Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I am sure I am not alone in this morbid curiosity: I would love to be visited by the ghosts of deceased musicians I admire, so I could ask them what they were feeling when they recorded a particular piece. Miles Davis would be at the top of that list, and the first thing about which I would ask him is Sketches of Spain.
Sketches of Spain was recorded directly after Kind of Blue, Davis' landmark, heralded masterpiece of improvisation. Sketches of Spain is a completely different beast, more focused on pre-written parts than improv. Sketches of Spain features arrangements by Gil Evans, all of a traditional Spanish nature, fusing together with Davis' jazz stylings in an unlikely partnership. The classic nature of these recordings isn't in the perfect harmony of these two elements, but in the tension, and in the ways that Davis is still able to improvise his trumpet playing, despite tighter restrictions. The music, despite this tension, is still relaxed and enjoyable to listen to, background noise if you're not paying attention, complex and absorbing if you are. The thing of it is, no matter the nature of each piece, Miles is able to conjure this sort of intangible melancholy. That's what I want to ask him about. I feel it, and I can't put it into words. I'd like to see if he can...but I'm guessing his ghost will only tell me what I already know: you can't put it into words...some feelings can only be expressed musically. Seriously, you'd think ghosts would be more helpful...
1960 Columbia Records
1. Concierto de Aranjuez 16:19
2. Will o' the Wisp 3:47
3. The Pan Piper 3:52
4. Saeta 5:06
5. Solea 12:15
1997 reissue bonus tracks
6. Song of Our Country 3:23
7. Concierto de Aranjuez (alternate take, part one) 12:04
8. Concierto de Aranjuez (alternate take, ending) 3:33
Monday, July 27, 2015
Well, people have maybe said a few things about this album before, so it's kind of pointless for me to pontificate. If you like jazz, you have this album, and you understand its significance. If you don't like jazz, or are not sure if you like jazz, or just want to check out a jazz album, you need to listen to Kind of Blue. I'm only a casual jazz fan, from the day the local NPR station wasn't all talk all the time, playing classical music everyday and every night, jazz and blues on Saturday, space music on Saturday night, and comedy and other miscellany on Sunday. The only talk came early in the morning, and during the afternoon drive (Marketplace, All Things Considered, and such). I love classical music, but I always had a soft spot for those special Saturdays--car talk, and then some of the coolest music I ever heard. While I never became a jazz fanatic, I've always carried a place for it in my musical heart GOOD GRIEF THIS IS SAPPY AND SENTIMENTAL sorry. Anyway, quick to the point, Kind of Blue predates the good stuff The Beatles put out by nearly a decade, but its album structure is flawless, beginning upbeat, but always relaxed (this is the most relaxed non-boring album of all time), testing more melancholy waters for its middle track, coming back to the upbeat positivity for its fourth song, then returning to slower, more musically balladesque seas for its track five goodbye. Plus, if you don't like saying goodbye just once, the recently added bonus track at the end re-states the goodbye just for you. I do have to admit, as a kid, I was more partial to Charlie Parker's friskier tempos, but as an adult, I think I could listen to Kind of Blue forever. Take that as you will. Take it away, Miles.
1958 Columbia Records
1. So What 9:04
2. Freddie Freeloader 9:34
3. Blue in Green 5:27
4. All Blues 11:33
5. Flamenco Sketches 9:26
6. Flamenco Sketches (alternative take--a bonus track from the 1997 re-issue) 9:32
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
If You Hate New York, Then You Hate Humanity
Last days are always interesting. Well, every day is interesting, but there's something about a last day on a trip: sometimes it's bittersweet, sometimes it's sad, even heartbreaking, sometimes it's strangely ecstatic, sometimes it's sublime, and sometimes it's this strange blend of all of the above, something so joyful and melancholic that we English speakers have no word for the emotion, but French people do because only a group of people who put a stick of butter into every ounce of food they eat, and are yet, on average, as thin as that very stick of butter, can possibly comprehend such things on a level that they can define them with one word. Such skill with words takes a certain foreknowledge, like giving a nation a "Statue of Liberty" somehow knowing full well that that nation will eventually fight two unimaginably bloody and costly wars just to free you from your "possessive" German neighbors. That statue isn't large enough to silhouette against the current New York City skyline, so if France ever wants us to bail them out again, I think they should give us a bigger statue...I mean, we already supersized their fries for them, they can't, like, make Lady Liberty just a few hundred feet taller? Meanwhile, we're fat, and they're skinny? C'mon, Frenchies!
