Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania (2003)

This trip was taken when Sam was 18 and Andrew was 15. It is in two parts. The first part covers our visit to New York City and Philadelphia from March 27 to April 1, 2003. The second part is our LDS church history tour, plus Niagara Falls, from April 2 to April 7, 2003. 

March 27, 2003 (Thursday):

I was up until 2:00 a.m. the night before, getting ready to leave and watching CNN coverage of the war in Iraq (it was mesmerizing, watching the embedded reporters show actual fire fights, including tank salvos, live). We got off to LAX about 5:30 p.m. and made good time, driving the 10 to the 605 to the 105, the first time I’ve gone to LAX other than on the 101 (it is a much better route).

The airport was not crowded at the late hour and we got right in without much problem. I was able to drop Judy and the boys off at the Delta terminal and then park in long-term parking. We left on Delta flight 1962 at 10:05 p.m. I slept a little bit in the airport and slept most of the time on the airplane. Most people did the same, so the flight went by quickly.

March 28, 2003 (Friday):                

We arrived in New York at John F. Kennedy Airport a little before 6:00 a.m. We got a taxi outside the terminal and took it to our hotel. The ride was wild and I was very glad we opted to take a taxi rather than brave the subway. The driver was weaving in and out of tight lanes over roads that were not marked well, ultimately through a tunnel under the East River. It took about 20 to 30 minutes, while we heard later it would have taken us two hours by subway. Our hotel, the New Yorker, is located at 481 8th Avenue (on 34th Street) in mid-town Manhattan, kitty corner from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station and 3 blocks from the Empire State Building. We took a smoking room in order to check in early and leave our luggage. The halls smelled terribly of smoke and were quite shabby and worn. Our two double beds were squeezed in tightly in the room, but it was tolerable and actually nicer than what I was expecting after reading about some of the hotels in New York. It was very cheap by New York standards, at $109.00 per night, and the location turned out to be marvelous, particularly the proximity to the subway.

We walked over to Penn Station and spent some time trying to figure out where the subway was (it was confusing with Amtrak, New Jersey trains, etc.). We purchased one-day metro fun cards and a subway map (which I finally figured out how to use after one or two stops - the different colors and letters were initially difficult to decipher). While at Penn Station, the boys identified Don Pepi Delicatessen as a place they wanted to eat breakfast. Andrew had a nice looking egg and sausage sandwich with potatos and Sam had some sort of egg breakfast sandwich. I decided to wait for something that looked more tempting.

We took the subway to lower Manhattan and got off about a block from the New York Stock Exchange (located at 20 Broad Street). It was barricaded and security was checking all entrants and requiring tickets which had to be obtained in advance. We had to satisfy ourselves with an outside look. It was smaller than I envisioned and the streets were much less busy than I anticipated.

Right across the street was the Federal Hall National Monument, site of the first U.S. capitol and George Washington’s first inauguration. The current building cost $1 million to build in 1842 and was full of marble (floors, columns and walls). It contained the Bible Washington put his hand on when he was sworn in as President of the U.S. There is a marble statue of Washington in front.

The large pointed steeple of Trinity Church loomed at the end of Wall Street, so we headed for it, about two short blocks away from the NYSE. Alexander Hamilton is buried in the graveyard under a white marker, but the gates to the graveyard were locked.

Up a block or so (north) and then west a block we got a view of Ground Zero, former location of the World Trade Center. A building with Brooks Brothers was located across the street, I recognized it from the days of the catastrophe. Ground Zero is now a huge open pit, surrounded by fencing. There was some operating machinery within, but not much. There have been newspaper articles about winning designs for the building to be put up, but I have no idea if they are starting to actually build or are still trying to remove old debris. Damage to surrounding buildings was very evident. One large building to the southeast was draped in some sort of material, apparently receiving major repairs. Many of the surrounding buildings also showed evidence of repair work, such as boarded up windows, construction scaffolds, etc. There is an observation deck, near the pit, with slits in the fence to view through, but the slits are relatively small. There were a few dried up flowers placed in the fence and in several locations along the fence, starting at about 8 feet in height, the names of the dead were listed alphabetically, about 2,300. A large cross, made of crossing steel girders, apparently found that way in the wreckage, is standing upright in cement near the observation deck. The hole covers a massive area. There were some photos of the WTC, pre-attack, but I was a little disappointed that more has not been done. It did not evoke as much emotion in me as I expected it would.

Just east of the north end of Ground Zero, I spotted a deli that looked tempting: Stage Door Deli. I had a pretty good roast beef sandwich and we shared marbled cheesecake (heavy and moist), black and white frosted cookies (the black chocolate was not great and the white sugar frosting was ordinary and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray (celery soda). It definitely tasted celery and was not a big hit. The deli was good, but not great.

We walked several blocks more north and a block east to see the Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway at Barclay Street and Park Place. I wanted to see it because it was visited by my grandfather on their 1929 trip. At that time it was called the “Cathedral of Commerce” and the world’s tallest and most recognizable skyscraper when it was built in 1913 until the Chrysler Building was built in 1930. It is 792 feet tall and has 57 floors. The lobby apparently contains a sculpture of F.W. Woolworth pinching his pennies and another of the architect, Cass Gilbert, cradling a model of his creation. We walked in to view it, but were turned back out - no tourists allowed. It appeared that the walls and ceiling were all gilded in gold.

We walked a block or two south on Broadway and went into St. Paul’s Chapel, just a block east of Ground Zero. It is one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan and was a staging area for much of the relief efforts. This is where George Washington worshiped and his private pew, surrounded by a waist high wall, on the north side, is identified by a brass plate. This remains a memorial to the WTC disaster. Posters and blankets and cards from all over the country line the walls and hang from the rafters. Memorabilia is set out on tables and pictures of exhausted rescue workers resting on cots and getting back rubs fill the walls of the church. Judy bought a book on the disaster, “In The Line of Duty,” from their small bookstore.

