Saturday, December 23, 2006

[Travel] 20061210 NY

* First thing this morning is to move. The next 6 days of my accommodation is at another place. I woke up (or finally tired of trying to fall asleep in trembling condition) at around 7:30, took a shower then go.

Pulling the luggage, taking Metro and finding hostel isn't tough, but it did take some time and I did passed through certain areas looked like red-light district, and to think they are just 2 blocks away from Times square. The new hostel literally is next to the corner of 40th and 9th, and only takes 2 minutes of walking to PATH, but the owners weren't there when I rang the bell at 9:30 am. I pulled the luggage and interrupt into the Italian restaurant at the corner named "Bus Stop". The waiter, who looked like a Philippines, stared at me when I walked in with my heavy stuff and obviously didn't like what he saw. The owner, who looks like an Italian, asked me to sit at the bar. It was better as time passed by, as the owner served me coffee and I ate the whatever omelet.

I went back to the hostel at around 11am, the door opened this time by a nice lady named Carol, she let me dropped my luggage before I even check in. The hostel itself was just clean and cozy, it wasn't big but feels like a home and you got everything you need here, including satellite TV and WiFi. Plus, it's location is unbeatable.

* I went to fifth ave. before noon. The Apple store is massive, all the basement were demonstrations and free trial areas of Apple electronic devices, and were full of shopping people at Sunday morning. Staffs wore in red were standing everywhere and willing to help customers.

Nike Town, comparing to other flagship stores at fifth ave., are NOT very spectacular, despite it goes 5-story tall. The quality of 92' retro Olympic jersey is gorgeous.

* After checking in at noon (The owner is Japanese, polite and spoke English not well and a little bit scared of non-Japanese like me), I made my way to Carnegie Hall for Pierre Boulez and Co. The music hall were mostly elders with formal clothings, and I feel like an outsider trying to ruin their enjoyment again.

The music itself, what can I say? From the first note of Ravel, you can tell the difference. The brass department were just deep and you have no idea if they really have any limits. There's just meaningless to compare Chicago SO's Ravel with others - just on a totally different level. The only thing is you probably will never satisfied to hear others afterward. Boulez is a very cool conductor - his motions were small but crisp, and he was almost emotionless while hearing the applause from the crowds.

The Ligeti Piano concerto was very interesting, but made few sit well. It only required the string department and xylophone-like instrument to accompany with piano, however the sound they produced are provocative and challenging even in today. The first movement keep testing the pain threshold of audience, with extremely different notes contrast with each other. Everytime you thought you could be on the way to a more rhythmic segment, Ligeti will destroy your imagination in next section. The Piano was mostly treated just like a percussion instrument, and the pianist focused on making inharmonious, mechanic sounds.

Bartok was breathtaking, although many of the audience who wore formally next to me were fall asleep. Chicago SO and Boulez made difficult sections sound easy, and the violence and flamboyance of "The Miraculous Mandarin" brilliantly showed.

There were no encores. Cool Boulez, after 3 curtain calls, just singlehandly lead his head of string to backstage.

* I decided to walk around NoHo and East Village before the 8pm Blue Man Show. There were many clothing shops at NoHo, also stallmen selling personalized TShirts. UNIQLO, brand from Japan, recently opened their flagship store in USA here, and it were packed of people, especially Asians, in the Sunday afternoon, including me. As one can see in the photo, the roof is sky-high to load up all the clothings, also create an aspiring view.

* I visited several leading underground record stores in the East Village before finding meals. The Other Music is smaller than I imagined, and like other alternative record shops, hand-written notes and separators are many. The staffs are really cool and didn't like to spend much time on obvious tourists like me.

Kim's Video is larger, they have some rare video selections, plus you can hear many new tracks through their public server.

* Blue Man Show is fine, it's funny, outrageous and play lots of visual tricks on you. For those who didn't experience it, it's worth a try, but it will be better if you can get a closer seat (the first 5 row), which will cost like 85 USD. If I were able to make decision again, I probably will skip this one out. For 85 USD you probably can enjoy other entertainments in NYC for several times.

