NYC Trip 2021
Over the Thanksgiving
break we took a few days off and went to NYC. Usually we would take off
Thursday and Friday, but we decided to take off M-W and the previous Friday
for a big break. This year has been really hectic. We've earned more than
double our previous best year (2020) and hadn't been on vacation in two
years so it felt like time. I was able to get work for the guys on Friday
and Monday so they only missed two days plus the usual Thanksgiving days,
so I felt better about that.
tradition/goal has been to go to the big college football rivalry games
and we decided that we should keep that alive this time around. When we
consulted our list of games we wanted to do we had Harvard at Yale as one
of the options. I mentioned that it was close to NYC and so we should try
to do that. Meryl found a website that predicts flight costs and it said
that prices would be at their lowest a few weeks before Thanksgiving so
we waited, but the prices kept going up to the point that it imperiled
the possibility of a trip...upwards of $3k for round trip for the four
of us. Luckily I was able to find something much better and it was only
$1300 after all fees for all of us round trip. Meryl found a good deal
in midtown for a hotel as well. I found general admission tickets online
for a reasonable price as well so the trip was set. Meryl was very worried
about the trip...10 days traveling with family, 11 hours of flying, etc....you
know the drill.
Our first day was
mostly about getting from SFO to NYC. Rented a car and drove a bit to a
hotel. Next day was the game and we found good parking for free less than
a mile from the stadium. Having been to many stadiums before with Meryl
and my dad (we went to all the Pac-12 stadiums to see USC play) I've found
that one mile is about the sweet spot for getting a spot for free. If you're
willing to walk then you essentially never have to pay for parking. Just
a couple blocks away people were paying $20 for a spot. In other towns
there may be signs about parking on game day to dissuade you, but that
usually disappears about a mile from the stadium. To me, it's a no brainer
to walk, but some people have lazy families or money burning a hole in
We wanted to go
to Yale because we had spent the night outside of Harvard Stadium during
the baseball roadtrip and had at least seen it before, whereas we had never
seen Yale Bowl. The game day vibe was pretty laid back, as one would expect
from an Ivy League game. The tailgate scene was relatively minimal, but
they did have some mini golf things set up and a bouncy house and a few
fair type games like that. Not a bunch of drinking that I saw. The game
itself was a lot more laid back than the other games we've been to and
I'd say that they knew the least about football. I came in thinking I would
root for Yale because we usually default to the home team and I don't really
care much about either team, but we soon decided that we didn't like Yale
people so much so we rooted for Harvard. It was a back and forth game and
fun for most of the game. It was cold, but the girls were champs and didn't
complain. Army/Navy was definitely the coldest we've been to.
Other rivalry games
we've been to: Sacramento State/UC Davis 2010, Penn State/Ohio State 2011,
Oklahoma/Texas 2012, Oregon State/Oregon 2013, Army/Navy 2017, Arizona/Arizona
State 2019, Harvard/Yale 2021
Meryl waited in
line for some fries while I bought a kelp burger with vegan cheese and
a surprisingly good, and good for you, soda called olipop.. It was surprisingly
good. The fries were a bust because it was cash only (no sign) and Meryl
never has cash. We waited in line for fries later in the game and Merritt
loved raking up the leaves while we were in line. A woman came up to us
and told us that she was impressed that Merritt started raking with her
hands, but wasn't satisfied with the progress she was making so she found
a rake and used that instead. She said she was a teacher and that Merritt
showed great potential (or something like that). As we got towards the
front of the line the lady said "cash only" (which we had learned the hard
way two quarters ago) and a couple people around us groaned. The woman
in front of me wanted me to hold her spot, but I said I could lend her
cash (I always have a few hundred bucks in cash because I like to be prepared).
She sent Meryl the cash via Venmo and then two people behind us repeated
this transaction. So, I was a human ATM for a while there and that was
funny. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I think people don't carry
cash anymore. I hope that the conspiracy theorists on government-backed
crypto are wrong. Briefly, they say that G will move us away from cash
and towards crypto. It will be easier to make disbursements for SS and
a pandemic, so you should love it! However, then they can track how you
spend the money much more easily also. I like cash. After getting to the
front, the fries lady took my order and asked if we lived close by because
she wanted to give Merritt a job raking leaves. We were very popular in
As the game went
on we moved around to different seats...it was a fairly empty game for
a rivalry...lots of empty seats so we could experience different areas.
