Daytrip to New York City, April 6, 2008

Trip Start Apr 06, 2008
Trip End May 28, 2008

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, April 7, 2008

Although I actually left on my southern roadtrip on April 18th, I thought I'd include a brief entry for a daytrip I took into New York City about a week and a half earlier to meet up with my friend Morten.  Morten was visiting New York for a week with two other friends from home in Norway.  I know Morten from my days as a tour leader in Egypt, and he's one of three people from my tours with whom I have stayed in touch over the four years since.
As Morten's trip leader in Egypt, I felt I had to keep up the tradition and give him and his friends as extensive a walking tour of New York as I could in a day.  When I got to their room around 10:00 A.M. at the Pennsylvania Hotel across Seventh Avenue from Madison Square Garden, Morten was up but his buds Fredrik and Eivind were still in rough shape after partying Saturday night away until dawn. 
Morten and I grabbed breakfast, and I took inventory of all the things they had seen so far in New York to plan an itinerary for the day.  We decided we'd check out the East Side, Fifth Avenue, the Guggenheim Museum, and Central Park.  I can't claim to be as full of detailed facts and trivia as a real guide, but I've lived around and been into New York City frequently enough to know most of the cool things to see.  Some of our stops included the New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, United Nations, Helmsley Palace Hotel, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and the Trump Tower. 
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I used to consider a walk through the lobby of the Trump Tower and a ride up its escalators to walk around the ultra-expensive stores on its mezzanine level an important stop on my tours of New York when friends visited, to show off some of New York's ostentation and one of the buildings The Donald named after himself.  Nowadays, though, Trump's monument to himself is really looking quite ordinary.  Yes, the doormen in white gloves still open the doors, the waterfalls still cascade several stories, and the status symbols available from the merchants are as frivolous as ever, but what was the epitome of luxury a quarter century ago is now quite commonplace. I've seen similarly glitzy buildings with similarly overpriced stores the world over in recent years and in many places on a much grander scale.
Being in New York it's inevitable that you'll come across something taking place while on a walk through the city, even on a cold early spring Sunday.  Morten and I first crossed paths with a Pro-Tibet protest rally across the street from the United Nations and then had our path up Fifth Avenue blocked by the crowds attending the Greek Independence Day Parade.  Maybe some of the spectators and people riding on the floats had hidden flasks of ouzo with them, but overall it didn't look like as wild a time as the Saint Patrick's Day Parade. 
Our destination, The Guggenheim Museum, is under exterior restoration, so Morten didn't get to see Frank Lloyd Wright's unusual creation from the outside.  The inside was still packed, though, with a very funky Sunday afternoon crowd, there for a special exhibition of the work of a contemporary Chinese artist named Cai Guo Qiang called "I Want to Believe".  Nearly the entire museum was given over to this exhibit of a type of weird contemporary art I don't particularly care for.  I'm not sure whether they hid the permanent collection in a vault in the basement or loaned it all out at a high fee to some small Gulf emirate with money to burn or what, but I suppose I wasn't overly impressed. 
By mid-afternoon Eivind and Fredrik had come back to life and caught up with us at the Museum.  After a quick snack at a chicken roaster joint we wandered through Central Park to the American Museum of Natural History, unfortunately already closed for the evening.  After a subway ride back to Midtown with the boys and then a bus ride back to Central New Jersey by the end of the day I was feeling pretty bushed.
I have to thank Morten for sending me a few of the photos he took that day, because I forgot my camera at home.  I think my Mom's and Dad's forgetfulness is rubbing off on me after staying with them the last few months.
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