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Monday, July 20, 2015

New York City, 7/5/2015

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The Freedom Tower Isn't Free

Despite the fact that I went to bed about fifteen minutes after Adrian, roughly 6:15 a.m., I woke up around nine o'clock that morning fully rested. I didn't want to rouse Adrian, though that may have actually not been possible, so I quietly showered, dressed, and headed down to the lobby to see what time we had to be out of there. Rather pleasantly, checkout at the W on Lexington Avenue is noon. I decided to go for a walk, though I had another intention in mind.
I grabbed an apple from the hotel's apple basket (I ate an apple for breakfast every morning, except for the two we went to Ess-a Bagel...TMI here, but I was more regular in New York City that week than at any other place or time in my life. You know, usually you go on trips, and you're taking a lot in...but nothing is going out...sorry), and headed south down Lexington, and toward...the Empire State Building. I can't explain to you how I knew where it was or how I decided I was going to go there, other than the same generic answer for both: I just knew.
Sure enough what rose into my sight but this:
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I've wanted to visit the Empire State Building since I was a kid and first watched the original King Kong with my old man, who, by the way, laughed hysterically when an angry Kong stomped puny villagers to death, most likely shaping my coffee-ground colored sense of humor for the rest of life, as according to my syntax, I just died. The Peter Jackson remake from my 20's only increased the desire, plus, our Louisiana State Capitol building, though the tallest Capitol building in the country, was designed to be the Empire State Building's mini-me, and while it is a beautiful 450-feet tall building, bullet holes from assassinations and all, I needed to see the real 1450-feet tall deal.
Thing about it is, keeping a 1450-feet tall building from crumbling into dust takes cash. Namely, thirty-two of my dollars. However:
A. What if I never have the opportunity to visit New York again?
B. I just walked three miles on a whim and with little direction to the Empire State Building. I'm getting to the top. Sorry, I just switched to the present tense on you.
I've heard people say that old buildings are boring, but I think Art-Deco is the bomb, but not a bomb, otherwise the building would detect itself and not be allowed in. I was allowed in, though, because all I had was my wallet minus 32-dollars and the crappy digital camera with which I took this picture of the lobby.
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After going to another extremely tall building later that day, I have to say, after 84 years of existence, the Empire State Building has the whole "11,000 people come here everyday and we can handle it" thing down. Your mom.
Anyway, despite the exuberant Sunday morning crowd, the lines moved quickly, and after a tip that I should take the stairs to the observatory once I reached the 80th floor, I was at the top in no time. Your mom.
The view from the top was...not your mom.
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I had all these Kim Kardashian jokes here in the place of the "your mom" ones, but I felt bad about them since even Kim Kardashian is a real person, and I generally don't get that mean in these, so I edited all the Kardashian jokes out, but they all led to this thing where she makes a movie in the future called Kim K Supersaggy, and then I was going to say that MC Supersaggy is like the most awesome rap name ever for a rapper who is so confident in his rapping skills, he gives himself a horrible rapper name just to make things fair for everyone else. Whatever, shutup, here's MC Supersaggy himself, at the top of the Empire State Building.
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There I am in the afterglow of a night out with New York City, and also of someone who just walked three miles in July, then climbed six flights of stairs. What a view, though, and open air at that.
As I headed back down the stairs, even higher on New York than I had been that morning, a father started singing "Happy Birthday" to his daughter. Suddenly, everyone within hearing range in the stairwell joined along, myself on bass (few things are more fun than singing in the deeper voice gifted after a night out drinking), in a truly magical moment that could never be duplicated, stop making Jurassic Park movies. Even so, several people, myself included, yelled out "Let's do another one," and this one, of "God Bless America," I filmed, and though MC Supersaggy didn't know the words (sorry, America) outside of the last couple lines and was extremely pitchy, and though the old guy leading the whole thing realized he couldn't hit the high note and changed keys halfway through, I'm glad I filmed it because, you know, New York City hates God and America and everything.

