Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New York City!

Because of the inauguration today, last week I was trying to think of a place to visit since I was going to have a four-day weekend. I looked up flights to Florida, New York, Boston, back home to Utah, out to Oregon or San Diego, etc, etc. I couldn't decide. Flights were really expensive and they didn't have very good flight times. Friday night came around and I decided I was going to head up to New York City. Now I needed to figure out how I was going to get up there. Plane? Train? Bus? Drive my own car? I liked the idea of driving my car because I could stop whenever I wanted and I could come back whenever I wanted as well. Saturday morning rolled around early. I started the drive up to NYC not knowing what exactly I was going to do up there or where I was going to stay, but I'm sure glad I went.

During the drive I found out from a friend that the Manhattan Temple would be open until 5:30 that afternoon, so I decided that would be a great way to start the weekend. But first I had to find a hotel in which to lay my body at night and a place to park my car for the weekend. If you didn't know already, parking your car in NYC is not exactly cheap ($92 for the three days I was there).

I drove down to Times Square and on the way I stopped at Trump International Hotel & Tower to see how much their rooms were. $850 a night. It was more than I wanted to pay. :) So I ended up getting a room for two nights at the Marriott Hotel right in Times Square.

So nice of NYC to put up a sign telling me where the singles ward is located.

I arrived at the temple at 2:35. The session had already started at 2:30 and they only have sessions every hour and a half, so I did some other temple work until the 4:00 session started. It's an interesting temple, with floors 1-3 making up regular church meeting rooms and floors 4-6 being the actual temple. When I came out of the temple I decided to jog back to the hotel because I didn't want to pay 5-8 dollars for a taxi and because it was really cold outside.

Checking out the surroundings

When I walked up to one of the four or five people at the check-in counter and started to check in, he asked me if I was from Utah. I wasn't wearing anything that would suggest I was from Utah so I asked him how he knew. "I know my own", he said. He told me that he's originally from Sandy, Utah.  He served a mission in Italy. It's a small world.

Pretty neat elevator system

This is the view I had from my room.

Saturday night I got a ticket to Phantom of the Opera and absolutely loved it. I went to the discount booth to see if I could get a discounted ticket to the show and the girl told me she had a single ticket with a "partial view" for $35. I asked her what "partial view" meant. She told me I might not be able to see part of the stage because I was pretty far to the side. Well I took it anyway and I'm very happy I did, because I saw the whole thing right on the third row!

Rachel (AKA - Rocky), a friend I met a couple weeks ago, came down (she was up in northern New York for work) and spent the next two days wandering around with me. Sunday morning we took a taxi (Expensive!) down to the site of the World Trade Center and we took a tour with two men (our guides) who were directly involved at the WTC on September 11th of 2001. They were both volunteer firefighters. The man you see in the picture and video (Joe Torrillo) was buried under one of the towers when it fell and was one of the first people pulled from the rubble. He told us his head was split open, his bones were broken, and he couldn't breath....but he was alive. Our other guide (whose name I cannot remember) was standing right next to the WTC when one of the towers started to fall. If you have seen the movie "World Trade Center", this man was part of the rescue effort for those two survivors in that movie. Amazing! It was really neat to have two guides telling us all about September 11th and the WTC using personal stories. Unfortunately the tour was so neat that we missed Sacrament Meeting back at the temple. We did make it to Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society.

With Joe and our second guide. Real heroes!

Our guides took us to one of the financial buildings across the street from the WTC (which is where most of the tour took place) and showed us a memorial that a particular financial institution (can't remember the name) made for 11 of their employees who died on September 11th. 11 drops of water (representing tears) fall continuously from the ceiling as a symbol of heaven crying for the 11 employees.

We made a mistake Sunday night. We found out that broadway plays (most of them) take a day off every Monday. Since we were both leaving on Monday we decided to go see "Mama Mia" on Sunday night. I can't say much good about it. The music was fun but the story is very sexual and I would never recommend it to anyone. I think the nice Spirit we had from the WTC tour, and Church earlier in the day, stayed outside the theater during the show.

Monday morning was fantastic! We first walked down to Grand Central Station and took some pictures there. I don't know anything about the place, but it's a nice building and I think I've seen the inside of it in several Hollywood movies.
We walked down to the UN Headquarters after visiting Grand Central Station. I wanted to get a picture just to say I had been to the UN Headquarters, but we ended up getting much more than that. Rocky walked up to the guards to ask a question about the meaning of the world ball that sits outside the building. One of the guards (a Marine) looked at my beanie (the one with "Who's your daddy?" sewed on it in Arabic) and asked if I was in the military. We chatted about Iraq, Afghanistan, and the military, and then they told us we could go tour the first floor with the rest of the tourists. The Marine (Juan Reyes) told us he would come and see us inside if he got off his shift within a few minutes. The first floor is boring and there's hardly anything to see, so I decided to go back out and ask Juan if he could give us a tour. Boy did he give us a tour!

He took us into the General Assembly room and as you can see, we visited places most tourists don't get to go.
I stood where Hugo Chavez and Ahmedinejad ranted about "the great satan"; where heads of state and leaders of nations have delivered speeches.
With Juan in the General Assembly room.
We got to see the UN Security Council room even though it is currently off limits to tourists because they are going to do some renovations. Actually that whole building needs renovations. Most of the furniture is original stuff from who knows how long ago.

We heard some yelling, followed the noise, and this is what we found.
After two days of trying to find someone (anyone!) who could give me the name of a "If you go to New York, you've got to eat here!" place, and I finally got one. When I checked out on Monday, Francesco Perri (the LDS guy who checked me in) gave me the name and address of an amazing pizzeria at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. We took the subway this time. There was a line outside the little pizzeria (at 3:00 in the afternoon, with snow coming down), and after eating our pizza, I understood why. It was yummy.
We walked across the bridge after eating our meal.

A little band in the subway. Check out their instruments. They were pretty good despite the not-so-fancy instruments.

This is self-explanatory. I laughed when I saw this museum marked on the tourist map.

What a great weekend!  Oh, and it's only a four-hour drive (depending on the time of day) from D.C.  No problem.