We continued further south of Broadway, past Trinity Church again, several more blocks to find the large brass bull that sits in the middle of the street near Bowling Green. The boys, particularly Sam, insisted they wanted to see the bull. They got to the bull to pose for pictures.

From there, it was a short walk to Battery Park. We just observed it as we walked by, on our way to the Staten Island Ferry. Downtown Manhattan was not as intimidating or awe inspiring as I expected it to be. The large buildings don’t seem so large, perhaps because the streets are so small and narrow and perhaps because we were not there during rush hour. I actually quite liked the area. We just missed one ferry and waited half-an-hour for the next one. A crowd converged as the gates opened and we walked down a corridor onto a large boat. We went to the second level and about half way down to find a seat. We slowly sailed out into the harbor and watched the Manhattan skyline get smaller. We passed, at some distance, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty seemed smaller than I anticipated. There again, I did not feel any particular surge of feeling for it. We got to Staten Island, waited a while for the ferry to unload and reload and then set out again. I went outside to the front of the ferry for a clear view of the Manhattan skyline. It was freezing cold as the wind whipped across the water. Andrew and Sam zonked out the entire way back, exhausted from their lack of sleep the night before.

Outside the ferry terminal, next to the subway entrance, a band was playing and Sam wanted to go closer to observe them. A man was playing a two horned trumpet, another was energetically playing the drums with his shirt off (it was quite chilly) and another was playing a base guitar. After playing a song, the trumpet player aggressively approached us with a can seeking a donation of money. The wind blew bills out of the can and the bills started flying down the street with the trumpeter and at least one spectator in hot pursuit.

We took the subway to Greenwich Village. As we got off and blankly looked around trying to figure out where to go, a helpful bystander pointed us toward Washington Square and New York University. We walked by a restaurant named, “Middle Eastern Cuisine,” and I spotted a sign identifying falafel, a food Sunny Cannon told me we needed to try. So we went in. I ordered to regular falafels and a lamb pita (named something like shewalmo?). The falafel was mashed up chick peas and spices scooped into balls and fried and placed in a pita with a white cucumber sauce, a little lettuce and tomato, and some spices. It was a little bland, but I liked it. The lamb pita was excellent. It also had lettuce and tomato, soaked up in the distinctive lamb grease, and was probably the food I liked best our whole trip. I would go back again for more (I love lamb). Sam stared disdainfully at what he felt was disgusting food.

Washington Square was probably the most uncomfortable area we encountered on our trip. It was surrounded by buildings with purple banners indicating they were various departments of New York University. Much of the trees and grass were surrounded by temporary fencing with keep out signs proclaiming rat poison was present. Where we entered, the place was filled with tables covered with chess and checker boards. As we entered, someone yelled to me to come and play a game. It is apparently an area reserved for those activities, but the participants looked rather scary (perhaps something like the troops in Iraq were facing). Sam wanted a hotdog from a vendor, so Sam got a hotdog and Andrew a pretzel. Many people were sitting on benches reading. It seemed predominantly black and middle eastern. An arch, that looked a lot like the Arc de Triomphe was off to one side and there were several statues for people that I did not recognize. We stopped in the NYU Bookstore and broused. It appeared to be very liberal, with a large section of books bashing George Bush and Republican causes and some fairly risqué books with sexual topics. Sam purchased the book, “1984,” by George Orwell, which he needed to read for school. On the way back through Washington Square, we stopped in the public restroom. Sam, who was waiting for me while I was at a urinal, was verbally berated by a scary looking figure who used crude and foul language. At that point, Sam and Andrew decided they’d had more than enough of Greenwich Village and wanted out of there. As we left, I finally spotted the law school (the NYU LLM in tax is the Harvard of tax law). The building had a red-brick, New England feel and I wanted to look around, but Sam insisted we keep going. We were on the outer edge of Greenwich Village and I would like to have seen more of it. It was definitely young, liberal, artsy, and from what I have heard, very gay.

Andrew wanted to see Chinatown. So we traveled by subway to an area that was marked on our map as “Little Italy,” just north of Chinatown. However, as we got off the subway we were confronted by Chinese storefronts everywhere: Chinese lettering, Chinese people, and Chinese food. I loved it. There were many food stands, with fresh produce outside on the sidewalks. Andrew and I purchased several delicious Asian pears which we ate while we walked. Andrew and I also inspected a wonderful fish market. Huge live eels were swimming in big tanks. Many people were stopping for live squirming crabs, which a clerk picked out of a tank with tongs and placed in paper bags. There were huge sturgeon looking fish, a large squid 1 1/2 feet long and 6 inches wide, and many fish I have never seen before for sale. We stopped in another store and walked the aisles, starring at chicken feet, ox tails and canned items all labeled in Chinese. I would love to go there multiple times to sample the wares. It looked like a culinary heaven. We walked around a couple of blocks and got back on the subway for Times Square.

In the subway station we encountered a group of five or six black teenagers setting up for a presentation. I crowd started to gather around. They set up a boom box and each took a turn doing some sort of move, dancing, spinning and twirling around. One was particularly good, spinning around on his head on the bare concrete floor. This was definitely a different culture. I was wearing the saddle shoes I got from my father, which are a size too small, and my feet were feeling blistered and killing me. As we started walking through the maze of people in Times Square, as the cold rain plastered us, I started really feeling my feet and I was feeling tired. We stopped at McDonalds and I opted to pass on the food. I waited in line for 20 minutes to get into the bathroom which could only serve one person at a time. We stopped at a three-story Toy’s-R-Us where the boys wandered quite happily. Sam was particularly taken by the Ninja Turtle display (I thought that fad had faded ten years ago and was very surprised he was interested). He strongly considered buying a foot tall Michelangelo. I parked my tired body near a large replica of a roaring tyrannosaurus rex and a replica of the Chrysler Building made out of legos, while the boys and Judy roamed the store. There were also large lego replicas of the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty that really were quite amazing. Leaving Toys-R-Us, Judy spotted a Hershey Store and stopped in for a large Times Square Hershey chocolate bar and several bags of Hershey bites, including white chocolate and Heath Bar which were very good. We walked by the ABC Studio where Good Morning America broadcasts from and stared at all of the glaring neon light signs which go on for blocks. It was very crowded and cold and wet. We stopped at a Foot Locker and they had a “buy one pair and get another for half-off” deal. Andrew wanted some tennis shoes, so I also bought a pair of Adidas which I immediately put on to get out of my saddle shoes. There was instant relief and the walking thereafter was substantially more comfortable.

