Still Not Idol: NYC Trip Notes

Sometimes, my blog is a place to store my random notes, especially about a trip like the long weekend trip to New York – you should have already seen the Jeopardy! audition blog (as it was the post before this one), so here are some things I happened to make note of and/or want to remember from a terrific weekend…

The Hotel
I stayed at a place called the Pod Hotel in midtown Manhattan (at 39th and Lexington).  Honestly, I booked it because (1) a good friend recommended it and (2) it was far less expensive than a lot of other options in the area.  After staying there, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I booked what they call a “single Pod”.  The room wasn’t much bigger than the bedroom in my apartment – but since I was only planning to be there to sleep, it’s not like I needed a lot of room.  It had a bed, a bathroom, a flat-screen TV (with more channels than most hotels), and connections for a DVD player, MP3 player, or USB device.  Most importantly, it was three blocks south of Grand Central Terminal, meaning it was easy to get anywhere via subway.

It’s the second Pod Hotel, and I think they’re onto something.  Clean, well-maintained, small-room hotels in major cities, at 1/3 to 1/2-off everyone else’s price?   For many folks, the hotel room is only used for sleep – so if you don’t need a suite and a ton of high-priced amenities… this is a terrific concept.  It’s like the no-frills store brand at your favorite supermarket.  It’s not fancy, it costs less, and it does just as well as the name brand.  I think you’ll see more of these… and if you’re going to NYC, you might want to check it out – http://www.thepodhotel.com.

The trip north (Sunday 4/28)
It seemed like it was going to be a quiet ride north – until (where else?) Quantico, which always seems to be where my I-95 traffic problems start.  This time, it was a delay because they were taking down the pylons from overnight construction.  Go figure…

Fortunately, I’d built in time for things to go wrong, so all this did was eat up most of that time.  I still got to the Franconia/Springfield Metro on time, but had to wait longer for a train due to weekend schedule changes as the Metro is trying to upgrade the entire system at once…

If you haven’t seen a Megabus, they’re double-decker long-haul buses to just about anywhere.  I could have taken a Megabus from Richmond to NYC if I wanted to leave at 4 AM, so that’s why I drove/took Metro to DC’s Union Station to catch the bus there.  I had a ticket for the 11 AM bus, but as I got to the departure point at 10:20 AM, the driver looked at me and said “do you want to go now [the 10:30 AM bus]?”  I did.  As it turned out, this was a good idea.

Sadly, my iPod Touch didn’t play nicely with Megabus’ WiFi – I’d get a few minutes at a time before the authentication would fail – but I was able to keep a running update on Facebook, at least… fortunately, it still did its basic function as a music player.

That was also a good thing, as roughly three songs in, it played the Eagles’ “Journey of the Sorcerer”.  Now, if you’re a fan of a particular book/radio/TV/movie series, you’ve already reacted… if not, “Journey” was used at the theme for all incarnations of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy that required music (not the books, of course).  And what are the two words emblazoned on the cover of the fictional GuideDON’T PANIC.  I feel that was an appropriate message at that point in time.

It became more appropriate when the bus slowed to a crawl just after the Maryland/Delaware border.  Apparently, the entire state needed to be on I-95 at the same time, because what should have been a short run through Delaware took over an hour – fortunately, though, I wasn’t going to panic.

And my iPod showed its sense of humor by playing “Empire State of Mind” just before 3 PM, as we were supposed to be pulling into NYC.  We were still on the NJ Turnpike, of course (exit 8A, if you’re scoring at home, or if you’re alone)…

So we finally got in about 4:15 PM.  I celebrated by immediately trying to get on the NYC Subway in the wrong direction.   If it hadn’t been for the aggressive panhandler trying to sell me a “one-trip” Metrocard (yeah, like I believed there was any money on the card), I might have noticed more quickly… *sigh*

One of my long-time friends from ComedySportz RVA is now based in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and does a weekly live-streamed podcast from his apartment on… Sunday nights.  So I took the 45-minute subway ride over and became the first “studio audience” member for Jesse P-S’s Pod Awful who wasn’t traveling there with either Jesse or his guest.   For the first half of the show, I was kind of looking over Jesse’s shoulder on-camera – for the second half, I helped convince Jesse’s friend Mary to switch places with me.  I think it improved the aesthetics of the live stream immensely.  There was supposed to be an audio podcast link by now, but Jesse’s computer ate the second half of the audio.  So this may wind up being a lost episode, unless Jesse can pull the audio off the archived video stream.  I’ll update this when I know more.

