Friday, January 22, 2010

The Big City

We've been wanting to go back to New York, but were waiting for nicer weather since we knew it would involve a lot of outside time. Last Saturday was a gorgeous day, sunny, temps going into the upper 40s, so we were more than ready to spend the day out of the house. Our plan was to take the train in and go to the American Museum of Natural History, where there's currently a live butterfly exhibit, have a nice lunch, and then on to the Central Park Zoo, which we missed this summer because of the lines.That was our plan. Things don't always go as planned.

Oliver loved the train ride. Well, he loved the first 2/3 of the train ride. See:



The part we didn't capture in pictures is when the train broke. Yup, you know the thingy on the top that connects the cables from the car to the cables overhead? Yeah, well, that thingy fell off and started loudly slamming onto the roof of our train car. I've never heard so many people say "WTF?!" at the same time before! Sure enough, the train stopped, men in uniforms got out and started looking up and pointing. We knew things weren't looking good when they also started laughing and shaking their heads. They got on the intercom and told us the train is damaged and we have to wait for another train to pull up beside us and hitch a ride with them. Great. So we waited for that train. But the best part was that they only had one of those little "bridge" things to connect the two trains together, so once the other train finally arrived, we all had to walk all the way to the front of our train, cross over to the new train, and then walk all the way to the back of that train, in order for us all to fit. Yeah, try doing that with a toddler, diaper bag, and stroller. Thank goodness there were two of us! It was exhausting. Eventually, we found a place to stand for the remainder of the ride (we had about 30 minutes left), and a very nice lady moved her stuff so Oliver and I could have a seat. Amazing how polite people are these days (insert eye roll here). I mean come on. You see a woman carrying a baby, and you still let them walk all the way to the back of the train. Nobody could offer us a seat? Nope,  not until we got all the way to the back. And we weren't the only people with babies, I saw several others doing the same hike. Oh, how I long for the 1950s. Except for the whole oppression of women part. I mean, since when did equality = lack of common courtesy??? But, I digress.

So over an hour late, we arrived in New York, already tired. We knew we'd be doing a lot of walking, so I convinced Marty to take a cab from Grand Central to the Museum. That was very fun for Oliver, and a little scary for mom and dad...our first ride in a car without a carseat. Oliver seemed more interested in the television and credit card swiper  in the back of the front seat than the city going by, and we were just trying to keep him from slamming into it. Wow, things have changed since I lived there. If there had been credit card swipers in the cabs then, I would probably still be paying off those credit card bills!! We had a few restaurants picked out near the Museum, so we thought we'd get to that part of town and eat lunch first, given the late hour of our arrival. Then we could spend the afternoon in the sun in the park. So we had a very good lunch at Jackson Hole Burgers, which lived up to the great reviews we read online. Oliver loved all the attention from the waitresses and hostess the most...he is such a flirt! Oliver loves the ladies!

Then we went to the Museum, and wow, was it packed! You'd think everyone would be outside on such a nice day! But no, the lines were horribly long. We decided it was not worth the wait. The butterflies will be there until May, so we hope we'll get a chance to go back because I think Oliver would love seeing them (he whispers "by-fy" very reverently whenever he sees one in a book). So we walked through the park and went on to Central Park Zoo. Hooray, no lines!! See how empty it was when we arrived:

Unfortunately, it didn't stay so empty. Still, Oliver had a great time. There wasn't a lot to see, the animals mostly seemed to be asleep (hibernating?), but he loved walking around. Watch out if you were in his way!

He was in charge, and we were chasing him everywhere. That got a little more difficult as it got more crowded, especially in the Rain Forest exhibit, which was indoors, and included lots of stairs. That place was packed. And explain this to me: there were these 2 men that Marty described as "Eastern European Paparazzi"  who were walking around with these huge cameras with long lenses. No, Britney Spears wasn't around. They were photographing all the birds and animals. And no, they didn't appear to be zoo employees. What they were was annoying. Who cares if your child is trying to see the monkeys, they shoved their way to the front and stood there not moving. They had earbuds in their ears so you couldn't even try a nice "Excuse me!" So picture this, Marty & I, chasing after a nearly running toddler who refused to be picked up, in a crowded 100 degree room, dodging paparazzi. What happened to our fun relaxing day in the city?

We went back outside to watch the Sea Lions get fed. That's when you saw how crowded it had gotten. I've never seen so many strollers in my life. Expensive strollers too: Maclaren, Peg Perego. I swear we were the only ones with a Graco stroller. I felt like we were the Clampetts coming to the big city! I guess if I could afford to live in NYC, I'd have an expensive stroller too. Though why anyone needs a $1000 stroller (I'm not exaggerating) is beyond me.

We moved on to the children's part of the zoo, where you could feed the animals. Of course, we didn't let Oliver near them, what with Marty afraid of germs and me afraid of that crazy goat trying to bite my child's finger off! But Oliver enjoyed it until we got near the cow, and it moo'ed. He's not afraid of cows, but he freaks if he hears a real cow moo. Seriously, we had to turn off the sound to our Little People Farm because the moo sound it makes when the door opens was a bit too realistic and Oliver had a fit.

Then exhaustion started to set in...for all of us. Oliver hadn't napped. Marty and I were wiped out from chasing him around. So we started walking towards Grand Central, thinking we might stop at FAO Schwartz (famous toy store) if it didn't look too crowded. It wasn't bad, so we went in. Big mistake. It was crowded. And overwhelming. We escaped without buying anything, though I'm dying to go back and do the custom Muppet thing for Oliver one day! That's right, they do custom Muppets. You pick the body and all different accessories, and they build it right there...kind of like Build-a-Bear, but so much cooler!

We get to the train station, thinking we'd just sit and have a drink or something while we wait for our train. We made the mistake of not noting the schedule, so we weren't sure when the next one left. Of course, we look at the boards, and our train was leaving in 5 minutes. So we had to rush. Then we can't find a seat. I finally find one by asking a lady to move her bags, and Marty stood in the doorway with the stroller. And that's when the tantrum started. Nothing would calm him down, not snacks or sippy or bink or books. Finally, a woman in the row in front of us gave him a little Alvin & the Chipmunks toy, like from a Happy Meal or something? You push his head and it says, "Hello, Gorgeous!" I guess the passengers in our car were happier hearing that 72,000 times than Oliver screaming. It worked. He was calm. A few people got off and Marty was able to sit with us, and it took us both to try to keep Oliver happy the rest of the ride. No sleep for him.

But eventually, finally, we were home. Why is it so hard? We have a whole list of things that we want to go back to do in the city. I'd like to go meet some friends there with just Oliver some day when Marty's at work. But I don't know if I can do it by myself! Heck, I don't even know if I want to do it again with both of us!! This trip reminded me of a lot of things I hated when I lived in NYC. How impossible it is to simply cross the street in certain parts of town. The incredible rudeness of people. How difficult even the simplest thing becomes. Ugh. Add a toddler and a stroller and it's that much harder. Stairs everywhere. Sure, the sidewalk corners have little ramps, but it's like fighting a war to get through all the people to get to one of them with a stroller. Tiny restaurants, or even big restaurants, but packed so full of tables that there is nowhere to put a stroller so we can sit and have a nice meal. I just don't know if I can do it again! I know, I sound like the small town girl complaining about the big city. But I lived there for 6 years, and while there are a lot of things I loved about it, I think there were more I hated. Maybe I'm just a small town girl at heart, and that's just fine!

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