a change of pace 3.21.10

I thought that I’d change things up a bit. A couple years ago Ray and I went to New York City and I wrote a trip report that I’d like to share. It’s long, but it’s one of my favorites. Let me know if you enjoy my ride. This was written three years ago.

THE IDEA:

I’d like to exclaim to the world, right here on the internet, how very much I love my Ray. I love him so much that I gave him a very special birthday present this weekend. He is turning 55. Did you hear what I said? 55.

Here’s my trip report.  I’ll tell you how I got the deal of a lifetime, Fette sheets, and a bathroom tour by Voldemort, the bellman.

I’ll give you a clue. It involves a Bangladesh taxi driver, the Chrysler building, and head cheese. Want more?

THE PLAN:

It all started in March when I came up with this great idea for Ray’s birthday. His very favorite celebrity chef is Mario Batali. He has 6 or 7 restaurants in New York City. So, why not take Ray there for his birthday! Yes, you say, I say yes too. I mean, really, this is the idea my little brain came up with. Ray would love it.

I said to myself, “Self, since I still have JetBlue tickets that we couldn’t use for Disney World in February because of the stupid east coast blizzard, why not use the tickets for NYC.” I’m a freakin’ genius. I know, what a waste of Frequent Flyer miles. It’s only a 40 minute flight for crying out loud. But, I didn’t want to lose the tickets, and we don’t drive in NYC because, well, only crazy people drive there, (later about the Bangladesh taxi driver AND the fake taxi driver) so I decided we would fly.

This is still March. And I am still planning this. Don’t get ahead of me. This will be a long story.

OK, I called JetBlue and got that all straightened out. They let me use my previously-almost-used tickets for this trip, instead of the one I really wanted in Orlando. Oh well…

Next step. Find a hotel that does not cost my right eye, and Ray’s left leg. Oye, this will be tough. I search and search. I hate spending $400 a night for a ROOM. And since I’m such a nice person, I told Ray we would stay 2 nights~! Friday AND Saturday. AND since I’m such a nice Mom, I told the boy that I would pay for THEIR room too! But only one night. I then made the obligatory mother-ish statement that if they needed two rooms, because they’re NOT MARRIED, to let me know and I will arrange that. What was that? Was he laughing at me? Oh, he cleared his throat and politely said, ‘no, I think we’re good. Thanks anyway.’

Ingrates.

Then it was time to call BABBO’s. Ray looked the menu over and decided that this is the restaurant he wanted to eat at. He liked what he saw.

My fingers are dialing now. The phone is ringing. And ringing. And ringing. Finally, a very proper British speaking woman answers. “Hullooo”. “hello,” says me. I explain what I want. Dinner for 4 (kids are meeting us there) on November 18th, at 8 pm please.

I think I heard her laugh.

No, she was crying.

Um, no she had the hiccups.

“You must call 30 days before the day you request to eat here. Not 31. Not 29. It must be 30 days. Goodbye”

Well.

Hmmm.

OK.

I guess I’ll mark that on my nifty little calendar. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.  30 days. There it is. I’ve got it marked and ready. The phone number too. I’m so proud of myself.

And now we wait. For time to pass of course.

Funny how time does things you really don’t expect and REALLY don’t want.

An unforeseen financial disaster happened and we shouldn’t have been planning a trip.

So, I proceeded to look for a hotel. I live in denial. It’s OK. I’m a Disneyphile. I know about denial and fantasy.

After finding what I thought was a pretty good deal, I called and made reservations at The Alex on 45th Street. They had a special for that weekend. A mere $239 a night. What I didn’t tell you is that I had saved the money for this trip way in advance. Now I have the dilemma of paying the heating bill for the winter or going to NYC for the day/night. Naaaaa, it’s not that bad. My paycheck can pay the heat bill. So, I decide to keep this trip on the back burner for a while to see if things got better.

Still waiting…

And still waiting…

So, quickly the day approaches when I have to make those coveted dinner ressies at the famous Babbo’s in Manhattan. I make a quick decision. Do we go or do we not? Do I want to spend the money on him for his birthday or should I save it just in case? You remember I said I love him more than life itself? So I went to NYC by myself.

KIDDING.

I decided what the hell. You only live once they say. Now, to call Babbo’s.

Dialing…

Ringing…

And we have the very British speaking lady “Babbos, may I help you?”

“Yes, I would like to make dinner reservations for 4 people on November 18th.”

“I’m sorry. You should have called yesterday. We are all booked. Goodby.”

