This trip was a last-minute thing. I’ve felt bad all year because we had so many trips planned, but they were all for stuff that I wanted to do, with no trips planned for my beautiful wife, Melanie Larch (seen right with yours truly in Times Square).
We’d considered a July trip to New York to see the play Three Tall Women (by Mel’s favorite non-living playwright, Edward Albee, and starring Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf and Allison Pill), but found out that it was a limited run that would end while we were in Chattanooga for the GI Joe convention.
So I told Mel to look for available tickets before it closed, even offering to drop our visit to Wonderfest (which we eventually decided to skip anyway) so she could go. She found tickets for last Saturday night, and we figured out a way to catch the train in Pittsburgh (The Amtrak Cardinal, which goes through Charleston, doesn’t go all the way to NYC again until November due to track repairs). The advantage of this is that we could crash at my sister’s place and drive ten minutes to take the Pittsburgh subway to the Amtrak station. And the train is daily, so we had a lot of leeway for returning.
We made it to our train and had fun on the way to NYC (passed the Boyer Smoothie candy plant in Altoona along the way). We got in to New York around 4:30 and grabbed a cab to the hotel. to settle in.
For dinner we walked a block and a half to get some real New York pizza from 2 Bros, then just came back to the hotel to eat and rest up for Saturday.
Keep in mind, I just learned a couple of weeks ago that being out in the heat is really rough on people with Myasthenia Gravis. Armed with that knowledge, I tried to devise a plan to minimize my exposure to the heat while still enjoying the city’s treats.
One other cool thing of which we were unaware going in was that it was Fleet Week, and the city was overrun with sailors wearing their dress whites, so it looked like On The Town was happening all over New York. Or maybe The Last Detail.
Having planned out our trip, we took advantage of the fact that our hotel was just two and a half blocks from the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market. So Saturday morning we got up and walked the long city blocks in 90-plus degree weather…and hit paydirt, even with us spending conservatively.
The normally-robust Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market was sparsely-populated because there was a big memorial day flea market at the Meadowlands and most of the regulars went there instead. However, I still found some gems, as you can see below.
I picked up the Power Records Fantastic Four book/comic set and an uncut sheet of Wacky Packages from one booth. And at another I got an issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics that I didn’t have–it’s the Justice League issue, mostly written by Mark Gruenwald, who was still a fan and not a pro at that point, plus I found a terrific issue of Trouser Press Magazine, from about two years before I discovered “America’s Only British Rock Magazine.”
At the last booth, I glanced down and noticed an Adventure Team GI Joe in rough shape, and another figure I couldn’t quite place, sitting in a tub full of umbrellas. I snagged ’em both.
The Joe was wearing the Russian Foreign Soldier uniform, complete with medal. The other figure was a vintage Dr. Evil, with his mask on with all the paint rubbed off of it. His hands and feet and head had faded to almost flesh color. I got ’em both for thirty bucks. Mel found some vintage Playbills and some jewelry, and I was starting to feel worn out, but we went on and walked another three blocks, stopping in a restruant in a Doubletree Inn so Mel could get breakfast and I could rehydrate.
At this point I was worn out, but Mel wanted to hit the Drama Book Shop, and it was on the same street as Midtown Comics, so we went on, and luckily the book store had chairs. I told Mel going in that we’d blow off Midtown Comics and just grab a cab back to the hotel, but I felt good enough by the time she got through that we walked on down to the comic book store.
The Drama Book Shop had a cool display in their window for a currently-running off-Broadway revival of Sweeny Todd that we want to see, but didn’t have time on this trip (you can see it to the right of this text)
When we got to Midtown Comics we were greeted by a flight of steps up, and I just turned around and flagged a taxi. I got plenty of comics anyway. Maybe next time we’ll check out Midtown Comics.
We went back to the hotel and rested a bit, then grabbed lunch at their restaurant, then we got dressed to go to the play. Mel wanted to hit another Drama book store, but thanks to the streets being closed for street fairs, we wound up walking another three long blocks to get there (for reference, a New York city block would reach from The Union Building to the Capitol Market in Charleston). That bookstore was one block over from the theater, and we cut through Schubert Alley to go pick up our tickets and then wait for the house to open.
Schubert Alley is a street-wide pedestrian alley, but apparently if you’re Bernadette Peters, you can park your car there. There was a Mercedes with cones around it parked right outside the stage door of the theater where she’s doing Hello Dolly. Didn’t get to see her, but we saw her car.
Turning the corner to go to our theater it hits you that this is BROADWAY. In this one city block, there are nearly a dozen theaters with the shows that you hear about all the time. We were across the street from Frozen and next door to The Iceman Cometh (with Denzel Washington), which was next to The Boys in the Band with that guy I can’t stand from Big Bang Theory.
Three Tall Women was great…and short–less than two hours with no intermission. I got to see Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf and Allison Pill perform live, and the set was mind-blowing. I’ll probably review the play here in PopCult tomorrow.
After the play we walked half a block to Junior’s Deli for the best cheesecake in the world. That’s not hype. It’s been scientifically proven. I think we need to take a moment to bask in the almost pornographic splendor that is Junior’s Cheesecake, presented here in a tasteful soft focus…
Leaving Junior’s, we were having trouble getting a cab, so we hopped into a bike taxi. It was expensive as hell, and worth every penny. The thing I’ve always hated about riding a cab through New York and Chicago is that you have to contort yourself to see out the windows. Not so with a bike taxi, and the guy took us through Times Square and took our picture with my phone. It was my first time actually being able to see Times Square in all its glory. It was like Disneyland and Blade Runner on speed. Near the end of the ride, I remembered that my new phone records video, so after we passed all the really cool stuff, here’s what it looked like…
Pardon the generic YouTube music. I didn’t want to risk the video getting pulled because of what the taxi was playing.
The next morning we got up, checked out and hopped The Pennsylvanian back to Pittsburgh. Our New York excursion had us in Manhattan for about 41 hours. After another night at my sister’s (thanks, Debbie!), we started home. On the drive back, I made sure to make one last visit to the haunted Toys R Us near South Hills Village, and also the one in Clarksburg. We picked up a few goodies for 50% off.
I did make an observation: When TRU shuts its doors, some liquidator (probably Ollie’s) will have a bounty of Funko Pops that nobody will want, probably for three bucks or less. Both stores I hit had tons and tons of them left. There were no bare shelves in the Funko Pop sections.
Also on the drive back I made the decision to skip Wonderfest this weekend. I mainly go there to see my JoeLanta buddies, and I’ll see some of them in Chattanooga and the rest in Louisville at the Kentuckiana Joe show the last week in July. It makes more sense to rest up and save up for the Marx Toy Convention and the last Official GI Joe con later in June.
All in all, it was a total win-win-win of a trip. It’s not nearly as extravagant as it may seem. Amtrak costs way less than flying. We cashed in Hilton Honors points so the hotel was free. Our balcony seats at the theater were not as pricey as the main floor seats. The food was reasonably priced. Mel got to see her play, I picked up some vintage goodies and we were able to hit a couple of TRU stores on the way home. Even better, we made some wonderful memories together.