Saturday, February 23, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Silly

I'm just going to cram the last couple of days in NYC into one post (because I'm writing it long after the fact).

Thursday, and off to the Museum of Natural History again. This time we wanted to make sure to see two things. One is a special exhibit on water, and the other is the Hall of Human Origins.

Ultimately, the water exhibit is a bit disappointing. They have some good displays, but it didn't seem very compelling to me. Perhaps it's because I already know a lot about water and water issues, in part because of my background in Environmental Science, and in part because living in California, we confront water issues All The Time. If it isn't about too much or too little, it's about who gets it from whom, and what it will cost.

The Hall of Human Origins, however, is quite magnificent. They do a terrific job of showing lots of fossils and what they might mean, how they've been interpreted at different times, and so on. Since my daughter has dome some reading and watched several documentaries on the subject, she found it all quite fascinating, and we took a lot of pictures so she could do a presentation to her class. It's great fun to watch her thinking about the science, sometimes suggesting alternative interpretations of data and theories. Don't know whether she'll actually become a scientist, but it's nice to see that she's understanding they way they approach things.

Thursday evening we had one more set of theater tickets, to a show I've wanted to see since I first heard it was going to happen, Monty Python's Spamalot. If I have to explain it, you wouldn't appreciate it, anyway. Suffice it to say it's a riff off the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I guess for a lot of people, it was meaningful that Sir Robin was played by Clay Aiken, but since I'd never seen or heard of him before, it didn't mean much to me. He was fine, though. As we were entering the theater, we'd noticed a large number of sailors in full dress uniforms coming in another door. I gather they were up in the balcony, and the cast made a couple of nods to them (such as the Knights who now say "Ecky-ecky-ecky-anchors aweigh," which cracked up King Arthur and got a huge cheer from the balcony). Anyway, great fun for those who know and love the Pythons and their work.

Friday was to be departure day (in the evening), but we woke to considerable snowfall, and weather warnings that included dire predictions of flight delays and cancellations. Attempts to get further information from our airline were futile: the phone got a recording saying they were overwhelmed, doing the best they could, and please call back later. The website just timed out. Great. After some deliberation, we decided to check out of the hotel anyway, and take our chances. Ultimately, this proved wise. Apparently flights within the northeast were having trouble, and LaGuardia Airport was a mess, but our non-stop flight across the country from JFK was unaffected.

So we had an afternoon to spend in NYC. I decided to make use of the extremely useful site I'd found recently, ChocoMap. Mostly this showed that midtown Manhattan is full of outlets for European chocolate companies, which I'm sure are fine. But I stumbled across a real little chocolate factory, right in midtown, called Vere Chocolate. They are quite adamant about the fact that they make chocolate, not candy. All dark, at least 70% cacao. Oh, and on Friday afternoons, they have tours and tastings. Bingo!

As it turns out, the tour isn't really. You basically get to step in the front door, where they've set up a tasting table. You can look into the factory, but can't go inside. Oh, well. At least they have tasty samples, and you can buy some to take home. I particularly liked something they call Pumpkorn, which is chocolate-covered caramel corn with spicy pumpkin seeds. Really quite interesting, and like nothing I've had elsewhere. So that was worth the trip.

Since we weren't far away at that point, we decided to visit the Macy's mother ship. I don't know how many times I've seen the movie Miracle on 34th Street, but I still love it*, and I've always kind of wanted to go see that Macy's. So we did. I was rather disappointed to learn that they don't have a toy department except during the Christmas season. Alas. On the other hand, I did find that they still have some very old, wooden escalators on the upper floors of the main building. I can't remember ever seeing such a thing, though my mother insists that I must have in my younger days. I guess there were some in this part of the world in my youth.

Anyway, it was still a treat to go there. My wife was quite pleased to do a bit of shopping, as their petites department is several times larger that those at our nearby Macy's stores, and even our daughter got in the act, uncharacteristically. She decided that she wanted to do some dress shopping, and happily tried on quite a number before choosing two that she had to have. I got to shuttle between the 5th and 7th floors, which meant I got to observe (and use) the wooden escalators, so I was happy.

All in all, a fine finish to a fine trip to New York.

* Original 1947 version only, and definitely not the colorized version. Boy, was I surprised a few years ago to learn that Maureen O'Hara has brilliant red hair!

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