The Trip: Food (not)

June 4, 2014

Most exciting thing WE did?  On Thursday, May 22, Cate and I attended the 2014 National Heritage Lecture, co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society, the White House Historical Association, and the United States Capitol Association, in the Supreme Court courtroom. The speaker was James Swanson, who spoke about the Kennedy assassination and the role of Chief Justice Earl Warren and the Warren Commission in the aftermath. Chief Justice John Roberts introduced Mr. Swanson and, then, dashed off to his daughter’s eighth-grade play. We stayed! Interesting and informative lecture, especially so for someone—Cate—for whom the Kennedy assassination is really history. Very nice reception in a conference room, where Cate was quite taken with the fancy apps, especially some passed mini-Reuben sandwiches. (Conference room really does no justice to the grandeur of the space in which we ate, drank, and chatted.) The Supreme Court is a beautiful building, with exhibit space and a great bookstore/gift shop, and should be on your “must see” list.

Most exciting thing Cate did?  On Memorial Day we went to B & H, a camera store and more on 9th Ave. around 34th St. Cate is a customer, on-line, but wanted to see the bricks and mortar store. “Wow!” is all we could say! “Just wow!”

So you enter. The store has many departments, like cameras, video equipment, film, accessories, etc. Lots of people—most are Orthodox Jewish men—man the counters, so you actually get service, and the staff seemed far more knowledgeable than the crew you find at Best Buy and its competitors. Huge selection of products! But, when you decide what you want, that’s when things get really cool. Your purchases get rung up at the counter where you found them. You get a receipt but you pay nothing. Your purchases find their way into bins which travel through the store along a metal conveyor system. You take your receipt to the payment counter and go to the clerk at the numbered counter which appears as the next available counter. You pay. Then you take your payment receipt to another counter, where a clerk gets your purchase from a wall, bagged and ready to go.

B & H runs an amazing operation. Service exists, for real, and the employees are very friendly. And the system really works, making it easy to buy products, despite the three-step process.

Cate was all smiles, from the moment we arrived until long after we left on Monday. And on Tuesday she was all smiles again, as we returned for the couple of items we forgot.

Biggest surprise?  The museum plan in DC included the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. On the way out on Thursday, however, I insisted on a short stop at the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art—only the lobby is open—and a stop at the gift shop downstairs took us to the main building. I’m fond of The Jolly Flatboatmen by George Caleb Bingham, as it’s a joyful painting. (It also belonged to a friend for many years.) So we paid a brief visit there. That, finally, led to Cate’s discovery of the Garry Winogrand photography exhibit, where we spent more than an hour. We were very proud of the fact that at least half of the photos had a connection to the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography. (We also walked through the Degas/Cassatt exhibit, which was also wonderful.) In the end, Cate told me later the best museum we went to was the National Gallery of Art.

What we skipped?  Wow, where to start? In DC we never went north of G St., or west of the Lincoln Memorial. We did get to the Natural History Museum and the National Archives, but missed all of the others, but for a walk through the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, which is very cool. No visits to the Capitol or the White House, which may still be closed to visitors. (In prior times I have dined in the White House Mess and peeked into the Oval House.) We did see the roof of the White House, snipers and all, from the roof of the W hotel.

In New York, we passed on the Empire State Building, with its $39.95 per person price. (Cate wondered how Jonah, the boy in Sleepless in Seattle, pulled off getting to the top.) No boat trips, although we did walk from Chelsea to Battery Park and saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from afar. We walked under—but not on—the Brooklyn Bridge, missed Lincoln Center and Times Square, and lots more. No other boroughs, either, although our train to Westchester County—last night of the trip was spent there—passed through The Bronx. We did discuss the United Nations. I mentioned how much more significant the UN seemed to me as a child. It was newer then, and a world war was very raw for many, many people. In addition, that the organization has been a whipping boy for so many decades surely accounts for some of the disinterest. Surely, for all of its faults, it’s easy to ignore what the world might be like without the UN. Finally, no shows!

Total Steps?  Some readers know I wear a Nike Fuelband. Leaving out flying days—Wednesday and Wednesday—my Nike Fuelband captured 119,719 steps, or about 19,935 steps per day. That is about 10 miles per day. Regularly, I was struck by the fact that I handled the trip, blisters and all. Age matters, for sure, but it was nice to be able to power through the days, and “as good as it gets” was having Cate Rubin tell me, three days post-trip, that I had worn her out!

Which city is better, DC or NYC?  Better is so not me, but here are some thoughts.

DC is basically free. You can enjoy the city’s best offerings for the cost of food and lodging, just about. NYC is “pay the man,” everywhere!

In DC there are hoards of young people in different colored t-shirts, with older people in matching t-shirts who shout often. In NYC there are just lots of people. ( I recalled to Cate going to Windows on the World for Sunday brunch in 1979. Lower Manhattan was deserted, totally. Now, people everywhere, from Chelsea all the way down to the tip of Manhattan. Cool!)

The Metro in DC is dirty. Embarrassingly dirty. But it’s simple and unintimidating! As for the NYC subway, we took it not once. Only walking and one short cab ride to the train station.

Food in DC is alright, and not especially expensive or inexpensive. In NYC food is great. You can spend lots of money, or not as much, and with some effort there are many opportunities to eat really, really well at Tucson prices. That is what we accomplished, … mostly!!!

Finally, I had asked and asked Cate what she wanted to do. Being a busy college student, with finals and other stuff to worry about, I didn’t get much guidance. Instead, finally, I got “I want to walk and take pictures.” So that’s what we did, and for that activity, while both cities are wonderful, New York offers more interesting things to see and record.

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