Otter

Midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building - May 29

I got up the next morning feeling a little groggy, my body still thought it was a little too early, but my mind was fixed on the idea of walking amid myths today.

Downtown New York City is something that I've only ever seen in TV or movies, read of in books, or heard of in plays or on the news. It's fill of stories, millions of stories that have been told about this place and the people who have lived here for hundreds of years. Everything from Damon Runyon to the new version of Sherlock Holmes in New York in Elementary from the recent Avengers movies to Miracle on 42nd Street and from Seinfeld to seeing the coverage when the Twin Towers fell. For me, the whole city was stacked and layered and nuanced with Story.

Most of the major publishers live in this city, and so much TV and radio history centers here, and there are reasons for that. And here I was, coming to visit and see, for myself, what I'd only ever heard of or seen through lens.



First Glimpse from Afar
Breakfast was simple and solid. Muffins and croissants with jelly and butter, and there were eggs, potatoes, and bacon, and toast for those that wanted to make it. Coffee, juice, and milk were all available and we all ate pretty well. There was a huge bowl of ketchup at the end of the line, and it went well with the scrambled eggs and potatoes.

Our driver in the morning was Luke, not Boris, and the ride through Lincoln tunnel was quick, easy, and given that we had a bus lane that was just for us, really fast. We got a good view of the city from the New Jersey side while on the freeway going in, and this is half of it.

I was just so happy that I didn't have to drive, and I could just look out the windows and watch the traffic and all the buildings that were going on alongside. New York City is a huge city, as expected, and completely filled with cars, buses, trucks, and people trying to get around, and all the traffic is really amazingly slow simply because it's so totally crowded.

And the buildings... were everything I'd expected them to be. Bright, shiny, worked in or lived in, and filled with people and life and an energy that was very very different than that of the big cities in China. Dick said that there's 7 million who called NYC home, but that the city has about 54 million visitors throughout the year. And that another several million come in every morning to work. So those who are here temporarily outnumber those who actually live within the boundaries of the city proper.

Bryant Park
Our very first stop was Bryant Park. It's in the middle of Manhattan, on 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, also known as the Avenue of the Americas. The New York City Library's main archives are under the park, and the building dominates a good third of the block, with greenery all around it. There are graceful London Blaine trees, brought to New York in the 1600's because they did well in London's smog and they're right at home here.

Within a few blocks of this park was the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Lincoln Center (which houses the Metropolitan Opera House, the Avery Fisher Hall which houses the New York Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center Theater which is three theaters in one, the Alice Tully Hall, the Julliard School, the David H. Koch Theater, which houses the New York Balley, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, which has a recording of every performance on Broadway), and Grand Central Station and Times Square are barely two blocks away from this park. It's pretty much the heart of mid-Manhattan.

Ping pong in the park
And it had all the amenities. There's a skating rink built in the winter with a restaurant that goes with it. There are these ping pong tables. There were fresh flowers in the ladies' public restroom. And it was entirely beautiful. On the corner was a small bakery outlet and the guy there offered free samples of bread, which Dick immediately took him up on.everyone got a bite, and it made everyone feel less afraid in a way.

Dick took a moment to explain the layout of New York, that all the Avenues went north/south, and all the streets go east/west. The streets are pretty frequent, but the avenues go a really long ways.

That in mid-Manhattan there are no alleys, which is why the trash is all out front on the sidewalk, and by the time they'd starting building here, there were rules about setbacks from the street, so that there would be air and light between all the buildings. Further south in Wall Street and at the tip of Manhattan, the skyscrapers went all the way to the edge of the street. And it made a real difference, too. The streets felt more open, inviting, and light could come all the way down to the ground, and it took none of the awe away from the height and beauty of the buildings themselves.

Denver is actually laid out more like this, in a way, most of the buildings have setbacks and are shiny-new, but not quite so big, on the most part, and not so many of them.

