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Berry Tramel

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New York travelblog: Snow day leads to a room with a view

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm •  Published: February 4, 2014
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Pedestrians look at a sign for NFL football's Super Bowl XLVIII at Pier A Park in Hoboken, N.J., Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 as the Empire State Building in New York City rises in the distance. The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are scheduled to play on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Pedestrians look at a sign for NFL football's Super Bowl XLVIII at Pier A Park in Hoboken, N.J., Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 as the Empire State Building in New York City rises in the distance. The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are scheduled to play on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Does Roger Goodell have the Midas Touch or what? He schedules a Super Bowl in New Jersey, everyone for three years worries about the weather, the meteorologists 10 days out predict a cataclysmic storm and at kickoff the temperature was 49 degrees. I’ve covered OU-Texas games at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of October in Dallas where it was colder than that.

And of course, by Monday afternoon, New York could have hosted a Winter Olympics, it had snowed so much. Huge, constant, gorgeous snow covered the city and I assume Jersey, too.

Central Park was a Christmas card. The sidewalks were slick. Temperatures in the 30s. The intersections slushy where you cross the street. New York got 4.3 inches of snow and it seemed like 40.

We had a 5 p.m. flight out of LaGuardia. By mid-morning, the news arrived that that flight was canceled. So United booked us on an 8:27 p.m. flight out of Newark. By mid-afternoon, that flight was canceled. United rebooked us for 8:27 p.m. Tuesday on the same flight.

The Dish and I sat in the lobby of the hotel looking at each other.

Remember the scene from “Home Alone,” where Macaualy Culkin is all bummed out when he realizes his family has left him. Then his eyes starting dancing and he realizes “I’m free.”

We realized what the cancellations meant. Another day in New York.

Here’s how it went.

 

PRIME SEATING

Even before the second cancellation, we had the afternoon to kill. So the one thing we talked about doing and hadn’t was a bus tour of the city. Especially up North. The Dish or both of us had seen a big chunk of Lower Manhattan, but we hadn’t been on the Upper West Side.

So we took the Gray Line bus tour. Cost $49 for person and I probably wouldn’t do it again. Didn’t go far enough north. Only skirted Harlem. Didn’t go up near Coogan’s Bluff, where Willie Mays once patrolled the Polo Grounds.

But still, we got to see a bunch of the city we hadn’t seen. And I do mean see.

The double-decker bus we got on was basically full on the bottom, so went upstairs, most of which was covered on top and the sides, though not fully enclosed. And totally fogged over.

I don’t know about anyone else, but a bus tour in which you can’t see a thing is not my idea of a good time.

So the Dish and I made the rugged decision to move to the back and the uncovered area. We sat in the top of a double-decker bus, uncovered in a New York snowstorm.

And it was cold. We were dressed warm. We had come to Roger Goodell’s Super Bowl amply prepared. Several layers. Gloves. Longjohns. The dish fashioned a scarf into a head covering. I had a Navy Sailing pullover with a hood. We had long overcoats.

And I still froze. My gloves got wet removing snow from the seats. My feet were freezing from stepping into puddles, walking down 7th Avenue to the bus line.

But I’ll say this. We saw New York. Didn’t always know exactly where we were, because some of the street signs iced over, but we got to see the sights and the architecture and the neighborhoods and Central Park as a winter wonderland.

It was so gorgeous, I would have signed up for another carriage ride, except the horses were given the day off.

Our tour guide was sort of full of himself but was occasionally insightful and a little funny. He is pretty clear on one thing: Rudy Giuliani gets too much credit for cleaning up New York, which has gone from 2,000 murders a year in the ‘80s to 200 murders a year now.

Our guide said it was a long process to get that done, and Giuliani was just around at the end. Sort of like Joshua taking the Children of Israel into the Promised Land after Moses had done the heavy lifting.

Anyway, our guide found out we were from Oklahoma and asked from where, “Enid? Tulsa?”

First time anyone ever asked me if I was from Enid.

 

IRISH ELEGANCE

When the bus tour ended, we needed some lunch, and the tour guide fancied himself an expert on where to eat.

He told us about a place that on Monday nights offered two lobster dinners for $60 total. Sounded good to me, if we were going to still be in town on Monday night. Little did we know.

So the guide sent us to Hurley’s, an elegant Irish saloon in the theater district, on West 48th Street. Cool, old place with almost private dinner, with these big booths. Middle of the afternoon, the place was mostly empty, but if I’m ever in New York, I’ll go back.

