Sunday, December 25, 2005

New York City, December 2005

Our family visited New York City, December 16th, 17th & 18th, 2005 for the sole purpose of spending some time together during the holiday season; and for our kids to experience the energy, beauty and excitement of New York at Christmas time. It is an absolutely wonderful experience.

We left Indianapolis on Friday, December 16th, after school was out and arrived at LaGuardia aroud 8:30 pm. Following the usual routine of taking the "the yellow taxi" to midtown, we checked in at the Renaissance Times Square. Our plan after check-in called for dinner at the original Palm Resturant, 837 Second Avenue, one of my favorite resturants in the US, and one that is quickly becoming a favorite of my family's.

I have become acquainted with the national VP of Operations for The Palm and he made arrangements for the perfect booth just adjacent to the maitre d' stand. Albino Serpagli, General Manager of the New York Palm One, was our pre-arranged host and we began with The Palm buying us all a beverage at the stand up only bar in the back of the first floor. This was wonderful for the kids to see many of the original caricatures in this area and the warped wooden bar. Albion is a native of the Emilia Romagrian area of Italy in province from where The Palm draws it name. After a great dinner, enjoying the history of The Palm, and talking basketball with Albino (he played in Italy), we walked back to our hotel along 50th Street where the lights from Times Square guided our way.

On Saturday, we dedicated the day for the kids to enjoy a New York shopping experience. armed with some cash from mom and dad and a good night's sleep at the Renaissance, we boarded the subway at 50th and Broadway and headed to SOHO. It was quite the experience and one that was not only tremendous for the kids, but one we enjoyed immensely. When you live in the midwest and shopping is pretty much brand stores inside brand malls; walking around SOHO on crowded streets presents everything from street vendors hawking their wares, to coffee shops, hot roasted chestnuts on carts at virtually every corner, and of course unique store, after store, after store which is a very different experience than what we enjoy at home. We spent most of our time on the streets Prince, Grand, Greene and Broadway; also making it to the far south end where the historical Cast Iron section of SOHO is located. I absolutely adore the architecture.

After a full day of contributing to the New York economy, I managed to get all the shopping bags assembled so I could make "a drop" to the hotel while everyone else began a trek to Macy's, in Herald Square, the first marquee store of the day. After I stashed the bags in our room it was 4:00 pm or so and I began walking down 7th Avenue to Herald Square. You could see the lights which decorate the front of Macy's from as far away as the south end of Times Square. As I arrived at the Herald Square main entrance, I was facinated by the mechanical Christmas scenes in the windows and the Macy's storefront. It reminded me of the old LS Ayres department store in my hometown of Indianapolis during the 1950 and 60's which had sophisticated mechanical Christmas scenes one upon a time as well.

With the assistance of cell phones we all found each other, assembled and headed to the nearest subway so we could grab an hour or so of rest before we headed back to this area for the Pacers vs. Knicks NBA game at Madison Square Garden, Saturday, December 17.

Taking the train to Pennsylvania Station, which is underneath MSG is always quite the experience. It simply amazes me everytime I am here, the amount of retail, infrastructure and people that exist underground. The experience of walking through Penn Station also reminds me each time I am there of coming here with my family on visits from New Haven, Connecticut when my brother was in graduate school at Yale. It has not changed in all of these years, and it is fun to watch my kids experience the energy and excitement of this very unique place.

The game was great, we actually won in the garden! 102 - 96, with Jermaine O'Neal scoring 31 points. This was not the case the past season when my son and I went out for the game, so it was nice to walk out of the garden with a victory.

There was a strong "hoosier" connection at the game. Reggie Miller, our former star player for 18 seasons and retired as of this season, 1987 - 2005, was sitting on floor seats as a guest of Spike Lee. It was fun to see Reggie giving the ref's a hard time from the sidelines, or should I say a harder time than when he was playing.

Also, the Knicks are coached this season by Larry Brown who was our coach in Indiana (1994 - 1997). His assistant, Herb Williams was a popular Pacer, coming to Indiana as a first round draft pick in 1981 and playing here for the next 7 1/2 years before going to New York as Patrick Ewing's backup. Isiah Thomas the current Knicks President was there as well and stood in the mid-court tunnel entry way where the players enter and exit with his usual stance, arms folded, the entire game. Isiah was an Indiana University standout, prior to a spectular NBA career with the Detriot Pistions and has been elected to the Hall of Fame. He was the Pacers coach for three seasons as well, 2000 - 2003.

Lastly, Richard Gere the actor was there with his son and sat at the end of the court on our end of the garden. Gere comes to Bloomington, Indiana peridocially to visit the Tibetan Cultural Center, founded by Mr. Thubten Norbu, a retired Indiana University professor who is the elder brother of the Dalai Lama.

After the game we walked up Broadway to our favorite late night spot the Carnegie Deli and shared sandwiches. If you have been to the Carnegie Deli you understand the comment.
Dead tired, we walked back to the hotel to rest for another day of shopping before catching our late afternoon flight home.

Sunday began with brunch at the Rainbow Room, on the 65th floor of the GE building. It was perfect setting; we imagined what the room must have been like in the days of dinner & dancing with the famous big bands of the 40's and New York's social elite; enjoying the circular, rotating dance floor and the stunning view of the city's skyline. We were able to get a window table at the southeast corner of the room with a striking view of the Empire State Building and lower Manhatten. It was a georgeous day, clear and sunny, we could not have been luckier for this time of year. The brunch at the Rainbow Room is highly recommended; jackets required.

After brunch we watched the skaters on Rockefeller Plaza and of course took pictures of the Christmas Tree. A walk to Sak's and then Bloomingdale's finished our day. Both of these stores are absolutely georgeous at Christmas time. In the event you dislike shopping and crowds, simply go through these stores to see the decorations.

A quick walk back to the hotel, one more bag of hot roasted almonds and shopping bags in hand we caught our driver, loaded up and headed to LaGuardia. We had a great view of the city at dusk off the left side of the plane as we headed back to the heartland and looked forward to Christmas in Indianapolis.