Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Day Photoging in NYC!

You may have seen me post that I was out and about in New York City yesterday, but you probably do not know why...

Forever ago on MySpace I was in a few Mariah Carey fan groups and I met a few people in there and one of them was my friend Whitney.  We have kept in touch over the years on MySpace and then on FaceBook and now everywhere (FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, Picasa, etc..).  For her birthday she decided to take a vacation to see New York for the very first time.

Saturday when I came out was the only time she really got to see the city so we covered a lot of ground.

The one thing Whitney mentioned she really wanted to see was the World Trade Center site.  I had not been down there since 2005.  I blogged about 9/11 back in September but before 9/11 WTC was a place I liked spending time at.  My first trip to the WTC observatory was in 1995 with a group of French foreign exchange students and I was amazed enough to drag family members back and return on my own once or twice.  I don't have the pictures I wish I did because this was before digital cameras and film was much to expensive for me.  After the towers fell, I went to the site in 2002 with my father and then again in 2005 after my FIT graduation with my Aunt.  On my first trip the area was still a mess.  On my second trip is was cleaned up but empty (if that makes sense).

To me WTC is a memory and the site itself is not one I would think of to visit, but it's always my friends and family from outside of New York that mention wanting to visit so I go with them.  However, as a New Yorker it is an area I tend to not think about visiting.  I have a hard time even watching shows about 9/11.  I just don't watch them.  One thing I don't ever want to see again is the footage of the towers falling or remembering the awful fear of that time.

Last year on the 10th anniversary was went it was brought to my attention the new tower had been built and of course the park.  Then and only then did I decide I really wanted to take a trip to go see it.  I tried to go for my birthday but it didn't happen.  So Whitney wanting to go was perfect.

The park is beautiful.  I wasn't so sure about the one tower.  I am still not sure about it, because it's definitely very different.  It's beautiful, but different.  The pools are stunning with names wrapped all around them.  The museum is not open yet and I think it's supposed to open this year for the anniversary.  I am not sure.  I didn't post it to my memory.

I hope what I am about to say does not offend anyone because it's not meant to.  I am always a bit confused by non-New Yorkers taking such an interest in WTC site.  As I said the last three times I have been there were with people from outside of New York.  As New Yorkers we tend to avoid it, but people relatively unaffected by it want to see it which is a good thing, but it still confuses me since it's such a sad place.  It's a fairly new type of tourism called dark tourism.  The 9/11 Memorial is a disaster site where mass death occurred and it has become a tourist attraction.  People visiting doesn't bother me much, but it still confuses me.  Although at the same time I appreciate the interest and I like that, unlike us New Yorkers, 9/11 hasn't been forgotten around the country.

9-11 Memorial Ground Zero as Dark Tourist Site: an excellent write up on dark tourism and the implications of the memorial and museum.

What did bother me at the site were families taking photos together.  Typical of a tourist attraction, but in reality it's a grave site.  This is a place of sadness.  Would you walk into to an Abby and take a photo in front of a tomb smiling with you're thumbs up?  Most likely not, so why is it okay at WTC?

The other thing that bothers me are the street vendors selling 9/11 merchandize.  None of proceeds from street vendors benefits the rebuilding of the area or the families affected.  They are just out to make money off of a tragedy.

Very happy we went though.  The actual foot prints of the building look so much smaller then I would have expected.  They are most definitely the actual foot prints of the buildings and they do take up quite a bit of space, but I guess because sky scrapers are so tall and large I expected the base area to be much larger.

Getting to the memorial site is not the easiest of feats and I think Whitney and I got lucky.  When we walked to the entrance (which turned out to be the construction entrance) a sign said passes were required.  I thought oh great we need tickets.  We decided to try to get passes.  Turns out the passes are free (unless you reserve in advance).  We got into the Visitors Center at about 11:30am and were given passes for 12:30pm.  I am reading now that only 1,500 visitors are allowed into the park each day.  One number is allotted for reserved passes and another limited amount for walk-ins (like us) at three different visitor sites in the area.  So I think we just happened to be there at a good time on a good weekend.

We walked to the actual entrance of the site after I asked NYPD where it was.  I asked NYPD a lot if questions yesterday.  One thing I have to say is all NYPD officers I have ever encountered thus far have been the friendliest and most knowledgeable people around New York City.  Coming in and out of Penn Station sometimes they actually stop me for compliments.  I like the NYPD.  Anyway, getting into the memorial site they check your pass twice before getting to security.  Security was awful.  I get that a lot of people need to get through security and they want to get everyone through as quick as possible, but I felt like I was being screamed at even though I was moving as fast as I could to get my bag, belt, jewelry (some anyway), coat, and empty my pockets in a rush.  As I was trying to do this the guy pushing the buckets kept shoving everything down in a manner where I had figure out where my personal items were each time I took something off.  Security was the worst part of the day next to my very rough morning, more on that later.