WHAT?

WHAT DID SHE SAY???

ARE YOU F___ING KIDDING ME???

I quickly look at my calendar. You know, the one with the day circled on the same day I was to make reservations at Babbo’s in NYC. The one that says OCTOBER 19!!!!!!!!!!

NO, I couldn’t believe I screwed that up. I had MONTHS to get this right. What am I, an idiot??? Don’t answer that.

Sooooo… then I did the next best thing.

Since I wasn’t able to get the reservations, I went online to look at a couple of Mario’s other restaurants. The next best one was Lupa’s. I checked the menu. It looked good, not as adventurous as Babbo’s but I think it will do. I emailed the link to Ray, told him what happened and asked if he thought that Lupa’s would be OK.

Sure, he said! Most excellent.

Dialing…

Ringing…

A very nice young woman answers.

“Hello. Lupa’s. May I help you?”

“Yes, I need reservations for 4 on November 18th at 7pm, or 8 pm, or 6 pm. I’ll take anything.”

“I’m so sorry, we have nothing available” Sweat starts to bead up on my forehead. My heart is pounding. I see blood. Are his restaurants so good that it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to get a reservation???

I told the nice young lady what I was trying to do. She listened. She suggested I take an 11:00 pm slot or a 4:30 slot. Since Ray and I don’t stay up past 9:00, the 11:00 slot was out. “yes, I’ll take the 4:30. Thank you.”

Ugh. What is this, a late lunch? Oh well, at least I’ve got SOMETHING. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

Now I have plane reservations, dinner reservations, and a hotel at a decent price. However, I called the hotel and canceled Friday night. We’ll just do one night in NYC and fly home the next day. That saves me a bunch of money.

Good. This will work I tell myself. One month to go. Still waiting for a bag of cash to fall out of the sky. Nothing. ~Sigh~

AIRPORT TRAUMA:

The month goes by quickly. And now it’s time to do our very happy birthday trip to NYC for the day/night with adult children in tow, no plans but dinner, and maybe a walk down 5th avenue to drop into Tiffany’s. It’s traditional. We always go into Tiffany’s. Except this time there was an incident. It involved me screaming on an elevator about being buried alive. But I’m jumping ahead of the story. More on that later.

I went to the JetBlue website to read up on what you are allowed to carry on the plane these days. Apparently not much. But what I was most concerned about was liquids. I had a bottle of hair styling spray and some lotions. On the website I found a sentence that said you can bring a certain amount of liquids but it didn’t say how much. So, I guess you’re just supposed to know these things. I wonder how many people brought a gallon of milk to the airport. Or a bottle of Jack Daniels! According to my way of thinking a small bottle of hair styling spray should not be a problem. Or so I thought until I met Helga the Horrible who’s mission in life is to give herself a coronary by rolling her eyes, yelling at everyone around her, and generally being as dramatic as is possible in a group of 150 horrified, quivering people waiting their turn to be in front of her.

Take off your shoes. Take off your belt. Take off your coat. PUT IT IN THE TUB!!! OK, OK, take it easy woman. STEP THROUGH THE MACHINE. NOW!!! ugh. BAG CHECK!!!! BAG CHECK!!!! BAAAAAAAAAAAG CHECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YOU HAVE LIQUIDS!!!!! OH MY GOD. TSK. (eyes roll, items are thrown on the conveyor belt) OH, MORE LIQUIDS (yikes, she found Ray’s deodorant, after shave, and shave gel. I’m in SO much trouble now!!!)

Lipstick comes out, foundation, MASCARA. How can mascara kill people, other than the price of it. This went on and on as Helga the Misfit threw everything in my cosmetic bag and Ray’s toiletries all over the conveyor belt while screaming about how stupid we are. AND rolling her eyes! The fear in people’s eyes behind us was daunting. I saw some people quickly darting their eyes to see if they could slip into another line so as to avoid Helga the Dragon.

Finally, she was done. The items she allowed me to take with me she put into a small baggie. The others she kept. No problem, we can always get deodorant in NYC. I’m sure they sell it there. This isn’t France.

So, we grab our shoes, coats, bags and boarding passes and move to the side to put everything on again and watch the next batch of poor souls get a tongue-lashing from Helga the Abuse Victim.

I pulled myself together and we went to our gate. You know, the place where the man at the counter thinks he needs a microphone to talk to people right in front of him. Must be a power thing. This is where the airlines tell you that your carry-on might be too big for the overhead compartments. Please walk over to the demonstration rack and slip your carry-on into it. If it doesn’t fit, please go back and check your bags.

