Northeast Baseball Road Trip. Part 1: Yankees

New York, New York!

Summer 2013.


During 2013's Puce River Palooza, Andy told me about how Clarkman was planning a baseball road trip through the Northeast U.S. later in the year. Getting word of this, I asked Clarkman if he wouldn't mind some company and was very happy to learn that I was more than welcome to tag along!

I walked out of Pearson International into the night air, knowing that Clarkman was there to meet me, but having no idea what he was driving nowadays. Looking up the line of vehicles, I noticed a trunk open and Clarkman shuffling out of his car to make room for my eternally-oversized luggage.

A night departure was the plan all along, now put in motion by going over that giant bridge in Hamilton, answering a handful of questions in Buffalo and gawking at the skyscrapers of Syracuse that I hadn't seen in six or seven years.

Now Google tells me that the drive is only 8 hours, but it sure seemed like longer this night, likely ballooned by aforementioned border formalities and food stops. Finding our car in thick fog as we crossed the New York-Pennsylvania state line, I awoke to Clarkman pulling into a a Pennsylvania rest stop.

We caught a few hours of great sleep before the warming day brought us back to life, along with our desires to finally see New York City. I always qualified that I had seen New York City, once by driving over the George Washington Bridge en route to Nova Scotia, as well as the time my friends and I drove through New York to get to Long Island. I had never stopped and really saw New York City - something people found interesting for someone who's seen Spokane, Omaha, Biloxi, Charleston, Baltimore, Albany, etc..

Madison Squayah Gahhden.

Clarkman held no desire to drive in Manhattan, to the extent that he asked about driving to Philadelphia first and leaving the car there. Not wanting to incur the daily costs of parking in Philadelphia - as well as the Amtrak fares from NYC to Philadelphia round-trip - I thankfully found a giant parking garage and transit stop near Trenton New Jersey, allowing us to park for $7/day and pay NJ Transit $15 each for train tickets into NYC.

The best part of this might have been taking one wrong turn as we neared the garage, with the turn leading towards an abandoned-looking building, and having Clarkman suspect that I was navigating and leading him to some abandoned building all along.

Entering the parking garage and leaving our car behind, this train went through typical New Jersey landscape of row houses and auto shops, past Princeton University, then started to pick up in terms of built environment en route to Newark, suddenly reverting back to meadowlands afterward, before one last tunnel where we then popped out in the heart of Penn Station.

I found this to be an exciting way of finally entering New York City.

Within 5 minutes of being outside in the fresh air, there was a homeless guy relieving himself on a jersey barrier right along the street. I have friends who wax about the "old NYC" of grime and crime, but at least not everything has been sterilized into the City of Disneyland quite just yet.

After walking a kilometer-and-a-half (0.9mi), we finally settled on some cookie-cut pub in Hell's Kitchen, both of us being too hungry to risk a bad meal and too hungry to be decisive with this multitude of dining options.

Located right along busy 9th Avenue, this was an introduction to Clarkman's annoyance with how much New Yorkers - specifically cabbies - use their car horns. I of course found it all very amusing, while people watching and drinking down something cold.

Walking along, you quickly realize why there's so many cellar door tricks in east coast BMX & skateboarding videos.

There had to be about 3 cellar doors per block, leading under buildings to food stores and cool areas. I craned my neck at most of them.

Dropping off our belongings, we took the subway back to 110th street, happy to now walk baggage free, as we crossed 110th street into Central Park.

Belvedere Castle, Central Park.

We both agreed that we walked far too long in Central Park, with the 110th Street to Belvedere Castle section being about 3.5 km (2.0 mi).

...and then we walked another 2 miles (3.5 km) to the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which thankfully finally transported us on stationary feet.

As Roosevelt Island ranked high on my to-do list, I was extra excited to read about a free cable car which transports you alongside the Queensboro Bridge. I thought Clarkman would be equally excited, but I forgot about how much time he spends in these things via ski hill gondolas in Ontario, Wyoming, Utah, etc..

Well fine, fair enough. I was uncomfortable as I don't like ski lifts or much of anything elevated.