After security they check your passes again another two to three times.  I think directly after security, possibly at the mid way point, and then right before walking into the park. 

There were two kids in particular that I enjoyed seeing and hearing at the site.  At the North Pool there is a sign that says "Caution: Heavy Windspray."  This sign is no joke.  As Whitney and I walked around the North Pool we were showered with water.  One side wasn't so bad, it was like walking through a rain mist, the other side was a full blown shower and some men had umbrellas out.  We laughed a bit at this and two kids were running around giggling in the water spray.  I couldn't help but smile since it was like being a kid playing in a sprinkler.  Yes I was laughing at the disaster site and I couldn't help it.

Leaving the site was much easier then getting in.  I picked up a 9/11 pin to put in my pin collection.  I have one of those too.  I am surprised they didn't have post cards.  I know that is a dying form of communication, but I think people still collect them.  I used to because postcard photos were great to put in my photo albums before my photos to note where I was or as a cover.  Maybe they will be in the museum when it opens.  I will be interested to see how the area changes over the next few years as it is still in construction and closed off.  Will there be a time when you only need a pass to go to the museum?  Will there be a time when the area is open so that every day people can walk in and out?  Maybe the passes are also what keeps native New Yorkers away.

Anyway, after WTC we walked down to Battery Park for some photos of the Statue of Liberty.  I asked Whitney if there was anything she really wanted to see maybe Central Park and she said Strawberry Fields.  So we set off to find a Subway station and again I asked NYPD.  I knew there was a WTC station, but I didn't have my subway map with me.

I have never been to Strawberry Fields but I was pretty sure it was on the West Side of the Park.  We took the N and then transferred to the C and got off at the Museum of Natural History (81st Street) and set off for a bit of food and an outlet for phone charges.  Thank you Starbucks for being on every street corner and perfectly convenient that way.  And thank you for entertaining staff, Caramel Apple Spice, and Chicken Panini's.  Yum!

We set off for Strawberry Fields and turns out it is a few blocks south of 81st.  Yay, my directions worked for a change!  We set off in the park walking south and stopped at The Lake to take photos and climb the rocks which remind me of the breakers at the Montauk Lighthouse.  It was then that my friend Leroy appeared and we all got a little mixed up trying to find each other in the park.  Finding anyone in Central Park is hard.  It's so big and the winding "paths" (if you can call them that) are not easy to give directions with.

So the three of us then went to Strawberry Fields.  Where a man was doing a presentation about John Lennon and explaining the areas of Strawberry Fields, the housing complex, his family, and exactly where he was shot (a lot of death on this trip).  It was very interesting.

We then walked down to the West Side of Central Park, by Trump Tower and Columbus Circle.  I love the elephants at Columbus Circle!  I believe there is another elephant statue in NYC where the elephant is upside down balancing on his trunk, I need to find this elephant.  I enjoy elephants, they are funny.  Elephants and Giraffes (also funny).  We walked through Times Square very quickly and then called it a day.  After we stopped moving it was obvious Whitney and I were exhausted.

It was a very long day with a lot of walking and my legs are feeling it today, mostly behind the knees which is odd.  I was so happy to get to spend the day with Whitney.  To finally meet my Texas girlfriend and to find out she knows exactly what I mean when I talk about Mariah's newer material not being the same.  Personally, I like the Broken Angel album for a few tracks on it, but I could have done with out it.  Yup.

The Awful Start of the Day
So I didn't want to start the blog off with this but my day with Whitney almost was canceled due to my forgetfulness and panic.  I was planning on meeting her at the Whitehall Terminal at 9:30am.  I got up about 6:20am and was on the road to Brooklyn by 7:10am.  I cleaned a few things out of my purse and when I got in my car I realized I left my iPod in the house, but I didn't go back inside to get it.  I decided I would just deal with the radio.  When I got into to Brooklyn I texted Whitney so she knew where I was at and how my time was looking.  I rummaged through my purse for the iPod sock that I put my Nav in and realized I must have left it at home and then I realized I left my wallet at home too.  So now I am in Brooklyn with no cash and no ID.  I was planning on jumping out and taking the L, but with no cash I couldn't get a metro card (actually I had one in my wallet).

