Berry Tramel

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New York Travelblog: A cabbie on deadline

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 31, 2014 at 10:20 am •  Published: January 31, 2014

Thursday was moving day. We had to move from the Courtyard on the Upper East Side to the Sheraton at Midtown. And you know what that means. A cab ride.

Too long of a walk and too much luggage for the subway.

So we hopped into a cab around 10:30 a.m., with a little bit of a deadline. I was scheduled get on the phone with Jenni Carlson at 11:30 (New York time) to tape our weekly Press Row segment, then do an online chat 30 minutes later.

I figured I was pushing it. And speaking of pushing it, you don’t ever have to tell a New York cabbie you’re in a hurry. They’re always in a bigger hurry than you are.

Some of the Super Bowl players have mentioned the adventures with taxis this week  —  Brandon Mebane, I think it was, likened it to NASCAR — and it’s not unlike that, except you’re going about 170 mph slower. But there’s drafting, and quick cuts, and avoiding obstructions, and, I suppose, the occasional crashes, though we were lucky in that regard.

Our cabbie this time didn’t speak much English, seemed to be more Eastern European or Middle Eastern.

But he brought us a great route. Went down First Avenue to 86th Street, then 86th over to Fifth Avenue. Which meant we hugged Central Park, past the Metropolitan Museum of Art and all the high-dollar condos (I’m assuming) that look out over the park. That’s another part of the city I’d never seen.

I did a quick internet search for condo prices on Fifth Avenue. The average I found: $4,365 per square foot. That means $4.3 million for a 1,000-square foot place. For the living space I have back in Norman, that’s about $9 million.

Maybe it’s worth it, for the view. I don’t know. New York is a great city for views, except for the places you’re in the most — homes and hotels.

Our view at the Sheraton looks out on a valley of other tall buildings, with a nondescript roof top of some smaller building serving as the dominant image.

Our view at the Courtyard was better. We were very close to the East River but couldn’t see it. But we did have a decent collection of tall buildings and an eclectic array of different rooftops, including some gardens and patio-type arrangements. Plus one of those old-fashioned small water towers that are a staple of New York rooftops.

Anyway, the cabbie, with no knowledge of my deadline but plenty of knowledge that time is money, got us to the New York Sheraton around 11:15. Seventh Avenue is five or six lanes wide (sometimes it’s hard to tell) and cabbies just take whatever lane suits  them to unload passengers in front of hotels. We were three lanes from the curb.

Got checked in, got to my room, got the internet hooked up and was on the phone back to Oklahoma on time.

You know the old saying, if you want to get something done, have a busy person do it? Here’s a new saying. If you’re in a hurry, hire a person who’s in an even bigger hurry to get you there.

9/11 MEMORIAL

We were in New York in December 2001, three months after 9/11. We were there for Barry Switzer’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

It was a tense time, but we had a great trip. Went down to the 9/11 site, which was still smoldering. You could get rather close, within a block or two, and see most of what you’d like to see. New York’s finest still stood guard. My daughter and her friend got their photos made with a couple of classic-looking New York peace officers.

Much has changed since then. A new World Trade Center has gone up, standing 104 stories, the tallest building in the U.S. It’s called One World Trade Center. A 9/11 Memorial has been constructed.

My idea many years ago for the site was to build a ballpark. A new Mets stadium or a new Giants stadium. Those who hate us hate us for our freedom and our celebrations of joy. I know of no places that bring people together for cheers than do ballparks.

But wiser minds than mine decided on another skyscraper.

I didn’t go down there on Thursday, too busy writing, but the Dish went. The 9/11 Museum is still under construction, but they have completed the Memorial.

The Dish was bothered by one thing. She rode the E train and got out of the subway on Fulton Street and Chambers. And she was immediately bombarded by hawkers, trying to sell her books about 9/11. All three corners at the intersection. Very aggressive. She said it was really off-putting. Disrespectful was her word.

But welcome to America. That’s the market economy.

You have to get a ticket to enter, but it’s free admission. They ask for a donation but it’s not required. They just monitor how many people are in the memorial at one time.

She said once you enter, you go through security, similar to the airport, then walk perhaps all the way around the perimeter of the Memorial to get to the Memorial itself, maybe a 20-minute walk.

The  Dish said the Memorial itself reminded her of the Oklahoma City Memorial. Very reverent. No raised voices. All the victims’ names are inscribed on the edge of a square waterfall. They are categorized; all the victims from a certain flight together, all the firefighter victims from a certain station together, etc.