NBC and the Rock
Not that far away was this, next door to the Radio City Hall. Rockefeller Center, which houses NBC and Jimmy Fallon and a good number of the late night shows. We went inside, and it wasn't what I was expecting, at all. It was pretty much a mall, though the ones nearer the studio were high-end presentation shops, i.e. suits, shoes, clothing, etc. The interior was dark wood, with art deco paintings brushed on the ceiling and as we reached the atrium, the walls and all the panels. It was utterly gorgeous.

The building ran half the long block between avenues, with a fountain and plaza outside, and then another set of shops through what was called the English Alley down to Fifth Avenue. Downstairs was more shopping and some of the cleanest and biggest public bathrooms in the area.

I was glad Dick knew the importance of bathrooms, and this one was really impressive because it had an attendant in it, doing the cleaning, while directing women to the stalls and out of them to the wash area. She was no-nonsense about it, and it eliminated the dithering about whether or not a stall really was empty or not and all that. *laughs* I am impressed by the funniest things.

Friends Everywhere
We also got a taste of the phenomenon of traveling with Mr. Swarn. He knew people everywhere, and people knew him. This is one of the guards at the Rock, who happily spoke about the place and complimented us on having Mr. Swarn as our guide through this fair city.

We'd go to any tourist site and someone there would know him, greet him by name, and get the return treatment as well.

Meeting Place of Five Faces
Our meeting place was here by the Five Faces sculpture, which was on the edge of the shopping plaza. It was pretty distinctive, and there are guards around the sculpture, nearly all the time, but we were allowed to touch it and go inside it and see the rebar and reinforcements that allowed it to be what it was. We were to meet here at 4, though Dick would take us all the way to Central Park and then release us to find lunch, and do our own adventures before that time.

He also said that all the good food carts were between 48th and 54th Streets, and to look out for the original Halal Guys, who did a brisk trade in Muslim Kosher food. *blink blink* Falafel and lamb on rice with all the fixings. There were similar trucks all over the city, but you could tell the "real" one by the block-long line next to it. I liked that as the indicator.

St Patrick's
Right when we walked out of English Alley, we saw this. It is Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. For the last eight years it's been under scaffolding and has finally emerged from its face lift. In September, the Pope is going to come and visit New York City and will come to this cathedral, so they were working hard at getting the interior finished before he comes.

It is the whitest, brightest cathedral of this type of architecture I've ever seen. The renovation story says "A cathedral is a prayer sung in stone." And I think that they basically cleaned every piece of stone and/or replaced it with a piece that matched, and they're doing the same thing for every bit of the interior, including the mighty pipe organ, the stained glass, the pews, altars niches, and ceilings. Wow.

Scaffolding
They were still at work on the interior. It was impressive seeing the workers going at it, so many of them up in the scaffolding, and they weren't loud about it, either. I think the whole thing naturally commands a certain respect.

The interior was lined with candle stands, for those that wanted to offer a candle, and there were large numbers of people just there to pray in the pews. The security at the front entrance was there, but was cursory on the most part, just a look into your bags to make sure that you didn't have anything dangerous, but they were thorough about looking into everyone's bags.

The Rose Window
And it was dark inside, which helped people be quiet as they entered, but it look John's camera with its big lens and detector array to get this shot of the Rose Window, with all its blues and reds. The size of the organ was just amazing as well, and it was fun to see all the pipes.

A St. Patrick's Catherdral Alter Niche
Both sides of the cathedral housed all the altar niches for various saints, including, of course, St. Patrick. Each had their own stands for candles, along with offering areas, and were beautifully carved from what looked like the same stone as the rest of the cathedral. The detailing was astonishingly fine.

I was the very last person out of there. *laughs* I also got a medallion from one of the vending machines by the tiny closet of a gift shop. I gave it a five dollar bill and it gave me a shiny gold-colored medallion of the Cathedral and two gold-coin dollars as change. I loved both.

From there we headed north along Fifth Avenue and got to see bits of life in the Big City that I hadn't expected.

