyr, but when we started with the taking photos, K wanted to pose with him, too, so she handed me Monster's lead and her glass, in addition to my own cup and the camera.  Right about the time I finished taking photos, Monster figured there must be some pretty mares around SOMEwhere, and started running around.  Luckily, I didn't lose my grip on the rope, but he did take a couple spins around me at the trot and canter.  Whee!

We sat around camp and chatted some more.  Talk got pretty raunchy, and my friends can get pretty loud, so we got some interesting looks the next morning.  :-)  Ah well...

I volunteered to get up at 3:00 a.m. again to feed the boys.  Crawling out of the sleeping bag kinda sucks, but everything after that is just so nice.  It really wasn't very cold at all--I was wearing just a T-shirt and fleece pants and never got cold.  The feed was already prepared, so I just had to slide Leo's bucket under his fence and poor the dry and wet parts of Flash's feed into his bucket, which was already hanging on his fence.  Flash was laying down (the first time he felt comfortable enough to lay down at a ride, that we know of) when I first got up, but he rolled up onto his chest when he saw me, then stood up as soon as he realized what I was up to.

Once the horses were happily slurping their slop, I went and grabbed my camera.  When I first got up, the moon looked really cool, shining off a bank of clouds.  Unfortunately, the clouds moved in front of the moon while I was feeding the horses.  So I killed time waiting for either the clouds or the moon to move out of each other's way by taking photos of the stars instead.  Not too exciting, unfortunately, but I thought it was cool that they showed up as all different colors.

It was a short nap until the alarm went off again at 5:00.  I was helping Hutch tack up when SweetPea came out of her camper looking a little green, and said she developed a fever overnight and was debating whether to ride today.  We were trying to talk her into not riding when she realized she was feeling crappier the longer she stood out there thinking about it, so she went back to bed.

Now I had one fewer rider to help crew for in the vet checks, but now I would be the only crew person, because Rebel would be staying back at camp with SweetPea.  I finished "helping" Hutch get Leo ready to go (the scare quotes are because I don't know how much I actually help--I just mostly stand around asking what I can do to help).

She didn't want to mount up in camp and have to ride Leo away from Flash, but she also didn't want to wait until the start line to mount.

So about halfway between the two, we paused for her to mount up.  Unfortunately, it was still close enough to camp that Leo and Flash were calling for each other.  And close enough to the start line that people were streaming by us.  She finally got up on him, but he was quite amped up, peforming an amateur levade quite a few times.  She had one foot half in the stirrup, one foot not in the stirrup at all, and a riding crop in her mouth.  But she stayed on, got him under control, and they proceeded toward the start.

After seeing Hutch off at the start, here came K on her stallion.

It turns out K caught up with Hutch before too long, and they spent the rest of the ride together.

I moseyed back to camp, and took a couple of photos of random riders and horses along the way.

How awesome is that blanket?
 I tried to console Flash that Leo would come back eventually, but I don't think he stopped pacing and calling for him all day.

Why?  Why did he leave me?  Look, I'm all braided up and everything!  Why can't I go?
VH was just getting DeWayne ready to go.  There wasn't much for me to do to help, so I just stood around and took photos, and followed her back to the start line.

And once again, I took photos of random people and horses there at the starting area and on my way back to camp again.

I can't tell if this mule looks really happy or really NOT happy.  Definitely adorable, in any case.

 I might be wrong, but I believe the horse on the right is the one that dumped his rider and disappeared, and was still missing last I heard.  I hope he turned up already, or if not, is found soon.

At camp, I cleaned the poop out of Leo's pen, checked his food and water and decided the hay bag was full enough and the water would only get warm so it made sense to top it off after the ride instead of before.

I gathered the last few things I though we would need, and drove my car down to the vet check area (same as the starting area, but far enough from camp I didn't want to waste part of the 45-minute hold walking back and forth to camp, so I drove down there with all the same gear I would have driven to an out check.

The three rides I've been to have had three different configurations.  At Grizzly, all the checks were in camp.  This was definitely more interesting as a scribe, as it meant we saw all the horses, most of them multiple times, without having to go anywhere.  It would definitely be the easiest configuration as a crew person, too, and convenient to have camp nearby--the rider and horse can rest a little more comfortably during the longer hold times. 