If it feels like I'm stalling, I am because my last day in New York City was very emotional and I don't entirely feel like making those feelings public, so much that I am insulting my French ancestors, who bravely left France for America to never ever return to France again, and who did not teach to any of their children their magical language, which would allow me to distill this final entry down to a single word.
It's all good, though. I love to ramble.
Speaking of ramble, Adrian and I packed up our stuff, checked out of Quarters, and the two of us assaulted Ess-a Bagel one more time. I bought a strawberry cream cheese bagel yet again. My newfound, New York City-induced regularity made me greedy, so I asked Adrian, both chef and professional eater, what bagel has the most fiber. He said "Pumpernickel?" and I said, "Hey, man, that's none of your damn business!" and he said, "No, I think a Pumpernickel bagel has the most fiber," and I said, "Oh...er, sorry." That bagel was the kind of yummy where after you eat it you actually say the word "yummy" out loud, and in a cat voice. Don't even act like you don't know what a cat voice is, it's 2015.
After the bagels, Adrian and I took our final subway ride together to the American Museum of Natural History. Adrian had a 1:30 flight to catch that afternoon, but my flight wasn't scheduled to take off until 7:15. Meanwhile, the Flying Lutz brothers were going to be in town (do you say "town" in regard to New York City?) until three-ish or something, so they agreed to meet us at the museum so the four of us could hang out one last time.
Adrian was a little stressed about the museum because museum's are responsible for 80% of cat-related fatalities in the U.S., I mean, he was afraid his early flight would not allow him much time to see much of it. Adrian was also afraid he would not be allowed in...not getting a picture of why is my great failure on this trip.
Adrian and I packed only backpacks for this trip to New York, and we wore them to the museum that morning. Only thing is, Adrian had acquired another backpack two days before--part of an awesome swag pack given to him from Nathan's Famous for competing in their contest. As Adrian, at least at that particular moment, only had one back, he had to put the second backpack over his belly. If only he'd had a t-shirt big enough to fit over it, he'd have looked like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame from the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
As Adrian and I got off the subway, we were greeted to the cheeriest subway station I visited in New York City, though admittedly I didn't go through NYC's "Candyland" district, where I hear Princess Lolly is very "hospitable," though I've been told to say "no" if asked if I want to see Lord Licorice's "Manhattan."
The Lutz brothers got to the museum almost immediately after us, but Adrian only had about an hour to hang out, so we let him pick the opening itinerary.
"I would like to see the time machine, please" he said.
"There is no time machine at the American Museum of Natural History," I answered. "The technology is not possible."
"Oh. Well, I would like to see the dinosaur skeletons," Adrian said.
So then we looked at a bunch of awesome dinosaur skeletons and a lady being attacked by pterodactyls. .
Adrian and I were so obsessed with dinosaurs when we were kids that we...uh..um...we had a lot of toys and books about dinosaurs. Also, ice age era creatures were shown some love.
Nice tusks, bruh.
And this terrifying salamander thing that could gum to death your whole family.
And finally, this insanely terrifying phallic creature, supposedly some type of frog ancestor. Apparently, it looked like a tadpole when young, but instead of turning into a frog, it just turned into a larger, sharper, penisier tadpole that could surely burrow through your skull and swim through your nightmares.
Perhaps so that he wouldn't miss his flight, or perhaps because he was scarred for life by visions of the demonic tadpole creature, Adrian said his goodbyes, and then there were three. The Lutz's tolerated both my hunt for penny-engraving machines (the Smithsonian...er Museum of Natural History has FOUR!!!) and my obsessive museum-watching, even giving pennies to the cause and standing around while I read every single plaque, but eventually, they had to leave, as well.
And then, there was one.
Here was my original nightmare: alone in New York City, but now it was a dream come true: (DOUBLE COLON) in my happy place, fully attuned to the city, with time to kill. By the way, what an arrogant expression, "time to kill." But let us pretend it is not arrogant to speak as if we humans have any control over time whatsoever--I had nearly seven hours to kill, just a little bit of money in my pocket, and sunny with a high of 75.