Realizing this I panicked and told Whitney I would be late because I had to see if I could find a bank because for some reason I did leave my check book in my purse.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  I set my nav (Susan) back up and drove to the nearest branch of my bank.  Well in Williamsburg Brooklyn weekends are backwards and the banks are all closed on Saturdays.  Feeling defeated and very upset I got back into my car, started to cry and then thought "I will call the bank and maybe they will tell me where an open one is."  I went to pull out my card to find the number and oh right I DON'T HAVE IT.  Luckily for me I had saved the 1-800 number in my cell phone.  I called they asked for the account number.  I put it in.  They then asked for the last four numbers of my card and I choked into the phone "I don't have it!"  Then the prompt actually said " if you do not have your card dial *9," oh okay.  The lady I got on the phone was a bit confused and started running through a series of addresses of branches near me so fast I couldn't keep up.  I finally said wait I my GPS doesn't load that fast and asked her about Grand Street since it was the first location that popped up.  Indeed they were open.

I went to the Grand Street branch and explained my story to the teller at the desk.  I don't like when they bring me to the desk it usually means they want to enroll me in something, but I needed help.  The teller was all for everything and then realized I didn't have ID.  I did have my work ID but all that has is my name and photo.  The photo is four years old and I have very long hair and hazel eyes.  I have since cut my hair off and I was wearing blue color contacts.  She called a manager over and explained what happened to the manager who okay-ed me getting money out of my account.  Then she explained to me about overdraft and sold me on enrolling me in a program.  Told you.  Last time I did turn the enrollment down but this one is actually going to be very good for me.  It's basically a credit card that also acts as overdraft protection.  If I have to go into overdraft they charge the card which is excellent because last month I did have an emergency and that did happen.  I also just finished paying off all my bills and I am at a point where I am looking to open a card and start fixing my credit.  So this was a win win enrollment for me.

When I left the bank I realized a subway stop was just outside and it was the L train.  The train I had intended on taking before I had to find a bank.  I went down into the terminal and had to buy a $20 card because of course they don't give more then $6 change.  In retrospect I should have bought a $14 card to spite them but I was so distraught about being super late that I went for the $20.  I walk over to the turn styles and two of them say no entry, the third says entry but the red sign was up.  Confused I turned around and the subway attendant kept pointing at the gate to which I said "is there another entry?" because I had no clue what she was trying to point out.  She then decided to over her voice.  There was a sign on the other side of the beam saying the L train was not running.  OMG.

I got back into my car and started bawling.  Now I am stuck in Brooklyn with money and a metro card and no way to get to Manhattan other then driving over.  If I had my wallet and easy access to money I might have considered it and parked in a garage, but with limited cash on me I didn't want to risk it.  I also know that my EZPass gets me into some parking garages by charging the fee to the EZPass which then charges my bank account but I don't know which ones.  I tried looking up different subway stops on my Nav but the Nav does not tell me which lines they are.  Why would it?  There is no purpose for a driving nav to know the subway lines but it's great that it does know where they are.  We actually used my nav a few times trying to find nearby known stores when cell batteries were low.  I tried texting my friend in the city (with an extremely panicked message) but got no help.  All I needed to know was a stop name of something other then the L line.  If I had my wallet, this would not have been a problem.  I have a fold up wallet size subway map in my wallet.  I find it to be extremely helpful, but not when I don't have it.  I then went online via my old school phone.  I went onto the MTA site and was unable to open the subway line schedules because they are pdf's and my phone can't read them.  I was able to open the subway line pages and after click on a few I finally found the J line at Marcy Street, crossed my fingers, and drove over that way.

Rejoice!  The J line was running!  I hopped on the J took it to Chambers and walked over and then up Broadway because for some reason I thought the stop I got off on was south of where I wanted to be.  I then realized I was in the whole wrong area when the Limelight appeared, oh that is not the church I am looking for.  Whoops.  Whitney was waiting for me so instead of walking down to her I bit the bullet and jumped in a cab.

I hate being late to anything (except work, because who wants to be there, but even then I don't like it) and I don't like when people are painfully late.  Time is precious and to waste another person's time is disgraceful.  So I was very upset with myself for making her wait.  However, I do think lateness can be pardoned in an emergency and I think my morning qualifies as an emergency situation as I could not have gotten there earlier then I did given the circumstances.  I should have been at the terminal by 9:30/10am... I got to where she was at about 11am.  Ugg... what a morning!  Good thing the whole day was awesome!

Alisha Christine Picasa: 2012-03-03-NYC: The photos I took of our day out.

Facebook: Whitney Rae Photography: Whitney Photography Fan Page... I am sure some city photos will be popping up at some point.

And the kicker...

My wallet laying on my bed waiting for me when I got home... I have to admit a piece of me was hoping I would find it when I got home.  I was wondering if I had lost it Friday somehow and didn't realize.  I was happy to see it.  If I had only gone back inside to get me stupid iPod I might have had an entirely different morning...