- Call Nils Magne - in OSLO on 5/24 @ 10am. Probably in Fitjar on either 5/26 or 5/27.
- Need new contacts before we leave.
- Call a place to stay in OSLO.
- Need to pack.
- Try to add at least one more day in Norway.
Just so no one forgets this trip already has some interesting points. We just found out that Jo is pregnant and on top of that Jo broke her wrist on my birthday. I expect lots of barfing because we are taking something like 13 flights. Don't forget that we are also grossly unprepared for the trip. Neither of us have had the time to get ready. I am hoping that we have time to catch up in New York.
More things to remember. * French phrase book. * Ideas for gifts to give to Norwegien family.
Of course this is going to be a very busy day. We have to be ready to leave before we get up tomorrow because our flight to New York is at 6am. Just got back from the baby doctor to make sure we can do this massive trip. Two cool things. First, the doctor gave Jo an anti-nausau prescription. Second, we got to see an ultrasound of the baby. It is way too early to see anything but the heart beat but we did see that. The baby is 10mm long.
Got the contacts!
Called up SWA and tried to change our flight to Thursday. Impossible. Have to remember to write down Nils' address and phone number.
- Info Sacha gave us about Paris.
- Go to Cafe Marly in the courtyard of the Louvres. In front of the Pyramid. Can't miss it.
- Tricks: standing @ the counter is always cheaper in cafes. Look for Zinc. "un demi" is 1/2 beer. "beire" full beer. "express", espresso. "creme" is really cafe au lait. "tartine" is a bagette w/ butter.
- Institut du Monde Arabe. It is next to the Seine and quite nice. The lebanese restaurant at the top is good.
- Go to a fresh food market outside. Like Montorgueil next to Les Halles. Go on a Sat or Sun morning.
Things still needed but will have to wait until NYC.
- Lock for backpack.
- Cheap headphones for CD player.
Not travel hell more like travel purgatory. It took 11 hours to go from LAX to Molly's apartment in Manhattan. The SWA flight from KC to Ipswitch on Long Island stopped at BWI on the way. A piece of information we didn't have until we got there. Every leg of the flight was packed. Jo let everyone know that she is both pregnant and has a broken wrist. Workin' it at every oppurtunity. It did get us pre-board and the mock sympathy of every every SWA employee. They must hear about this sort of thing every day.
Travel tip: Long Island taxis are neither metered or regulated. This means that the taxi driver is ready to screw you. The distance from the airport to the train station is a total of 3 miles. We didn't know this but a kind person who works for US Air told us. We go out and ask the taxi drivers at the taxi stand. One jerk said he would do it for $22 dollars. We smiled and told him we would think about it. Eventually we found a taxi that would do it for $13. Big difference but still a crime. The train ride was uneventful and it rained all the way into NYC. Caught a cab and arrived at Molly's. Overall, an extremely difficult way to get where we were going. If the difference between a straight shot to a NY airport and a SWA ticket is less then $100 then go for the straight shot.
I told Jo that I had rebooked our flights and we would be flying up to Maine to see Fort Kent again tomorrow. For some reason she didn't think that was funny. When we get to Molly's we meet Molly'a roommates, very nice. One I had met before when she came to LA with Molly. The place is rather large with three rooms and a bathroom. I would classify the interior style as "Drunken Carpenter". All the doorways are crooked so bad that "Toon Town" at Disneyland come to mind. The floors all sink to the North. Nothing is level. But it is clean. Not quite finished though. The rent is $3300. No I didn't miss a zero. I am sure you are reading this thinking, that isn't the worst I have ever heard. Here is the clincher. The apartment is on the second floor and on the first floor is "Izzy's Bar". For our bedtime listening pleasure tonight is Salsa music all night long. Imagine being steadily caressed by the syncopated beat of Salsa all night long. Between sets I swear I could hear people talking in the bar. I was wearing ear plugs and it didn't help because they don't help a lick with the low frequency of percussion which is so vital to that Salsa sound. Fortunately the bar closes early at 4am. Henry Rollins gave a monologue once on how you can become a ticked off rabid New Yorker in one evening. Now I know exactly what he is talking about. Of course Molly and her roommates sleep right through it.