At one point we went to the Harvard side and they played "Proud to be an
American" over the (crappy) loudspeakers. There was a group of a few people
walking up the stairs who were singing the song while kind of riling up
the crowd to sing along with them. If you're singing along to this song
at a football game I generally assume you're a Republican. I guess that's
where we are as a country, or maybe it's just me. Generally patriotism
and obviously patriotic songs like this are reserved for those on the right,
and that's a shame. At any rate, one of the guys at the top of the steps
who was leading the song and singing every word very enthusiastically said
something god bless Harvard and Yale fans. To which some other guy in the
crowd added "...and (god bless) Donald Trump." To which the original guy
replied, without missing a beat, "wellllll, he's an interesting guy..."
I loved this. The whole interaction and the reaction. He didn't shut the
Trump supporter down, but he also wasn't a Trump supporter himself (despite
my assumption otherwise considering the zeal with which he was singing
god bless the USA). It would be great if we could move toward this. People
who love America and are proud of it without it having to be about a particular
person or turning partisan. People being able to outwardly love America
without the assumption being that they're Republican (again, maybe my fault,
but I'm not so sure).
As the game neared
its end Yale mounted a drive and went on top by 4 and it looked like it
was over for Harvard with about 2 minutes to go. I said maybe we should
head for the exit because Merritt wasn't loving the game at this point
and it looked pretty bad, but Meryl and Zoe wanted to stay (thankfully).
Harvard ended up getting a long pass play to get into the redzone near
where we were sitting and then capped the drive off with a nice pass play
to the back of the endzone for the win. The Yale Bowl was as silent as
I've heard a stadium. I was kind of rubbing it in their faces a bit, which
I feel bad about, but I like being a contrarian and it was a great ending
to the game. After it was officially over Harvard fans rushed the field.
Zoe asked if we could go on the field and I said let's do it so, for the
second time in my life, I went onto the field after a big win. Zoe talked
to some of the Harvard football players and it was all very fun and adorable.
At first she was very tentative and just kind of tapping them on their
pads. I pointed out to her that everyone else there was banging them on
their shoulder pads and smacking their backs hard. I told her to be aggressive
and not worry about hurting them - speak up and hit them harder. So that's
what she did and she really liked interacting with them and going on the
field. When asked later Zoe said this was her favorite part of the trip
and the cold was the worst. Merritt said the leaves were her favorite and
the cold was the worst. That said, they really didn't complain about the
cold much and I there was plenty more that they liked.
Yale played a lot
of white music.
In addition to
the kelp burger they had some good soda that wasn't too bad for you - Olipop.
That night we went
to RI so that Meryl could notch the last state in the union that she hadn't
visited yet. She has now been to all 50 states. The girls have been to
at least 11 states. I hadn't been to 11 states until I was 21.
The next day we
went to an aquarium in CT, but it wasn't much to write about. Pretty small
and nothing compared to Monterey Bay or even the one in Phoenix. Later
in the trip we went to the one in Brooklyn and it, too, wasn't much to
write home about.
We also made a
small tirp to Weir Farm which is an NHP site so the girls got a stamp in
their National Park Service passport and we did a little hike around the
After that we went
onto the main part of the trip which was our time in NYC.
Within hours of
getting to NYC we were on the subway and looking for a good place to eat.
After eating at a fancy restaurant we were looking for a nice place to
get some dessert and somehow lost Merritt. In NYC. In reality, it was only
about 30 seconds. We were standing in place while looking at our phones
for a place to eat dessert and then started walking away, but Merritt didn't
come with us. After less than a minute Zoe asked where Merritt was. I turned
around and didn't see here so I yelled "Merritt" without thinking about
it too much. My only thought was that I didn't want her to be going farther
away from us so hopefully by calling out she'd stop and find us. We quickly
turned back around the corner where we had been standing and there she
was crying because we had left her. It was a little bit of a scare, but
she did great. So did Zoe, considering she's the one who first alerted
us. After a few tears all was good again and we got cookies from Levain
Bakery. I was pretty happy with our family after dealing with this little
bump in the road.
After the bakery
we walked around some more and went to Strand, which is one of the biggest
bookstores you'll see and is famous for this fact. The girls liked it.
That was it for Sunday.
On Monday our first
stop was the world's smallest shop...at least according to the internet.
And it was closed, so I guess it doesn't even count anymore. Basically
the size of a closet and the girls thought it was cool.
Next we went to
Chelsea Market which was nice enough. Then visited the USS Intrepid. Chelsea
is pretty far from the Intrepid so we actually took a Lyft there. Turns
out that was the first time the girls got a Lyft so they were asking a
lot of questions and were very hesitant to get into a stranger's car. They
were giving us weird looks the whole time, so that was pretty funny.
