We’re doing New York, Heaven can wait

A ferry ride around the Manhatton island; a walk from the Circle Line pier to Rockefeller Center via Times Square and Broadway; and then back to the Port Authority bus terminal, by tri-cycle rickshaw. This sums up our New York visit. There may well be a million other ways of doing the city.

We – my wife and I – wanted to get a ‘feel’ of the place; had only a day in which to get it.  And we couldn’t have done so much, in so short a time, without the company of our gracious host, Mrs Shyamala Ramaprasad of Millington, NJ. What pleased us more was her saying that she really enjoyed it. Which is something, coming as it does, from someone who must have been to NY countless times escorting guests from India, in her 38 years of stay in New Jersey.

A sidewalk neon-signboard at Times Sq.said, ‘Heaven Can Wait’. Dead right they are. For we had things to do first – such as hagggle with the rickshaw driver over the fare to the Port Authority bus terminal. He demanded an outrageous $25, only to bring it down to $20; and I beat it down further, to $15. Which was still, they said, a few dollars more than doing it by a taxi, if we could get one that is – at Rockefeller Center around 5.30 pm on a weekday.

As it turned out, we paid the pedicab driver five dollars more ($20), for the experience of riding a rickshaw down Fifth Ave., and for the photo opportunity. Mrs Prasad said this was her first rickshaw ride through the Times Square.  The three of us, squeezed into a space for two on the tri-cycle, must have been a sight, judging from the number of tourist cameras that were focused on us as we were pedalled through Broadway.

The three-hour ferry-ride that took us around Manhattan gave us a seagull’s eye-view of the sky-scrapered city; and a glimpse of New York’s backyard – the Subway yard cluttered with junked railway carriages, and Pier 76 where NYDP holds cars they tow away for parking in no-parking zones in the city.

Our guide on board  – Mike Jason (or was it, Jack Mason?) – was so full of trivia on NY life that he brought to life steel and glass paneled buildings on the New York skyline. He pointed to the high-rises that housed Barbara Striesand, Dustin Hoffman, Henry Kissinger; and film studio where they shot widely watched TV serials – Law & Order, Sex and the City, Sopranos and what-have-you.  Jason, our guide, pointed to a building where Nicole Kidman bought an apartment recently.

We passed by a couple of man-made waterfalls. The first one wasn’t found working; what we got to see was a scaffolding in steel, rising upto 100 ft or more. And that wasn’t much of a sight. My host, Mr Ramaprasad, referred to the corrosive effect of these man-made waterfalls, on the steel fittings of the structures in the vicinity. The falls have been raised in the Hudson river, which has a fair measure of salt.  The Statue of Liberty, moulded in copper, has gone green.

Goldman Sachs, said our guide, pointing to a green-glass panelled high-rise that had 89 floors. As we ferried past Pier 76 he noted that here was where the New York Police brought all cars they towed away for wrong parking. They had brought in a thousand cars that morning, he said (as if he had checked it out earlier in the day), and their owners would have to pay a fine of $280 to reclaim their vehicles. Unclaimed cars are dumped into the Hudson river!!!  Our guide is apparently given to spins.

What they do dump into the high seas, I gather, are junked Subway cars. Our ferry passed by a barge laden with junked rail carriages, ready to be taken to the high seas. Abandoned rail carriages resting on the seabed, they say, is conducive for growth of sea-weeds and other forms of marine vegetation that fish feed on.

Jason, who kept up his chatter for much of the three-hour run, appeared never short of trivia. Pointing to a riverside building, he said Leonardo Dicaprio had recently acquired an apartment there. The place was not very far from an abandoned pier, where the Titanic was to have docked, had the ship completed it maiden voyage (1912). The pier attracts Titanic buffs visiting NY. Leonardo , in case you dont know, figured in Titanic, the movie.

Pointing towards another high-rise, our guide observed that it had been home to Marilyn Manroe while she was married to author Arthur Miller. And then there was the penthouse Frank Sinatra had owned. We took Jason’s word for it. In the absence of anyone on board who cared to contest his stories Jason had the floor, all to himself, to spin all he wanted. There are 25,000 restaurants and eating joints in city, said Jason, adding he had been able to eat only in 23,000 so far.

As our ferry passed by Gracie’s Mansion – official residence of the NY mayor – Jason mentioned that the present mayor Bloomberg didn’t live there, and used his official residence mainly to recieve visiting dignitaries. He wondered if the mayor’s office had been informed about our visit (those on ferry) – “If he were in the mansion today, Mr Bloomberg would have waved at us from his balcony”. Gracie’s mansion, behind the tree-cover on shoreline, was hardly visible from our ferry.


5 Responses

  1. As some one from Mysore and now a Newyorker, I stumbled on this post.
    Do you need to take a rickshaw? It is human misery to say the least. I do not know why rickshaws are allowed here.
    $25 for the poor guy to peddle away keeping two adults(?) inside is not much. You should not have bargained in typical Indian fashion.
    Having read this post, I looked at the back posts by you. Have you met American families why you are here and chatted with them? Would have given a wealth of information to put it in a blog.

  2. Wonderful piece,GVK. Its like we’ve done part of the trip with you and Jason. and very enterprising to hire of all things, a rickshaw in NY! Nice thinking out of the box to actually see the sights (and be seen:-)
    Now we know what to do if we have only one day in NY

  3. Had time to come up to your blog GVK and great to find you enjoying your US sojourn.
    Have fun and have to the hilt – heaven can wait!
    I guess you wont be in Mysore for Dussehra. Cheers!

  4. that was a good one gvk – so pedicabs are in NY too..well the profession they once called the worst in history is soon becoming hep and cool eh? sometime back i had written about the airport pedicabs if you recall.San Diego also has this vibrant community..

  5. […] departing from Southampton this April is already booked fully.  The tourist guide on board a New York  ferry boat that goes around  Manhattan  made it a point to show us an abandoned pier near 18th Street that […]

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