Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's a hell of a town, Part 1

Last weekend, D and I flew to New York City for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. This was D's first time in Manhattan, so we made an effort to be atypically active and do some sightseeing.

On Friday, we arrived after midnight at JFK and took a cab from the airport, across Queens, through the midtown tunnel, to the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. I'd spent a lot of time researching hotels for this trip, since the wedding was at Columbia University and there aren't many good lodging options that far uptown. I have to say, tripadvisor.com is a great source of information, but it's difficult to know how much to trust some of the more extreme reviews-- whether positive or negative.

We got up early on Saturday morning for a fabulous breakfast at Norma's, where we had a 9:00 AM reservation. Our waitress was great, the food was delicious (I had Norma's Eggs Benedict), and I'm pretty sure it's the only restaurant where the coffee was actually stronger than I usually like it (but some sugar made it perfect).

After breakfast, we walked up 7th Avenue to Central Park and strolled for a while. D enjoyed exploring the tame wilderness, and we saw plenty of squirrels and birds. On the way back, we passed the Steuben Parade coming up 5th Avenue. Though it's nominally a celebration of German-American heritage, most of the groups we saw marching were labor unions, and not German. Any excuse for a parade, I guess.

The wedding was that afternoon, in St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia. We took a cab from the hotel, and boy, am I glad we didn't have to drive ourselves around Manhattan.

We got to the chapel with mere minutes to spare-- or so we thought. The invitations had said 3:00 PM, but when we arrived, the programs said 3:30 PM. We had a laugh and mentioned this discrepancy to a few other people. A couple of them remarked, jokingly, that the bride and groom had probably realized how many Koreans were attending and pushed back the time to allow for their inevitable lateness.

I've heard members of several different ethnic groups lay claim to this-- e.g., "Indian Standard Time" being an hour behind-- but I suspect that quite a few people out of any large group will tend to be late, regardless of race. It's interesting that so many people seem to want to adopt this trait as some kind of cultural heritage.

The couple were married by one of their close friends, who also happens to be a huge Star Trek fan, and he managed to slip "live long and prosper" into the closing of the ceremony. I loved it.

After the wedding, we were asked to stick around for pictures. The groom, who's always been a bit of a photo slut, wanted to get group shots of himself and his bride with different groups of attendees-- high school friends, college friends, co-workers, various permutations of extended family, etc. Did I mention he's also a bit anal-rententive?

Then came cocktail hour and the dinner reception, on the fourth and second floors, respectively, of the Faculty Club. It wasn't as hot as I had feared it might be in the city, but it still got pretty warm during dinner and dancing-- the room was shaped like a "T", with few windows, and the staff had to set up fans to get some air circulating through. But otherwise, it was a great party, with surprisingly good food, and I got to catch up with some old high school classmates.

The best man invited us to join him and a few others for dim sum the next morning, but we decided we'd rather maximize our sightseeing time. We walked over to Broadway and caught a cab back to the hotel, then went for a walk around Times Square (which feels a lot like Las Vegas) and picked up some supplies at a Duane Reade before calling it a night.

In the morning, we had a room service breakfast and then headed out around 10:00 AM. After a slight detour into the street fair which was taking place right outside the hotel, where D bought two pashmina scarves ($10 each-- such a deal!), we walked up to Columbus Circle, then down into the subway, and rode the "C" train to 81st Street and the American Museum of Natural History.

To be continued...
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