Fire Gathering
The first was a real fire in the Big Apple. And they have an interesting tradition of having everyone that's available gather for one of these fires, and now experiencing the traffic, not only of cars, but of sheer numbers of people, I can see why they do it this way. It seems like utter chaos, having 20-something trucks all trying to shoulder their way into the same intersection or street, but even with their sirens on, no one gives way to them not because the drivers don't want to (though there seems to be some of that), it's actually just because there's so many cars on the road there's no room for the trucks to move at anything faster than a crawl.

Beijing was crowded. Nearly three times more people live there, but there weren't so many cars that traffic went down to this. The utterly prohibitive cost of driving in Beijing made it so that the traffic flowed when there was any, and most people did mopeds or bikes, but here in NYC, the sheer number of cars made it so that no one could get anywhere fast, even if you had a siren and flashing lights.

And even the foot traffic got in the way of the fire fighters doing what they needed to do. This was just a street-level shop fire, and they were able to get in pretty easily, but afterward, when the fire guys were trying to fold up their hoses, the foot traffic couldn't wait on them to finish and tried to step around and even over the hoses while they were trying to get them back on their truck.

Everywhere
The other thing I didn't expect were these. Racks of Citibike rental bikes were all over the city. A day pass is $10 but a week long pass is only $25, and you get a number code to unlock a bike. It's pretty slick. You get it for just 30 minutes at a time, and you can get codes for further rentals anywhere else, after you've returned your bike. They seemed really durable, and pretty comfortable, too.

And they were all over the city, too, we saw them here, by Central Park in several locations, and when I checked them out on their website, the map is pretty dramatically full all through the boroughs. Dick went through, with us, the five boroughs of NYC, and they are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. We spent all our time on Manhattan, and it was more than enough for us on the most part.

We strolled up Madison Avenue for a while until we went left through Bonhams, to Niketown and the base of the Trump Tower.

Trump Tower Base
One of the stops Dick seemed to relish was this atrium for the Trump Tower. All the big buildings are required to allow through access to the streets, to allow pedestrians a covered way to go when it's raining. This one had a great glass covered area, filled with bamboo, and on either side of the doorways were big apple sculptures, painted by various artists to all be different.

Turns out that the term "Big Apple" was actually coined by jazz musicians, who were talking about all the venues across the country as fruit ready and ripe for the picking. There were so many of them throughout the United States, that it was a veritable orchard of places to play. But the prime piece, the Big Apple, was New York City. And that is how the city got its nickname of The Big Apple.

Like I said. Stories. Whatever this city might be short of, it isn't stories.

Apple Cube
And speaking of Apples...

This is the Apple Glass Cube front to its store in the basement of the GM building. It sits right smack in the middle of the plaza before the building, and just across Fifth Avenue from the Pulitzer Fountain, and kitty corner to the south east corner of Central Park.

Behind it was FAO Schwartz, which Dick explained, was going to have to move out soon as the rent was too high for them to afford anymore; but the big piano was still in it, and we should see it while we were wandering about. He also said that he was going to take us into Central Park just to show as a glimpse, and then leave us to find our own lunches and return to the Five Faces statute to meet up with the smaller Canadian group that was going to join us for the rest of our days.

Our Teachers
I should introduce our two chaperones, the two music teachers from Altona Middle School that organized the whole thing with EA Educational Tours. Dana Clanin's the taller one and is Jet's jazz band teacher, and the teacher of all the bands throughout the grades. Her bands are so big that they've had to split the brass and percussion from the woodwinds in order for them to fit into the band room, and the halls are lined with instrument lockers. Beth is the choir director, and I think it's the performance choir that came.

Normal Band, Choir, and Orchestra are taught every other day, but students can sign up for jazz band, performance choir, and a special orchestra. These special music groups meet every day, during the half hour quiet reading period that helps bracket lunch so that they can do lunch in two waves to accommodate everyone. But it takes a certain kind of dedication to do it, and so Dana and Beth only opened the trip up to the kids that did the extra music, because the educational focus of the trip was on the performing arts.

We really love Miss Clanin (Mama C to the kids), her attitude and methods, and sheer enthusiasm for kids making music is something I've always loved, and it was great getting to travel with her. Jet has always enjoyed playing for her.