I stayed in the museum for another two hours, looking at nearly everything. I absolutely love the American Museum of Natural History's "People's of the World" dioramas, which are informative and creatively constructed, but my camera flashed too hard on most of the pictures to post them here, so here are the three that for some reason came out clearly: penis guy, two moose fighting, and a giant canoe.
I don't understand. Why get armored up to go to war, but just let it all hang out like that? I mean, I go into battle, I see you dressed that way, I'm hitting you right in the junk. Sadly, this is the last penis reference for my New York City travelogue. We are truly approaching the end. Also, these dudes outside were dragging a beluga across the parking lot.
After the museum, I walked to Levain bakery to get my family cookies, as I had already had cookies of my own, and I am not an evil man, as cookie-withholders are truly the type of scum who have turned America into a worldwide, "cookie-unfriendly" laughing stock. I walked a couple blocks from Levain to Gray's Papaya for a couple hot dogs ($5.99 for two hot dogs and a drink), one with red onion sauce, one with sauerkraut, but I didn't take a picture of them because by then I was a real New Yorker, and I didn't take pictures of piddly stuff like hot dogs anymore, but whoa the namesake Papaya drink from Gray's Papaya is absolutely incredible, and among all the insanely delicious stuff I consumed on this trip (your mom?), Gray's Papaya's papaya drink is close to the top of the list.
For my next stop, I ventured back to a place Adrian and I had come upon by complete accident the night before, like when you find an M&M between your couch cushion, but your not hungry, so you put it back and eat it the next day.. I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with "Schmenschmendo Schmurld."
If you've been to any other websites I've contributed my writing to, you'll know that I am Nintendo for life, and Sony and Microsoft are a box of raisins next to its Chocolate Fudge Brownie mountain. Also, if you eat a lot of raisins, you get this poo joke. Anyway, I like Nintendo a lot, and here, in the middle of Manhattan, is a world dedicated to it!
Giant Donkey Kong!
Dozens of playable Wii U's and kids who are not obnoxious because they are growing up playing Nintendo games instead of Call of Duty!
This awesome "History of Zelda" display that I could not stop taking pictures of!
Nintendo World isn't just a paeon to Nintendo, though, it's actually a store, loaded with the most recent Nintendo games for current systems, along with toys and apparel. I saw roughly 100 t-shirts I wanted to buy, but considering, though I went on this trip in about as cheap a fashion as possible, that I had just spent so much money on myself (on the 600 pounds of food and drink I consumed), I decided to instead get my son a stuffed Luigi because I want you to like me.
After Nintendo World...actually, bad way to start that sentence, as nothing can come after Nintendo World, I headed to the subway station near Rockefeller. I was not only high off off Nintendo World, but also from the Red Velvet cupcake I had bought from Magnolia Bakery on my walk to Nintendo World--the cupcake was good, but what made it awesome was that I found Magnolia Bakery completely by happenstance.Before the other eight guys had gone home, I had referenced the classic "Lazy Sunday," and its reference to Magnolia Bakery, and NO ONE KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT, even though it's only been a decade.
I'm not sure I want to live in a world that can not remember Lazy Sunday!!!
Anyway, after joining the ranks of Samberg and Parnell without even trying (and eating that cupcake on the street, yo!) and experiencing Nintendo World, I made it to my subway stop, only to find out that due to an obstruction on the track, and an ongoing police investigation related to that obstruction on the track (bomb? dead body? Jenny from the block?), my train was indefinitely not running.
New York didn't want to let me go...which was great, because I did not want to leave.
Despite never having been where I was, I walked the blocks back to a subway station we had used by the San Carlos, found another train, and headed toward JFK. I rode the train for a while, felt like I should get off, and did. I found myself some where near Jamaica in Queens, New York, saw a bus stop featuring the Q10 busline with a stop at JFK, and boarded. I then preceded to ride though the entirety of Queens, experiencing neighborhoods dedicated to virtually every ethnic group I have ever heard of.
