NYC Journey – Days 2 and 3

The last blog post was about the first day of traveling in New York. Due to a lack of time, the decision was made to group day 2 and 3 into the same blog post.  Here are a few highlights of the two days.

Day Two’s First Stop – The High Line

After the first day of walking around nonstop, I woke up fully rested, and a little soar. After a few stretches and deep determination, I ventured out into the snow to walk the High Line. For those who do not know, the High Line is a reclaimed train rail system that displaces public art and is a beautiful walk way.

The first panaramic photo is from 11th Ave and 4th St. Due to the snowy conditions, the rest of this side of the High Line was closed. 

While walking to the other end of the High Line, there were nice pieces of art and political commentary.  Here are just a few examples:

The other end of the High Line ends in the Meat Packing District.

Once departing from the High Line, it was time to grab lunch.  Since I was in the Meat Packing District, it only made sense to grab a decent burger.

Near the exit of the High Line was a Bill’s Bar and Burgers location. Though I asked for a medium rare burger, the staff must have misheard and cooked it medium well.  Other than the overcooked meat, the meal was really good.  The pretzel bun was a nice touch; plus the pickles were a hybrid sweet-dill style. The chili on the chili fries came with chunks of ham, and the strawberry shake really hit the spot.

Madison Square Garden – AKA Mecca

The hostel in which I said was only a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, so it is only natural that I would have to check out The Garden.  Lucky for me, the Big East Championship was in town.  The bad news, Friday night’s semi final games were almost sold out.  By the time I got to the ticket stands, the only tickets left were $120…yikes!!

So, what’s a guy to do?  Haggle with a scalper.  The first couple of scalpers were a little too shady, but I finally found a man who was willing to bargain.  After talking him down $40, I was able to get a ticket before the first game started.

In the main lobby area, Villanova’s pep band was playing some great classic fight songs.

The first game saw Villanova battle Seaton Hall.  During the first half of the game both teams looked sloppy. Missed shots, missed opportunities both offensively and defensively. It was surprising to see Villanova play this way; but then again, I hadn’t watched a full Villanova game this season, so what do I know about it?

What’s funny is that a guy sitting in the same row as me wore a Villanova hat, but cheering for Seton Hall. Not sure if he was drunk, lost a bet, or a was a last minute band wagoner.

During the second half of the ball game ‘Nova came out stronger and Seton Hall started cracking under the pressure.  Even though Villanova got the win, both the Seaton Hall and Villanova fans sitting next to me were very respect of one another.  In fact, it was a pleasure and a treat sitting next to these fans.  I only wish I could say at the same about the next game.

What is it about Xavier fans!?!?!  Maybe it was just the three rows of fans that sat next to me, but DAMN!  They took annoying fanbase to a whole new level.

Seriously, these fans were worse than “Whoo Girls” at an all you can drink ladies night event! Every shot, and I mean every shot made by Xavier, in the first 8 minutes of the game, this group stood up, hands in the air, and reacted like their team won the Big Dance.

As you’re reading this, you may be saying, “Big Jer, you may be right, but it’s only a few friends.” No, this wasn’t a few friends.  Again, this group spanned three rows. THREE ROWS!!!  Here are a few examples of what transpired with this group:

  • 6 minutes into the game, the group talked about one of their friends that had a meltdown before the game.  I mean, could you blame the man for a meltdown.
  • While one guy went to get beer for him and his girl, the girl wasted no time hitting on the “friend” sitting beside her. It got so bad that I felt like I was an investigator on Cheaters!
  • On guy bragged about watching a couple making out for a long period of time.
  • Oh, and they all drank their beers from a straw! A freakin’ straw. Though I stopped drinking months ago, never (and I mean NEVER) did I drink beer from a straw.

During halftime of the Xavier game, the fan group continued to grow and starting merging into my row.  Deciding it was best for my mental health, I left and decided to walk around the lobby of the Garden.  Here are some great items I saw walking around the world’s most famous arena:

Day Three – No Sleep Till Brooklyn

For the last day in NYC, I expanded my geographical boundaries, and took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge.  A good friend had recommended a pizza restaurant located underneath the bridge.