The Dish had some kind of pasta  and I had chicken pot pie, which is what the tour guide recommended. It was steaming hot, and I dang near put my feet in it, but it’s a good thing I refrained, because it was excellent.

We sat there and enjoyed our lunch and cooled off and checked our phones and got the bad news. The 8:27 p.m. flight was canceled.

So we walked back to the Sheraton to retrieve our luggage and figure out a plan. That’s when we got the word of the automatic re-booking for Tuesday night.

With the Super Bowl gone, hotel rates had returned to normal, but the Sheraton still was $279 a night. I knew we could beat that, so I found a Fairfield Inn on 37th Street, booked it online and soon enough we were off to our third hotel home of the trip.

 

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Our cab driver dropped us off in front of the Fairfield, a low-key hotel in the middle of a low-key street, between 5th and 6th avenues. Basically five short blocks south and maybe one long block east of Times Square.

We walked in, and the guy who checked in us was gregarious. Immediately started calling me Mr. T. Ended up showing us his driver’s license photo, how different it looked.

Asked what kind of room we preferred, and we said, away from the elevator.

Which was problematic in this hotel. It’s straight up. Six rooms per floor. Sixteen stories.

But he put us as far away from the elevator as possible and asked if we wanted a good view. I said sure, knowing the view was going to be like every other view in New York — a bunch of buildings across the street.

We got to the room, I opened the curtain and sure enough, just a bunch of buildings. Some across the street, some a block or two over.

A few minutes later, I fired up the laptop, sat down at the desk and looked out the window. Sitting down, I could see farther up. And this one particular building a few blocks away kept going. And going. And going. I leaned up and discovered we had a fabulous view of the Empire State Building.

I swear, if I owned a business, I would have gone downstairs and talked that guy into going to work for me on the spot.

The majestic building, sitting on the corner of 5th Avenue and West 34th Street, remains the coolest building in town: 101 stories, with the classic architecture and the observation deck.

The American Society of Civil Engineers long ago named the Empire State Building one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and while other skyscrapers, in New York and other cities, have surpassed it in height, none have surpassed it in regalness.

And by nightfall, the top of the building had been lit in blue and green lights, to honor the victorious Seahawks.

I’ve been lucky on road trips. Had views of the Atlantic Ocean (Miami Beach); the mighty Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River in Astoria, Ore.; AlcatrazIsland in San Francisco; the mighty Mississippi in St. Louis.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever had a room with a view to match Room 1101 of the Fairfield Inn on West 37th Street.

 

BACK TO BROADWAY

Most Broadway shows are dark on Sunday nights and Monday nights. The key word in that sentence is most. Not all.

Another night in New York meant a shot at another Broadway show.

So after checking in at the Fairfield, I hiked back to the Broadway ticket exchange. My cold feet were not happy about another mile-plus walk, and my budget was in tatters, but the allure of Broadway was a little strong. How often do you get the chance to go to New York?

We hoped to see Motown, but it was dark. So we settled for Newsies, a musical about the turn-of-the-(previous)-century strike by street urchins who hawked newspapers on New York street corners.

We got half-price tickets again — what a deal; I’m telling you, sports can learn a thing or two from Broadway — and so about 7 p.m. walked to the Nederlander Theater on West 41st Street. It wasn’t a bad walk. Four short blocks and maybe one long block.

All the Broadway theaters are cool, but the Dish thought the Nederlander was the best. Opened in 1921, so it’s 93 years old. Very intimate, ornate. The seats seemed a little more comfortable than the tight fit at the Ambassador on Saturday night.

And the show? What a pleasant and complete surprise.

Newsies was excellent. I’ve never been fired up about the dancing aspects of a Broadway show, but these guys were amazing. At times, it seemed like a gymnastics meet.

And staging and the story and the songs were great. One good song after another.

Plus with a newspaper plot, which always wets my whistle, complete with Joseph Pulitzer.

A wonderful night. I’d go see Newsies again.

I’d rank the shows we saw 1. Jersey Boys; 2. Newsies; 3. Chicago (a distant third).

 

CALLING IT A NIGHT

We walked back to our view of the Empire State Building but stopped at a late-night pizza joint, Bravo’s, and got a slice or two of pizza.

Made it back to the Fairfield to see the final 22 minutes of the OSU-Iowa State thriller on ESPN and turned out the lights, ready to get home, but thankful for one more night in New York.

 

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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