In the coming months, "D" will be introducing several new systems and to create awareness they’re having several press events. After complaining to my manager that the person who created all the messaging and core content for the services being launched with the systems, should be allowed to go to at least one of the events, he concurred. I’m now sitting in a $369 room ($1,250 regular rate) composing this blog.
The day started early in the morning with my flying JetBlue to J.F.K Airport and sharing a cab with others to the Hotel Mela. Just driving to the hotel was exciting, passing Queens and driving through a tunnel onto Manhattan… seeing all the sight (and places I wanted to visit) then smack dab in the middle of Time Square with screaming billboards, flashing lights, chic restaurants and lounges next to everyday fast food emporiums, towering theaters, ABC studios with streaming banners, cars, taxis, scooters, tour buses, street corners swarming with camera-welding tourists, and New Yorkers just trying to get to their destinations.
Just a block away was the Hotel Mela, which didn’t have our rooms ready. No problem. Four of us headed to Bryant Park Grill for a leisurely lunch under large, deep green umbrellas and tall shade trees. The park reminded me of a Seurat painting with people in small groupings, eating, laying on blankets on the grass, playing games, and enjoying the 70-degree weather on a Sunday afternoon.
After lunch, Pooja, a hip engineer from Dubai and I took the subway to Chinatown. I’m glad she came along because I was in awe of New York and not paying attention to which subway I needed to take. Chinatown was loony. Throngs of people spilled into the streets because the sidewalks were cluttered with tables of knock-off purses and luggage, cheap jewelry, knick-knacks, electronics, DVDs, clothing, and souvenirs.
Several streets featured open air markets for fruits, vegetables, fish, and other perishables. The vendors took pride in their produce, ensuring everything was in rows and putting the bright-colored produce by those with less color. The prices were very cheap, probably owing to having numerous farms in New York, New Jersey (the Garden State) and the surrounding states.
The display of fish was equally impressive with fishmongers standing on the sidewalks offering seasonal soft shell crabs, shrimp of varying sizes, tilapia and carp (some scarcely alive, crammed into plastic bins with barely enough water to cover them), halibut, scallops, clams, and so much more. The fishy smell was very intense. You could smell it half a block away.
Also "scenting" the area was the smell of Chinese food, rancid oil, incenses, flowers, and the odor of hundreds of bodies packed into a small space. Rising up from the cacophony on the street were canyons of tenements. Old and sometimes very ornate buildings with high windows and little balconies, barely large enough to accommodate a chair or two or maybe string up a clothes line. In these buildings lived immigrants from across Europe, including my ancestors from Russia and Austria.
My grandfather told stories of jumping across the roofs of the buildings, peaking in the windows of the neighborhood prostitute and swimming in the Hudson River. His father, a widow, hired housekeepers to watch over his seven daughters and one son. My grandmother, his wife, recalled living in a 5th floor, cold water flat with her five sisters and two brothers. These historical building, musty with the lives of so many people who came to America with hope and determination is now filled with people from China, Korea and other Asian nations.
According to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, between 1863 and 1935, 7,000 tenants lived in the tenement at 97 Orchard Street. At the street-level were shops. Each tenement building in New York, like the one on Orchard Street, was witness to thousands of families and shopkeepers. Multiple these thousands of lives by thousands of tenements buildings through Manhattan – millions of people, most who arrived by boat through Ellis Island with the hoping of living the American dream. And what they got were three, dank rooms in a tenement building with maybe two windows in the back and two in the front. Or perhaps, windows that opened onto an airshaft, where the sounds and smells of your neighbors drifted in on hot summer night.
A few blocks east of Chinatown, is Little Italy. The street was closed for a festival and filled with small café tables and crowds of people enjoying the ambiance. East of Chinatown are the streets of the "Gangs of New York," Bowery and Five Points (Worth, Baxter, Mulberry, Mosco/Park, and Little Water (no longer exists). We walked past this area to see a large monument by the Manhattan Bridge.
We then headed west to Delancy, Canal, Hester, and Houston Streets, in search of authentic bagels and a taste of Jewish heritage. Before leaving for New York, I had looked up information about historical synagogues in the area. However, what we found were streets lined with every imaginable piece of "schlock" that could be sold. One street was sidewalk-to-sidewalk of tables offering leather goods.
It was very disappointing. I hoping to meander into delicatessen and inhale the smells – salty kosher pickles, tangy cheese and succulent meats, fragrant bagels and breads, and pungent soups. One of my goals was to buy a mezuzah to protect our Washington, but there were none to be found.
Tired from traipsing from street-to-street, Pooja recommended we stop for a drink on a shady street. I had a refreshing glass of lemonade with fresh grated ginger. It was a perfect few minutes… I couldn’t believe that I was really in New York, watching the people walk by, seeing the streets where my grandparents once walked, and experiencing the many culture aspects of the city. I also learned about Pooja’s life in Dubai, which was fascinating.
It gets deathly hot in Dubai so everyone stops working and takes a nap between 1 and 4 every afternoon. She told of people dying on the streets from the heat. Because of the three hour break in the middle of the day, she observed that Dubaian seem more relaxed and live longer.
After sitting for a while, we found a subway station and rode the many blocks to our hotel. After getting back, I rested for a while then set out to find theater tickets. Unfortunately, there are few plays to see on Sunday evening; we’d missed the matinees and the early Sunday evening shows were just starting.
Determined to do "something" in the theater district, I bought two tickets for $20 to a comedy show. I was thrilled to learn that Pooja had never been to a comedy show, which featured an improvisational team. While not the best comedy I’ve seen, it was a slice of New York and an opportunity to have a tasty bowl of French onion soup.
Tired and anxious to tell Rich about my day, I returned to my $369 room with two windows that opened onto an airshaft, a king-size bed with six pillows and 600-count Egyptian linens, large tubes of spa shampoo, conditioner and soap, a comfy terry robe, mahogany furniture (including a comfortable desk with Internet connection), a mini refrigerator stocked with every imaginable drink, and a basket full of goodies.
In the basket, was a small sachet, which I thought contained tea bags. After reading the list of contents and associated prices, I discovered it was a "personal packet," two condoms, two breath mints, and tube of lubricate. Okay. How about some cashews or Cheetos!