Horse and Bird Food
The horse carriages were thick around the Park, and the traffic throughout the city is slow enough that they go everywhere and the traffic goes around them easily. I just loved how the birds were sharing in the horse's feed bucket. Given the huge numbers of tourists in the city, there's plenty of business for these guys, and like in Charleston, there's a regulated number of months a year, these horses have to go to rest in a pasture out in the country for a while just to make sure they stay healthy.

Introduction to Central Park
The dividing line between the green of the park and the city was sharp and an amazing contrast. It was all trees and grass and ponds within. It goes from 60th Street to 110th Street, or 50 blocks in length and three avenues' blocks wide. The Metropolitan Art Museum lives in the heart of the park, as does the Central Park Zoo, a very small petting zoo that, of course, housed the animals of the Madagascar movies. There is a carousel, of the same vintage as the one in Balboa Park in San Diego, and several theaters, including the one that does the free Shakespeare in the Park plays.

We were just brushing the edge of all that, a quick introduction by The Pond (that is the name of it. *laughs*) in the southeast corner. And Dick took us all onto this rock, like a lot of the other rocks throughout the park, and he happily explained that it is unlike any other rock in the world, because it was made of Manhattan schist, and lumps of that schist was throughout the park as decoration.

Middle schoolers love the near-miss of "schist" with other words, and he took great enjoyment in that, and rattled off a list of the things that could be found in the park. He took us back to the Pulitzer Fountain (which is also right in front of the Plaza, which I think is the Plaza Hotel, right on the Grand Army Plaza, and let us go.

Spicy Pork on riceOne of Each...Phyllis Cart -- Korean TacosJohn's Cart - Peruvian Fusion
I had my notes, thank goodness, and was able to tell the teachers that the food trucks were between 48th and 54th, and we were on 60th, so the whole group went back south, back to where we'd seen the Halal Guys. The teachers decided that we'd take an hour to find our lunches and then meet at a small plaza in front of a bank at 2.

Sadly, Dick was supposed to have handed out lunch money for everyone, and he completely forgot to do so. Luckily, most of us had enough cash, at the beginning of the trip, to float ourselves, but it was not a great thing to do. Part of the plans for the trip was that the kids would get money, regularly for the meals, as not every kid is good at regulating how they spend.

John and I, of course, had a bit more money along with us. We looked at the Halal carts and realized that we can get pretty good falafel and gyros at home. What we couldn't get was Peruvian Fusion food and Korean kim chee tacos. Yeah. Korean/Mexican fusion was pretty amazing for me. Only in the Big City where all kinds of cultures mix and mesh and play off each other. Next time, I really want to go to the Momofuku Noodle bar, but we were either too far south or too far north on the most part, except for the last day, but Greenwich Village had all kinds of other classical New York City lures.

John's spicy pork bowl was very tasty. I got a short rib taco, a falafel taco (the surprise made me buy it), and a fried chicken wing taco at the Korean taco cart. The short rib one and very sweet, tender meat with just a hint of spice and the crunch of cabbage, green onions, and the salty crumble of Mexican cheese. The falafel one was okay, but well... chickpeas and a mediocre salsa. The one both John and I liked the most was the spicy, crunchy chicken wing, nestled in Vietnamese red onion pickles. Yum. It made me very happy, that last taco.

Practice Practice Practice
Jet went off with another group, and Dana and Beth had a pretty ambitious list of things they wanted to see.

The first on that list was this, Carnegie Hall. It's got a beautiful facade and front foyer and ticket booths. We went inside, and found two ladies at an information desk in front of all the ticket booths, and they had little buttons and programs and the most excellent advise that we should go two doors down and visit the museum of the Hall.

So we followed their directions, found a tiny hallway that fit one guard and one elevator door. The elevator was tiny, could barely fit six people, and we were going up to the second floor.

Carnegie Hall Museum
And up there we found a lovely little museum of one main room, one gift shop that was small enough that it was hard for two people to go through it at the same time, from end to end, and beautiful clean bathrooms.