Clarkman's feet were now bothering him a bit as we got off on Roosevelt Island, so even though we weren't the most hungry, we stopped at some forgettable bar that had cold beer, decent food and outdoor seating. Along with good waitresses and beer selection, it ended up being a decent find.

I hoped and assumed that the pint gave my friend the power to walk the 2.5 mi (4 km) round trip to the northern end of Roosevelt Island, because that is where you'll find the Blackwell Island Lighthouse!0

The name Blackwell comes from a family which originally farmed this long island here in the East River, after being deeded down to them from British Captain James Manning. The Blackwells eventually sold the island to the City of New York, who had sizable plans to build the New York Lunatic Asylum, the Renwick Smallpox Hospital, a city prison, an almshouse and a work farm on the island. The Blackwell Island Lighthouse was built of native gray gneiss with lunatic help in 1872, with plans designed and drawn by James Renwick Jr., the same architect responsible for St. Patrick's Cathedral (NYC, 1879) and the Smithsonian Institution Building (D.C., 1855).

Working for Thomas A. Edison Inc., Edwin S. Porter filmed the lighthouse and shoreline as he boated by in 1903.

Blackwell Island was renamed Welfare Island in 1921, then Roosevelt Island in 1971.

0 - My 2nd New York State lighthouse after Point Aux Roches near Plattsburgh.

The prison population moved to Rikers Island in 1935 and the Roosevelt Island smallpox hospital stands in ruins to this day. Unfortunately, with my feet starting to hurt as well, I didn't have much desire to walk all the way to the other end of this island, where comically for us, those ruins are located.

Walking back to the subway stop, the sun was setting behind Manhattan as we slowly plodded along the waterfront. Unfortunately, it was one of those bright, simplistic sunsets; although there are surely worse places to watch any type of sunset.

Choosing some random subway stop for nighttime beers, we again ended up a block away from Madison Square Garden, at a surprisingly decent pub.

Although, being the type of person who always wants to gamble on there being a better time somewhere else, we eventually took a cab across a dozen streets while Clarkman interrogated the cabbie about why he uses his horn so much, much to my amusement/discomfort.

We left the pub for a bar called the White Horse, one that Jack Kerouac apparently used to drink at in the West Village...

Except that he might have drank in the physical building, but now it's peacoats and faux hawks and totally not our scene. The building still had cool hints of history here and there, but that random Irish pub certainly won out. I mean the White Horse looks like it would be good, right?

Anyway, it didn't take us long to leave there and go to another place with an awful name like The Mexican Playboy or something, although it was alright as they had such stiff drinks that I didn't even finish my second one; thanking my lucky stars that I was in a state to stop drinking margaritas when an absurd amount of tequila presented itself.

I wound up listening and rolling my eyes towards some New Jersey girl trying to tell me how great Eli Manning is, before Clarkman & I eventually left to catch the subway. I would dozily sway on there to the amusement of Clarkman & two young black guys - that is until we came to a harsh stop and I just about swayed them right over.

Since we were staying up on 134th near Lenox Ave where Cam'ron stays, I wondered if Clarkman wanted to take a few minutes to walk around and maybe grab some Harlem breakfast, instead of hitting the subway right away.

Walking one block past some apartments, we stumbled upon Nasa Pizza - No Swine On My Mind, where the pictures in the window looked appetizing enough to Clarkman, and overall it was interesting enough for me. As the name leads on, they don't serve any pork, so while my friend didn't overly care for his turkey bacon, I thought my turkey sausage, grits and eggs were damn good. It may not look that appetizing in the above picture, but if I was staying in Harlem again, I would return to Nasa Pizza - No Swine On My Mind.

The interior was fairly cool as well, with a small, simplistic, long diner counter. I can only find a handful of pictures of the exterior and they don't have any Yelp reviews, so I guess the insides will have to exist through my descriptions.

We had planned to get to Yankee Stadium early enough to have beers with raucous New Yoahkiz who love Sowriano and Jetah, but the combination of slowly taking showers and going the wrong way on the subway meant there was no time for that.