I skipped ahead a little bit to try to round out the whole Molly apartment experience but we did get to eat before we put our head to the pillow. Molly took us to this incredible vegetarian chinese restaurant called "Zen Palate". The food was spectacular. The place is in Union Square, about 7 blocks from where Molly lives and the walk was great after being cooped up in a plane all day.
Woke up with a headache, amazing. The sky had cleared after last nights rain and the weatherman reported that it would be great for the next 3 days. Not quite so angry about Salsa.
We have no agenda in New York. This is supposed to be the relaxing part of the trip. Funny that we are trying to do that in New York. But we were here a year ago and so feel like we can slow down now. Breakfast is shreaded wheat and OJ. Take quick showers in her pretty decent bathroom. The fixtures in there look like something out of the cheesiest bachelor pad you ever saw. Refreshed and ready to go the first thing we do is call Jo's Aunt Vin. Supposedly there is a hotel in the westside that is run by Nuns and does not have a live music bar below it. We are hoping she can hook us up since she is a Nun. There is such a hotel. It is called "The Leo House" and we book two nights immediately. We would have booked three but they don't have it. We make a small prayer someone cancels so that we can stay another night. Sorry Molly, we can't hack this one charming flaw in your apartment.
Our first destination is Little Italy. To get there from Molly's you have to walk through this really cool part of Manhattan called Houston (pronounce House-ton). It is full of all of these urban gardens that people have set up and some nice green parks. If there wasn't all this cement and asphalt I am sure Manhattan would be a fertile green forest island. All the gardens were full of urban items like burned out washing machines and pieces of girders and what not with beautiful flowers and plants sprouting out of them.
Little Italy is mostly Little China now. Some of those Italians remain. It looks a lot like it did in the Godfather. We get there at about lunch time so we comb for a place to eat. We found a nice quant cafe with seats on the street. As we sit down the waiter immediately opens a bottle of Pelligrino and starts pouring glasses for us. It isn't free, cost $6, we didn't ask for it. Nice. We put our guard up now and order some food, Gnocchi and salad. It was very good. The gals get up to go to the bathroom so I start to people watch. I notice this guy sitting at one of the tables. This guy has got to be a wise guy. He has slicked backed hair and an obnoxious jogging suit. This old man in a gray suit walks up to him and says something to him. The wise guy looks him in the eye and writes down something on a napkin. I notice that the waiters are treating this guy very nice, too nice. Now we are looking at the real New York, the New York you see in the movies. This guy is probably just some dork in a jogging suit. But to me I have stepped right on the set of "Godfather".
We go from the restaurant to a store just chocked full of tacky tourist stuff with all sorts of Italian themes. I get this cool coin purse. That is of course you think a coin purse is cool. We also got some gelato and headed off to take care of an errand of Molly's. We ended up at a Kinko's in SoHo. Molly then departs to get ready for work. Jo and I wander the city towards the theatre district. We go to TKTS to get the cheapos. Time Square is packed. We get two tickets to "Night Must Fall" starring Matthew Broderick. Don't know a thing about it. It is a revival. We'll see.
Headed back to Molly's to pack up for the "Leo House". We did it with enthusiasm because we could hear the night's band practicing below. Molly was still there and horribly late for work. It brought back memories of my sister as a teenager racing around. I wonder if Molly puts her makeup on in the bus. Wendy used to put her makeup on while driving the car with her knees.
Got to the Leo House. Nice and quiet. The rooms are small but clean and the desk clerks are great. We are very excited. I can't believe how excited we are to sleep. Turned right back around again to eat dinner. We ended up at this trashy jewish deli. Joanna ordered a turkey burger and I had a turkey sandwich. It reminded me why I don't eat meat. It was like eating the blandest food possible. The fact that it showed up with just meat and bread did not help. The lettuce and tomato are extra, I get it. I need some veggies.
Went to the play. Matt has this squeaky Irish accent he is trying to pass off. It does not cut it at all. Like nails on a chalk board. Mediocre at best. If it wasn't on Broadway we would have not had as much fun. But since it was, the experience of it all was great.