We found our way over to 8th Avenue and started walking south toward the subway. I stopped in a little store, at about 45th Street, and purchased a wrap with tuna, lettuce and tomato. It was very good (I ate part while walking and finished the rest in our hotel room). We caught the subway and had to go only one stop. The subway exit was right around the corner from our hotel, a very short walk. As we took the elevator to room 2335 on the 23rd floor, we were greeted with a marvelous view of the Empire State Building. It was framed outside our window and bathed in patriotic red, white and blue light.

As seemed appropriate, we watched a video on our hotel room t.v: Maid In Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez.

This went down as my favorite day in New York and one of my favorite of the trip. The variety in the city, within very short distances, is incredible. The contrast between Wall Street, Washington Square, Chinatown and Times Square was staggering.

March 29, 2003 (Saturday):            

I previously talked with Judy’s sister, Angie DeLong, about meeting us at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park (extreme upper Manhattan). I gave Angie my cell phone number and she was going to call us when she got to the Cloisters. Everyone was pretty tired from a long day, so we slept in and got a slow start. We were in Penn Station eating breakfast at the same place we did the day before - Don Pepi Delicatessen (like yesterday, I abstained to wait for something different). While the family got food, I bought one day Fun Passes for the subway. About 9:30 I got a call from Angie and she was just about six blocks away. We decided to meet her there, rather than try to hook together before-hand.

We got on an express subway headed for 190th street. I’d originally hoped to see Columbia University on the way, but time would no longer permit it. We got off in Fort Tryon Park, and after seeking directions, took a walk up some steps and across a street for a view of the Hudson River from a fairly high hill. The George Washington Bridge was visible to the south. Sunny Cannon had indicated that Fort Tryon Park is the most beautiful of the Manhattan Parks. It was pretty, despite no leaves on the trees and no flowers in bloom and a gray, cold day. It was easy to see what Manhattan must have looked like hundreds of years ago before the massive population arrived. Very wooded and hilly and I’m sure beautiful in the spring and summer. We walked north through the park up and over a hill and down over a bridge and up to the rock monastery which serves as the museum. The Cloisters is actually part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and our admission will get us into the Met on the same day. We waited outside for Angie for quite some time, perhaps an hour, sitting on a bus bench. She finally called me on the cell phone from inside the museum: she had arrived about 10 minutes earlier through another entrance.

The AAA descriptions described a museum devoted to medieval art, containing parts of five French cloisters, a Romanesque chapel and extensive gardens. It was a beautiful building, and the stained glass, paintings, statues and tapestries were beautiful, but coming on the heals of our relatively recent visit to Italy, it was quite ho-hum. We’d seen stuff like it in Italy, but in greater quantities and by more famous artists. I did enjoy the coffins of knights, dressed in their armor, feet resting on a lion as seems so typical. In that sense, it seemed more British (perhaps because that is where I’ve seen those types of things before). It also seemed that much of the artwork came from Italy, rather than France. We enjoyed seeing very old playing cards, which were more triangular than rectangular. In that medieval context, the use of kings, queens, etc. on the cards makes a lot of sense. There was an outside courtyard with Romanesque columns that reminded us of a courtyard at Le Mont St. Michel in France (Sam brought that to my attention - he did actually pick up on some things in France!). As much as anything, I enjoyed a thick vine or tree which was being trained to go up the side of an outside wall on the building. Andrew pointed out that it was in the shape of a Jewish menorah. Much time and patience must have gone into trimming it over time.

We decided to go to Rockefeller Center, with the particular intention of taking the NBC Studio Tour. Near the studio, I saw a pizza place that looked very good and decided to use this as my opportunity to try New York pizza. Rather than take Sunny Cannon’s suggestion of a plain cheese pizza, I got a slice of Italian sausage pizza, a slice of spinach pizza and Andrew got a slice of tomato pizza. They were quite good and we each took turns taking bites, including Angie. We found the NBC Studio and found we would have to wait about 2 hours for the first available tour. We decided to do it. We bought tickets and then decided to walk around the area. Sam opted to do some clothes shopping, so we decided to meet him later at the skating rink right outside the NBC Studio. The broadcasting booth for the Today show looks out onto the sidewalk near the skating rink, but the broadcast booth was unoccupied while we were there.

We walked through the Met Museum Store, also just off the skating rink, then walked down the street and discovered St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located on 50th Street and Fifth Avenue. Several police armed with assault type rifles and helmets were patrolling in front. The doors were open and many people were kneeling and praying within. The cathedral had much the same look and feel of the European cathedrals, except that it seemed lighter and warmer. That might be because it is newer and thus less dirty (it was completed about 14 years after the Civil War ended), or a lighter type stone. The stained glass also seemed more vibrant and colorful than many of the European cathedrals.

We walked further north on Fifth Avenue, passing stores like Gucci, Elizabeth Arden, Cartier’s and Sacks. We walked in St. Thomas Church, across the street and up a block or two from the cathedral. It was smaller and quite dark. The thing that distinguished it was that the organist was playing the organ and really laying on the keys. I heard it prior to Judy’s entering and walked up to the front to get closer to the organ. When Judy got in, the organ was not playing. As she walked very near the front, the organist layed on the keys in a “Phantom of the Opera” type blast and startled Judy to death. The organ and acoustics were incredible.

We spotted an Aubon Pain restaurant, recommended by Sunny, and investigated. Andrew picked up a couple of donuts and a very good butter crumble cake. On the way back to meet Sam, we passed the Radio City Music Hall.