Grimaldi’s is a Brooklyn staple and a must for anyone visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. Their pizzas are cooked in a coal oven, which is appropriate given my West Virginian Italian roots.   As you can see, the place has a classic pizzeria theme.

When visiting Grimaldi’s be sure to bring your appetite; the restaurant does not offer pizza by the slice. Here are a couple of photos from inside Grimaldi’s.

After lunch, I walked around the area to let the pizza settled before crossing the bridge.  There were some great looking murals painted near the Brooklyn Bridge.

The view from dock outside of Grimaldi’s was awesome, and, of course, I couldn’t resist a typical tourist selfie.

While walking to the bridge, I was able to meet two young men from Japan.  They were visiting New York and had been in the city for less than three months.  Though these men had been living in the city, this was their first walk to the Brooklyn Bridge…in fact, it was their first time to Brooklyn.  The two men were surprised to hear I was only in town for a few days, but when I explained the flight is only two hours, the quickly understood.  What surprised them even more, was that I visited the city alone.  They applauded me for the courage to visit the city solo, and when I again reiterated the two hour flight, they didn’t flinch with their assessment of courage.  I, in turn, applauded them for their courage to travel to another country and live in it for nearly three months.

Walking across the bridge was incredible.  Even thought it was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it was still a great walk.  The see the people, look at the cars driving below me, and feeling a strong spirit of community was a lot to take in for me.


Closing Notes

Though there are other things I did at the end of my trip, this felt like a great way to end the story.  Not to sound too cheesy, but this vacation opened my eyes in different ways than planned.  In fact, the only plan I had for this trip was to take a few days and get away.  What it turned into was an opportunity to clear my head and gain new experiences.

If you have ever thought about taking a solo vacation somewhere, but never have, I strongly recommend it.


New York – Day 1 of a Beginners Guide

While having lunch with an acquaintance a few weeks ago, it came to my attention that traveling to New York to Knoxville is currently inexpensive.  After conducting research, and accepting a couple of days off from work, I decided to visit The Big Apple.

Never traveling to New York before, I also decided to document each day.  When I visited France and Italy right after High School, I took a journal with me, but didn’t document a large part of the events.  That lack of documentation is something I regret, so I decided not to make the same mistake again.

Not only is this the first time I’ve been to New York; it is also the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation this far all by myself.  No traveling partners, no friends to visit in the city…all alone.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve traveled alone for work related conferences and events, but to travel for leisure alone

Years ago, this type of trip would have scared me to death.  The fear of being alone somewhere new, the idea of not sharing it with somebody always caused me not to do it.  No longer having that type of fear, I went ahead and booked a flight and found a hostel.

Planning and Landing

Allegiant Air flies out of Knoxville and lands in Newark. The flights are set three days a week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.  For this trip, I decided a Thursday to Sunday mini-vacation would be perfect.

Upon landing in Newark, it is really easy to find the air train to the train stop at the airport.

Standard selfie in the hostel bedroom

The train ride to Penn. Station is roughly 40 minutes and allows you to see rustic, urban views of New Jersey, plus a cool skyline of New York City.

Knowing I was going to be at Penn. Station, I was able to find an extremely affordable hostel via airbnb in Chelsea. The hostel cost less than $80 a night, and is conveniently located on 8th Ave.  In fact, this hostel takes all the profits from the hostel and uses it to help feed the homeless.  How cool is that! To learn more about the hostel, visit their aibnb site – Chelsea Retreat Rooms.

Day 1

Once I unpacked at the hostel, it was time for a late lunch. After searching online for the best pizza in Chelsea, I came across Pizza Suprema. Their margarita pizza was awesome. So awesome that I ate it before having the chance to do the  obligatory eating a pizza selfie! 

While eating, I doubled checked the weather and one thing was certain, my first day in town was going to be the warmest. With that in mind, I decided to walk to Time Square and soak in the touristy sites.