Leo's is the place to be. Nice to get some sleep. We put in a word to let them know we definitely want to stay another night. Had the wonderful $5 breakfast. All you can eat, bacon, eggs, cereal, fruit. Like staying at the Waldorf Astoria. We are living like Royalty.
We hike to the very close subway stop and head back to the east side to get Molly. Our big excursion today is the natural history museum. We have been given free tickets by Jo's aunt Vin (the nun). I guess every school age child got free tickets too because they are all there. Did I mention the germans? They obviously had too much vacation time. They are swarming too. You can't miss them. They dress well and they always match each other. They speak better english then American's do. They are not so easily disturbed by the children. I on the other hand have become to look at children differently. You see, I think I can learn all I can by observing them on this trip. I quickly learn the flaw in my plan. They totally outnumber you and they hit you from all sides. All their handlers are at wits end and it is only 10am. I can tell we are totally in over our heads with our impending child. I sit back and prepare my hasty retreat just in case.
The museum is quite standard. Not much different then the one in LA except for the giant statue of Teddy Roosevelt and the founders are Rockefellar instead of Getty.
It does have an Imax theatre (just like LA). But instead of having the theatre inside a building just for the screen the screen is shoe horned into a large theatre/auditorium. It fits but the seats are designed for a regular screen. Basically you are looking straight up most of the time. Like sitting in the front row all the time. The free tickets we received from Auntie Vin are the super deal. We get to see two Imax films on it as well as entrance into the museum proper. The first film was _Amazon_. Spectacular in presentation but real light on hard science. Instead it has this cheesy medicine man story that totaly takes from the beauty of the place. I would have prefered some more depth to the whole thing. The theatre was not very full and it was cool inside while the rest of the museum was a little too hot. As we walk out we are struck by a wave of kids ready to see the next show. They are barely being held in check. We dodge to the side as the human tide rushes in to see the next show. Thank the lord we didn't have tickets for the next show. Instead we have a two hour wait for the next _Elephants_ showing.
We found the precious stones and minerals exhibit and looked around. The usual not quite diamonds showing of gems and metal were there. Most of the more spectacular pieces were not displayed because they were being "researched". I bet some lonely cross dressing drag queen mineralogist is checking this stuff out so he can look extra special at "manilo night" at the local gay bar in the village.
As we walk through the exhibit we all notice our strength waning. We must have made it to the kryptonite display. All three of us honestly lost all our strength and had to sit down for at least 20 minutes. When the time came we went to our next Imax, _Elephants_. Much better then _Amazon_. The elephants are fascinating. They have all sorts of human like behaviors. And they have a 5 degree of freedom front legs, which I found fascinating after my killer robotics class last semester. I flinched after that thought for being such a geek.
Sent Molly back home so she could get ready for work. We walked her to the nearest subway stop. Central Park is right next to the museum so we decide to take a stroll since the weather is beautiful still. One of Jo's very specific cravings hit. We are now on the hunt for a creamsicle. Not any other kind of ice cream bar but a creamsicle. I get a little scared because I haven't seen any. The first two stands we pass we are denied and the gents running them seem to think they don't exist. The third has a tropical fruit like creamsicle. I really thought Jo wouldn't go for it but she did. We sat in the middle of Centrl Park, eating our ice cream and people watching. A very relaxed mode of vacationing. The comapny was lovely. We sat and talked quietly while people passed us by. I was reminded as to why I married the lovely woman. I was quite content at that point.
We picked up after a while and walked down 5th ave. along the park. We made it all the way down to Rockfellar center. Not quite to Time Sq. Tonight we are going to have dinner with our benefactor, Auntie Vin. So we hop on the subway again and head to the lower east side.
Auntie Vin is Jo's great aunt on her father's side. She is a nun and a social worker with the poor of New York. Her convent is on 14th & 1st. About four whole blocks from Molly, seriously. I thought I could hear Izzy's from the convent. When we get there and Auntie Vin is still at work. So the nuns that are there treat us like royalty. They give us drinks and snacks and give us great seats on the roof over looking their part of the city. She arrives in great fanfare. It is pick up night so we are fending for ourselves. We are going to have fish sticks and vegetables. I am back in my childhood.