We gathered with a group of about 20 people for the NBC Studio Tour, led by two guides. We had to pass through a screening station, including metal detectors and x-ray scanning devices. We saw a 15 or 20 minute film about the studio hosted by Matt Lauer and Katie Couric, the Today Show hosts. Then we visited the studios for the Conan O’Brian Show, some new show I hadn’t heard of, but previously the Rosie O’Donnell Show set and finally the Saturday Night Live set (which was the most interesting because we’ve all seen the show previously). Of interest were the tricks used to make the very small studios seem bigger, such as use of wide angle lenses, having guests pause while they walk out, so that it seems to take them longer, and constant scanning of the audience. The studios were very cool, to compensate for the 50 degree increase in heat when all of the studio lights are turned on. Also of interest was the control room where a screen existed for each NBC affiliate around the country. The screen showed what each affiliate was then showing. A blank screen indicated the affiliate was using local programming. For all of the hype and expense ($76.25), I thought the tour was way overrated. I have heard many people love Rockefeller Center. To me, it just seemed like a large expensive shopping mall.

No subway seemed convenient to get to the Met, so Angie suggested we go to Fifth Avenue where we caught a bus and took it north to about 79th Street. Just a block or so west, the huge Metropolitan Museum of Art loomed on the edge of Central Park. By this time it was raining steadily. We made our way inside, happy to get out of the rain. It is truly a gigantic place. Unfortunately, some of the same feelings of hum-drum I’d experienced at the Cloisters hit me here. After the Louvre and Italian museums, it is hard to get excited. We walked through rooms of ancient Greek pottery, which I love, black and brown terracotta with figures dressed in armor and swords. Judy and Andrew loved the modern art area, where we saw numerous Picasso’s, Georgia O’Keefe’s, Mondrian, Salvadore Dali and others. Andrew recently studied modern art and was able to appreciate Picasso and identified Grant Wood’s Ride of Paul Revere. I don’t much appreciate Picasso, other than that his figures are grotesque. There was a Salvadore Dali I kind of liked: it was of the Virgin Mary, very dark and in puzzle pieces where her outline and body were just barely visible. I would not be willing to hang most of the modern art in our home, despite what I’m sure is great value. I was glad to know that Andrew and Judy loved it. We walked through the early America area and saw numerous paintings and sculpture busts of George Washington and a bust of Benjamin Franklin. Perhaps most interesting to me, were the Egyptian collections, mummies and sarcophagi and a building brought over from Egypt. I was kind of happy to leave, despite the fact it was pouring rain.

I was in my North Face jacket with a hood, so very wet but dry internally. Sam had no coat and tried to stay somewhat dry sharing Judy’s umbrella. We caught a bus going south and en route, determined that we could catch a subway nearby that would allow us to avoid a longer walk a little later. At the last minute, with very little time to say goodbye, we rushed off the bus, leaving Angie to fend her way to catch her bus back to Rhode Island. We went back to Times Square, despite the very hard rain and cold. We stopped back at the Foot Locker so Judy and Sam could purchase tennis shoes (like Andrew and I had the day before). I just sat on a bench and tried to rest my weary legs. We walked to the same deli where I’d purchased my wrap the night before, on Eighth Avenue, and bought $44.00 worth of take out food for our hotel room. I had some Caesar Salad, chicken, pork ribs, etc. and most of the food turned out to be very ordinary. They had no tortillas, so were unable to duplicate my tuna wrap of the night before. Judy got a tuna pita, but they did not put in the tomatoes and lettuce that had made mine so good.

We ate our food, sitting on our beds, watching CNN coverage of the War on Iraq, with occasional shifts to CMT (Country Music Television) and other channels.

The weather was horrid today, and the late start, waiting around at the Cloisters, at Rockefeller Center, etc. seemed to make today much less productive. I would love to have gotten back to Chinatown or Greenwich Village.

March 30, 2003 (Sunday):  

CNN was located in the building across the street from our hotel and across from Madison Square Garden. Paula Zahn was becoming a familiar figure, given all of the CNN we were watching because of the war in Iraq. However, we were never able to determine if she was broadcasting from that location. We couldn’t identify the street level view (on t.v., you can see people looking in at her from outside) and I think she must be broadcasting from another location, perhaps near Rockefeller Center.

We previously tried calling the number of the church to find out times of church services, but were unable to get anyone. Knowing that a number of wards met at the building near the Lincoln Center, we decided to arrive about 8:30 a.m. and hope to catch a sacrament meeting. I had read Lavell Edwards, formerly BYU’s legendary football coach, was serving a public affairs mission in New York, and hoped we might see him. We took the subway and took the stop one short of the Lincoln Center. We walked past an entrance to Central Park and briefly looked into its vastness. We didn’t have an address for the church, but found the Lincoln Center and by walking around it spotted the name of the Church on the outside of a building. We talked to a Bishop of one of the single wards who informed us that the Sacrament Meeting of the Manhattan Second Ward started at 9:30 a.m. up on the third floor. We went up to that floor and took a seat on the back row of the chapel.

While sitting, we spotted Lavell Edwards out in the foyer, going to a meeting. Robert Wells, an emeritus and formerly President of the First Quorum of the Seventy was in attendance with his wife. They used to live in the Ensign Sixth Ward in Salt Lake where I grew up, so I introduced myself and chatted with them. They had not heard of Dad’s death and expressed best wishes to Mom. They commented that Mom and Dad had made them feel particularly welcome in the ward when they moved in. Their daughter, Charlene, was Miss America, but she was just a baby when I knew them. Their son, Robert, a year older than me, is now a banker in Las Vegas. The Bishop we met in the foyer earlier, talked to us again in the chapel. He indicated that the student ward had grown from about 60 in attendance 10 years ago to three wards and 800 in attendance now (the three wards all meet together in one sacrament meeting now because the new Manhattan Temple is being built on the upper floors of the building). Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the streets of New York, particularly Times Square, which used to be full of porno shops, and it has sprung back to life. Apparently Larry King attends church occasionally, as does Jane Clayson, the Mormon girl from BYU who was on the early morning CBS show with Bryant Gumble. Cosette, in the play Les Miserables, which we wanted to see later that day, is a BYU graduate and a member of one of the singles wards, as are several other members of the cast.