The Museum itself had lovely displays, with a wall with nothing but playbills of old performances. There were monitors with various recordings of old performances going on, and there was a lot of the history of the hall and everyone that had come to it. One of my favorites was that of a nail in a bit of beaten up floorboard. It was called "Horowitz's Nail" When Vladamir Horowitzh, in 1965, decided to do a "comeback" concert in Carnegie Hall, he had rehearsals in the hall beforehand. And he'd begin each rehearsal but ordering the stagehands to move the piano about until he was pleased with the acoustics. Unknown to him, the first time he did that, the stagehands hammered nails into the stage where the legs of the piano rested. The amusing thing was that for all that he began every rehearsal with moving the piano around, the stagehands noticed that almost every time, the legs of the piano ended up on the nails.

One prominent theme in the gift shop was the old joke about Carnegie Hall: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" "Practice, practice, practice." There were t-shirts, notebooks, postcards, neckties, and coffee mugs with "Practice, Practice, Practice." written on them. I kind of liked that.

Old Carosel
Our next trek was through Central Park until we reached the Central Park Carousel, which was on the south end of the Park, thank goodness. It's a vintage carousel with the organ music grinder, much like the antique in Balboa Park, but without the brass ring mechanisms. It has the bright, colorful horses, plenty of places to ride, and it was smooth and fun to do, especially on the hot hot day. The breeze of just moving through it all the time was wonderful.

I realized, at this time, that I wished I'd brought along my bottle of water in my backpack. I'd decided that morning to just have my purse, and drink water out of John's water bottles, and that was mostly working, but I was pretty thirsty through the walk in the open of the park. Both John and I had brought our river hats, too, which was very nice in the full sun, and everyone else was slathering on the sunscreen.

Jump!
On the way back to the GE building, we happened upon this big expanse of schist, and the kids we were with had a great time jumping in front of the view.

This is also where the teachers' picture was taken.

FAO Schwarz Big Piano
By this time we were all kind of tired of the sunshine and heat, so we all went into the FAO Schwartz and kind of split up from there. We all knew the Rockefeller Center meeting place and knew that we had to be there by 4, so everyone scattered from there. John and I went with most everyone else into the FAO Schwartz, and I had to see the big piano. Anyone could take their shoes off and play on it, which was nice.

There were two floors of store to the place, and there was a huge candy store, and you can see behind the piano there was a custom car shop, with all kinds of equipment and customizations you could make to an RC car. Body types, colors, engines, frames, tires, everything could be made the way you wanted to make them, and I'll admit that I thought it was hugely better than the stuff a bear thing elsewhere on the same floor. There were all kinds of toys, a huge corridor with nothing but stuffed snakes of a multitude of colors, there were Legos, science toys, Barbies, a whole Disney section with signed limited edition prints of various characters.

After that John and I ran off to the NHL store, where I bought a Ranger's hat, simply because they were playing in the Stanley Cup while we were here. Win or lose, it was a nice way to remember what else was happening while we were here, and I wanted to buy a Ranger's cap in New York. I used to follow hockey pretty closely.

We made it, in plenty of time, to meet up with the Canadians and everyone else. We had to wait a bit for Dick.

Through the Waterfall
He made it and he started us off towards Time Square.

I think that part of the fun of walking through a city is seeing the things that are hidden to most people. One of those things that I delighted in was this waterfall feature. There's something like it but different in Seattle, too, where the water falls all around the place where people walk.

There was a beautiful, quiet little plaza behind this wall, where a coffee shop was doing great business, and from the tables you couldn't hear any of the traffic noise because of the white noise of the water covering it all up. I love those kinds of things.

Also, walking with Dick, I got a better sense of the flow and beat of the traffic, not only on the streets, but on the sidewalks as well. The sidewalks here are always full of people, which is very unlike Longmont, and even a bit unlike Denver. In Denver, the traffic flows really well, so most people drive through or around things, and just stop where they're going, and there just isn't a huge amount of foot traffic except when venues have special events. Here with the traffic the way it is, and the subway bringing lot of people in on foot, there's always a flow of people on the sidewalks.