At night, a light shines up through the names. A white rose is placed on the name of every victim on their birthday. That sounds rather powerful.

The Dish witnessed an Asian woman who found a name she obviously knew and was placing her hands on the name. You walk out just like you walk out of the Oklahoma City Memorial. Rather somber.

Perhaps her favorite part was a bronze sculpture in the side of a building, with firefighters at work. The inscription read: “Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on. May we never forget.”

EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

The Dish also went to the Empire State Building. I love the Empire State Building. I watched the last hour of “Sleepless in Seattle” the other day, postponing watching the AFC title game, just so I could see the Empire State Building scene. But there’s one problem. I just can’t handle the height.

Too tall for my constitution. A friend of mine wrote me and said he, like me, went to the top of the Empire State Building when he was young and foolish. The next time he went, his wife and daughter went to the top and he stayed on the ground and wrote postcards.

That would be me. So the Dish went alone. And she had a strange experience.

She went through similar tough security, then reached the turnstile to get on the elevator. And was asked for her ticket. Well, she had no ticket. She had made it that far without a ticket.

The  attendant was stunned. No ticket. How’d she get that far?

They nicely escorted her back to a place where she could purchase the $27 ticket and soon was at the top.

The view is awesome. Maybe some day I’ll go again. When I’m old and foolish.

RADIO ROW

For the Friday Oklahoman, I wrote about the media onslaught in the Sheraton. Here’s what I wrote:

They call it Radio Row. But there’s no row to it.

The ballroom of the New York Sheraton dedicated to radio (and television) shows looks more like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Actually, Wall Street’s madhouse seems serene compared to the scene played at out Super Bowl media headquarters.

Scores of radio and television shows originate from the ballroom, and you see tons of people you know.

I walked in on Thursday, and within three minutes I bumped into all kinds of people:

* Doug Gottlieb, waiting to do his CBS radio show.

* Amy Lawrence, who once was a colleague of mine at KREF radio in Norman and now hosts an overnight radio show on CBS Sports radio.

* Kelli Masters, once the baton twirler for the Pride of Oklahoma and now a sports agent.

* James Poling, who just got out of OSU’s excellent sports media program and now works for the Miami Dolphins media relations department and is helping out with the Super Bowl.

I had stopped by to interview Washington Redskins guard Chris Chester, who was in town for some interviews. He’s now played eight NFL seasons, can you believe it. I’ll be writing about Chester sometime soon.

But there were 50 Chris Chesters sprinkled throughout the massive room. And NFL stars.

It’s a mass of human media, tables two feet apart, broadcasting live from the Super Bowl. There are 5,000 credentialed media. At any one time, a big chunk of them are in Radio Row.

NEW YORK TRADITION

We have few New York traditions, considering this was just our third in New York together.

But we have one. Dinner at John’s Pizzeria on 44th Street.

Our first night in New York back in 1999, we had no idea about anything. We just saw a place for dinner, walked in and were completely pleased. So we went back in 2001 and again Thursday night.

John’s Pizzeria is a solid Italian place — pizza and pasta — that’s been in business since 1929 and bills itself as “No Slices.” They don’t sell pizza by the slice. I guess that means it’s higher-class.

John’s is set in what had to be a church at one point. You just enter like any regular place, go through an area that looks like any restaurant, with a bar and some booths and a waiting area, then you walk into the main dining room and suddenly the ceiling is four or five stories, with a dome and stain glass all around and a balcony circling all but the back wall. The back wall had a giant mural of the city. Plus a winding staircase up to the balcony. Totally cool place.

The pizza is good — we had another pepperoni, mushroom and black olive — and the pasta was excellent. We ordered fettuccine with pesto sauce and a table salad. Excellent all the way around and no overly-price.

And we had a visitor. In a freak of NBA/NFL scheduling — or maybe no freak at all — the Thunder is playing the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday night, so Darnell Mayberry is in town. He joined us for dinner. Walked over from his hotel at 48th Street and 5th Avenue.

RFD is a prince of a fellow. The Dish enjoys dining with him on our occasional joint road trips, and he’s a solid travel partner.

He didn’t have a New York go-to spot for dinner, so he was more than happy to try our traditional spot and he loved it.

When you’ve been away from home for a few days, it’s a cool experience to run into someone from the old country. It was a little bit of Oklahoma smack in the middle of New York City.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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