Dinner was on the roof and Auntie Vin was spinning many interesting yarns about her family. She is in the same trade as Jo so they talk a little shop. Auntie Vin is a kick. It is tough for me to accurately describe her if you haven't ever met her. She is older but very able. She talks a mile a minute and is quite ready to let you know her opinion. I have never felt the divide between Lutheranism and Catholism deeper then when Vin is chastising me for my faith. You would think that Martin Luther had mailed the thesis on her convent door. She is mostly joking though (I think) and I get extra points for going to Catholic High School. As the sun went down the highrises start to light up. The view on the rooftop has actually gotten better. Took some photos. They may not come out though. Had dessert and caaught a bus back to the Leo. Walked from 14th to the Leo on 23rd. It was a nice walk through a great part of town.
Another power breakfast at Leo's. We get a late start because I am breaking down. My back hurts (probably from this new walking thing we keep doing) & my throat is starting to hurt. I am having flashbacks of our honeymoon. Being the jerk that I am, I take my troubles out on Jo. Bad move. I am really upset with my inability to keep up with my own high standards. I realize what I am doing and clean up my act. Just before we leave we make the call. Yep, we are going to the Bigs! We now have another night at the Leo House and won't have to sleep in the subway. We high five and do a little dance. We couldn't be happier. What more could one want? This turns our day around. I am still having a bunch of trouble getting a hold of Norway. TeleNorge is blocking calls from the part of town I am calling from. I hope I can get a hold of the relatives. Will try again in a different part of town.
We are trying to figure out how to see the Gugenheim and take in Les Miserables today. Gugie gets dropped. We expect to see our fill of paintings in France (little do we know). Tickets to Les Miz prove a little more elusive then we like. We find the box office expecting cheapo tickets using a cuopon we lifted from Auntie Vin. Of course they don't have any of those seats left, typical. We hike to TKTS looking for a better deal. They have $40 seats only. Back to the box office. They turn out to be more expensive. So one more trip to TKTS, got a minor scare when the ticket clerk there couldn't find the tickets for a good 2 minutes. He dug them up finally. We have some more time to kill so we lunch at the Marriot in the theatre district. It was way too expensive and not very good. But we got free pickles. Picked up a vanilla malt at HoJos (flash craving from Pregor). Show up in time for the show and sit in our choice seats. The non-musical movie with Anthony Perkins is better then the musical but I enjoyed it. I usually despise musicals but this is one done with real class. Glad I was open to it. I am really surprised that anyone who doesn't know the story can follow what is going on. Jo cried, so did just about every other female in the audience. At the critical scenes you could here the tissue being pulled out and the snuffling of noses. Pretty obvious that the writers have a good pulse of the typical american audience. Took a quick pic of Jo in front of the stage. It was very clever in the way it mechanically conveyed the sets around and reused many pieces for different scenes. Nerd pts to the set designer.
Picked a bus to the Upper West side. We are to meet Monique Astengo & her boyfriend. This bus ride was great it took us past the Lincoln Center. A part of town that neither Jo nor I had seen before. We find the restaurant we are meeting at and beat Monique. Get seats and wait about 15 minutes. Funny thing is that they originally suggested Zen Palate to eat but Molly had already taken us there. And the mention of the place was making Jo sick (love the pregnancy a lot). Monique and Dave show, we order immediately. Food is soso. We are there for the company. Monique is quite an interesting person. Jo has been talking about her for years. She is the daughter of Kate's good friend from high school. Monique works at Dateline for NBC. She shares Jo's political bent. Just like Jo she is often surrounded by conservatives. Moniques father was a minor character in the Reagan adminstration. Dave did not say much. He is some sort of techoweenie working with IBM databases. This amount of info was pratically beaten out of him. He was just not into talking. Can't tell if he was being rude or if he was just in a funk. Either way he wasn't mean. Monique on the other hand was quite socialable and turned out to be everything Jo has been raving about all these years. She has been in the Peace Corp, seen the Soviet Union in the late eighties and has been back to Estonia working on a story for NBC. Caught the reverse bus back after dinner. Before we got on we were waiting at a stop where they had one of those climbing walls. We didn't try it but it was fun to watch. All the people that did it were working really hard. A difficult sport I am sure.