We enjoyed the fast and testimony meeting, particularly the large number of black members that we don’t normally see. Towards the end of fast and testimony meeting, we left, down the elevator, and into the subway, just across the street. We caught a subway car to Times Square and walked several blocks to the TKTS booth, which already had a large line wrapped around the building, waiting for tickets. We should have been there an hour earlier, but were very thankful we attended church. It was raining. Sam and I waited in line, under umbrellas, while Judy and Andrew visited the Hershey’s store and picked up a new stash of Heath bits, white chocolate bits and other delectable delights. After waiting in line about an hour, we eventually got to the ticket counter and picked up tickets to the matinee showing of Les Miserables, the play Sam has been listening to the music to and really wanted to see. The half price tickets cost us $50.00 plus a $3.00 TKTS charge each, for a total cost of $212.00.

We decided to go to lunch along restaurant row, as described by Sunny Cannon, 46th between 8th and 9th, near the theaters. She recommended Loftis, a Moroccan restaurant with good lamb, stews and curries. However, we found out that it had closed. The next choice was Becco’s, an Italian restaurant. We got in, out  of the pouring rain, to find that they were fully booked. We had to get back into our rain gear and venture out into the pouring rain again. We had all kinds of choices, French, Japanese, Italian, Irish, etc. and ultimately chose an Italian restaurant called Capri, located at 358 West 46th Street. The décor was fun, beautiful plates hanging on the walls and beautiful inlaid wood tables. We had an appetizer of bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I got a Caesar salad, Andrew a tri colore salad and Judy a salad with cooked goat cheese that was very good. For the main dish, I had a good lemon salmon, Sam got a meager helping of ravioli, Andrew some decent chicken and Judy a good dish of linguine and claims. For dessert I got Tiramisu and Andrew got vanilla gelato.  Dinner was good, but not great.

We trudged back out into the cold and rain and did a succession of shop hopping. We came across a delicatessen in Times Square that we decided to fall into. We ordered a Napoleon, flan (for Andrew), chocolate mousse cake, cheesecake and knish (mashed potatos, breaded and deep fried) slathered with spicy mustard. The knish was another dish suggested by Sunny and it was actually pretty good, particularly with the spicy mustard. The cheesecake was also good. New York does have very good cheesecake. It is heavy and moist. This little pit stop also cost us $21.65.

We got to the Imperial Theater, on 45th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue, about 30 minutes early. We waited in a slow line to get in. Our seats were upstairs in the balcony, about six rows back and to the far right hand side. They were decent seats, most of the stage was visible. The theater was actually quite small. The play was good, but a little disappointing. It was not the quality of the Los Angeles performance we saw at the Shubert Theater. However, part of the problem may have been the theater itself: the acoustics didn’t seem all that good. I followed the plot line better than I have before and was quite touched by the beautiful last scene where Jean Val Jean dies and is greeted by Fontine and Epenine. Sam enjoyed it immensely and that was what we wanted.

We walked the entire way back to our hotel, about 11 blocks, and rested for awhile. The Empire State Building was shrouded in clouds, we couldn’t see the top, and we decided we might have to visit it in the morning. However, the weather cleared a little and the top became visible, so we scurried out of our hotel room, down onto the street and walked the three long blocks to the Empire State Building (on 34th Street at Fifth Avenue). It is rather expensive, $39.00 for the four of us, but it was worthwhile. The lobby is very impressive. The floors and walls are covered in gray marble, streaked with white and rust colors. One section of the main floor had large panels featuring the seven wonders of the world, then an eighth panel proclaiming the Empire State Building as the eighth wonder (it bills itself as the world’s most famous building - and they may be right). The top observation deck is no longer open. So we went to the highest point we could go to, the 86th floor, and looked out the windows into a near white-out. Although raining at street level, the snow was going up, or nearly horizontal (driven by the wind and perhaps impacted by air currents against the building). Stairs led outside to a walled walk area. As we went out, they were closing the west side of the observation platform due to the accumulation of snow. Snow was collecting and parts of the walkway were slippery. I was bundled up in my fleece jacket and Northface shell, including the hood pulled close around my face. The view was quite spectacular. In particular, the lighted NBC Building (in Rockefeller Center) we had been to previously in the day stood out to the north. Lower Manhattan looked very far away, to the south, and the Chrysler Building, another very distinctive building, look substantially shorter.

On the way back to our hotel, I stopped at Tad’s Steaks on 34th Street for a t-bone steak, salad and baked potato. Judy and the boys continued on to another restaurant, then returned after discovering the other restaurant had closed. They also got steaks. I’d ordered a rare and it was cooked well done. I was not feeling very charitable towards the cook who I’d suggested to several times that my steak was cooking too long. I entertained the idea of making a fuss and returning the steak and decided against it. Andrew and Sam each had steaks that were quite bloody and neither finished them.

We had the following entries from journals of my Grandmother Cannon in 1929 and my Grandfather Sorensen (Pop) in 1937. We specifically went to the Woolworth Building because of what was written in Grandmother Cannon’s journal and I noted the Radio City Music Hall as we walked past it in or near Rockefeller Center (it is hard to know what Rockefeller Center is and isn’t).

