Sunday September 16, 2012
Checking the weather today we learned that there are some bad storms coming in on Tuesday that will make traveling very hard, so we’ve extended our time in/near Manhattan. We’re still debating on if we should stay on the mooring for a rather cheap nightly fare or if we should travel the few miles to Sandy Hook, NJ just before we get into the Atlantic and hole up there for a few days. The city is sounding so much more interesting right now. The morning didn’t have a lot going for us today, knowing we might have a few more days in the city we weren’t as ambitious and gave ourselves most of the day to relax. One of the things that we did want to take care of though on this lazy day was a little bit of provisioning. Our friends on Water Music told us they visited Trader Joe’s on 14th St and were able to stock up on wine for $3 a bottle, or 3 buck Chuck as they called it. We had seen a Trader Joe’s at our home corner and made a mission to make it there. Before heading in to get groceries though I forced Matt in for a stop at McDonalds so I could do a few updates to the website (this wifi through our phone only is staring to drive me crazy) and while checking our Facebook account I saw I had a message from a guy Bill that lives in New York, also owns a Sabre, and wanted to get together while we were in town. I shot him a message back that we should be in town for a few more days and would love to meet up. I just felt bad that he had sent the message three days prior and this was the first time I had access to it. Did I mention I hate our internet situation right now?
Walking next door into Trader Joe’s we didn’t know what to expect as we had never been in one before, they didn’t have them in West Michigan. Picking up a basket we browsed the aisles for the few necessary things and quickly found out that 80% of what’s inside Trader Joe’s is store brand. Prices seemed good though and we quickly filled the basket. Then looking through the beer section we kept an eye out for the wine but didn’t see anything. Figuring they kept the wine on a different floor we went back up the escalator to search for it there. No wine. So then we went back down. After walking the whole store three times we still couldn’t find it and eventually asked the store clerk who told us they didn’t carry it at that location, we’d have to go to the 14th St location. Good thing we were getting extra time on our hands with the unexpected delay in departure. Getting into the checkout line which reached all the way back to produce we were quickly ushered into one of 20 cashier stands and then back on the streets. The wine would have to wait another day.
Depositing the groceries back on the boat we were back on the streets for another evening of walking. Deciding not to go to our home corner we turned north to see what kinds of things we would find as we remembered seeing lots of interesting restaurants on our lost stroll back the first night when we had overshot 79th St. Walking up Amsterdam there were indeed a lot of restaurants, but none of the same ones we remembered seeing before. Not discouraged since it wasn’t dinner time we kept wandering until the streets started looking a little worn down and cut over to WCP which we followed up to 96th Ave and realized there wasn’t much to see anymore, so we went in to the park. My goal was to check out the Upper East Side and see what the fuss was all about, so we took the most direct path we could find through the park. Having seen a little bit of 5th Ave running parallel to the park our first night out we passed through a few more streets headed east until we came to Park Ave. According to my NY geography, this is where all the big money was supposedly sitting. I think we had popped out of the park too far north and the buildings were still a little run down, but the further south we headed the nicer they became.
Had I thought about this a little better before I left the boat I may have changed my attire a little bit, as this is the day I decided to go casual and was in cut off jeans and flip flops. Not quite Park Avenue material. The sweater may have saved me a little since every time we’d pass someone on the street they’d smile and nod, almost as if we belonged. Or Matt’s long hair and beard made him look like a celebrity incognito and they thought they were just passing by some rockstar and his hipster girlfriend. Getting back down to 72nd it was getting later and once again I was really ready for food, which we knew we wouldn’t find in our price range in this area. Passing by a few designer stores (the first Ralph Lauren Purple Label I’d ever seen a brick and mortar building for) we went back in the park so we could come out near Amsterdam again and get some food. Just a few minutes after entering the park I thought I spotted the boat house off to my right. Dragging Matt off to the side path we meandered to the area and walked passed a few times, in envy of everyone with food and drinks in their hands.