The subway ride back from Pod Awful to the Pod Hotel (symmetry!) took longer than it should due to weekend schedule changes as the NYC MTA is trying to upgrade the entire subway system at once…

Audition Day (Monday 4/29)
Again, most of this is documented in the blog I did from the Hard Rock Café New York… so go read it.

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Hard to believe, since I’d lived in the New York area until I was 27, but the walk from the Sheraton NY Towers (53rd & 7th) down to 42nd Street marked the first time I’d ever visited Times Square.  It was a mass of humanity – between the end of the workday and a zillion tourists, it was a study in controlled chaos.  I could’ve people-watched all night, but needed to get back to the hotel at some point…

I did notice, though, that you couldn’t walk more than a few feet around the heart of Times Square without someone shoving free stand-up comedy tickets in your face… almost literally, in some cases.  I’d seen crowd-filling elsewhere, but not this aggressively.  I counted at least a half-dozen different shows that had people out on the street with “free” tickets (I didn’t even want to know the cover).  One of them employed a guy whose strategy seemed to be insulting and chasing people who turned him down.  It didn’t seem to be working too well…

While I got a few pictures in Times Square, I didn’t dare take one of the image I most wanted… the world’s most honest panhandler.  It was a guy standing at 43rd & 7th with a sign saying “I NEED MONEY 4 WEED”.  Honestly, if I’d pointed the iPod at him, I think his girlfriend would’ve punched me out…

And, of course, since it was Times Square, even the subway had a flashing marquee…

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The trip south (Tuesday 4/30)
After having to bail out of the Pod a bit early (sadly, their WiFi failed early Tuesday morning and all the king’s horses and all the king’s IT men couldn’t seem to put it back together again), I made my way over to Penn Station and the (I thought) short walk to the Megabus pickup.

I had, of course, forgotten the geometry of Manhattan.  The walk from 53rd to 42nd Streets on Monday was far shorter (at least, it felt that way) than the walk along 34th Street from 8th Avenue to 11th Avenue.  New York City blocks are extremely rectangular – so “three blocks” east-to-west can take as long as “12 blocks” north-to-south.  But, of course, I gave myself plenty of time to walk over, and all was well.

The trip was both very good and very bad.  Good, because the bus ran right on time.  We got to Union Station just past 3 PM.  That was fine.  What wasn’t fine was the new suspension system this bus was testing, apparently made of concrete.  It was the bumpiest ride I’ve ever been on – every little imperfection in the road was magnified… now I suspect something must’ve happened early in the trip, because we made an unexpected pullover on the NJ Turnpike about an hour into the trip.  Based on how bumpy the ride got as we went along, I suspect they had to make the decision whether to go or call in a replacement bus, and they must’ve thought they could handle it.   By the end of the trip, the driver was braking to slow down over some overpasses to avoid jolting us.

Obviously, I survived.  And for $45 round-trip, I suppose I can handle some bouncing…

The drive back was… slow.  Of course, it was raining.  And it was I-95 southbound at rush hour.  But still – 25 miles of backups due to, apparently, a two-vehicle incident at (where else) Quantico?  The problem was what Chicagoans call “gapers”, New Yorkers call “rubberneckers”, and everyone calls “idiots” – drivers slowing down to look at the flashing State Police lights and what appeared to be a car on a flatbed with minor body damage.  I’m not sure, because since traffic was getting back to speed just past the incident, I hit the gas and got going… from Quantico south, it was a fairly straight shot [except a stop to take advantage of a gas price war south of Fredericksburg – when you can get gas 25 cents/gallon less than anywhere else on I-95, you do it].

And that’s the trip.

I gave myself today as a “do-nothing” day.  And after this, I plan to do exactly nothing (except my usual American Idol blog tonight, although really, it looks like another long slog through a really poor song list the producers have generously allowed the singers to choose from)… so here goes “nothing”… see you later.

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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