In addition to the big race, I was quite fortunate to experience a few additional things on my trip to New York (while still trying not to spend money). This trip was also a bit of an adventure for me, as I had never really had to figure out the subway system before. Both of my Delta flights were perfect – on time, window seats and great experiences with TSA Preâœ“ at MSP and LGA. My one cab ride from the airport to Queens was inexpensive and quick.
I figured out the apartment situation the first night on my own, as my host Dillon had to work until 11pm. His place was really nice: smallish one bedroom on the third floor, with an elevator and balcony. It was located about two blocks from the N/Q line’s Astoria Boulevard station, which was really convenient. That train was a straight shot into Times Square, which I took on Saturday morning to head over to the race expo at the Javits Center, where I met my friends Deb and Jeff.
The expo was the same as last time: packed with people from all over the world. As I found out this week, the 2014 edition of the race was also the largest ever in the history of marathons (50,564 finishers). We walked right up to the bib areas, though, and really only had to wait in line to buy stuff. They also hand out the finisher shirts at the expo (just like Disney), so I picked mine up before buying a few five finger borough gloves for MK and SK. There were lots of other great things to buy there, but I didn’t want to burn all my cash on the first day. Stopped by the Sweaty Bands booth to look for my friend Kris, but she skipped this expo (and race).
Javits was also hosting a photography show and the huge Nikon booth was teasing me from just inside the guarded barrier. The marathon expo had a second level nearby, though, so we headed up there and found lots of interesting new booths. They handed out borough “passports” that you could get stamped to receive a free race poster. The inspiring Kathrine Switzer was there signing her book and a number of government and charity groups were handing out info.
The weather Saturday was crappy all day, with a cold, constant drizzle and relatively high winds. It wasn’t super fun walking around midtown, but we headed from Javits back to Times Square to wait in line at the TKTS booth to see if we could get discounted tickets to see Dillon’s show (he’s the sound engineer) – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. When we got up there, the guy said they only had five single seats left (for 50% off). Sold!
Once we had the tickets for the matinee, we walked over to Eighth Avenue to hit up Shake Shack for lunch. I ordered a single ShackBurger with no tomato, cheese fries and a vanilla malt. In hindsight, I don’t know if that was a great pre-race selection, but it sure tasted good (especially the bun). That place is always packed, but we didn’t have to wait too long.
After lunch, we walked up Eighth to 48th and waited outside the Walter Kerr Theater for a bit before the doors opened. Now that I think about it, we also got a drink across the street at Hurley’s Saloon and picked up some souvenirs for the girls at a tourist trap on Broadway. Once inside, we found our seats in the mezzanine and waited for the show to start. The guy sitting next to me was in town from Arkansas to run the marathon and said he was also a 2012 returnee. This was going to be his second marathon (he ran a BQ in his first at Chicago) and will retire from racing after Boston next April. So jealous. Oh yeah, he was wave one, corral A too…
The show was really fun. Jefferson Mays was outstanding, Lisa O’Hare was beautiful (and funny) and I really liked Carole Shelley as Miss Shingle. Bryce Pinkham was also very talented, turning from good to evil at the drop of a hat. The set design and lighting effects were cool and the orchestra and sound were perfect (of course). The play had two acts with an intermission and Dillon arranged to have our names at the stage door for an after show tour. We ended up actually getting escorted backstage by the other sound engineer Dave, who took us out the back exit and down the alley fire escape. Dillon let us walk out on center stage and showed us the very cramped backstage area, which was really special (thanks again, DJC!). Go see this show if you haven’t – there’s a reason it won four Tony Awards (including Best Musical).
After the show, we walked towards our dinner destination, stopping briefly at 30 Rock to watch the brave ice skaters gliding by in the rain. My pasta carbo load crosshairs were set on Alfredo’s, my old Italy EPCOT Center pals (RIP). The original restaurant is in Rome, but I’ve only known it from the Florida branch that closed on my brother’s birthday in 2007 (the New York location opened in 1977). I ordered a Caesar salad to start and (of course) had the fettuccine Alfredo. Not sure if it was my headache or the food, but it just didn’t seem the same to me, unfortunately.
After dinner, we walked up Fifth Avenue, stopping at the huge UNIQLO store to browse. They had a number of cool MoMA special edition jackets that I really wanted – Keith Haring and Andy Warhol designs for only $90! I restrained myself, though, and walked up to Tiffany & Co. to get a photo for free (no Cracker Jacks on this trip). Headed back to Queens after that and tried to rest up.
I already covered the race specifics in my other post, so I’ll jump to end of the race. I basically ended up walking all the way around the south half of Central Park and got back on the N train to Queens. Took a nice hot shower, changed and rested on the couch until Dillon got back from his Sunday afternoon performance. The local ABC affiliate re-ran the whole marathon broadcast, so I got to watch the two Kenyans battle down the stretch for their respective titles. It was a little reassuring to see the elites were also slowed down quite a bit by the conditions.
We walked a few blocks over to Chef Michael Psilakis’ Greek restaurant on Ditmars Boulevard, MP Taverna for dinner. Dillon had heard good things about it and when I saw the chef was a James Beard finalist, I was sold. My hanger steak & Greek sausage with smashed fries was delicious, as was our appetizer, yogurt dip with warm pita. Dillon ordered the spinach, feta & dill stuffed filet of sole, which he also enjoyed. We stopped in at the Sparrow Tavern on the way home for some Jameson and Laphroaig.
I attempted to sleep in a little on Monday, but was still up by nine. I packed up everything and decided to hop on the train one more time to head in to Times Square and a visit to the Cake Boss Cafe to pick up a couple gifts for Colleen. Before I left, I found an old Village Voice article that listed the top ten places to eat around Times Square. I decided the number one thing they picked sounded like a good plan and walked over to Sapporo on 49th:
Katsudon at Sapporo – This aging noodle shop has long been a haven for homesick Japanese travelers, and the ramen, gyoza, and curries are superb, but our greatest affection is for the luncheon delight katsudon, consisting of a perfectly fried pork cutlet mired in egg and onion, squirted with a vaguely sweet sauce and served over a big bowl of rice. A cup of miso soup comes alongside, making this one of the best under-$10 meals in town. 152 West 49th Street, 212-869-8972
Lunch was very good (I also added an order of Buffalo wings) and the location was perfect – the 49th Street N train station was basically right outside their door. I hopped back on the train, got my stuff and had Dillon drop me off at the airport on his way out of town. I hung out at the airport for a couple hours and arrived home that night around 8:30pm. Dillon’s suggestion to load A Dark Room on my phone was brilliant – no network connection required and it made the flight seem extra quick.
Growing up, I always preferred the West Coast (and especially LA) to New York. Living in the Midwest, I also hated how everything was so focused on the East Coast (all times Eastern, news broadcasts, New Years Eve countdowns, etc). Now that I’ve visited twice in the past two years, it’s starting to grow on me. I also realized this time just how much of New York I’ve never seen. I may not get back again for a while, but now I’d really like to (especially with the whole family). Until we meet again, Gotham…Originally published by DK on November 6, 2014 at 12:06 am