Trip Journal of Luella Cannon [written by Edwin] (June 23, 1929):
“Met an immense line up of cars going from N.Y. to Atlantic City & beaches. Crossed New Victory Bridge from South Amboy to Perth Amboy.  Crossed bridge, a new immense bridge from Perth Amboy to Staten Island.  Bridge part in N.Y. and part in N.J.  Bridge is 2 miles across, called ‘Auto Bridge’, operated by N.Y. authority.  Ferry 17 mi. from Auto Bridge – took St. George Ferry across N.Y. Harbor to Brooklyn.”[written by Luella] “Children had first rides on subway.  We drove over to N.Y. City and ate a fine dinner, Schrafft’s – 5 Ave.[1] Left Eccles about 7:45 & drove up Hudson Drive and on through heavy Sunday night traffic for miles & miles – a heavy fog arose after getting nearly to Bridgeport.  Stopped for night in Stratford after riding 65 mi.  This road called Boston Post Road.”
Trip Journal of Luella Cannon (June 28, 1929):
“Went over to New York and took boat trip with Sarah and Dr. Eccles[2]. Went up East River and down Hudson.  Harlem R. connects these two.  Saw prison, asylum, old men and old ladies homes, boys home, tuberculosis hospital, Rockefeller Institute, hospitals.  Saw destroyers, fire boats – all sorts of craft.  An unusual array of large vessels on Hudson in dock – being Friday perhaps boats do not sail.  Saw Mauritania, fastest boat – about 4 ½ days to Europe.  Saw Baltic Leviathan, Norwegian, German, a sister ship to Vestris.  Saw many fine yachts – one, Henry Ford owned.  Saw  hall of fame – old house owned by [Aaron] Burr.  Here Washington lived and stayed in N.Y.  Near here where Hamilton and Burr fought duel.  We ate lunch on the boat. We visited acquarium – then took another boat out into bay through narrows and out into open ocean.  Went to Coney Island.  The sea was rough and it rained.  Stopped until we reached Coney Island.  Then the rain came down in torrents.  We ate dogs and potatoes.  Saw corn in vats & everything else.  We went to Sarah’s for dinner, then Ed & children, Marie & Ione went over to Roxy Theatre, largest theater in N.Y. A platform raising, elevating orchestra when desired.  An immense orchestra & gorgeous setting.  Saw most wonderful picture I have ever seen, “The Four Devils,” a circus picture.  Janet Gaynor, the leading lady, Mary Duncan, second.[3]  Afterward we walked down Broadway.  Saw bright lights.  Went to bed, very tired.”
Trip Journal of Luella Cannon (June 29, 1929):
“We went out with David and Marie, leaving mother home as she felt she would rather remain and rest.  First we visited Woolworth Building, the highest building in the world.[4]  Were very fortunate to see the “Leviathan” wending way down Hudson & through bay, sailing so beautifully.  The Leviathan over two hundred feet longer that Woolworth Building is tall.  We saw many boats wending way on waters.  Read Cannon[5] worked in this building and we were fortunate to see him.  Was very glad to see us, as we were him.  Then we visited Metropolitan Museum of Art – saw marvelous paintings.  Rosa Bonham’s original “Horse Fair”, beautiful statuary, Egyptian art, sarcophagus, mummy, --?--, gold ---?---, Cellini, A Roman chariot- miniature restoration of Acropolis in original colors, a greek temple, fountain, Miniature of pyramids, etc.  Here in basement we ate lunch. We also visited Museum of Natural History – Here Mexican & S. American ruins, gold, --?--, all animals illustrated in nature haunts, whale, etc.  We were loath to leave it. We next went to Bronx [zoo], were especially interested in an immense turtle about 400 yrs. old – snakes, rhinoceros & hippotamus.  We walked miles during course of day and were completely tired out.  After dinner at Sarah’s, we were revived and went over to see Read & Edith…”
Trip Journal of Luella Cannon (June 30, 1929):
“(Woolworth Building – Cathedral of Commerce.  Highest bldg. in world.  Height 792 feet – 60 stones high.  Gothic architecture – 12,000 people occupy bldg.  Contains 24 high speed elevators that can travel 750 ft. per minute.  3,000 offices.  Power plant generates enough energy to supply the requirements of a city of 50,000 pop.) We loafed about Sarah’s – Ed & David went out, then after dinner we spent some time at Dr. Robt. Eccles.  We drove in taxi to N.Y. Central Station to take train for Boston.  There saw the air ship “Bremen”.  In this station constellations in ceiling.  Got in berth about 10:30 & train left about 12:00.  Billy thrilled with this new experience.”
Trip Journal of Horace Sorensen (September 7, 1937):
“The morning of the third day out of Havana we sailed past the Statue of Liberty and docked in New York. We had lunch on Fifth Ave. and went shopping. Bought Margery some clothes at Best & Co. In the evening we went to the world famous Music Hall in Radio City, Rockefeller Center and saw a marvelous show.”
Trip Journal of Horace Sorensen (September 8, 1937):
“Wednesday morning we went sightseeing through Central Park, Harlem, Grant’s tomb and Riverside Church. George and Ethel Ernstrom had us out to their home on Long Island to dinner and we spent the night there. The following morning they all came in with us. George drove by the site of the 1939 Worlds Fair, over the new Tri-Borough bridge, through Chinatown and Avenue “A” in the lower east side. We had lunch at the Downtown Athletic Club, then Ethel and I took the children through the Aquarium, to Hayden’s Planetarium, to the top of the Empire State Building, to Jack Dempsey’s Café for a delicious dinner, and Jack autographed some menus for the children. That evening we boarded the train for Niagara Falls.”

March 31, 2003 (Monday):             

We spent the night at the New Yorker and went out in the morning kitty-corner to Café 34, right next to Madison Square Garden. This is the restaurant Judy and the boys had wanted to eat at the night before. Andrew got a Belgian waffle, Judy and I got egg and salmon (lox) wraps, I also got a bagel with cream cheese and lox. It was mediocre.

We checked out of the New Yorker and walked north on Eighth Avenue six blocks to 40th Street. National Car Rental was located in the middle of the block to the east and we rented a four door Buick Century. The receptionist was surly and the man who helped us to the car hardly spoke to us and left us with the car running and some questions we’d have liked to have asked. Now for some intimidating driving. Fortunately, I had internet mapquest directions from National to our hotel in Philadelphia. Those directions were wonderful. We’d have struggled without them. We were very near the Lincoln Tunnel (which got us under the Hudson River and over to the New Jersey Turnpike). Unfortunately, our mapquest directions were foiled at one point because a road was closed. However, I sighed relief as I was able to circle several blocks and follow some cars in a way that got us back on the right road to the tunnel. As we made several turns and got onto the right road, we got some great views of the skyscrapers of Manhattan. I was able to say that I enjoyed New York much more than I ever dreamed I would and that I would love to go back.

