Berry Tramel

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New York Travelblog: Lady Liberty still stands tall

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 2, 2014 at 11:05 am •  Published: February 2, 2014
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I wrote about the Statue of Liberty for a small travel piece in the Sunday Oklahoman. Typically during Super Bowl week, if I’ve written about something in the paper, I lead with something else in my travelblog.

But this is the Statue of Liberty. It takes a backseat to nothing.

So I tried to think what I didn’t say, that I should have, about the Lady that stands in New York Harbor. And I thought of a word.

Majestic. That’s what the Statue of Liberty is. Majestic. I went to the dictionary to make sure. Majestic: “of lofty dignity or imposing aspect; stately, grand.”

Yep. That pretty well sums it up.

The only bummer was this. We couldn’t go up in the crown.

That was the only disappointment about our Saturday trip to Liberty Island. Crown tickets were all sold out. I guess you had to get them in advance.

Actually didn’t disappointment me too much. As you know, heights aren’t my favorite thing. But the Dish would have liked to have gone to the top of the statue, so I was disappointed for her.

Here’s what I wrote for the paper:

We all can and will disagree on certain things. Religion. Politics. Favorite teams. Favorite cities. One-way streets. Mass transit. Fracking. Rap music. Dogs. Cats. Deep-dish pizza. Aisle or window. A million other debates.

But on this I think we all can agree. The coolest statue in America sits in New York Harbor.

Around noon Saturday, I broke away from writing about the Super Bowl and went to the tip of Manhattan, paid $18 for a boat ride and soon was sharing ground with Lady Liberty, in all her greenish splendor.

I take back every bad thing I’ve ever said about the French.

The elegant Statue of Liberty still stands sentry on Liberty Island, and few places I’ve been make me as proud to be an American. In line to vote. A cemetery on Memorial Day. Walking into the Oklahoma State Capitol. The list is small.

Seeing the Lady up close is something every American should experience. She looks so small from Manhattan but so awesome from her island home. And when you factor in that Ellis Island is just over the water not too far, you get an even bigger charge.

I tried to imagine what immigrants from circa 1900 had to feel when they first approached the harbor. There was the city that beckoned a new land, and a grand Lady, 305 feet above the ground, 151 feet of it statue, telling all who came that freedom and opportunity was theirs.

The French gave us the statue as a gift in 1886. Hopefully we repaid the debt with a little help in a couple of world wars, but man, what a symbol. What a treasure.

And here’s what’s cool. On a Super Bowl Saturday in which hundreds of fans decked out in Seahawks or Broncos gear made the cruise to Liberty Island, I’ll bet more than half the visitors were internationals. Asians, Europeans, Hispanics. People from all over the world congregated to walk in and around Lady Liberty.

Super Bowl Sunday is an American celebration. Any day is an American celebration when you share it with the Statue of Liberty.

Some more about our trip to the island.

* The $18 ticket gets you on a cruiser that goes out to Liberty Island, then to Ellis Island, and a rotation of boats comes by about every 22 minutes. You can get off both islands and stay as long as you wish, provided you make the last boat so you don’t get stranded.

The cruise right past the Lady is spectacular. You’re on a boat, floating past the statue just like the immigrants did.

* Man, I didn’t see the inscription:

“Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Later, the Dish said she saw it on a big wall. I don’t know if it was anywhere else. I’m told it’s on the massive pedestal on which the statue sits. I’ve got to be more on my game.

* We didn’t get off on Ellis Island. Time constraints. I hadn’t finished writing for the day. But I want to go back. Ellis Island, where 34 million immigrants were processed, would be worth the 30-minute tour. It was an interesting-looking island, with a big administration building on one side and what looked like barracks on the other. America’s launching pad. That’s what Ellis Island was.

* We picked the right day to go. All week, the high temperatures have been in the 20s and 30s. But Saturday was a high of probably 46. And out on the boat, with the wind whipping, it still was cold.

But what a trip. A few hundreds yards away from Battery Park, where you board the boat, you’ve got amazement in every direction.

The Statue of Liberty. The Manhattan skyline. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island. The New Jersey skyline (which is impressive unless compared to Manhattan).

Cruising through New York Harbor, only one word comes to mind.

Awesome. Not awesome as in that pizza is awesome. Not 15-year-old girl awesome. Awesome as in awe.

* Liberty Island houses all kinds of things. A National Parks Service office. A gift shop. A museum (which requires the crown and pedestal ticket, which we didn’t have). A restaurant, which wasn’t half bad. We shared a Panini sandwich and fries, and it was decent.

* At Battery Park is an impressive Naval and Coast Guard memorial with thousands of names of fallen sailors. Their states are listed, and we found several Oklahomans.

* Liberty Island originally housed Fort Wood, which was established in 1811.

All in all, just a fabulous experience. When we were here in 2001, three months after 9/11, Statue of Liberty tours had been halted. I’m glad we got to go this time. Wouldn’t have missed it.

 

CHICAGO IN NEW YORK

We wanted to see another Broadway show, so when we got back to the city, before I started writing, we hustle over to the Broadway ticket brokerage that sells same-day, half-price tickets. Our preference was Motown, a musical about Berry Gordy’s Detroit phenomenon. But they had only singles. So we bought tickets to Chicago in the Ambassador Theater. They were $73 each for seats on the second row of the mezzanine, which is the Broadway term for balcony.