While I obviously would have loved to see the old Yankee Stadium instead, I couldn't help but admire the stadium's shining exterior on this fine day. While we were going to go to some baseball stadiums that I've already been to on this trip, it was great to start with a new one in Yankee Stadium - #15 for me.

Halfway there!

A new stadium and a beautiful Sunday afternoon seeing the Yankees take on the Sawx, hoo baby!

Yankee Stadium's Great Hall which encircles the building with giant pictures of former and current Yankees.

The view from our seats.

One wonders how you can replace a landmark like the original Yankee Stadium, but my friend Yaz would later tell me to think about the construction contracts and the unions that were likely putting the gears to then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The game got really exciting in the top of the ninth, as Wade Middlebrooks homered and tied it up for the Red Sox (who we were obviously - quietly - cheering for), but unfortunately, the game then ended on a Brandon Workman wild pitch which scored Ichiro.

A walk-off wild pitch. Yep.

At least with both of us excited to see Mariano Rivera pitch on his farewell tour, we saw him pick up the vulture win.

Across from the new Yankee Stadium stands Heritage Field, with its preserved piece of old Yankee Stadium frieze for which the city paid $450,000.

Taking the 4 train down to Grand Central Station, we checked that off instead of going back to our accommodations. The Apple Store inside the great hall was a nice touch.

Clarkman took a picture of me in here and I look like quite the touristy schmuck with my Chiefs jersey, Orioles hat and camera sling bag.

Walking over to Times Square, where along the way we stopped at a Belgian restaurant for pints of delicious and rare beer, we gleefully moved over the last block into the streets with such bright signs that it feels like you're in an office environment.

I couldn't believe the giant screens showing women in lingerie. I know we don't have to make everything child-friendly, but I didn't realize Times Square would be one of those places to challenge the boundaries.

Anyway, we watched the Fox football set with Howie & Jimmy for a bit, before getting back on the subway.

A homeless man with an impressive encampment on our subway car.

We rode the subway car past its last stop to check out the abandoned city hall station, but it zoomed by so fast that it was pretty much meaningless. I suppose it was still neat to sit on the car and ride it through as they announced for everyone to get off the car.

Walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge, Clarkman the skateboarder and myself the bike rider, were both pretty excited to stumble upon these famous black ledges near city hall.

We had timed it pretty well to be walking across the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun set behind Manhattan. It was again one of those cloudless sunsets, so while there wasn't an opportunity for a picture with a magenta or ballet slipper sky, this still ended up being one of those memorable things that I'll cherish, even if I don't have a BRN picture to convey it to the same extent.

Also of note: I've already heard a slew of hacky jokes regarding Clarkman & I romantically walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. The subject has been covered, thanks.

Once in Brooklyn, we hopped jersey barriers and ran across a busy road into their subway station, taking it back into Manhattan and over to Little Italy - because if we were in New York, we had to get a New York Pizzer Pie!

Now you wouldn't think delicious pizza would leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, but we grew a bit sour since we didn't know their system where a medium isn't that expensive, but what gets you is that it's huge and then they charge astronomical prices for the toppings instead. So we ordered a medium pizza with garlic bread, then only managed to eat about 35% of our meal.

To be spending money on subway rides and baseball tickets, it seems a bit silly to complain about a $15 misunderstanding which can easily happen during any travel. Little Italy was still cool as heck, the restaurant we picked was seemingly authentic and pizza/garlic bread was tasty.

We finished up the sightseeing day with a trip to the Empire State Building, something that I would do in any city and not just because it's on the tourist circuit (with almost every city I visit, I look up if they have a public observation deck.)

The two of us satisfied with the view, hit the streets to some bar, but being so full of pizza and garlic bread, it was slow going and ended up being not too memorable.

Tomorrow we'd go see the Mets.

Continue to Part 2!


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< Older Update:
Cape Breton Forts & Golf


Newer Update: Northeast Baseball
Part 2: Mets (NYC)


1 - The New York Times - Name That Island

2 - The Main Street WIRE, NYC10044 - Roosevelt Island, Timeline of Island History

3- Wikipedia - James Renwick Jr.

4 - The New York Times - A Public Park to Rival the Yankees' Playground

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