Times Square
And no where is that amount of foot traffic more evident than in Times Square.

It's a "Square" that is actually a triangle. Yes. Broadway cuts diagonally through mid-town Manhattan and is the longest street of a single name in the US. Times Square has requirements for the lighting on all the "store" fronts, and the one church that fronts the Square was required to have a bit advertising board on it with neon. They got to have some say about what went on that board, too, which is a good thing, as at one point the board was showing Victoria Secret ads, and they were not pleased.

It's amazingly imposing standing on the ground in Time Square in real life. It really does all tower over you. There are bleachers in the middle, just so that people can sit and absorb it all for a while. The theater for American in Paris was right there in the square, at the Palace theater, right across 7th Avenue from the bleachers, just to the left of that McDonald's in the picture. The bleachers were to the right.

You're On TV!
At the north end of the Square was the Police Station, all in blue neon, and this huge digital advertisement board that showed a live picture from a camera at the bottom of the display. The building with the neon American flag on it is also the police station, I think? But you can find John and I and most of the group in the picture. *laughs*

Garment District Eats
We headed south of Times Square and entered the Garment District and found the upscale version of the lunch trucks we'd seen throughout the day. There were handcrafted beers, wines, fusion of all kinds, a sushi shop, steaks, seafood, noodles, burgers, gelato, salads, and bakeries galore, all represented in open booths like these, with little dining tables out on the street edge, right off the curb. Traffic just flowed around it.

The prices were much higher, too, of course, and the $10 we were supposed to have had for lunch would not have gone that far; however, it was far better than the restaurant prices we'd seen.

Herald Square
First encounter with the Empire State Building, also came with Dick introduction us to Herald Square. Another brush with legend and story and myth, "Remember me to Herald Square..."

And up there, behind all that, is the Empire State Building.

So this last Christmas, my sister Kathy found some really great presents for John and Jet. They included the two halves of mid-town Manhattan, the east and west sides of it, including the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the like. It's got the slant roofed shiny building that's now owned by the Japanese, and all the things in between. John and Jet had a great time building it, and Jet really got fascinated by the Empire State Building and everything around it.

Entrance
It was, of course, our destination. For a first-time trip, it was one of those have-to-see things. And the art deco foyer was dominated by this desk and the beautiful representation behind it. We started here, and this was going to be our meeting place after we'd gotten our dinners.

Dick has forgotten to give us our money for lunch, and he kind of made up for it by giving every kid a fifty dollar bill for all their lunches. It kind of made sense? But it might not have if these kids hadn't been as good as they were at regulating themselves. Jet, in fact, had a plan on how he was going to save his money so that he'd have something afterward; but that's just how Jet works. Dick also gave us another ten dollars for dinner, because the central office had given him another $100 that he'd have to break into ones to give us the other two dollars. He promised it for when we got back, and that was all right.

Bread and Butter
Kitty corner to to the Empire State Building was a Papaya Dog, which Dick was unenthusiastic about, and I hadn't remembered exactly what I'd heard about them for. The hot dogs there seemed ordinary enough, and if I were going to have a Philly Cheesesteak, I'd got to Philly for it (or Pittsburgh, actually, as they were really good there, too, or Oakland, actually, as there's one place... ahem). So instead, we took Dick's recommendation and ended up here, at Bread and Butter.

The front area had the made to order foods, including pizzas, sushi, sandwiches, and grilled items. In the back were two enormous buffets of both hot and cold foods. You just bought everything by the pound!

I loaded up on fresh fruit, including several slices of grapefruit along with strawberries, melon, and the like. I also had a huge mound of something that looked like pot roast (there were no labels on many of the hot foods, other than the Chinese-style dumplings, which were labeled with what was inside them) and another of smashed potatoes with some of the skins still on and good and lumpy instead of just blended smooth. I got a few cooked carrots just to complete that. We paid at the front. The lady just stacked all of our boxes on top of each other and charged the going rate, along with a few fountain drinks.