The seat locations turned out to be great. The Ambassador is a classic, quaint theater. I’d sort of equate it to sitting in the upper deck at the  old OU Field House. You’re right on top of the action, even in the second level.

The seats themselves, not so great. Small. Tight. I spent much of the night shifting my legs so I wouldn’t cramp up. That didn’t happen the other day in the August Wilson Theater, watching Jersey Boys.

The show itself was good. Not one of my favorites. But entertaining, no doubt about it. Chicago’s biggest problem, to me, is the lack of a memorable song or two. I saw Les’ Miserables 14 years ago, cold, knew nothing about it, and I can remember three songs from the show. Here on Sunday morning, I’m having trouble recalling three songs from Chicago on Saturday night. The dancing was excellent, the premise funny, the singing and acting quite good, I’m sure, though don’t pretend I’m an expert.

Bebe Neuwirth — Lilith Crane of “Cheers” fame — was one of the stars, which was cool. And for the second straight show, we got an understudy. In Jersey Boys, we got the understudy for Frankie Valli. In Chicago, we got the understudy for Billy Flynn, the crooked lawyer. All I’ve got to say is, Broadway has its understudy program down pat. Both guys were excellent. You’d never know you were watching the B team point guard.

Anyway, Chicago was good. I probably wouldn’t see it again.

 

BROADWAY CROWD

I’d always heard it’s impossible to get a taxi when all the shows let out. Fortunately, we’re staying close enough, no taxi or subway is even necessary.

But we had trouble on the other end. I worked until about 6 p.m., and with a 7:30 show, we knew we had to get something rather quick for dinner. The Dish made a list of three places to try; one turned out to be too far away, and the other two couldn’t get us in.

But we stumbled upon a small Italian place, il forno, on the corner of 45th Street and 8th Avenue. About 41/2 blocks from the Ambassador. They were packed, but they got us in right away at a small table.

And they had done this before. The waiter asked if we were headed to a show, we said yes; he asked what time, we said 7:30, and he said he would hurry the order, since it was about 6:20.

The Dish had a small pizza. I had a shrimp pasta dish of some kind that was good but probably my least favorite shrimp pasta I’ve ever had. I like seafood pasta. It had some kind of thick green sauce, cooked with brussel sprouts. It wasn’t half bad. We shared a Caesar salad that was superb. Had the lettuce chopped up rather fine. I like shredded lettuce.

The waiter was on top of our schedule but not on top of my thirst. Never came back to refill my water glass, and I was parched. Which led to an ethical question on the tip. Deserves a big tip for looking out for us on the show. Deserves a small tip for the lack of service. I split it down the middle, went with the standard 15 percent. I was just glad to get something to eat without having to hustle to the show.

In Jersey Boys, a couple came in like 10 minutes later. In Chicago, a couple arrived 30 minutes late. I don’t get it. If you’re going to a show, get there on time.

 

BEST UNIFORMS

Most people say there are more Bronco fans than Seahawk fans in town. I don’t know if I buy that. But it could be true. Our hotel is some kind of Seahawk headquarters, so Seattle fans are everywhere. Maybe that has skewed my thinking. But I sat right by the window at dinner Saturday night, and I swear, Seattle fans outnumbered Denver fans 10-to-1.

But the best uniforms belong to neither football squad or fan bases. The best uniforms belong to Emirates Airlines out of Dubai. Their flight attendants stay at the New York Sheraton. There have been dozens checking in all week, and they look sharp. They’re dressed in beige suits with a red berets, attached to a sheer white scarf. These gals look like something straight out of a Bond movie.

Not too many things in New York make everyone stop and turn their head, but the women of Emirates Airline do exactly that.

 

SUBWAY ADVENTURES

To get to Battery Park, we walked a few blocks to 50th and Broadway and boarded the 1 Train, which goes straight to South Ferry, hard by the park and the Staten Island Ferry entrance.

The subway was packed around Times Square but thinned out the farther south we went.

The other trains I had been on this week had a neon marquee inside, telling you the next stop. Not this one. The conductor would pipe in every once in awhile, and I couldn’t understand a word he said. Thick New York accent, talked fast. The Dish followed him much better than did I.

And she soon discovered that he was telling us that at South Ferry, only the front five cars would open. My question was, how do we know what car we’re in? So we eventually started moving up and got to the front car. No chances.

But the conductor was frustrated with some riders. He kept explaining what he was talking about, and I guess some people weren’t following course. He finally said something I could understand. “This isn’t complicated!”

Maybe it wasn’t complicated. But it was hard to follow.

And I had to jump the turnstile again, because my bent card wasn’t working. When we arrived at South Ferry, the ticket booth was manned. So I went and asked the women working what I should do. They wanted to see my card. One woman started talking loud, the one who took my card said it was bent, they jabbered awhile in obvious frustration at me, the one gal put my card through a reader, handed it back to me and said it should work fine.

I took my card and got the heck away from the booth as quickly as I could. First time all week I’ve been intimidated by anything New York.

But when we returned to the South Ferry station, my card worked just fine.

 

TIMES SQUARE MOSH PIT

Walking to dinner and our show was a total mess. Let’s see. We were within a few blocks of Times Square, on a Saturday night with the shows about to start, on Super Bowl Eve. Yep, that’s a perfect storm for a mass of humanity.

We got to a 47th Street as quickly as we could and got off Broadway.

But Saturday afternoon wasn’t so bad. There were clearly fewer people on the street. The worker bees of Manhattan were gone. The place was somewhat manageable.

 


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...
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