The drive to Philadelphia was surprisingly free of the mass of humanity. It appeared to be through fairly rural areas, although I understand the cities are there; they just do a good job of disguising them through trees and greenbelts. We crossed over the very large Betsy Ross Bridge, spanning the Delaware River, with a great view of downtown Philadelphia. One building in downtown is particularly striking, the ________. Our mapquest directions got us to our hotel, the Comfort Inn Downtown on Christopher Columbus Blvd (across the street from the Delaware River), just over 97 miles from New York, in less than two hours. We arrived about noon, checked in, left our luggage in the room, left our car in the pay lot next to the hotel and walked to the historic district.

We walked south down Columbus Blvd. and eventually crossed the street to a walkway that took us back over the street and up into the historic district. The historic district was very beautiful. It looks recently restored, clean, with lots of red brick buildings and sidewalks and colonial style houses. This part of Philadelphia is wonderful. We eventually found Independence Hall, but walked around it trying to find a way in. It is cordoned off and National Park Service personnel are stationed with guns keeping people out. On the north side there is some kind of construction going on and fences keeping people out. We eventually found out that we needed tickets from a visitor’s center a block north, then went back to go through a metal detector and bag and body search. My how events of September 11th have changed things.

We took a quick look at the Liberty Bell in the Liberty Bell Pavilion, just north of Independence Hall. An NPS employee was giving a talk and the bell was surrounded by people. We had to catch a tour of  Independence Hall at a certain time, so left after only a few minutes, without a great view of the bell. We did learn that the crack was first noticed in 1842. It was fixed, by cutting a line in the bell, but it cracked again and has not been rung since. It started out as a symbol of the abolitionists.

Independence Hall is located between 5th and 6th Streets on Chestnut Street, just south of the Liberty Bell, in Independence Square. It was not recognized as any big deal until some time much later after the events that occurred there. At one time it was almost torn down, and part of the time it was used for other events (I don’t recall the particulars, but it was something like Alcoholics Anonymous). It has two separate sections. One section had a courtroom like setting, with what looked like a judicial bench and a rostrum for the accused or lawyers to speak from, and the other was headed by a desk that was used by George Washington. Here, in 1775, the Second Continental Congress decided to resist England. Here: the Declaration of Independence was signed; and George Washington accepted the role of commander-in-chief of the Colonial armies. We were not able to visit the second floor. The guide indicated that they did not have sufficient funds to make it available. That is particularly sad given the huge cost of maintaining security forces surrounding the building.

To the west was Congress Hall, which was occupied by the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800. The first floor was the chamber of the House of Representatives. This is where John Adams was inaugurated as second president of the United States. Upstairs is the chamber of the Senate and various committee rooms. In the upper south room was where the second inauguration of George Washington took place. It had beautiful dark green furnishings and the presidential seal.

We had the Society Hill Hotel (on the northwest corner of 3rd and Chestnut) recommended to us by Sherri Johnson, Una Hellyer’s daughter, as a good place to get Philadelphia cheese steak and good fries. We ordered two Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches, two orders of fries, one with onions and jalapenos (which was quite good) and Sam ordered a hoagie sandwich (which Bob Evans told us was a Philadelphia specialty). The cheese steak sandwich was very ordinary (Andrew said Arbey’s was better) and made one wonder about the award winning designation it received from the local newspaper. In fact, their brochure quotes the Wall Street Journal as stating its “Swank, wood and brass bar,” is “famous for the Phildadelphia cheesesteaks.” The cheesesteak we ate totally took away any desire I had for Philadelphia cheese steak. The person who had recently sold the restaurant to the current owner talked to us quite a while. She pointed out a building just down the street that was used in the Ghostbusters movie.

We found the B. Free Franklin Post Office and Museum on Market Street which commemorates Franklin’s 1775 appointment as first postmaster general. It still issues hand cancelled letters. We purchased a book on Franklin which we got stamped and also mailed a postcard and letter home with the handstamp, which was quite unique. Outside were the outlines of various parts of Franklin’s home, including his outhouse. The outline of his home is set out in stainless steel looking girders, similar to what they’ve done with the Social Hall in Salt Lake.

We walked down to Christ Church, on 2nd Street, between Market and Arch Street. This is where 15 signers of the Declaration of Independence worshiped. Brass plaques marked the pews of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross. It is a beautiful old church and just recently hired its pastor from Pasadena.

At this point we decided to part company. Judy decided to go back to the hotel with the boys and I wanted to walk into downtown Philadelphia. I set out (west) with my sight set on the large, beautiful Liberty Plaza. After going through the historic district, it started to get more run down and was heavily minority. After walking a considerable distance, I walked through the Liberty Plaza (beneath the Liberty 1 and Liberty 2 Buildings). The outside architecture of these buildings are perhaps my favorite of any large buildings anywhere. They have an undulating top on them, similar to the Chrysler Building in New York. There was nothing particularly notable about the shopping inside, other than I noticed a Franklin/Covey office located there. I walked out the other side and after several blocks determined I was not where I thought I was. I backtracked and finally was able to get my bearings.

The City Hall was undergoing a massive restoration with a distinctive statue of William Penn on top. I walked past the Masonic Hall and headed toward Chinatown, with the desire to buy some duck. Chinatown did not hold a candle to Chinatown in New York. It was nowhere near as large and nowhere near as well-defined. I did buy several Asian pears in a produce market and a half duck from a shop that sold only ducks. I made it back to the hotel several hours after leaving Judy and the boys. I shared the duck, but it did not go down as well as most duck I’ve had in the past. It was quite fatty and the dirty store and surroundings in which I bought it weighed on my mind. Andrew had a little. Most of it went to waste. I had a terrible thirst and bought several diet Pepsi’s in the vending machines and drank it out of a plastic cup filled with ice.