We then went downstairs into a nice clean little dining area and much of our group ate down there. There was a clean bathroom, and with only us there was no wait. So it was quite nice.

And the food was quite nice. The pot roast was savory and tender and the mashed potatoes was everything I'd hoped they'd be, hearty, tasty, and with good texture and hot enough to really satisfy. I was amused to find that Jet got grapefruit, too, of the dozens of things he had chosen from. So we had a really excellent meal for not that much money.

Empire State Building's Floor
We all headed back in plenty of time to enter with our timed tickets. Our whole group had timed, VIP tickets. We had to go in at about 7 and be out by 8:30pm. Dick recommended the stairs between the 80th and 86th floors, as it could cut 20 minutes of waiting time.

The first lines, however, were for the security searches. The art deco design was extended throughout the building, and the floors were like this even in the hallways we were waiting in to get through security. I was really impressed by them and the gold bar dividers between the coming and going lines of people. Security was pretty tight, and they xray searched all the bags, and did the metal detectors on all the people.

Dick commented that since 9/11, security had tightened up everywhere in the city, and New Yorkers are just really used to and good at getting through security lines. There just are a lot more of them, and since everyone had had some direct experience with that day, they just go through it as a matter-of-course.

Museum
There was a museum on the 80th floor, and it was very tantalizing, but John was in a rush to get up onto the open air observation deck, so we just rushed right through.

At the end was, of course, the huge line. The doormen said that the stairs were closed, too, as they had people coming down them, and they had to let them all through before anyone could go up those stairs as they were really narrow. "Clearing the bodies," I heard someone mutter.

Then five minutes after we'd joined the line, Dick said that the stairs were open, and he led the charge. Turns out that the guard had just talked about opening the stairs, but hadn't done so quite, yet, and Dick was the one that actually opened the door to the stairs up. I was following John, but not quite quick enough, so that there were half a dozen people between us.

Up the Stairs!
I caught up, some. But all of us were just charging up six full flights of stairs.

Dick stopped on one of the platforms to see who had been crazy enough to follow him, and cautioned us against going too fast. Halfway up, there was also a doorman in full uniform who said that we should take it easy, that it was harder than you thought to go a full six flights.

But no one slowed down too much. By the fourth staircase, one of the ladies in front of me said, "Feel the burn..." But she kept going, too, stopping only, like me, to take a picture of what was in front of us. It really was pretty narrow and steep, and I was definitely feeling it by the time we pushed out onto the observation floor.

To the West
It was worth it.

It was so cool up there. The wind was going pretty good, but not crazy, and typical for that high up in the air. It was a beautiful view off the deck, in all directions; and we were the first for our time group, so it started out relatively uncrowded, as the elevators brought people up a half dozen or so at a time.

There were walls up to about waist high, and then over them were iron bars that it was easy to poke a camera through to take a picture. This one, obviously, is to the West, toward the sunset. Dick said that today and tomorrow was going to be a phenomenon called Manhattanhenge. On Friday night, at 8:12 pm was going to be, supposedly, when half the sun would align with the street grid of Manhattan, and on Saturday, the full sun should be visible between the buildings. But looking at this photo, the ground level layer was foggy, and by the time we were supposed to be going down to ground level, the cloud layer had thickened significantly. I don't know how many people actually got to see it...

City
This is to the south, towards the Freedom Tower, and the tip of Manhattan. John was pretty fascinated by all the buildings right below us. We could see all the roof tops.

Dick told us, later, that all the roofs in the city were required to have wooden water towers built on them. It was a union thing as well as a fire safety thing, because the water pressure from the street wouldn't get water up to a fire if it were on top of the buildings. So every single rooftop actually has a wooden water tank, but they can be hidden or disguised as other things, so long as a fireman can still get water out of them if there actually is a fire. If you click on this photo in flickr, you can actually see a good number of the water tanks. There's four on the white building in the center, with the turquoise restaurant addition on the roof. There are also people, tables, umbrellas and the like as well. *laughs*

Roof top
At one point I finally looked up.

