Thursday, March 27, 2008

San Diego, New York and back to DC

Originally planned as a week long trip between Washington, D.C. and San Diego to see friends and family, my vacation was unexpectedly extended when my friend Adam from Melbourne informed me that he'd be in New York for a week. At first I was hesitant to give up what was essentially a free ticket bought with miles but after figuring that I would probably revisit San Diego later in the year anyways, I canceled my reservations and booked two one-way flights on different carriers. However I still had the issue of how to get from New York back to Washington, D.C., thus completing my isosceles triangle of travel. For that I turned to Amtrak, whose Carolinian service I am currently on as I write this blog entry.

Rising early on the morning of March 19th, I made my way down to the lobby of my apartment complex to wait for a cab. Normally I would take the Metro seeing as I live so close to Reagan National but due to the absurdly early departure time of 5:45am, there simply wouldn't be enough time given Metro's opening hour of 5:00am. With a single stop in Charlotte, my flight was uneventful and even arrived about 25 minutes early in San Diego. A short drive later courtesy of my dad and I was back in Carlsbad.

The time spent in my hometown was both enjoyable and relaxing. Hanging out with my friends Greg, Jeff and Nicole was a blast and I spent my evenings at watering holes both new and old. My main reason for returning was to attend an Eagle Scout ceremony but that was canceled. I did however attend the locally famous Troop 748 Pancake Breakfast. Fellow scouts that I hadn't seen in years were there and indeed, some had changed beyond initial recognition. Besides Scouting events, spending time with family at Easter was also a reason for visiting and my relatives did not disappoint. Throw in Dad's incredible smoked lamb and you had an Easter worthy of legend.

Tuesday came sooner than I thought it would but with only a four and a half hour flight separating me from the Big Apple, I was eagerly anticipating my travels. The flight was uneventful and taking advantage of the AirTrain service from JFK to Jamaica Station, I then boarded a LIRR train for Penn Station. I had originally planned on taking the E train but several web sources recommended the LIRR as it was faster and more convenient. I ended up booking my hotel stay in a recently remodeled room of the Ramada New Yorker located at 34th and 8th. If all you're looking for is a bed with attached bathroom, versus a communal bathroom, then this is a great choice. A sub $200 room in the heart of the city can't be beat.

During my time in Melbourne, I had the great fortune of befriending a very talented group of people who worked and volunteered at the local community theater known as the Henegar. In the course of the previous two years, several of them had managed to find their way to New York to pursue careers on the stage. One in particular, Vinny, was playing at a cabaret called Don't Tell Mama near 46th and 8th. A small yet cozy club, the show itself was a showcase of six different performers with each doing two songs of choice. Vinny's rendition of "The Best is Yet to Come" was in my mind the best performance that night but then I do admit to a bit of bias.

The next day found me in line early along with Adam at TKTS hoping to score tickets to a matinee show for a reduced price. As it was, tickets for Young Frankenstein were available so we scooped those up and then made our way up to Central Park where we spent a few hours rehashing old times. On our way back down to the Theater District we stopped off at Carnegie Deli so I could finally get that New York-style kosher tongue sandwich I'd been jonesing for. I was not disappointed. I think it's the idea of eating tongue that turns people off to the idea more than anything. But in fact, it tastes and looks similar to pastrami save of course for the still visible taste buds.

Showing at the Hilton Theater, Young Frankenstein absolutely floored both Adam and myself. Based on Mel Brooks' movie of the same name, it follows the comical adventures of a young Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced steen) upon his return to Transylvania. Played by Roger Bart, the part required energy and timing befitting such an amazing actor. Yet I think many in the audience would agree that the character of Igor is what really shone through. With his randomly appearing hump, witty lines and amazing voice, Christopher Fitzgerald, who played the role, stole the show. Despite the harsh critiques the show has received, I highly recommend this to both fans and non-fans alike.

Unexpectedly, Adam's friend Johnny managed to score us free tickets to an evening showing of Legally Blonde playing at the Palace Theater. Not being a show that I would ever buy tickets to, I went with an open mind hoping for the best but expecting anything. To say the least, I was throughly impressed. I had seen the movie once before but didn't have any particular attachment to it. The musical though brought an energy and audience rapport that simply doesn't translate to the silver screen. Armed with song, dance and love, the leading lady, Elle Woods, gains matriculation at Harvard Law to win back the affections of her now ex-boyfriend Warner. She soon realizes though that she will never be back together with him and dives into her studies for their own sake. Fending off unwanted advances from her professor, she strikes her own path and uses her Harvard-trained mind in tandem with her Malibu-honed social skills to win her client's trust and freedom. When the curtains came down, the audience was in rapturous applause giving the cast a standing ovation for some minutes. This is another show I would highly recommend.

Having made my goodbyes to Adam, I decided to make a stop before going back to my hotel. Junior's, famous for its cheesecakes, operates a restaurant at 45th and 7th in the heart of Times Square. Sidling up to the bar, I ordered an orange liquer and coffee concoction along with a lox and bagel sandwich. I topped it off with a chocolate swirl cheesecake, the same that I've enjoyed for years thanks to freeze-dried packaging and overnight shipping. Satiated beyond measure, I made my way back to the hotel and hit the sack. If there were a theme to this vacation, it would be friends and family both of whom I appreciate more and more in my life as I get older.