|Northeast Baseball Road Trip. Part 2: Mets|
New York, New York!
Clarkman wasn't as impressed as I with Harlem breakfast, so figuring there to be something worthwhile near the Flatiron Building, we got onto the subway and headed south still hungry.
Walking along the side of the magnificent building, it was a pleasant surprise to notice Eisenberg's Sandwich, with their motto of Continuing Fine Quality Since 1929. Something that's existed for more than 10 years?! Something that wasn't a Jamba Juice or a 7-11?
We went inside and the place seemingly hadn't changed much since 1929. Since everyone seemed to be at their high rise jobs, we sat in peace, with myself getting some over-the-top pastrami sandwich that hit the spot.
In addition to the Flatiron Building, another must-see on my list was the Statue of Liberty. Several observation decks and the fact that my Mom had seen and recommended this to me, combined together to form my desire to get over to Liberty Island.
Of course another factor comes from the fact that this was once a lighthouse - although I'm not sure if I count it.
The "Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" was a French gift designed to celebrate America's centennial. Reading up on its history, it seems that President Cleveland assigned its maintenance to the Lighthouse Board because it happened to be designed to have an illuminated torch and happened to find itself in a maritime location. This maintenance and care was marred with inadequacy and failure, until the Lighthouse Board happily gave away the lighthouse to the War Department in 1902.
Almost every lighthouse source I use counts it as a lighthouse, but I still don't know if I do. Then again, my personal list is exactly that: personal & arbitrary - so whatever.
The original torch is the first thing you see when you walk inside.
Auguste Bartholdi, the French artist who created the statue, originally wanted to illuminate the outside of the torch, but after being vetoed by the Army Corps of Engineers on maritime navigational grounds, he decided to cut windows into the torch itself.
Post-9/11 paranoia now means that only 250 people are allowed into the crown of the statue daily, relegating Clarkman & I to the pedestal viewpoint. Ellis Island - which is unfortunately still closed because of Hurricane Sandy - stands in front of Brooklyn to the left, with Manhattan on the right.
In between my heart pangs for Ellis Island, I noticed and also noticed Clarkman notice two attractive French tourists. I only mention it here because I thought it was really interesting how I loved the one girl, while Clarkman said the decision wasn't even close in the other direction. I guess there wouldn't have been any Kramer and Mickey shenanigans if we asked them to tag along for lunch...
...to Katz's Delicatessen, which was obviously where we were going next. Never mind that it's touristy, it was an opportunity for us to see the Lower East Side, their sign is fantastic, the interior is also littered with neon, there's interesting ordering systems, the sandwiches come with giant pickles, and lastly, their Reuben is hailed on many top Reuben lists.
I know I mostly carry on about poutine and Taco Bell here, but Reubens are up there as well. Whenever I'm home there is a trip to Detroit's Hygrade Deli for their unreal Reuben.
(I also spend lots of time thinking about how I can cut out trans and saturated fats out of my diet elsewhere.)
While I'm normally a huge fan of meal pickles, Katz's were a strange style that were closer to cucumbers. I ate about 0.5 of the five I found on my plate. Another thing - and I'm not trying to be overly critical here - is that the above sandwich was $17! It was another case where maybe Clarkman & I could have shared one, but I don't know, do people regularly visit here and consume $17 sandwiches?
That paragraph being said, it was a pretty damn good Reuben. It wasn't the Hygrade Deli or Malic's, but it was up there.
Additional points were allotted, not for this being the place where Meg Ryan orgasms in Harry Met Sally, but that it's also the spot of a scene in Donnie Brasco where Johnny Depp meets an FBI contact! As much as Clarkman enjoyed making Harry Met Sally jokes, Donnie Brasco is actually a cool enough movie in my book to matter in terms of filming locales.
With a couple of things near Citi Field that I wanted to see, we left the hustle and bustle of downtown to ride out to Queens, just around rush hour, jammed like sardines in a hot tin can.
One of the things I wanted to see was the Iron Triangle - a shack laden, pothole abundant, strip of auto body and tire shops that my friend Yaz told me about.
The geographic name for this place right next to Citi Field was originally Willets Point - a place where trash was burned for many years, until fabricating shops sprung up to help build the structures of the nearby 1939 World's Fair. A place of light industry from that point forward, muffler, upholstery & brake shops would fill in the spaces afterward.
City officials have long sought to wipe the Iron Triangle off the map, by trying to incorporate it into other projects or proposing that the Jets or Islanders could build a stadium here. The fact that there's also no sewers, street lights or road maintenance might not be a coincidence either.
Yaz especially stressed that we should see the endangered Iron Triangle as sure enough, these people were coming under eminent domain attack very shortly. By November of 2013, about 85 of the ~130 businesses in the area had taken their government offer of a year's rent elsewhere, abandoning their structures to the city. Other businesses held out taking the offer, but the city warned that it would lower the offer more and more as time goes on - they want to get on with their proposed housing, shopping mall and parking lots.
