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For anyone with an ordinary cell phone, "The Lower East Side: Birthplace of Dreams" is as easy to use as a pre-recorded audio guide in a museum. Visitors simply dial a toll-free number (1-800-644-3545) and select the stop where they're standing. Each audio segment lasts under three minutes; the entire tour takes a little more than an hour, including walking time. Although there is a recommended route, visitors can experience the stops in any order, at their own pace. Narrator Jerry Stiller takes visitors back to the early 1900s, when a massive wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe made this neighborhood the most crowded square mile on earth. As the tour reveals, in coping with the hardships of this slum, the residents came up with innovations that transformed America. "The Lower East Side: Birthplace of Dreams" immerses visitors in a world of tenements and sweatshops, radicals and capitalists, artists and gangsters.
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Greetings! After spending a week in beautiful California, Amber Airplane and I hopped on a plane (what a surprise) and flew to NYC. The book she is reading in that picture is How to Live Big in Manhattan Without Going Broke. Now that's MY kind of book, and I was excited to see Ms. Airplane reading it. Whether you are moving to NYC or just visiting for a few days (and are a tightwad like me), I highly recommend it. It has great tips for finding cheap eats, entertainment, and Amber's favorite: shopping. The authors promise to give you more bang for your buck. Of course, if you order this book you better pick up a copy of mine too: You Are Here Traveling With JohnnyJet.com.
An hour after we arrived in NYC my buddy Steve from L.A. called and said, “You wouldn't happen to be going to New York this weekend, would you?” When I asked why, he said, “Remember those Yankee tickets I ordered back in April? Well, they’re for this weekend, and I can't make it out there.” I said, “Good news for me! I just landed here an hour ago, and I’ll be sure to put them to good use!" The next night (thanks, FedEx!) we were off to the House That Ruth Built.
FYI: It's not cheap to go to the ballpark anymore -- especially Yankee Stadium. Our seats were $40 each (guess I have to get Steve a good Christmas gift). Add $5 for a program (Amber Airplane keeps score during the game), $4 for a bottle of water (ouch!), $9 for two tasty but small steamed hot dogs (at least now they give you ketchup; in the old days it was just mustard), $5 for Cracker Jacks (is it just me, or do you have a hard time finding peanuts anymore in the box?) -- and let's not forget the $5.50 I spent for Amber Airplane's Dip ‘n Dots in a plastic Yankee cap-cup that she had to have (Dip ’n Dots is that weird ice cream shaped like pellets). Of course, there's the transportation to and from the game as well….
Speaking of transportation, I had never gone to Yankee Stadium from the city -- only from my parents’ house in Connecticut. Growing up I didn't go to many games, even though it was only 40 miles away. The reason was because it always was such a nightmare dealing with traffic and parking. Well, not any more! I found some alternative methods that make going to Yankee Stadium a breeze (no pun intended – read on). Did you know there is boat service from the city to Yankee Stadium? You can also take a boat (weekends only) to Shea Stadium too, but who cares about the Mets?! Okay, all you Met fans (especially my dad), don't waste your time sending me nasty emails about the Yankees because all I will read is "The Yankees win! The Yankees win!" BTW: If you know a Yankee fan from NY, chances are he is a Ranger (hockey) and Giants (football) fan too. Met fans tend to root for the Islanders and the Jets. Obviously, this makes for a lot of disagreement in New York.
But back to the boat to Yankee Stadium. The ferry service is called the Yankee Clipper (yeah!). It picks passengers up in Hoboken and Weehawken, NJ, and Manhattan. There are three different places in Manhattan. The first stop is South Street Seaport's Pier 17, the second is East 34th Street, and the last stop as it works it way up the East River is East 90th Street. The boats are 100 feet long, hold up to 400 passengers and are usually sold out. What's cool about the boats is they have a large upper deck. So you can enjoy river breezes and skyline views while traveling under the East River bridges. You can also buy food and drinks on board. The boat departs the Seaport one hour and 35 minutes before game time, and the trip takes about 65 minutes. We boarded at East 90th Street; the ride from there took only 20 minutes to the ballpark.