At a certain point (let's say 30 minutes into the ride), though I was enjoying myself immensely, I felt I should ask the woman next to me if this bus was, indeed, going to the airport. Turns out the woman is from Guyana, and also the nicest person in the world, and also the only person I've ever met from Guyana. She works at Marshall's, and has a sister who works at Marshall's in New Orleans (a place she has never visited, though she has heard they serve a strange dish there called a "kingcake," which I guess in the borough she lives in would be served as a "queenscake" oh no that joke was terrible) and her absolute glee that a strange man from Louisiana wanted to be her friend was as palpable as the airport, at that exact moment, was not. Fortunately, the Q10 does go to JFK AT THE VERY END OF ITS LONG AND WINDING ROUTE, and even more fortunately, the ex-Caribbean Island dude sitting across from me on the bus works for Delta, and my flight was a Delta flight.
In a strange and wonderfully cinematic experience, the woman from Guyana and her son, just because, tagged along with me and my new best Delta Airlines employee-friend. The four us got off at the last stop and headed to the airbus for the Delta Terminal together. Just as the elevator to the airbus reached the top of the skyway, Jamaican guy on my left, Guyanans to my right, myself in the center, I caught a last full glimpse of the New York skyline in the late afternoon light. At that moment, I felt a catch in my throat the size of the big apple (that's it...apple...not corn...how could I screw that up?!).
I was about to sob uncontrollably, but I didn't want to upset my new party members, so instead, I cried on the inside. We're talking thought tears enough to fill the thought Amazon.
We reached the terminal, and Jamaica and I bid our Guyanans adieu, and Jamaica started buttoning up his work-shirt and tying his tie, as we rode a 2000 foot-tall escalator because JFK is really, really big. Then Jamaica ran into his boss, and his boss wanted to know if he had finished his TPS reports, and Jamaica and I shook hands, and again, I was alone.
JFK airport is crazy. LaGuardia Airport almost reminded me of Baton Rouge's airport. You get off the plane, and you're basically out of the airport. JFK is bigger than Baton Rouge, the city and the airport (I didn't fact-check to verify that, but you can take my word for it, as The Nicsperiment is basically more trustworthy than Wikipedia, as Wikipedia has thousands of editors (including *cough* The Nicsperiment), and The Nicsperiment only has one editor (The Nicsperiment).
Lines go in every direction throughout JFK, and no one knows what line they are supposed to be in, and people in authoritative uniforms insist to everyone that all the lines are the same and it doesn't matter what line you are in, and no one believes them, and you feel like someone is going to freak out and lose it, but then, what do you know, they did all lead to the same place, and you are through security and off toward your plane.
"Off toward your plane" in my case meant getting on another bus to go to yet another terminal because I've already told you, JFK is actually the size of the whole world, and we all actually live there, and I'm still there right now because JFK is everywhere.
I must press to you this, though: I was so happy that I was still in New York that I would have been fine being ferried around JFK all day...and that's pretty much what happened.
Suddenly, my phone began to vibrate. A text from Delta. YOUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED. GATE IS CHANGED. I was originally supposed to fly out at 6:40. 7:15 was already a delay (I had been notified of that first delay a few weeks before). Now my flight was leaving at 7:35.
Then a lot of stuff happened, and I convinced the bartender to give me infinite coke refills because I wanted some caffeine, and I got a lot of caffeine, and I found an I♥NY shirt for a fair price with the authentic I♥NY stamp on the tag ($9.99), and by 9 p.m. I was still in New York, and I realized with a sweet, sweet joy that New York wanted me! it didn't want me to leave! it was telling me that I could stay! I could stay forever where I belonged, the grandson of a farmer and son of a farmer and brother of a farmer who is not a farmer has found his home! nowhere else wants me but New York wants me! and then the plane took off.
I sat next to a lady who wasn't particularly nice, and who made a big deal about me having my reading light on, but I read anyway, the whole flight, and I finished A Wizard of Earthsea, and Adrian picked me up at the airport and brought me to my car, and I drove home. À tout à l'heure.
Monday, July 20, 2015
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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).
Also, Franken Fat.
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.
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
and then BAM!
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:
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!).
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).
Looking northward, it was also quite strange to see the high place I stood that morning appear so small and far away:
Also, the Freedom Tower (aka World Trade Center One) is really tall.
Also, taking a selfie is slowly morphing into something akin to performance art.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.