Visiting Gridlock Sam's Hometown
The holidays were a chance to forget about politics for awhile and to re-charge the batteries. And thanks to an $18 roundtrip special fare on Spirit Airlines, yes $18 was not a typo, and an inexpensive hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express in Chelsea due to booking well in advance, my family and I spent 5 great days in New York City getting away from it all!
No I did not visit Sam. I was too busy going with my family to the Century 21 Department store getting bargains. I guess that Councillor Postma and I have something in common! It was voted the #1 Discount store in NYC and no wonder. Floor after floor of name-brand products sold at huge discounts. It was also the first time I have ever seen a VISA machine offer the option to allow for payment to be made right at the time in US dollars or converted to Canadian on the spot. I must admit that is not such a good idea. It would be better not to know how much I was really spending until after I came back and saw the converted amount on my VISA statement a month later!
We took the Midtown Tunnel both ways going from and to La Guardia. I was surprised at the amount of the toll, US$4.50. The tunnel has 2 lanes going in each direction with the lanes physically kept separate so no passing is possible thereby minimizing the chances of accidents as in the Tunnel video I posted previously. The greater number of EZpass lanes compared with lanes for cash would encourage a commuter to get a pass or be stuck for some considerable time waiting to pay the toll as we were.
I remember one day being in the Times Square district. Crowds on the street were shoulder to shoulder with shoppers and tourists packing the sidewalks almost to the point of overflowing. The traffic was bumper to bumper although moving. Yellow cabs darting around. Horns blaring with the sound of sirens in the background. Those huge Jumbotron-type screens were flashing their commercials. Enough police around to make one feel safe but not an overwhelming presence to make one feel insecure. I just stopped and took it all in. That was the New York of my earlier memories that I was able to share with my wife and kids!
Just some random thoughts about the trip:
- The transformation of NYC from near-bankruptcy to after 9/11 to what it is today should be a lesson for Windsor. It proves what strong Mayors with a shared vision with their electorate can achieve. An estimated 44 million people visited New York City in 2006, spending $24 billion and supporting nearly 350,000 jobs. Windsor is not NYC obviously but we do have the attractions that we ought to be able to promote to make Windsor a destination.
- Am I getting that old or are New Yorkers that polite? Several times on the subway, people got up and offered me a seat. Big-city New Yorkers being so well-mannered was a big shock to me as was the "proof" that I was not a kid any more [sigh]. And when we got lost or looked for a certain spot, we were always helped out.
- I could not believe how clean the subway cars were, both outside (very little graffiti) and especially inside. They looked like the way Toronto subway cars used to be.
- Speaking of graffiti, I do not remember seeing very much of it, not enough to remark on anyway. Something for Councillor Halberstadt to try to emulate.
- I always felt safe in NYC no matter where and no matter what time of the day or night. That was a change from earlier trips. Perhaps our Mayor and Chief of Police could learn from them how to fight "crime."
- It was fun attending street markets and negotiating with vendors and there were some good deals too. Wouldn't our riverfront be a perfect spot for this type of activity to draw people downtown in the summertime?
- Food was always excellent and tasty no matter which place we tried. Generally the service was good too. Portions were gigantic...22 ounce Prime Rib was the norm at one place we ate! I was surprised how busy the restaurants were. I could never get a reservation at one place I tried. While expensive obviously, there was good value for the money. I think that Windsor restauranteurs should visit there and learn a few lessons especially in how to treat customers.
- The subway Metro Pass was a bargain and saved my legs on many occasions. Again, I have experienced more anxiety in Toronto's system lately than I did in New York's.
- I have never seen so many people in a department store as I did in Macy's during their one-day sale when we were there. It felt like being in an ant colony. It was an incredible experience.
- Air travel is such a hassle what with removing winter coats, hats and shoes at the security checkpoints. And $2 for a small bag of chips on the plane....what happened to real food! Do you get as nervous as I do wondering whether your checked luggage will actually make it?
- A new tourist site for the holidays: the Charmin Restrooms near Times Square. Thank goodness also for the fast-food chain restaurants everywhere.
- The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was truly spectacular as was seeing the Empire State Building when I was walking at 34th and 8th Avenue.
- We lucked out on weather...temperatures as high as the mid-60's with only a hint of rain one afternoon.