Walking to Time Square was great! In fact, I had a stereotypical event happened, in that an up and coming drag queen offer to “buy” one cigarette from me. She then went on to tell me about her show and mentioned a “private” viewing.

I don’t have any photos of Time Square to really share. Maybe later on in my trip. Hell, if you want to see photos of Time Square, there’s always Google!

Later that evening I was able to take in two great shows, and I’m not talking Broadway…or the private show that was mentioned earlier.

Two Night Stops

The Comedy Cellar is a place I’ve wanted to visit for years.  All the greats have performed there and I wanted to experience it first hand. Since I didn’t make a reservation, I had to wait with all the other slackers and procrastinators to see if there would be any room left for the show. While waiting to see if my name would be called, a traveling drug dealer shouted at me between his blunt hits –

Get your black eyes to stop avoiding my black face. I don’t have any cocaine for you.

Please note, I didn’t ask this man for any drugs, nor was I looking for any.

What I was looking for was a way to get into the 8pm show.  Luckily for me, I made friends with door man, and secured the last open spot for the show!

The lineup was stellar. An Emmy award winner writer for Last Week Tonight, a writer for last years Emmy’s…the list goes on and on. Plus the food was okay.

After getting my laughs in for the night, I walked on down to Smalls Live to catch the 10pm show. With a one drink minimum, I loaded up on coffee and relaxed while the group played some killer jazz. The first act consisted of a pianist, xylophone player, soprano saxophonist, tenor saxophonist stand up bass player, and drummer. The pianist was a Brit and looked like a stand in for Ed Begley, Jr. the xylophonist looked like the hippest dude in the room, and all the women chasing him during intermission was living proof of that statement. The drummer was the front man and has been coming to Smalls since 98.

Enough rambling for day one.

Any suggestions for the rest of the trip?

Diversification: Fast Food Style

Last week, the Associated Press released a news article about White Castle restaurants selling alcohol. According to the article, there is a White Castle concept restaurant in Indiana that sells wine and beer and it is apparently doing so well that White Castle is considering expanding wine and beer to its two other concept restaurants, one of which will be in Tennessee.

But White Castle isn’t the first fast food company to launch alcohol sales. Earlier this year Burger King, and Sonic both added alcohol to select locations in Florida. American owned fast food businesses have been doing this for years in other countries, and it has now spread to the states.

Fast food has always been dominated by the golden arches of McDonald’s; which continues to advertise and cater to children. This has been a successful push for McDonald’s and they have shown no signs of changing their focus anytime soon. Burger King, Sonic and now White Castle have realized this is a battle they cannot win and are spending their efforts targeting an older audience. For the past few years, each business has spent time and money shifting their focus to adults

  • Though White Castle didn’t finance Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, they did embrace the movie by having collectible Harold and Kumar cups at all of their locations during the film’s release. It marks the first time an R-rated comedy is advertised on fast food containers.
  • Burger King had “The King” in commercials which was meant to target males 18 – 35. Earlier this year, Burger King announced plans to shift the focus of marketing toward health conscious mothers.
  • Sonic has a “Happy Hour” that allows customers to receive half-price fountain drinks and real fruit slushes.

Business leaders may want to take a good look at what these three fast food chains are doing. By adding beer and wine to their menus, these restaurants are strengthening their commitment to their target audience while adding a new stream of revenue. In a time where businesses are trying to find additional income producing outlets, White Castle, Burger King and Sonic may have found a simple, easy way to accomplish this. Are there ways your industry can increase income by adding one simple concept that already fits into your business model? Working in the banking industry, we are currently challenged to find new ways to retain current customers and expand our services to increase customer loyalty and income. Since our main audience is business owners, we have branched out to offer payroll options and specialized lending options. Though the payroll option has not picked up much steam, our lending options have definitely allowed us to stand out with business owners.

But enough about silly banking, let’s get back to the main point: Will adding booze increase sales and create a new buzz for these fast food burger joints? If these restaurants offer beer at locations near you, will you frequent them more? I wonder if a sonic car hop will ask to see my id when I purchase a nice Merlot with my cheddar peppers?

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