As Yaz had promised, everyone was incredibly friendly and cordial. The place may have looked rough, but the overwhelming feeling was that these were just people trying to get by in a city where rent and property values put an incredible squeeze on all small businesses. Clarkman nodded in agreement at the smell of bullshit for the city taking this land simply because shiny Citi Field now stands nearby upping the land value.
In addition to the Iron Triangle, we also had to go over to the site of the World's Fair - if only to act like we had mo money, mo problems like Puff Daddy and Murder Ma$e.
In front of Citi Field, I asked some girl how to get to "the giant globe that Diddy & Ma$e dance in front of" and she, even though from the area, had no idea where it was. Thankfully a police officer was able to point us in the right direction.
The US Open of tennis was going on as we crossed a pedestrian bridge towards the Diddysphere, meaning poor Clarkman had to put up with even more walking, since we had to skirt Arthur Ashe Stadium when he just wanted to sit down.
He would have his break soon enough, as it was time to enter the beautiful Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field. We could have happened to go in any entrance and missed this area, but by random chance, Citi Field was already racking up the points.
The day had faded into a positively beautiful evening. We rounded through the wide concourses of the modern (2009) stadium before finding our seats in left field, with my friend Yaz meeting us there and hearing all about these last three days in the big city.
Another memorable bonus was that we were actually at the park earlier than I usually ever get to baseball games. With our seats out in left, batting practice was shooting home run dingers pretty darn close (5-6 rows) to us. There was one where I hesitated to jump over rows of seats, but even without catching any baseballs, it was still exciting to see them fly 350 feet into our area.
I don't remember much of anything about the game, except that it was lopsided and the Mets were never really close.
I do remember that it was dog night though, something I found funny as someone who is generally annoyed with other people's dogs - but it was all good though, as there was a dog section, so our interaction was limited to laughing at funny dogs on the jumbotron.
Yaz and I had been talking about stadiums & arenas for most of the game, with him telling stories of Shea Stadium (the Mets former home) as he grew up about an hour from here. While I've never paid much attention to the Mets, I learned that Shea Stadium stood right next to Citi Field & that we could go see home plate, 1st, 2nd and 3rd base out in the parking lot after the game. Neat!
Eventually saying goodbye to Yaz, Clarkman & I rode the subway back to our place. With both of us wanting to get going somewhat early tomorrow, we decided against a third straight night of hitting the town.
I suppose this is as good as any time to talk about our accommodations.
Prior to the trip, I sized up where Clarkman was comfortable staying & he gave me the green light to book whatever accommodations I found to be adequate - so upon seeing the incredibly high prices of New York City and not wanting to stay in New Jersey, I eventually found rooms at the Harlem YMCA for $41 per person, per night! An amazing deal for NYC and only a half block from the subway station!
Therefore, back on that first day, going to our accommodations meant going up to 134th and Lenox in Harlem, then walking into their YMCA that could have been a movie set for any stereotypical gym/office that you see in movies about NYC or Chicago. The place was clean but had character, with high ceilings, worn floors and varying staircases leading off every which way to pools and locker rooms. There was something to be said for finding ourselves here and getting a 7th floor room key - a definitely unique and memorable stay in a metropolis where I can imagine many forgettable hotels.
As for the room itself, what you see in the above picture is me standing in the doorway to the room. The thing that matters though, which is cleanliness, was in order.
Clarkman would take the bottom bunk for some reason - later telling me that he could see screws missing and coming out, wondering to himself why he did this and picturing his inevitable demise of having a very large man come toppling down upon him. I found this all very amusing of course.
While Clarkman showered, I had to go up to the 11th floor and see about roof access.
Unfortunately it was a gloomy morning, but regardless of that, I was 11 floors up at 134th and Lenox, hearing the loud proclamations, sirens and other bustle of Harlem below.
In a shocking development, 134th street is sort of far from Manhattan and the skyscrapers of New York. They're in this picture, but they're only gray squares you see upon the horizon.
I would later wonder why I didn't have more pictures of distant Manhattan, but then I remembered this morning of walking to different sides of the roof and loving the intricate lattice of buildings pieced together with corresponding courtyards and alleys.
Finally checking out of the Y and walking up 134th one last time while looking back at the looming structure, we hit the train south to Penn Station, experiencing the insane flood of people pushing forward through the concourse as we seemed to be the only people trying to get to New Jersey.
We had to catch another train here on a different line and just so happened to luck into doing it right. Soon enough we were back rumbling past the New Jersey landmarks, trying to wrap our heads around a whirlwind couple of New York days.
Continue to Part 3!
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1 - United States Lighthouse Society - Statue of Liberty
2 - The Wall Street Journal - Willets Point Shops Ink Deal
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