I then realized I had about 40 minutes to get back to the hotel, possibly wake Adrian, and pack our stuff to leave.
On my brisk jog back, I noticed that the street had changed, like when you leave your transformers out as robots, but you come back and they are cars and trucks and boats--by the way, do they even still make transformers toys anymore, or is transformers now only an endless series of awful movies that have grossed over 60 quadbillion dollars in China? Lexington, between about 46th and 50th, had shut down, and was now filled with a street market and all the same pigeons I had come to know and love. I noticed a tent full of Latino's, flame-roasting corn, and I vowed to return, though I did not vow to return to the tents selling the Proda purses, and Rolexx watches because they were just too legit to quit, and I just can't take that high a level of authenticity.
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I made it back to the hotel at 11:50, and thankfully, Adrian was good to go. I chucked my stuff in my bag, and we headed out, walked a few blocks, checked into Quarters, our final hotel of the trip, dropped our stuff, and headed back out the door, ready to get some lunch, then check out the Freedom Tower, and then here's another thing after a comma because this sentence should go on forever. On the way to the subway stop, true to my word that I said to myself only in my brain, I stopped and grabbed an ear of corn, as a few weeks before, I woke up at the crack of dawn back in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana for family corn day, to pick two truckloads of corn, shuck two truckloads of corn, boil two truckloads of corn, cut two truckloads of corn off the cob, bag the boiled kernels of two truckloads of corn, and freeze two truckloads of corn, and thus, in New York City, wanted to ironically eat a single ear of corn I paid three dollars for. It was different from what I'm used to, but good, as they do call New York City "The Big Corn."
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Corn was only an appetizer, though. For years, people have been asking me, "Hey, are you Jewish?" Now, instead of answering, "No, I don't think so," I can say, "No, I don't think so, but I have been to Katz's Jewish deli."
There are no Jews in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, so I guess they just made me designated Jew or something. I didn't meet a Jew until I was 17, in Washington D.C., and I know that sounds insane, but Pointe Coupee Parish, you guys. Man, I'd love to do a travelogue of that trip I took to D.C. sixteen years ago...but this is my travelogue about the trip to New York City I took a week ago! And a week ago, Adrian and I got off the train and entered some super-cool neighborhood on the lower east-side of Manhattan, full of parks with cool old people playing handball (your mom), people walking their dogs (your mom), and beautiful gardens like this one (awww...your mom).
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Also, Franken Fat.
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After Franken Fat, I was even more hungry, so I was really happy to see Katz's Delicatessen sitting in the New York sun a couple blocks away. I wasn't really happy to see the prices on the Katz's Delicatessen menu, though. Twenty-dollars for a Reuben? I know that the Reuben at Jason's Deli isn't exactly "authentic," but it is big and it tastes good, and it only costs seven dollars. Your mom.
The Reuben at Katz's cost $22! and it doesn't come with any side but a pickle! I can't justify $22 on any sandwich, even if it does come from perhaps the most well-respected deli in America. Your mom. I noticed Katz's offered half a Reuben sandwich and a Matzah Ball for $18, and for some reason, that sounded far more reasonable. Also, if you didn't pick up on it, I was apparently really dead set on getting a Reuben, but most of the other sandwiches were in the $17-$22 dollar range, as well.
I didn't take a picture of the chaos inside Katz's, but there were about 500 people crammed into it (your mom)...well, I guess the space was pretty big  for Manhattan (your mom). The multiple lines to the food counter seemed completely abstract, but miraculously, we ordered, received our food (they cut you a free piece of pastrami while you wait, alleviating your massive hunger and anger at knowing you are paying over $20 for ONE sandwich), and even more miraculously, found a table.
Let's get the bad out of the way first, as the bad isn't only that the sandwiches at Katz's Deli cost more than three hours of minimum wage to consume: after like two bites, my sandwich completely fell apart.
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But if I told you I've had a better tasting Reuben sandwich in my life (the Wikipedia photo of a Reuben sandwich is literally a Reuben sandwich from Katz's Delicatessen) , I'd be lying. Also, if I told you I've had a better Matzah Ball I'd also be lying because this is the only time I've ever eaten a Matzah Ball. I told you, Pointe Coupee Parish = no Jews but Jesus...though I doubt many of my fellow parishioners even realize our Lord and Savior wasn't a white dude of French descent...Jesus Jarreau, Jesus Melancon, Jesus Martin...nope.
After temporarily satisfying our massive hunger, Adrian and I took a nice subway ride further into south Manhattan, came up a bizarre, airport-like tunnel
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and then BAM!
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There was the tallest thing I've ever seen or entered. Your mom.
At this point, I should mention that all the other party members but two went home early that morning. I actually didn't get to tell any of them goodbye, but I'm sure they're still alive, and that I'll see them in a couple months. Now it was only Adrian, me...and the Lutz brothers. When we got to the foot of the Freedom Tower, the Lutz brothers and I were excited to see each other, we shook hands, and this happened:
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I don't know how it happened, I'm just glad I was able to take a picture of it.
Adrian and I bought our Freedom Tower tickets online through his phone...the price was significant just to enter. Your mom.
Unlike the clean, well-thought out organization of the Empire State Buidling, the Freedom Tower is an absolute mess, though I recently found out the observation deck has only been open for a few months, so I guess I'll give them a break. Plus, all that time in the stifling heat (this was the only day I spent in New York that actually felt like summer to a Louisianian), not knowing what was going on was nicely broken up by the revelation that the guy in front of me was wearing Shaq shoes (Circa 2000? Way to go for keeping them so fresh!).
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Once one FINALLY enters, after hours of confusion, the presentation is actually quite stunning (your mom). A giant map of the world made of tiny dots pings off the location of everyone who passes through (you have to present your I.D. to get in...your mom), meaning that every 40th ping was actually from a location other than Germany ("must put a Germany joke in every Nicsperiment travelogue" quota achieved). The Freedom Tower elevator ride features a lot of showmanship, as the walls are LED screens that give the feeling that one is actually in a glass-walled elevator, zooming up as the building is constructed around them. While going up, I thought of a nagging detail, but couldn't place it til later. Here is a video of the last few seconds of the ride (I feel like I am missing an opportunity at talking about a certain person in your immediate family here).