“Ray, go check and see if that will fit”

“Are you joking?”

“No.”

Ray walks over and places the bag on the rack. It’s supposed to slip into this thing. The man on the microphone is still talking to people 3 feet from him while Ray is behind him pushing the bag down with his hands and then stepping on it, then pulling it out with both hands as though he was power lifting and then walked back to me.

We lock eyes.

“It fits fine”

Did I tell you I’m afraid to fly?

As we walk toward the plane door I stopped and turned toward Ray and said, (and not in my indoor voice) “I’m gonna throw up”.

The woman behind him took a half of a step back and Ray had a momentary look of panic in his eyes. Then he came to his senses and put his hand on my back, rubbed it, and said “you will be fine, it’s a short flight, relax”

That always works for me. He’s so calming.

And always right.

The flight was fine. We were up and then we came down. No problems. The kids picked us up at JFK and then we took the harrowing ride to The Alex Hotel. My son lived in NYC for a while so he’s used to driving in it. I’ve become accustomed to riding with him by doing the following:

Never look forward. Always look out the side window. Go to my happy place. And always say a Novena.

THE UNUSUAL TOUR:

We arrived at the Alex about 25 minutes later. A cute little boutique hotel, very modern in a European way. Fireplace in the lobby, orchids everywhere, a nice little bar off to the side. The woman at the counter checked us in and gave us our keys. The bellman, Voldemort ( or at least that’s how it sounded when he pronounced it. I’m sure it was a very Russian name of some sort) took our luggage and we all waited for the elevator.

I noticed we all had the same room number on our keys. Uh-oh. Visions of sharing a room, two double beds, with my unmarried son and his unmarried girlfriend!!! EW.

Ray, in his ever quest to make things right piped up and yelled across the lobby to the woman behind the desk, “Excuse me, we have a PROBLEM”, just as Voldemort says quietly that we have been given a two-bedroom suite.

“RAY, SHHHHHHHHH, COMPLIMENTARY UPGRADE. SHUT UP DUDE”

Ah, OK. Sounds good. Up the elevator to the 20th floor and to our suite.

Dan, Rachel and I were going from room to room checking everything out. Ray was stuck with Voldmort who was showing Ray how to use the shower, and then the phone rang. It was the front desk.

“May I speak to Mr. Ray please?”

“um, sure, hang on, he’s in the shower with Voldemort”

Ray listens to the woman. I am thinking they made a mistake and want to give us the two rooms that I reserved instead. He cups the phone and says to me, “they want to give us another two-bedroom suite”. HUH? For how much I asked.

Ray relays the message. Again, cupping the phone, he says that there is no charge.

Now wait one dang minute here. They are going to give us TWO suites for the price of two regular rooms???? What’s the catch here anyway? We all look at each other. I asked the kids if they want their own suite. Um, we don’t care, really. I like the idea of all of us in one suite because I don’t see them that much and it might be fun to all be in one two-bedroom suite. They all agreed. Ray turned the woman down politely. She said OK, but I can’t give you a refund. A refund? Of what? $239? Oh, OK. I think we got the better part of this deal anyway! (later on when we got home I checked the prices of the two-bedroom suites. I checked different weekends to get a feel of the high end and the low end of the suite costs. It ranged from $800- $1500 per night. I’d say we did pretty darned good!)

So, a good tip was given to Voldemort (he shook Ray’s hand and Ray slipped a $20 in his palm just like James Bond would do…. S E X Y) And we went about settling in. We unpacked and then decided to take a walk down 5th Ave to do a little window shopping. The weather was perfect! Sunny, and in the 60s.

THE ELEVATOR DOESN’T GO TO THAT FLOOR:

Why is there so much scaffolding in NYC? Everywhere you look there’s scaffolding. But no where do you see someone working.

Stopping for coffee at Starbucks on our way to 5th Ave we got our addicts’ boost. I have not had breakfast yet, and only one cup of coffee on the plane. I’m in a bad way. Gotta eat soon or I’ll die. The dilemma is that if we eat now will we still be hungry for our 4:30 dinner at Lupa’s? Hmmm… this could be serious.

Now about those crowds… as we turned onto 5th it felt as though the whole city of Bombay was here! Throngs of people everywhere!!! Bumping, tripping, yacking on cell phones, horns honking, sirens blaring, TOO MANY PEOPLE!!!!