At Sunriver, all the vet checks were outchecks.  I'm sure this is much nicer for the riders, to ride a big loop and see different scenery the whole time.  But it's a little more stressful for the crew person--I didn't even try to get to the first check (it was a quick in-and-out, and they figured they wouldn't need me anyway), so it was leisurely to straighten up around camp then head to the second check.  But then I had to drive like a madwoman to get to the third check in time.  Lucky for me (but not them), they were going pretty slowly and I made it in plenty of time.  At the rider meeting, they said drivers wouldn't even make it back to camp before the riders, but though they made better time on that leg, I made even better time on that 4WD road, and I did make it.  But still...all outchecks is quite a bit of effort for the crew.

This ride was the best of both worlds, I think.  The riders got to ride out and away from camp most of the time, but there was only one outcheck.  And of the vet checks, the one in camp was the first one, so when "my" riders realized a couple of things they wished they could have at the next stop, I was able to get it for them easily, then head out to the next check.  At Sunriver, it likely wouldn't have been possible.

Anyway, I hung out at the vet check, waiting for Hutch and K to arrive, and taking photos of random people in the meantime.

Then all of a sudden, they arrived!

Unfortunately, I got so busy helping them that I forgot to take any further pictures at the vet check.

The drive to the next check was beautiful, so I can't even imagine the gorgeous scenery the riders got to enjoy.

 I got to enjoy a bit of a lull until they arrived at the check (they had 15 miles to ride on horseback, and I had around the same number to drive by car).

Then before long, they arrived to this vet check.  I took a few more photos this time, but still...with only 30 minutes to tend to the horses and riders, there wasn't a ton of time to spare.  K even loaned a guy an Easy Boot--I hope he returned it at some point.

Leo kept turning up his nose at the various concoctions of feed in favor of GRASS.

Monster looks like he's thinking about something important...

Hutch looks like she's ready to go again.  She was feeling much better 35 miles into this ride than she was 30 miles into Sunriver.

After they took off for the last 15 miles, I knew I'd have a bit of time to kill before heading back to camp for the final vet check, so I sat around and watched riders come and go.  I might have pulsed a couple, but there were already a few people with stethoscopes there, so they didn't really need me.

I headed back to camp, and alternated sitting around with helping to pulse riders in.

These kids rode 50 miles in saddles, passed their horses through the vet check, then hopped back on bareback for a little cantering around the meadow.  Those crazy kids!

Then suddenly K and Hutch appeared at the finish line!  Hutch let K take the earlier finish, as she was riding a stallion she hoped to put a good record on for future breeding potential.  Unfortunately, they JUST missed the top ten--they came in 11th and 12th.

Hutch looks quite pleased with herself, as she should!

I didn't catch their official ride time, but they started at 6 and finished at 2-something, roughly two hours earlier than Hutch and SweetPea finished at Sunriver.

Monster vetting through

Leo's pulse wouldn't come down at first, but once he got a good roll in, he pulsed down soon after.

Leo getting vetted

How cute was this guy?

The poultice on DeWayne's legs looked like peeling paint...kinda cool

With all the horses safely vetted through, we headed back to camp.  I walked with K and VH, leading the third horse with them again a couple times, we had some dinner and beverages, talked a little rowdy some more, and then the thunder started.  At first there was just a smattering of drops, but then it started raining more and more in earnest.  So I never got my camera back out to take post-ride photos, and then I ended up packing the rest of my stuff into the car and heading home.  I'm glad I did--it rained most of my drive home and POURED on my warm dry house once I did get home.

I heard from Hutch that SweetPea did go out on the Sunday ride with Flash, and VH rode again, too, though I didn't catch which horse she rode (probably one of K's, but I'm not sure).  K didn't ride, because she took a tumble on the ride on Saturday--Monster dripped and endo-ed, and while neither horse nor rider were hurt nearly as much as they SHOULD have been, K did have a few bumps and bruises, plus a sore ankle where Monster had stepped on it when getting back up.

I felt bad ditching them, but they had Rebel to help them, so I'm sure they did fine.  I look forward to hearing how they fared on Sunday, though.