Once the elevator stops, you are led to a room with a large movie screen against the far wall. A short video plays, then the screen rolls up to reveal a window, showcasing one incredibly stunning view of New York City and the far-surrounding area. A large majority of our tour group gasped and applauded, though I, even in full-on I♥NY mode, am too cynical a bastard to do such a thing.
After the big reveal, visitors are given free range to wander around the observation deck, just like chickens on humane farms are before they are strangled, cut into four pieces, and sent to the butcher. While I was a little disappointed that it wasn't open air viewing area like the Empire State Building's, there is little obstruction and the viewing area is huge enough to leave many spots uncrowded, despite the massive crowds...your mom.
CRAPPY VIDEO OF THE VIEW

Here's New York Harbor, and the now, rather unfortunately comparatively tiny Statue of Liberty (I guess I'll catch you next time, Lady Libs).
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Looking northward, it was also quite strange to see the high place I stood that morning appear so small and far away:
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Also, the Freedom Tower (aka World Trade Center One) is really tall.
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Also, taking a selfie is slowly morphing into something akin to performance art.
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I'm sorry...Freedom Towerfie...ugh.
However, after getting a good chuckle about how serious people have become about not having to ask another human being, "Excuse me, could you please take a picture of me," I looked down the south side of the Tower and received a sobering reminder of what once was.
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It's shocking to think that most of this fall's incoming high school freshman were not even alive to see the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States of America. I mean, look, obviously, I wasn't there in person. This was my first time in New York, and 9/11 happened 14 years ago. Like most Americans who were old enough to watch and understand the events unfolding on their televisions that morning, though, 9/11 still feels like yesterday to me. I think anyone who watched the planes hit and the buildings fall on live TV has a certain amount of PTSD. While it certainly isn't comparable in any way to anything anyone who was actually at Ground Zero and survived has to live through, I'd be lying if I said I don't still get nervous when I'm in an urban area, and hear the sound of a plane overhead. Even typing this, I can't help but imagine the walls of my old, crappy college apartment, where I spent most of that day.
Once those thoughts entered my mind, the next hour or so was quite a bit more somber. Unfortunately, the entire afternoon had already been somber for Adrian. I looked at him and asked if he was ready to head down and noticed his face was green. That's when I remembered that nagging important detail: Adrian "The Rabbit" Morgan is deathly afraid of heights. I'm sure the 31 hot dogs in his belly weren't helping. I said my apologies, and then we headed down to see the memorial for the twin towers, which is a pair of fountains, set deep in the two respective squares where the towers' foundations once stood.
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On an artistic level, I don't think the memorial's designers could have done any better. The overall effect of the piece is absence, and you really feel it, obviously the absence of these behemoth architectural marvels, as a smaller, deeper square pit in the center of each fountain draws one's eyes down to nothingness, but more importantly, one feels the absence of the thousands whose physical presence the attack erased from the earth forever--their names carved in marble around each of the fountains.
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According to Kyle, the younger of the Lutz brothers, and who lived for a time in New York City, the memorial is even more beautiful in the winter, covered in snow.
Here's a crappy video to go with the crappy pictures.