USS Intrepid made
me think a lot about WW2 and America at its best. It's bittersweet because
we're definitely not there anymore, but maybe we'll get it together and
figure things out like we did then.
Next stop was Times
Square which is an obligatory stop in NYC. The girls thought it was amazing.
Doesn't do much for me, but it's fun to see their eyes get wide. One of
the "monks" came up to us and tried to give us some jewelry. I said no
thanks and he insisted. I said no thanks and he insisted. I said no thanks
and he turned to the girls. They took the jewelry that he handed them and
then he turned to me and asked for money. I said no and then he took the
jewelry off the girls. They were more confused than anything else. I had
seen the scam before, but it was funny to explain to the girls what a scam
is and how the various scammers in Times Square operate. The super heroes
who take pictures with you and then ask for money, is another classic.
During these trips
we usually make a list of stuff that we have to see, would like to see,
and could see if there's time. One of the like to see places was the Lego
store and we were nearby so we walked there. Lots of cool Lego assemblies
there. The girls spent a lot of time looking at everything and playing
with the various free play setups they have.
Later that night
we went to Rockefeller Center. They had started putting up the Christmas
tree, but it wasn't done yet. After that we walked to the Empire State
Building. The 3 other times I went to NYC I never had the money to go to
the top of any of the buildings. I was in NYC in August of 2001 and wished
then (and even more after 9/11) that I could go to the top of the World
Trade Center, but, alas, I was broke. So, this time we went to the top
of the Empire State Building at night. For some reason that I can't explain
I felt a really profound feeling being up there. Seeing all the buildings
in the city, and being at the top of a building that was built in the 30s,
and thinking that all those buildings were built by other men in the trades....I
guess I felt some sense of pride, but also a sadness because it was a time
when America could erect a building like that in 13 months. These days
it takes 5 years to plan and 7+ years to build an equivalent building (One
World Trade Center)...not to mention the cost difference. In that moment
I felt both the immense potential of human engineering and collective action
as well as the great disappointment of gridlock and bureaucracy.
The omelet at Friedman's
was a highlight. Not sure what day it was, but it was great. Lots of great
meals throughout the trip. Some nights we would do two dinners just to
capitalize on our time there. Fun times.
Tuesday we visited
the 9/11 memorial. I had been once before and it was a great and profound
experience going there early in the morning with snow on the ground. This
time was different. We didn't do the 9/11 tour, but we did go to the top
of the building to see the view and I think we all agreed that there's
something nicer about the Empire State Building. Those two buildings tell
the tale of the country in some ways. Sure, the new one is bigger and nicer
by some standards. It's got bells and whistles and a faster elevator and
it's sleek and all that. But the old one has a lot more personality and
One goal we had
was to see the Statue of Liberty and also to go to all the five boroughs.
So we got two birds with one stone by taking the State Island Ferry to
SI. Along the way you get about as close to Lady Liberty as you get can
without visiting so that was nice. We didn't do much of anything in SI.
It was cold and the transit is limited so we just hung around where the
ferry building is and then went back on the next ferry.
In lower Battery
there's an old building which claims to be one of the oldest restaurants
in the US. Fraunces Tavern. We had some dinner there and I left my hat
Next stop was Grand
Central Station, which was beautiful to see and another reminder of what
the country once was capable of building when we were on the forefront
of the world's innovation. We did the whispering
gallery thing and the girls thought that it was cool.
We had dinner at
a nice sushi place where the girls got a kids meal that came on a little
boat and included all sorts of good Japanese food. Good meal.
Our last stop for
the night was the NY public library. Zoe loves books and it's a well known
place so we figured a stop was in order. Zoe wanted to see some of the
books so she went to an employee and asked where she could see some books
and the librarian said you have to make a special request for books and
then they're brought over to you....so basically she wasn't going to see
rows and rows of books that she could pick through, like she had wanted.
Merritt heard this news and almost immediately said "So it's a scam library?"
Having learned about the scammers in Times Square, she was on high alert
Wednesday we went
to the American Museum of Natural History. One of the best museums in the
country. There was a bit of a line to get in. Part of this was made worse
by the fact that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was in its setup stage
adjacent to the museum. Outside the museum they have a statue of Teddy
Roosevelt on horseback with a Native American and African by his side.
Apparently they will most likely be removing this statue in the future.