The boat was packed and we almost didn't get on, thanks to some dopey reservations agent. When I called a few hours earlier the agent said there was no need to buy tickets now; there are plenty of seats, so just show up at the dock and buy tickets there. Wrong! The ticket agent at the dock looked at me and another couple (who had spoken to the same agent) like we were crazy. He wouldn't sell us a ticket because they were sold out, but luckily we got on board because the captain agreed to take four more passengers (but only there -- not back). Ferry tickets are $16 round trip (each), but they charged us $10 each for a one-way. We were lucky to be able to squeeze on. This is a good learning experience for everyone. Rule #1: Always write down the agent’s name or operator’s number, no matter what business you’re calling. That way you will have some pull when a worker (as the dock agent did to me) asks, “Did you get the name of the person you spoke to?”
Lesson learned. No worries; it worked out for the best anyway, as you will read. FYI: Discounts are available for senior citizens and children. The Yankee Clipper also has packages, which include tickets to the game. For more details contact the Yankee Clipper at 1-800-53-FERRY. Don't be a fool like me; make a reservation.
The ferry dropped us off a few blocks from Yankee Stadium, about a 7 minute walk. We stayed to the last out of an exciting 4-3 game. Unfortunately the Yankees lost to the Baltimore Orioles. I thought for sure the Yanks would pull it off, because in the 9th, they had the bases loaded with two outs. The big screen played Rocky highlights to get all 44,000 fans pumped. I think Rocky got Ruben Sierra a little too excited, because he swung at the first pitch and hit a can of corn. Oh well, I’d rather see the Yankees lose now than in October.
We didn't want to deal with mad traffic, so our only alternative was the subway. I am not sure if it’s because I grew up in Connecticut, but for some crazy reason I’ve had a preconceived notion that taking the subway at night (especially in the Bronx) is dangerous. Well, I finally got that notion out of my head. I was indeed a bit nervous taking the subway home for a few reasons: I had never taken the subway from Yankee Stadium and was unfamiliar with it, plus I was with a beautiful blonde (who always gets cat calls walking through the city), and I didn't want to draw attention to us. But Amber Airplane said she felt comfortable taking the subway, so we checked it out. A good thing we did too, because it couldn't have been any easier, cheaper or faster to get back to Manhattan.
The Yankee Stadium subway stop is located right outside the stadium, at the corner of 161st St. and River Ave. It is conveniently reached by several subway lines including the #4 train, as well as the B (weekdays only) and D trains. We took the #4 train (the express), and it happened to be waiting when we reached the platform. Most of the subway cars were packed but the ones toward the back were empty, so we ran down there before the doors closed, and guess what? There were no freaks on the subway! Just normal Yankee fans like us. There were also plenty of cops on the platform, which was very comforting. Three stops and 15 minutes later we were on the Upper East Side (86th St.) The cost was $2 apiece. Can't beat that, can you!?
What else did we do fun in the city? Oh, yes! I have a great restaurant for you to visit. Amber Airplane dragged me down to the Village because... that's right, she needed to go shopping. After she got her fix in, it was time to get mine! Do you love peanut butter like I do? If you do, then you won't want to miss Peanut Butter & Co. This little sandwich shop in Greenwich Village is right up my alley. It's famous for their homemade peanut butter, and unique sandwich combinations. I was so excited to be there that my mouth dropped wide open as I read their creative sandwiches off the menu boards.
I ordered the Elvis, which is Peanut Butter (duh!), bananas and honey, grilled. The choices for every PB sandwich is: crunchy or creamy, white or wheat. (If you order a PB&J like Amber Airplane they will ask you, "grape, strawberry or raspberry?" (For the jelly, in case you didn’t realize.) FYI: You can also have the crust cut off. Most sandwiches are $5 (mine was $6.50), but they all come with chips and carrot sticks, so it's not that outrageous. Peanut Butter & Co also sells their six different kinds of homemade peanut butter in jars for $6. I sampled "The Heat Is On," which is a secret blend of peppers, chiles and hot sauce that turns up the heat on this peanut butter. It was good, but not my favorite. My favorite was "White Chocolate Wonderful," which is Ghirardelli White Chocolate blended with roasted peanuts, making this a creamy decadent treat to die for. Let's not even talk about their desserts. Peanut Butter & Co 240 Sullivan St., Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10012,
Observation of the week: Only in NY will you find a special like this.