* I didn't know what I was thinking, but I just decided to walk my way back to the hostel after the show. It's easy to walk on Manhattan without a map, you just need to follow the main avenues and check the east or west direction from the streets. Or, just look up on those sky-scrapping, shining buildings! Chrysler Building at night is just brilliant, which is also one the reasons I decided to walk, as I was trying to find the best angle for photography. I also went past New York Public Library and Bryant Park at 42nd, too bad I couldn't find time to visit those 2 during my time there.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

[Travel] 20061209 NY

Full set of the photos of the day

* The trip had an adventurous beginning: I overlooked the transportation time from my hall to the train station. The train is arriving while I am still pulling my luggage on the connection bridge to the terminal. Almost missed it.

* Heathrow was in a mess when I arrived at 9:40 am. Catching the flight at noon, I thought I would have quite a margin for everything. NO WAY. There are full of people and lots of long queues in front of every counter. So boring of waiting, I even began shooting photos. I have no idea what the real mess is. On the inspection gateway, everyone needs to take off coat, shoes and electronic devices. We were like chicken being peeled off in the cold winter. Every flight, including mine, was delaying. People hurried to check in on the scheduled time and found out all they can do afterwards are sitting in the waiting room (or sitting on the waiting room floor) watching BBC.

* The outward flight is ok. AA's seat is much more comfortable than KLM or NWA's, and they have personalized monitor for entertainment. Their meals are a little bit less for me though.

* The custom I went through after arriving at JFK was actually kind of dark and spacious, much to my surprise. The custom officer was cold and lazy, but you don't ask more from them other than going through. There's an African American lady asking me if I need help of direction after I pushed my luggage to find the JFK air train. I got decent impression of this country in my second visit so far.

* The subway was much different from London, starting from the characters they use on the posters and announcements (which I think is one of the symbols of this city). NYC Subway is not friendly for newcomers: The metro card looked like made of cheap material and can be reproduced at any time, the announcing system simply sucks (you most of the time have no idea what are the drivers murmuring), the notification of station name is small and unapparent than any other metro systems I have ever been (Taipei, Tokyo, Boston, London), and you don't get free maps of the metro system on the station. A traveler's guide book like Lonely Planet will be really helpful. Even for all the shortcomings, I still love the NYC subway cause it's so convenient to commute to places in Manhattan, and opened for 24/7. Moreover, the subway is so lively, as you can expect to see people from every ethnicity, and crazy things often happened.

* The first night I slept in Hostelling International New York, not bad for a hostel for such a cheap price in NYC. I never met any roommates because I just dropped my luggages there and went back at 4am for a nap.

* MSG is a massive facility for sports entertainment. It is sorry to see the product they are presenting (your New York Knicks) is the major downer to the whole experience. A ten dollar ticket on 4th floor is enough for me to clearly watch the whole game, with every player's movement and their interactions with each others.

* I didn't plan to visit empire building at Saturday night, but since I had free time between Knicks game and Blue Note, I just altered the plan a little bit. The elevator, roof and walls on 82nd floor are like crap, still under construction. The wind was blowing so hard at the 86th, and you have scaffoldings of the building to block your view at some angles, but it's still worth a visit at night to see the whole NYC under your feet with your lover.

* Blue Note is much more industrialized than I imagined. I attended the Saturday midnight show so it only cost me 15 bucks. A group called Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey with one pianist, one drummer and one guitarist jammed fusion, free jazz and improvised music. The only negatives were that there's an annoying French bitch keep talking, laughing with her companions, and swinging her fat and disgusting body in front of my table. Fortunately they left at the half. Also, I often felt sleep during their show. But their performance was fantastic.

* Finally, I went to Times square at 3 am, but before that I talked with one saxophonist playing Christmas songs alone at the underground. I met him earlier when I was on my way to Blue Note, and decided to offer my greetings if I met him again. He thanked me sincerely and expressed his admirations to the people of Taiwan, said he would love to go there sometimes. Times sq. never sleeps even at 3 am, with all the electronic boards around you.

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