To their credit, they had a little display with people debating what should
be done with the statue - leave, leave with some contextualization (my
hours there we took a subway up to Harlem to visit there. We saw the Apollo
Theater and Langston Hughes' house. His house is just a random house and
I don't remember if it even has a plaque outside. We walked a ways to get
there and when we saw it was just another row house, Merritt sighed "we
came all that way just for a house?!"
We went back south
to Central Park and stopped by Columbia University. Zoe says she wants
to go there. It's a nice little campus in a great city so I guess it's
a desirable place. I think RBG went there.
Next we surprised
the girls with a horse ride through Central Park. This definitely wasn't
a budget vacation. We talked with the guy who led us on the tour and he
was nice and told us about all the sites and the usual stuff. We enjoyed
the clip clop. Thankfully he didn't feed Rusty any beans from Costco. Afterwards
he took our pictures and we had another guy take a picture of us with him.
He said that was the first time anyone had done that. He was a nice guy
so it seemed like a nice thing to have his picture to remember him.
The next day was
Thanksgiving so we went to see the Macy's parade. Tough to get a good spot
unless you get there early, but we stood inside an adjacent building to
watch for a while. The girls liked it more than I did.
After that we went
to the NY Aquarium, which I don't remember that much. It was open on Thanksgiving
so that was a plus. We had chocolate from the parade for breakfast and
Dunkin for lunch. Not much was open on Thanksgiving and we're not great
parents, I guess. haha
We walked around
Coney Island a bit and then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a nice
bridge, but I think I like the Manhattan Bridge more. Lots of people on
the bridge taking elaborate selfies.
We did Thanksgiving
dinner at some fancy place where we had reservations and then walked through
Chinatown afterwards. The girls negotiated on a lower price for some pop
it purses they bought with their own money. A true Chinatown experience.
Friday we went
to the Museum of Math in the morning. Nice lesser known place.
We walked over
to Chelsea where we saw the High Line and the newer Hudson Yards development
over there. Pretty nice overall. The Vessel
was neat. Dylan's Candy Bar was nice.
We went over to
the new Yankee Stadium since we hadn't seen the new one. Couldn't get inside,
but we walked around it. Again, the new stuff just doesn't have the charm
of the older stuff. We've lost our soul.
Bronx Zoo was the
next stop and something that Meryl had purchased tickets for prior to the
vacation. They do a zoo lights display. It was pretty good, but honestly
the Oakland version is even better, which is surprising.
On a whim we decided
to ditch the rest of the zoo lights and book it down to Penn Station and
watch a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. We purchased tickets online
and ran to catch the subway down there. Made it only a few minutes late.
Fun game against the Suns. Crowd was into it and it's a pretty good venue.
People go there (mostly) to watch the game, not to be seen and buy $15
beers. Took a while to get up to the top where our seats were. I was singing
"All the Way Up" (Fat Joe) while we went up the never-ending stairs.
Saturday was our
last full day in NYC. It started with Meryl feeling unappreciated and deciding
that she was going to spend the day by herself. So we had a little argument
in the middle of the street about that. Not fun.
Went to Brooklyn
to see Adam Yauch (of the Beastie Boys) Park. After his death the park
got named after him so it was nice to see that and think about his life
for a bit. We also made up from our fight around here so I'd like to think
his Buddhist healing was working its magic on us. Good guy.
Next we went to
the old Ebbets Field, which is now housing projects. They have a plaque
where home plate used to be. Pretty sad state of affairs. Housing projects
are hardly ever fun places to be.
Had some great
pizza slices at a classic Brooklyn pizza place. Two very Brooklyn guys
worked there and they liked the girls. They had regulars coming and going
and it was exactly like the movies.
Museum was next and a pretty good place. Brooklyn Museum was after that.
We did a lot of walking as things are a lot more spread out over there.
Our last stop of
the day was at the Brooklyn Nets game. This is definitely more where the
hipsters hang out to see each other and been seen. Fans are less into the
Sunday we flew
This is one of
the best vacations ever.
They say that if
you have a flat tire on the side of the road an East Coast person will
come over and tell you all the ways that you're fucking up changing the
tire and give you a hard time about how you should have had more air in
the tires and will grumble the whole time while helping you change your
tire. A West Coast person will see you and tell you how sorry they are
and how much it sucks that this happened to you and then say "hope your
day gets better" as they walk away. I'm not sure if it's quite that simple,
but there's some truth in that. And, in this way, I'm much more of an East
Coast guy. I will definitely help people out, but I'm also not going to
smile about it and I'm definitely going to think about the ways in which
they should have done this or that to not have this be an issue in the
first fucking place.