Having now taken ourselves completely off the main road we had been using to walk though the park we continued on the small path we were on until it opened up once again into Bethesda Fountain, a very popular area of central park often portrayed in movies and tv shows. The sun had just set and it was casting hues of orange and pink all over the area with hints of blue still in the sky. Even though the area was somewhat crowded it seemed still and serene at the same time. Taking a seat on one of the benches to the side we watched friends gather and gondolas pass through on the lake next to us. We sat there until it grew almost completely dark and then walked up the staircase back to a main road. I had known the whole time that we needed to continue right, but Matt began walking straight (thinking it was the correct way out) and I followed him since that craving for food didn’t seem as necessary anymore. While we walked we came up on the sound of music with a large crowd of people gathering around it. What we found was a bongo-type drum circle with a few others playing homemade type instruments. Inside the circle were all different kinds of people dancing to the music. One was a girl in an authentic Spanish or Latin American type dress, one was a guy in a ripped up tank top with pads on his knees, and best of all, an older man wearing a coconut bra and a tutu. His beard was dyed in neon shades of yellow and orange, and his little white dog was dressed to matched. This circle took all kinds. At different times people would exit and enter the circle and it was kind of a free for all for whoever wanted to join.
Continuing down the park a little further there was another musical session going for whoever wanted to join. This one had music playing out of a boombox and different areas for different things. In the center was a spot for couples or singles to dance, off to one side was an area for anyone on rollerblades, and the other side was reserved for hulla hoopers who were using ones that lit up in the dark and flashed every color of the rainbow. Someone had really put some thought into this area and had skates, rollerblades and hula hoops for rent, plus copies of the CD playing for sale. When we first passed by the park at night on Friday it looked like a place you did not enter after the sun went down, but after tonight it seemed like the place to be after dark. After getting to the edge of the park and exiting on Central Park Ave instead of Central Park West like was the original intent (good thing Matt has me around to navigate) we found our way back to our home corner and then cut off on another street to find a restaurant. Wandering down a good 10-15 blocks we didn’t see anything appealing and went back to a semi-fine Italian restaurant we had already passed. Getting sat outside right next to the sidewalk we browsed the menu but nothing sounded even remotely appetizing, and on top of that, this was one of the restaurants where all the entrees started at over $20. Neither of us felt like shelling out a ton of money for something we weren’t even going to enjoy so while no one was looking (and before a waiter had even come) we slid out the crack onto the sidewalk and walked away. Is it still considered dining and ditching if you’ve only taken a few sips of the water the busser brought you?
Realizing this street had nothing for us we took the next cross street we came to and decided to go back to Amsterdam where we knew there would be at least something halfway decent that we’d also be able to afford. Before we could even turn the corner onto Amsterdam there was a restaurant housed there called the Amsterdam Ale House. Sounded promising. Checking out the menu they actually had sandwiches under $15, and with a name like the Ale House you knew they had to have some good brews. For the second night in a row, just by dumb luck we had found a restaurant with some of the best food we had ever tasted. Matt had the pulled pork sandwich and I went with the portabello and goat cheese. Absolutely delicious and it came with one of my favorite sides ever, sweet potato fries. Definitely worth the wait and the extra few miles. Stuffed and tired we were dinghying back to the boat when we passed by our friends on Between the Sheets who had just got in that morning and were moored a few balls down from us. Since there looked to be life aboard we stopped by to say hi and also had the chance to meet John’s wife and daughter. Turns out they really do exist. Sitting and chatting for a few minutes I found out that a ‘small’ glass of wine to John meant completely topped off and in talking to his wife Cathy found out they were high school sweethearts just like Matt and I. Awwww. Since she had a long day of traveling we didn’t stay too long but it was nice to put a personality to the face. And with two more days in the city I’m sure I’ll be able to catch up with her again and get some more dirt I can use against John.