This is the top of the Empire State Building, where you normally find King Kong and Fay Ray. This picture also has a good indicator of the iron work that surrounds the observation tower. It is all covered like this, too, probably to just keep people where they belong and not up like King Kong along the outside of the building.

The whole building took fourteen months to build. They sometimes did four stories a week in the winter before the spring in which it opened. They had a lot of Native American's on the work site because they had less problems with the balancing problem of being up on the girders. There was no OSHA, and no safety systems required. Of the same era was the pictures of the construction workers eating their lunches on an open girder, but that was in the building of the Rockefeller Center, not the Empire State Building.

Sunset
This was right before the sunset, and you can see the sun hitting the layer of clouds on the horizon. The whole platform filled with people at about this time, and I got to stand against a warm wall with Dick, a little ways out of the crowds that started to form as the sun headed for the horizon.

He talked a little about the history of the building, including the fact that one of the common nicknames for it is the "Empty" State Building. It has never really done that well with businesses. It just isn't set up well for them, and has problem renting out office space between the ground floor and the 80th. There is, however, always tourist traffic to the roof and the observation areas, one of the reasons why businesses don't do quite as well, since all the elevator capacity is mostly taken up by the tourists.

Surprise!
On the way down, I asked one of the elevator attendants if we could stop and view the museum, so we did. I got to see the whole thing, and in one of the displays was what looked, to me, like a huge King Kong suit that was on a mechanized stand. It was just swaying back and forth and back and forth, and when I peered at it, it suddenly moved differently! I yelped in utter surprise, and then walked away, a little embarrassed, but John called me back.

There was a person inside the suit! So I gave him a hug and asked if I could take a picture with him, and this is the result. *laughs*

Waiting for the Bus
At the bottom, we all waited outside the beautifully modern Walgreens, and the bus came and picked us up and whisked us away.

Steam
On the way back to the hotel, we passed through Times Square again, and the really startling thing was that with all the lights on, it was literally as bright as it was in the daylight. It was just amazing.

And on the edge of the Square, they were doing some road work and using the vast network of steam tubes that ran through the city. Originally the steam was used to heat many of the buildings, but it was also used to power road work equipment. Tubes were setup to allow it to vent up into the air, not directly at people or cars, and this picture shows one of the venting tubes.

I found that fascinating, when so much of the city is so new, to still have small reminders of the fact that there is still a piece of history buried under the pavement. The history here isn't obvious the way it is around every corner of London, or in the narrow alleys of the Hutongs or Temple of Heaven in Beijing, but it's still there.

The ride back to the hotel was very short, and given that I'd done more than 30,000 steps in just the one day, I was more than ready for bed. I didn't even try to digest anything, just showered and fell into bed, knowing I'd have to be up at 7 am for breakfast the next day.
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ESB vs B-25
Great write-up, thanks! Did they mention the time a B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building? A B-25 crashed into the 79th floor on July 28, 1945 killing 14 people; one elevator plunged 1000 feet but the operator survived.

The Empire State Building at W 33rd and 5th Ave in Manhattan's 86th floor is 1050 feet above the city. The top of the dirigible mast reaches 102 stories, 1472 feet high. The building weighs 70-80,000 tons. Five people died during its construction.


Re: ESB vs B-25
They hadn't mentioned those things! I love that, especially the elevator operator. Wow.

I also like all the measurements to the top. I imagine that there was probably a display for those measurements, too, but we didn't stop to look at all of them. That is an amazingly small number of people dying, given that it looked like they had no safety equipment whatsoever... wow.

Thank you!!!
I wonder if Times Square has gotten brighter? It was called "The Great White Way," back at the dawn of electric light, but perhaps modern technologies have made it brighter still.

The steam still heats buildings, by the way—it's produced as a byproduct of fossil-fuel electricity generation. It's one of reasons in which just being in New York makes a building energy efficient. I wonder what the buildings will do for heat once we stop burning fossil fuels?
It could well be called that still...

Ahhh... I hadn't known that it was a by-product, it makes a lot of sense.