We went into Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Hugo Boss, Saks 5th Ave, etc, etc, etc. Just window shopping. We didn’t buy anything. Except for Dan. He forgot black socks for dinner tonight, so he bought a pair at Banana Republic. I looked in the Mikimoto store at the BEE YOU TEE FUL pearl necklaces. Ooooooo, I want one so badly. I’ve been a good girl. Please? Uh, not today dear. Fine.

Fighting people was getting tiring. But our mission was to get to Tiffany’s! Onward ho. ( I did NOT just call myself a ho, did I? geesh.)

All the Christmas decorations are being put up. The giant snowflakes in the middle of the street are going up, the garlands and trees are filling the windows, and the great tree of Rockefeller Square is in the house and being decorated. It’s covered from the public so they can do a big unveiling later on. Everything is looking really pretty!

Ah, Tiffany’s. Here we are. Trying to push the crowds away from the glass cases was difficult. Everyone wanted to see the diamonds.  I wanted to go upstairs to the second floor because I’ve never been up there. The sign says they have PEARLS up there. And maybe Johnny Depp. OK, maybe not.

So, we mosey over to the three elevators. One isn’t working, and one goes only to the third floor. So, for all you math experts leaves ONE elevator going to the second floor. Suddenly 3000 people need to see the pearls. Being the aggressive one in the bunch I made sure I got into that elevator! I was first! But I lost my group. I turned around to see if I could see them in the sea of people and masses of people were heading toward me in a most unruly way! They pushed, and squeezed until not one more toe could fit into this elevator and not one of my group was in this mess!!! It only took a split second before I became claustrophobic and said in my outdoor voice, “OK, NOPE, THIS IS NOT GOING TO WORK, MOVE OUT OF MY WAY, NOW PLEASE, LET ME OUT, LET ME OUT, NOWWWWWWWW!!!!!! THIS IS WORSE THAN BEING BURIED ALIVE. YOU’RE ALL NUTS FOR BEING IN THIS ELEVATOR. CRAZY PEOPLE. LET ME OOUUUUUTTTT!!!”

It was like the parting of the Red Sea.

Ahhh… fresh air.

Then my wonderful, and intelligent son said “would you like to take the stairs to the second floor, Ma?”

Well, why didn’t you think of that earlier you ungrateful child. I was in labor for 52 hours just to bring you into this world, the pain almost brought me to my death, and NOW you come up with this brilliant idea??? I’m selling you to the next buyer.

Did you know that if you want to take the stairs to the SECOND floor you have to walk up 10 flights of stairs? I know, this is some kind of Twilight episode where nothing is real, and some little kid is playing with us as though we were toys.

Huffing and puffing we trudge up to the SECOND/10th floor.

Oooooo…. BIG diamonds up here. AND BIG pearls! WOAHOOWOWOHOOOOAAA!!!! I’m in H E A V E N. But I know I’m not supposed to look at the prices. Because if I did then this wonderful daydream will end. Who has $150,000.00 to spend on a necklace? No really, WHO? I want to know. Tell me. WHO!?

Alright, I think we’re done with this store. We get out and head back to the hotel to rest up for tonights’ dinner.

Ray needed a nap, so he went into our room. Rachel wanted to lie down so she went to their room. Dan and I sat in the living room.

REALLY? IS IT A CAB?

After resting up and showering and getting all gussied up, we were ready for our big night out. We needed a cab to get to SOHO. It was easier to get a cab from the street near us rather than in front of our hotel. We walked up there and stood at the corner where Dan stepped out and raised his hand.

A big black sedan pulled up. That’s not a cab, I was thinking. Why is he talking to that guy? Then Dan nodded to all of us to get in. Ray sat in the front and we sat in the back. I was positive this was NOT a cab. It was just a guy with a big car looking to roll us for some dough. I got in reluctantly, and put my seat belt on. Then I looked around the front seat for a drivers name or number… nadda. Not even a meter! I whispered to Dan that we are not in cab and then I slipped my seat belt off to make a fast getaway. I’m a very cynical and suspicious person by nature. This guy was going to shoot Ray in the front seat and then steal our money and jewelry. (maybe I watch too much TV)

Dan and Rachel watched me take off my seat belt and Rachel immediately started laughing at me. HEY! I’m SERIOUS. I’m going to jump out of this car, dive to the street and roll just like they do in the movies! Dan looks at me horrified. “What are you doing?”, he asked. I said, “he’s not a cab driver, we’re going to get robbed!” Dan shook his head, looked at the laughing Rachel and sat there in horror.