The bus back goes straight through Times Square. Kinda like Vegas with only some of the bad things (hookers but no gambling). Disney has done an amazing job of turning the square into a family place so it feels safe and it is as bright as daylight with all the lights. It was really packed which made the bus go slow but we didn't mind we didn't have anywhere to go. We had a two block walk to the Leo from where the bus stopped which took us right by _Le_Maison_du_Sade_, a rockin' drag club. Our trip is now complete. We have seen everything that anyone could recommend in New York, especially trashy drag queens.
I stayed up at Leo's doing laundry and writing out this entry. I am trying to keep from reading the _Black_Company_ book until I get on another long plane ride. So far it is working.
Major travel day. We will get to New Jersey to take a plane to Sweden in the evening. But before we go we are going to have brunch w/ one of Jo's cousins & try to hang out w/ Molly one more time. We set out at 10:15 to get back up to the Upper West side. Jo's cousin lives a stone's throw from the Lincoln Center. This cousin is actually Kate's 1st cousin, Wallace Mack White (cool WMW initials). Jo calls him Mack. He worked for the New Yorker for close to 20 years as a journalist/writer and is now working on a mystery novel. He currently makes ends meet by translating news from Unicef news articles from english to french.
We arrive at his door about 10 minutes early after strolling through a farmer's market on Columbus Ave. He lives in a nice building across the street from a Y and about 100 yds from Central Park. He has lived in this apt. since '62. It is like walking into a mini library. Books are crammed into every available shelf. He has bunchs of records and knows how to play and write music. A brand new computer which I assume is his main literary scratch pad. If you haven't picked up on it Mack is highly intelligent and eclectic. A genius of a none technical sort. His efficient use of space in this apt. should be envied.
It has only one room so he has rolled up his bed to make room for us to sit down and chat for a while. Mack figured out that his and Kate's grandmother was jewish by birth. So he is welled versed in family lore. He is full of stories Jo has never heard about her family. She and I are quite intrigued by them all. On top of that he has all these different experiences researching stories for the New Yorker. We honestly could have spent all day listening to him. If he hadn't been interested in us we probably never would have spoke just so we could listen to something else he had to say. Jo told me before he is a life long bachelor. Well, he sure didn't sit on his ass all his life, he has used the time wisely. He probably wouldn't have had time for a family with all of these interesting pursuits. He took us to brunch to a restaurant on the same block as his apartment. It was the best meal of the trip. American fare done to perfection. It being our last day in NYC I have been reflecting a bit already. The whole trip so far has been filled w/ family visits. We may not have hit every tourist stop in the big apple but we did 'live' with the locals for four days. We got to see the best part, how people live here.
We finish late w/ Mack so we had only a little time left to see Molly. We are going to meet her at work so we get some quick directions from Mack and we high-tail it to the subway. Weather sucks today. No problem though. We take 3 all new trains then what we have already taken. We are prepared though and execute it flawlessly. That is until I saw a short cut at the last stop and went through a turnstile. Jo came in right behind me and we were suddenly trapped. The turnstile was from floor to ceiling and only one way. The rest of the exits were chained up and closed. Very scary, there was a french woman trapped with us. She took our pictured and we yelled for help. Finally someone had gotten an attendant from another exit to let us out. This stop chewed up the rest of the time we would of had with Molly. I was feeling really bad about this, Jo was just following me & I was too hasty. Should have looked before I leaped.
Once we were freed we took a bathroom break. It is a major new yorker skill to find a bathroom in any part of the city. But Jo has a nose for such things and she once again played the pregnancy card. We then quickly got back to the hotel. Jo called Molly from there and said her goodbyes. From the hotel to Port Authority for the bus to Newark airport.
We had a couple of hours to kill. We used that time pleading with them to find our veggie meals which they some how lost in the computer. Being a computer expert I know the computer probably didn't loose it, most likely the person we spoke to on the phone the first time botched it up. Jo played the preg card again and again she pulled through. While waiting I churned through 80 pages of the _Black_Company_, no doubt I will have it read before we land in Sweden.
Plane took off late but is still going to land early, hmm... The plane went right over the top of Fort Kent, no lie. I waved to Nina and the gang. Our last moments in the US are over Fort Kent. Pretty Cool. Maybe I can sleep now.