The following is the brief entry from Grandmother Cannon’s journal about Philadelphia:

Trip Journal of Luella Cannon (June 22, 1929):
“Entered Pennsylvania 10:12.  Drove through congested Philadelphia, Museum, Independence Hall – Museum.  Crossed over large bridge from Philadelphia (over Delaware River) into New Jersey.”

April 1, 2003 (Tuesday):                 

We slept in the Comfort Inn and had a hard time getting moving in the morning. Breakfast was just off the lobby (primarily donuts and juice) and it was crowded with teachers who were in Philadelphia for a science teacher’s conference.

We started out south again and headed for the Market Street Houses where the print shop and post office are located. Benjamin Franklin build three of the five rowhouses as rental properties. Behind them is Franklin Court, where his old home is marked out, and underneath is a Benjamin Franklin Museum. We did not spend long. Sam seemed quite bored and pulled off to a bench to read. The rest of us went into a small theater and saw a nice movie (I don’t even recall the movie now, 2 1/2 months later, but I believe it related to Franklin’s life and I remember that we remarked it was good).

We crossed over Chestnut Street and took a brief look at Carpenter’s Hall. It was erected in the early 1770s by the Carpenter’s Company of Philadelphia, a guild dedicated to the improvements of its members’ skills, and was where the First Continental Congress met in 1774. We stopped in to see if we could go to the Portrait Gallery housed in the Second Bank of the United States and it was closed for renovation. We walked down 5th Street several blocks to the United States Mint and found that it was no longer open to public tours, courtesy of 9/11. So we decided to visit the Masonic Temple and started to walk toward it, aware that we only had a few minutes to get there before the next tour. After several unsuccessful attempts, we were able to hail a cab which got us there just in time for the 11:00 tour.

The Masonic Temple, located across the street from City Hall, on Broad Street, was one the neatest things we did on the trip, even the boys liked it. It was dedicated in 1873 and it the home of the “Grand Lode of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania.” They claim architects, artists, structural engineers and scholars say that it is unlike anything else in the nation or world. Freemasonry evolved from a line of Master Builders and the temple is focused on architecture. The cornerstone was laid in 1868 and the gavel used was the one George Washington used to lay, with Masonic ceremony, the cornerstone of the nation’s Capitol in 1793. The Corinthian, Renaissance, Ionic, Egyptian and Norman Halls are on the second floor. Gothic Hall is on the third floor. Each of the halls has a compass, square and alter in the center of the room. Much of what appears to be carved marble or other stone is actually wood. I particularly enjoyed Egyptian Hall, largely varying colors of green with pillars painted with Egyptian figures. It is interesting to note that the masons actually met on the second floor of Independence Hall from 1800 to 1802.

After the tour, we decided to eat lunch at the City Tavern. Andrew and Judy has seen signs advertising it and wanted to go there. Bob Evans had stated we also needed to try hotdogs from the street vendors. On our walk toward lunch, Sam and I purchased hotdogs. I got a hotdog with sauerkraut, which again was pretty plain and ordinary, and Sam got polish sausage and chile (the polish sausage looked much better). City Tavern is a reconstruction of what has been termed the “most genteel” tavern in America. It was the site of business transactions, patriot gatherings and musical performances. Waiters are dressed in colonial garb and the menu is interesting, but expensive. We were taken to the second floor. I had an onion (Bermuda - quite strong) and tomato salad and soup. Judy had a chef salad, Andrew medallions of veal and Sam had smoked trout and salmon. Judy and Andrew raved about it, which made it worth going to.

We walked back to our car at the motel and set out for Valley Forge. We did not have mapquest directions for Valley Forge, so this piece of driving was a little trickier. Judy, as trusted navigator, ultimately got us there, through some nasty construction and traffic. I did not get a real good feel for the layout of Valley Forge which is 3,600 acres. For the most part it was a drive through beautiful green countryside with many trees and rolling hills. We went in through one end and came out the other, near the Visitor Center. Just before the Visitor Center, we passed fields full of white tail deer. I do remember Dad and my three older brothers (Mike, David and Layne) went to a National Jamboree for the Boy Scouts at Valley Forge and when they got home Mom cooked steak and eggs for breakfast. They had a fun gift shop at the Visitor Center with many home-made type items (Judy purchased a pottery pitcher and stand and they had some other wonderful looking pottery). We watched a movie about the winter spent at Valley Forge, then back-tracked to Washington Memorial Chapel. From the parking lot there, Andrew and I started to walk toward a herd of white tail deer in a field. We got fairly close before they turned and ran into the trees, their very long and brilliant white flag-like tails pointed straight up in the air. With their tails up high, they are very beautiful.

The literature states that Valley Forge is the best-known place name associated with the American Revolution. It was the site of a six month winter/spring encampment by the Continental Army from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778, where George Washington and 12,000 soldiers kept the British Army bottled up in Philadelphia. We drove the road along the outer line defenses to where General Peter Muhlenberg’s Brigade was situated. They had reconstructed log cabins, several cannons and earthworks built up for a possible attack, on the crest of a hill, facing downhill. We drove down to the National Memorial Arch and tried to drive out on Gulph road (this is how Washington and his troops arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777). We back-tracked and found County Line Road which took us back past the Visitor Center (spotting more deer on our way).

We found our way back onto the freeway toward Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where I had made reservations at a Comfort Inn. Wilkes-Barre was 116 miles from Philadelphia. We drove through some beautiful Pennsylvania countryside until we took a rather bizarre, twisted route, off the freeway, and around and about to the motel. We stopped at a Dunkin’ Donut for donuts and directions (the mapquest directions were not making much sense at that point) and got a dozen quite stale donuts. I ate a couple of bites and tossed my donut. We finally found the comfort Inn, checked in, and set out on foot, fairly late, for dinner. We checked on restaurant nearby and then crossed the street to a Mark II for dinner because they had a salad bar, something I had a hankering for. Judy got chile, Sam a sampler plate and I got some sirloin tips and the salad bar.


1 comment:

  1. We've been to NYC several times since this trip, and it never ceases to be wonderful for me. It's fun to read our first impressions 14+ years ago.