After that rather heavy moment, Adrian lightened the air, alleviating his green expression by chugging from an elementary school-style public fountain of which the rest of us were all terrified.
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With our mission for the day accomplished, it was time to go watch the US Women's World Cup team attempt to accomplish their's in the World Cup Final game. Turns out they'd actually have an easier time. If you watched the first ten minutes of that game, you know what I'm talking about--there was a moment where it seemed like the U.S. were going to score 100 goals. In fact, I can only think of one thing that would have been easier than that game, and it rhymes with "Sure, Tom."
We walked about a block from the World Trade Center to Bill's Bar and Burgers.
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I should say first that Bill's is a clean place, friendly service, yada, yada, yada.  CNN says that Bill's "Fat Cat" burger is one of the top ten burgers in all of America.
I guess CNN doesn't have a tongue (EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, it literally doesn't, it's a television network).
The "Fat Cat" burger is just a burger on an English muffin. You can only order the "Fat Cat" well-done. That means burnt. This makes no sense. The muffin is even stronger than an actual bun. Why is it not trusted to contain a patty with any consistency softer than "rock?" Added to the misery, the combo of burnt burger and muffin construct a flavor somewhat akin to a salt lick. CNN needs to stick to what Kardashian wore what outfit better than what Kardashian, and stay out of the burger-rating business.
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That's the only bad thing I have to say about Bill's, other than, the $10.50 burger didn't come with fries, and I had to order those separate. Adam and I split an order, and I'll admit they were pretty great, especially considering I'd been on a pretty bad fry slump* lately.
Fry Slump (noun) -- 1. Any period of time in which all fries eaten from every location are overly greasy, flavorless, and unsatisfying. 2. When your fry slumps.
Also, I made the rookie-mistake of thinking I wanted a beer, when of course what I really wanted was a cookies 'n cream milkshake. Adrian, a professional eater, is intensely in-tune with what his appetite desires. He did not order a beer, but instead ordered a cookies 'n cream milkshake. Bill's gave him one of those little metal cups with the extra milkshake they couldn't fit in the glass, and he immediately offered it to me, knowing my true appetite perhaps better than I did, as well. I slurped down those two ounces like my life depended on it. Your mom.
However, after we ate, the soccer match started, and who cares about the food, we gave the Japanese a beating they will not soon forget, though they did beat us four years ago, so I guess that's consolation, and also the knowledge that they did not coin the term "selfie."
Despite my disappointing burger that tasted just like the ocean, I was still in a bar in New York, a couple hundred yards from the tallest building in America, in my happy place, with pink fluffy clouds all around me.
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See, not everything I say is a lie!
After the game, we settled up and bid the Lutz's adieu, though we all decided to meet the next day at the Smithsonian...er, American Museum of Natural History.
Adrian and I took a really slow walk back to the subway, as the Freedom Tower looked really cool all lit up. We actually decided to head back that way to get a better look.
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As we took a different route, we stumbled upon the firefighter's memorial. I had seen this monument to the FDNY on the show, Rescue Me, which isn't one of the greatest television shows of all time, but is most definitely one of my favorite television shows of all time. Rescue Me follows the plight of a fictional New York City firehouse that was devastated by 9/11, and how the survivors cope in the decade afterward, and Denis Leary stuttering. The bronze wall sculpture/mural is a stirring tribute to the memory of the brave firefighters who lost their lives that day (the names of all 343 are carved in the mural), but I love that it also gives recognition to those who survived, yet have to live with what they lost every day.
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With that, we went back to the hotel, exhausted after such a long day on little sleep. Time to fall into the sweet arms of the New York night.
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But my day wasn't over. I still needed to print out my boarding pass for my flight out the next night. Quarters has an office where, technically, any hotel resident can make as many prints as he/she wants--it is completely unattended, so I can only assume I was the first person to print out sheets from Quarters that didn't include the URL "yourmom.com" at the top of the page. Unfortunately, Quarters two public computers are Macs, but nobody's perfect (#alienating half of your readership).
As a rather cool bonus, that particular floor of the hotel has an outside courtyard and balcony overlooking the city. I walked out and suddenly realized that my time in New York was coming to an end. I don't want to get all emo on you, but my heart lurched in my chest and my eyes got misty when I pondered that I may never see this view again...and also because your mom is only getting older
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A CLOSING NOTE FOR THIS ENTRY: I checked the url for yourmom.com just to make sure I don't send anyone to a soul-sucking Internet hellscape...but the URL does not exist. If the Internet can't even come up with a decent website to park at yourmom.com, what's the use of it?...beside The Nicsperiment, of course, the jewel in the World Wide Web's crown, shining star in a dull vacuum of www.nothingness, the lone virtue in a gaping hole so deep and so vast your mom.

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