Friday, November 2, 2012

May 2012 - NYC with Johnsons

So, back in May, the Johnsons were living in Norwalk, CT. And it wasn't such a great stint for them. In fact, it was REALLY rough. One day, Dave and I were instant messaging and I could tell he was feeling pretty stressed, so we hatched a plan.

The plan involved our two families meeting halfway for dinner and us bringing back Dave and the boys for a couple of days for some R&R. They took us up on the offer in about 1.8 seconds and packed their bags at an alarmingly fast rate.

We met in Bethlehem, PA for DELICIOUS Indian food (we really love eating food with the Johnsons - it's an experience EVERY time) and sent Christie on her way without enough cash for the toll -- who would've thought the George Washington Bridge would be 12 bucks?!? Banner moment.

While they were here, we rested, talked lots, and ate well. We also went to a minor league baseball game (with fireworks!) at the same place we'd attended together the year before. It's an annual tradition we have with our homeschool group - there is definitely more playing than baseball watching, but it's always sooooo relaxed and fun.

Me and My Honey

Good Friends

Mark and Dave

Fireworks. Ooh . . .

The next day, our family together with Dave and his boys went to CT to meet up with Christie, who had been working and sleeping after her shifts. And then we . . .

Went to the train station . . .  (Stamford, CT)

And boarded the train. 
Me and Christie looking so sweet!

 We sat across from these clowns.

 And across from these four.

We had a GREAT time on the ride there.
We can talk and laugh and talk and laugh and talk . . . 

We got to Grand Central Station . . .

 and took a family picture.

We stepped outside and used our street smarts to avoid getting taken for a ride by the first hot dog vendor we saw. You see, he wanted to charge us $3/hot dog. There were 8 of us and he saw "tourist" written all over us. Well, we're not new to New York (Johnsons were, but they're from Arkansas, so they have street cred, yo), so we knew better than that. Mark walked to the next hot dog vendor down the street and then walked toward us waving us to go to that guy. The first guy suddenly remembered that his hot dogs were $2 (just like the second vendor!). It's a New York Miracle!

 I love this picture - it is so Folson.
Damn, we miss these guys when they're not around.

 We walked a few blocks to the Empire State Building so we could climb to the top. Only this time, all of our previous NYC experience was not enough to save us from the vultures who awaited unsuspecting Empire State Building visitors that day. We were greeted by official-looking people (they had lanyards!) who explained to us how they could personally lead us to the top, help us avoid the lines by getting us to the front of the line, AND this all included a ride on a simulator that would show us scenes from the whole city. Sounds great, right? Wrong.

 Here we are at the first stop. Our personal escort offered to take a picture of us all here. See that statue behind us? It's not the actual Statue of Liberty. This is where we all began thinking, "Wait a minute, something doesn't seem right here. I think we've been had."
 Here we are at our next stop in front of the NYC skyline! Another group picture, but that backdrop? Also not real. This is where we reflect on the guide's comment during his introductory speech when he said, "We're not allowed to take tips, so when I get you to the front of the line, if you wouldn't mind hiding it inside your palm as you shake my hand, I'd appreciate it." Yeah, we were more than a little slow on this one.
Oh! Oh! Here we are in Central Park! Nooooooo, you sillies! That's not actually Central Park. That's painted on the wall! I know! It totally looks real, right? Yeah, see in this picture, we're now pissed. Dave is on the phone calling up the Empire State Building to verify the line wait time. Sure enough, it was significantly shorter than what our huckster escort had told us. And. AND. We were now waiting in an even longer line ourselves for that stupid simulator ride. Oh, and while I was riding it? 1979 called and said they wanted their ride back. I tried to be mindful and in the moment, taking in the herky-jerky views of the city on the rickety, old screen, but I couldn't help wondering if the ride was going to fall apart, nor could I stop thinking about what a fool I'd been to buy this guy's speech and hand over our credit card in agreement. Not one of our smarter moments.
 I should point out, however, that we did get to meet King Kong and I don't think that would've happened if we'd gone the normal route instead of this vastly-superior "Skyride" route. Idiots.

I do want to add that even though they cheated us out of our money, lied to us, tricked us, led us on a winding, bizarre, painted journey, and made it all take longer than it would've had we gone the normal route (one of the selling points for us on this one was the time-saving advantage of bypassing the long line - we didn't realize that it meant bypassing it by going into an even longer one - grrrr), the joke's on them, because they didn't know who they were messing with. 

My father-in-law says I'm an activist. Whatever I am, you better believe that while I didn't let this experience affect my day (I may have been duped, but I knew enough to not let it ruin my good time!), we did do our research the next day. The Internet is FILLED with complaints about this company. We called our credit card company when we got home and they investigated it and refunded us all of our money as part of their inherent fraud protection program. We are SO happy about that. So, technically, we got to go to the top of the Empire State Building for free. We even told our credit card company that we originally had intended to pay to go to the top and were still willing to pay that amount and they told us not to worry about it. Weeha! Take THAT, Skyride Swindlers!
 So, here we are at the top - me and my girl!
My Sweetie and my boy!