Finally, we arrive at our destination. Since there is no meter, Ray asks the guy how much he owes him. That seems like a normal question. Wouldn’t you ask? I heard the driver say to Ray, “whatever you think is good”

SEE! I told you he wasn’t a real cab driver!!!! There’s my proof!!! So, Ray hands him $40. Dan walked to the back of the car and motions to me to look as his license plate. It had a T&LC on it. He WAS a driver but he usually only makes airport runs that have a fixed price, Dan tells me. Well, how would I know that? I live upstate where cows roam and we get intermittent cable.

None of us thought that $40 was unreasonable. Again, what did we know? Just for the record… the ride back cost $11.00 in a REAL cab. SO, yes, our fake cab driver DID rob us.

Ah, finally we are here. Lupa’s. Mario Batali’s establishment. We waited a long time for this.

TIME TO EAT IT:

Let’s go in.

I immediately realized why getting reservations to these restaurants is so difficult. The place only seats about 30 people. When you first walk in you’re in the bar area. Bar to the left and tables to the right. The coat check area is in the back and behind that is a small private room for large groups. At first I wasn’t thrilled about being seated in the bar area but I wasn’t about to complain. It seemed happy and the atmosphere was pleasant.

The waitress came over and asked if we would like anything to drink. OK, here’s my big ta-da. I was going to look like a big shot and order a BOTTLE of wine. WOO! I’ve never done that before.

Me: (holding the wine menu and pointing to a price) I would like you to recommend something in this price range please”

Pasty white waitress with dark red lips: “do you like a fuller body, woodsie type of wine?”

Me: “Yes, I do.”

Pasty white waitress with dark red lips: “hmm, I’ll be right back”

She disappears and then reappears with a recommendation. I get to sample it, I swirl, a sniff, I slurp. (I know this because I went to the wine tasting on the Disney Cruise ship)

Ah yes, a very good year. (hey, it sounds good, doesn’t it?)

Now comes the food. I ordered the Grande Antipasti E Salumi for the table. Mario’s family owns a deli in Seattle and they make their own cold cuts. This was a cornucopia of the best of the meats! We had Prosciutto Di Parma, Coppa, Testa, Salumi, and Lingua, and I think Affetati Piccolo.

Everything was delicious. Except the tongue. It grossed me out. Ray and Dan loved it. Ew.

Next was the first course. I had the Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Fennel $15, to die for. It was soooo good. Ray had the special, flat egg noodles with a duck ragu. Another winner. Dan had the Pennette con Trippa Alla Romana $12, and Rachel had a special that had some shrimp in it.

Next was the second course. In the meantime, the wine was flowing freely and we were all having a wonderful time.

I had the Pork Shoulder with Rose Petal Glassato $18, and I could taste the rose petals. OUTSTANDING. Ray had Pollo alla Diavola $17, Dan had Pork Saltimbocca $17, and Rachel had something with steak in it. I can’t remember what it was, but it was REALLY good.

We were too full for desert but we did it anyway. It was, after all, a celebration!

We were done. Finally. And we were stuffed! What a fantastic meal. It was so worth it to come all the way to NYC for this. I think we’d do it again!

The bill came and it was handed to me. I handed it to the boy and told him to put the tip on it and give it to me to sign. (too much wine and I didn’t want to fish around for my glasses) so, he took care of it and I signed.

A cab pulled up in front of the restaurant and let some people out who were going to eat there and we slipped into the cab to head back to our hotel.

Ah, we’re back at our hotel. Dan gets out, Rachel tries to get out but I’m sitting on her coat and still dancing from the Indian music the cabbie is playing. She’s laughing so hard and I’m not paying attention and no one is going anywhere. Dan I’m sure wants to throw us in the river.

We dropped off our leftovers in our room (we have that nice SubZero refrigerator!!!) and went back down to the bar for a nightcap. Except that it was only 7:00pm. We enjoyed some conversation for a while and went up to our suite around 8:30. The kids and I stayed up and watched TV for a while. Ray went to bed.

It’s morning  and we tried to kill some time just hanging around before we had to check out at 11:00. Our plane didn’t leave until 3:00 so we had to find something to do. Tried walking around to window shop again but the weather was much colder than it was yesterday. So, we went back to the hotel and just hung out in the bar.

The kids drove us to the airport and we said our goodbyes.

We got home with no incident. The flight was good, the weather was fine, just cold. Got home, unpacked, and had pizza.

THE END:

That was our trip. I hope you enjoyed coming along with me.

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