The Johnny Jet.com highlight for the week was being asked to appear on the Fox News Channel for Neil Cavuto's show "Your World.” They asked me and Wendy Perrin from Conde Nast Traveler magazine to name our top three best and worst U.S. airports. This was by far my biggest interview, and be paired up with Wendy, who I have always admired was an honor in itself.
To prepare for the big day, Amber Airplane took me over to Banana Republic (BR) so I could use the gift certificate my sister Carol gave me for Christmas. FYI: Amber Airplane used her gift certificate on Dec 26th. After spending way too long in BR, I finally found an outfit that Amber Airplane approved of. Yeah! She stayed downtown and shopped, while I took the subway back to the apartment to get cleaned up.
Here's a funny story: I was standing on the subway when an older gentleman dressed in a suit next to me looked at my Johnny Jet.com shirt and said, “That Johnny Jet has a great website.” I said, “He does, doesn't he?” The man said, “But he gets way too personal. He talks about his family, his sister, his girlfriend, California....” I kept a straight face and said, "But that's what makes it different.” Then he said, “Where did you get the nice shirt?" I said, "I'm Johnny Jet," and stuck out my hand. The guy turned pale instantly and said, “Well, I use your site all the time,” and ran off the subway. I don't think it was even his stop. Pretty crazy huh?
The Fox News Channel people treated me really well. They sent a car for me, and all of the staff was really friendly. I got to the studio 30 minutes before the show, and they sent me right to makeup. Makeup? Make up! The makeup artist (or whatever you call her) was awesome, except she put way too much on me. She took out this spray and told me to close my eyes. I mumbled, “Why are you spray painting me?” She laughed and kept caking it on. I said, “Dang, I need a lot of work, huh?”
Next the producer shuffled Wendy and me into the room where Terry Keenan was sitting. She was filling in for Neil, who was on vacation. These guys are all business. The next thing I know, I’m sitting in the chair making small talk with Terry and one of the crew – and I was already miked. To this day I have no idea how some person put a microphone on me underneath my tucked-in shirt without me knowing. I said to her, “You are good! Too good -- like a magician. In fact, you’re so good I better check my pocket for my wallet.” She just laughed. The show went well, and a ton of friends called or emailed me to say they saw it. And just the other day I got a letter in the mail from Neil Cavuto himself, thanking me for being on and hoping I’ll be a guest again. Anytime Neil, anytime!
To cap off the great evening, I left Fox News and walked across the mobbed street to Radio City Music Hall for MTV's 20th anniversary Video Awards. I met Amber Airplane, my brother and a few friends, who greeted me with second-row seats. So I got to see that kiss by Brittany, Madonna and Christina close up. Yeah, baby! What a week.
Next week we’re off to see the wizard -- I mean, my dad.
P.S. Make sure you visit this week's sponsor! ChurchillSuites.com
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Well I must say that I have scratched Siena from my list of have to see places. It has been so overrun with tourists that you have to park well outside of town, walk to an escalator(!!) then walk about 10 minutes to get to the main square where the Palio takes place. To me it ruins the experience of visiting a Roman city. I was also deeply disappointed in Florence and Venice. I have seen so much damage to these once wonderful cities.Tourism has made these places really filthy and it's hard to find a restaurant that serves real Italian food-they mostly serve US and German versions of Italian food. But Rome is wonderful-I could easily live there. And Lake Garda is amazing, particularly this one hotel which should be a 7 star hotel. Ciao, Richard R - Los Angeles
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My nose is clogged shut. My chest rattles every time I inhale. The back of my throat feels as if I tried to swallow a porcupine. I'm sick. What's worse, I'm on a business trip. Think you're immune? A recent survey conducted by Pepto-Bismol found that 62% of all travelers have experienced some physical ailment while traveling and that 20% of business travelers were forced to cut their trip short as a result. Details in Power Trip.
OTHER STORIES FROM ELLIOTT
Balking at Bargains? You Could Be Sick - A Pox on Passengers - Ads Not Enough to Cure Travel Fatigue
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