Saturday we moved hotels, since we had a good deal at the Westin Times Square – thanks to my brother’s awards points and generosity. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we entrusted the front desk with our corned beef from Stage Deli and my medication, which they promised to refrigerate. Then we headed off on the Q train to Coney Island.
It was a cold and rainy day, so Coney Island was desolate. But we didn’t care, and neither did all of the kids on the train who completely lost their minds when the Cyclone came into view.
Our first stop, Nathan’s, was no trouble to find at all. I was surprised to discover a Kenny Rogers Roaster sandwiched between the hot dog and seafood counters. I went for a chili dog and a dog with peppers.
The mustard is so good in New York – this photo did not turn out well, but the mustard really makes NY dogs. Nathan’s was not the same as the Nathan’s you buy in the market. They were flavorful with a nice snap and an explosion of fat. I ate them both. Bob had a cheesesteak, but I was focused on my hot dogs. Did I mention the fries? I can see why the birds swarm this place.
I had also ordered frog’s legs and a lobster roll from the seafood counter, expecting to pick a little at everything. I sabotaged myself by wolfing down those two dogs. The frog’s legs weren’t nicely cut into drumettes as they had been in Paris, and the bright daylight didn’t hide the unappetizing black veins. They had also cooled already, so the frog’s legs just weren’t the same. Plus I couldn’t get the word “articulated” out of my head as I stared at them. The lobster roll was more like lobster-flavored mayonnaise, so we just picked at it.
We wandered through the rides, some of which are in Astroland and some of which aren’t. Astroland has been the subject of much debate as it is slated for demolition to make way for condos. Locals are up in arms about it, even though they promise to spare the historic Cyclone. Most of the rides are carnival rides that could easily be packed up and relocated, but it’s about tradition.
I loved the trippy artwork, especially the clowns. There were also a lot of devils. And dead rappers. It was a little like Thugland.
Bob went on the Cyclone first so I could take pictures and he could report back on its scariness. He said it wasn’t scary, but it was really painful.
I picked The Breakdancer as the next ride, since I love spinning and I had never been on that one before. It was dedicated to Ant, “Loved by Many, Hated by Few, Respected by All.” I can only hope when I’m gone I am hated by few. As the ride started, the MC started shouting, “This one is for you, Big A!” I realized, “Uh oh, this ride is in tribute to his dead friend. It is going to be one hell of a ride.” And it was.
After a few intense minutes of spinning, I decided to video the ride. It was really hard struggling against the G forces to get out my camera and I gripped it in my fists. After awhile, the ride switched to spin the other way. It seemed to go on forever. This ride was never, ever going to end. The hot dogs in my stomache considered relocating. The MC asked if anyone wanted off, but no way was I going to wimp out after not going on the Cyclone. So we started all over again. Spinning, spinning, spinning; it wouldn’t stop. I knew I was going to live out the rest of my life on that ride. I was going to die on that ride. Hated by few.
The video I took lasts for a full minute, and it was less than a third of one spin in one direction. So at the very least we rode for 9 full minutes. That is a conservative estimate. After the ride, we both had to sit down and we were not feeling so good. The hot dogs decided they had enough and started a fistfight.
We walked along unsteadily as the booths and rides started shutting down. I had hoped to go for pierogie while we were in a Russian neighborhood, but I knew if smelled cabbage I was going to hurl. So we jumped on the train back to Manhattan.
When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered they had lost my medication. After an hour of freaking out, it was finally found. Bob returned to the room triumphantly, and I asked, “Where’s the corned beef?” I will not even try to describe the look he gave me. Our room was fantastic, the view was spectacular, and I was sad that the experience of checking into a room like that had been marred with worry. I called the manager to get the name of the desk clerk who hadn’t been very nice about the whole thing. Instead he let me complain to him for about 5 minutes, then asked, “What can we do to make it up to you?”
“What are you offering?”
“Have you had dinner tonight?”
“No, we have been too busy freaking out.”
“May I offer dinner at Shula’s, our steakhouse?”
“Well, we were meeting a friend for dinner. Would dinner for three be pushing it?”
“It wouldn’t be pushing it at all.”
And so instead of heading down to SoHo as arranged, we ended up calling our friend John to come to Times Square for a free steak dinner.
The atmosphere was warm and cozy in the dim restaurant. The restaurant theme was the Dolphins’ 1972 winning season. Kind of a specific theme. In spite of that, the decor was tasteful and more reminiscent of a supper club than a sports bar. A bottle of champagne started at 130 dollars, and we decided to not completely take advantage of the hotel manager. John and I each had a 20-dollar glass of the champagne, but stopped at one and switched to beer. My mother always taught me to order from the middle of the menu when being treated, and we all chose steaks in the 40-dollar range, even though they had one for 80.
For starters, John had a bisque, which I didn’t sample since he had a cold. Bob had something that has completely slipped my mind and I ordered lobster cocktail. I didn’t know yet that in New York a lobster cocktail is comprised of one half a Maine lobster in its shell. So it was kind of a decadent meal after all. The lobster was thrillingly cold and sweet.
Our steaks were high quality and cooked to perfection. The sides turned out to be big enough for the whole table. I could have lived on leftovers for two days. The crab mac and cheese kicked total ass and I will be hunting down the Shula’s in LA for that specific dish. John’s twice-baked potato was rich with cream and cheese, and Bob’s lobster mashed potatoes were unexpectedly good.
The damage was around 360 bucks after tip, so the hotel still got off cheaper than if they had comped us a night. One hour of my worry is certainly pricy. While Bob waited for the leftovers, John and I hung around the landing where a lot of people wanted to know if they could help us.
We walked around Times Square to work off the heavy food, and hit Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum. I love visiting them when I travel because every museum has different stuff. John took exception with calling things “unbelievable” when they were just “unfamiliar”. “Can you believe people would be SO STUPID to think masks ward off evil spirits???” I have to concede that there is a really patronizing tone in a lot of the commentary. I will still happily pay 20 bucks to see the life of Christ in toast.
Usually each museum has one shrunken head – the Times Square museum had about 10, including one of a caucasion with a big walrus moustache. Later I would disturb passers-by on the street when I remarked, “I have never seen so many severed heads all in one place before!” I also discovered that when my head is in a jar I kind of look like Drew Barrymore. Maybe I will have a big jar made to wear around from now on.
Back on Times Square, things were jumping. I seemed to be the only person to notice that there was a huge fistfight taking over the corner across the street. When a bunch of the people fighting made a break for it and ran towards us, I grabbed Bob. When a huge phalanx of cops started across the street, I called out to John, and headed back towards the hotel. My cell phone rang, and it was John, “Where’d you go? You’re missing the riot!”
I said, “Whenever I see more than 5 cops coming my way, I go the other way.”
He said, “That’s a good rule. See you guys tomorrow?”