 The view. See that building being erected straight ahead?
That's the Freedom Tower rising up from Ground Zero
where the Twin Towers used to be.



 Love this picture of the kids

 All of us at the top of the Empire State Building

 Kissing in the lobby, because, well, why not?

 Cute kids!

Now that I'm done ranting, I'd like to direct you to Dave's post that has a one-sentence-fragment mention of being swindled while I have carried on and on and on here. So uncharacteristic of Dave.

Okay, so from there, we went across the street to some tourist shops that sell tchotchkes and trinkets . . . 

 . . . and made the kids do this.

Then, we all took cabs Amazing Race-style down to John's Pizzeria in Greenwich Village where we were seated right away and carved our names in a seat.

Eating at John's

Well fed and setting out to explore the village at night - THAT was an adventure!

Next stop was soooooooo cool - we went to the apartment building where every one of the Friends lived at one time or another. "I'll be there for you!!!!!!!" We were GIDDY about being there together. We 4 adults are BIG Friends fans and super nerdy about quoting it all the time, so this was a real "Friends" Thrill on many levels.

"OMG! We're in front of the 'Friends' building! We're totally geeking out on this!"

The neighborhood/area is gorgeous there.

Such a cool vibe in Greenwich Village.

We also took a little walk down to the theater where Joey does all his plays, because we're geeky like that. Yeah, I pretty much love us.

And then! What trip to Greenwich Village is complete without a stop at Magnolia's Bakery? We don't even like cake and yet we LOVE these cupcakes!! We all got some deliciousness and then ate them across the street at a little park in the village.

I totally stole this picture from Dave's blog (though you really should go over there and read his version of this day, just for kicks). Our taxi drivers were INSANE and we went RIGHT past each other right near Madison Square Garden. I didn't get my camera out quickly enough to get a picture of the Johnsons in their cab, but they got this one of us - so cool:

So, this is us on our way to Times Square at night - which really is the best way to enjoy Times Square. There's nothing quite like it. It's SO bright - you have to experience it to believe it.

 I love this picture of our two families!

 More kissing, because, well, why not?

 This is a relatively new Times Square money-making gimmick. I don't remember these guys on any of our past visits to the Big Apple. People dress up as Elmo, the Statue of Liberty, Power Rangers, etc. and you get all excited, so they stop to take a picture with you, and then charge you. Tourists, beware! (But especially beware of those Skyride Jerks!!)

Tourist Trap #479 - I could've totally done without this, but the kids had heard about the indoor Ferris Wheel and really wanted to check it out. They're in the M&M car. Well, 3 of them. Thing 2 was not interested. He and I share an aversion to Ferris Wheels in general.

 Cool, but very gimmicky. Times Square itself is so much cooler than this.

 Walking back to the Train Station

So, we got home EXHAUSTED but happy with our good, full day in the city. It was wonderful to share it together! We are so on the same page and so comfortable hanging out all together that everything is an adventure and fun, particularly when it comes to food and eating out.

The next day the men made us a delicious Mother's Day brunch and we hung out until our family headed back to PA to get back to the grind. These get togethers do the soul good. We heart our friends.

Stacy and Christie - Happy Mother's Day!
(Dave's photo bombing this one).


Dr. Mark said...

I think I'm going to start selling tickets to the top of our house for an insane amount of money. All I need is a lanyard . . .

I think that may have been King Kong from the original movie. So lifelike!

Hey! You didn't mention that every surface of wood in John's was carved by someone at some point in time. You make us sound like common vandals! Also, the John's Pizzeria in the Village is way cooler than the one near Times Square. Only we would take a $20 round-trip taxi ride to the Village to see where the "Friends" gang all lived.

Awesome post! What a fun day (into the night)!

Dave Johnson said...

What a whirlwind weekend! I think your version is better than mine because of the Skyride rant. I have taught you well, young padawan. Go forth and bring relevant, pithy rants to the masses in their apathetic, ignorant, laziness.

I'd seen most of the other stuff, so the Village/Friends/John's part was my favorite - even though the kids were a little "so what?" They got to eat cupcakes, so it's all good.

I love having another family to just go hang out with anywhere and not have to worry about anything. And food. FOOD. FOOOOOOD.

Emily Foley said...

Holy cow, you guys are awesome! I could never be that spontaneous. Your trip sounds like fun (minus the swindlers) but even that makes for a good story, so it can't be ALL bad.

Jimmy said...

I sometimes think you and the Johnsons are trying to prove that there's not such thing as having too much fun. What an awesome adventure!

Dr. Mark said...

I think we and the Johnsons keep proving that you can always have more fun and never have quite enough.

Boquinha said...

"I think I'm going to start selling tickets to the top of our house for an insane amount of money. All I need is a lanyard . . ." Bwahahaha!

" I have taught you well, young padawan. Go forth and bring relevant, pithy rants to the masses in their apathetic, ignorant, laziness." Bwahahahaha!

Emily, good point.

Jimmy and Mark, something like that.

Man, writing this post really made me miss them more. :(