NYC skyline from the ferry to the Statue of Libery
This was going to be another important day for me, in that I was going to achieve two more life goals. #39 is see the Statue of Liberty and #49 is to see a Broadway show. First up was the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We grabbed a bag of bagels and cream cheese from a bagel shop in Times Square, the night before. I’m sure they were better when they were warm, but the next morning they were a little on the tough side. Tasted good, though. We were ready and on the platform right on schedule when I realized that I hadn’t grabbed the tickets for the show. Our tentative plans were to not come back to the hotel until late that night. So we all exited and the girls waited at the top of the station, and I went back to the hotel to grab the tickets.
Margo and Jessi
Like I mentioned the hotel is really close so it was a pretty quick trip. Our subway cards (Metro Cards) are for unlimited rides for seven days. The down side was that you can’t use them within a certain amount of time, after you have scanned them through the machine. This is so people don’t just buy one pass and use it for everyone in their party. One pass per person. I was concerned that we would have to wait for a few more minutes and miss another train. But, it didn’t happen. We got on the very next train, which was an express. The subways are set up where each “line” has local trains that stop at every stop, and express trains that only stop at about every third station. Our station 96th & Broadway is an express station. Really as close as it is, and the access it gives us to other lines, on top of being able to grab an express when we need one, makes this hotel location really good in my book.
The Statue of Liberty
This trip we needed an express. We were going from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to it’s southern most tip. With the local, its probably about 30-40 minutes, and 15-20 stops. With the local it was more like 15-20 total minutes and 8-10 stops, including 3 local stops when we switched to a local train.
Anyway ticket offices opened at . We were standing in the wrong line by . I already had paid reservations, and only needed to pick up our tickets.
The Statue of Liberty
That’s why we were in the wrong line. Luckily the right line, was short and moved pretty quick. We still easily made the first ferry, which was our goal. I had reserved free time tours for the observatory at , the first tour. We went through a metal detector to board the ferry and then got seats up top. The ferry ride was very pleasant considering how hot the day was already getting. Then when we got to Liberty Island we had to go through more security. First I had to put my backpack in a locker. State of the art lockers, with a biometric lock. It used fingerprint scanners to open them. Pretty cool. Rental fee was $2.00 for two hours. Next it was another line. This one was for a Puffer Machine. I didn’t catch the official machine name, but you stepped into the two sided booth, stood still and it blew three puffs of air on you.
The Statue of Liberty
Then the machine would analyze the surrounding air for chemicals. Explosives have very recognizable chemical signatures that these things can pick up. Jessi jumped when her’s blew the air, even though she knew what was coming. Finally after all of that we were ready for our tour. I booked the Observatory Tour, so we could get the best view that was possible. The last people, tourists anyway, who went up into the statue did so on September 10, 2001. The planes hit the towers before the first tour was to take place on 9/11. The statue is closed, but the observatory deck on the platform is open. They say the reason the statue is still closed is for safety reasons. They have to have the capability to evacuate the entire statue in 15 minutes. There is no elevator to the top, so it would be stairs only. I think if they restricted the amount of people who were on the crown at any one time, they could still do it.
The Statue of Liberty
I mean those with physical limitations are not going to climb all of those steps anyway. Whatever, I just think it’s a shame.
Our tour guide/park ranger was pretty good. He gave us the history, starting with the original torch that is now on display in the “lobby of the platform. The sculptor, Bartolli, wanted the original torch to be covered in gold leaf to act as a beacon as the sunlight would reflect off of it. But, we Americans weren’t interested. We did decide we wanted to turn it into a lighthouse. So we cut holes in the torch and installed the latest technology, electric lights. The ranger mentioned a story I had never heard before. He said that the first lights they installed were arc lights.
The Statue of Liberty. (Like you didn't know)
The kind, where the bolt of electricity jump from one electrode to the other. That was kind of interesting, but then we told us that effect was very eerie, and had a peculiar alluring effect on the sea birds. They suddenly began crashing into the statue at night. One morning the count was over 1300 dead birds. The Statue of Liberty had turned into a giant bird zapper. They finally realized that the statue would never be a light house, and abandoned that idea, but they still continued to illuminate the torch. But, the holes that let the light out, weren’t sealed very well, so salt water was leaking in. The salt combined with the copper skin and iron supports were a very corrosive combination. So 90 years later the statue was in serious need of repair. Private donations funded the renovations, and the statue was reopened in time for its centennial, in 1986. And, we replaced the torch, with an exact replica of the original.
Then we gilded it gold. I was about to ask if there was no light source, how come I could see the torch clearly from the BrooklynBridge. But, that answer was part of his explanation. The have installed photoelectric cells that detect when it becomes dark enough, it turns on lights that shine on the torch. It works pretty well.
We saw the various skylines and bridges from the top of the pedestal, which is almost as tall as the statue itself, at 87 feet. The views were pretty good, and because the amounts of people were regulated it wasn’t too crowded. Everything in NY has crowds, but these were manageable.
Jessi & Margo on Lady Liberty's foot. This was a life size replica of the foot. It is located inside the pedestal.
Not like Ellis Island, our next stop. But, I’m a little ahead of myself. After all of this we still had not seen much in the way of a front view of the statue. We approached, on the boat, pretty much from the back and side. When we were on the pedestal we were too close to see much of the statue at all. But once we exited, and got on the island, we made a beeline for the front of the island. Finally, we got to see the front. A couple of things surprised me about the statue. One, overall it was smaller than I thought it would be. It’s big, but still smaller than I imagined. Second, it looks to me like it needs to be cleaned again. Plenty of streaks and such. But, I imagine that would be both dangerous and expensive to have some sort of regimented plan to scrub or clean it. I guess you just kind of expect such a huge symbol to have a better presence in the respect.
The original torch
I guess I put the Statue of Liberty on a different pedestal than it currently sits.
But, two hours was plenty to take in everything, including the museum inside. We got a couple of nice shots of some replica parts and saw a video on how the statue was made. Very interesting. We queued up in a line to board the ferry to Ellis Island. We had just missed a boat, so we had a half hour wait. It went pretty quick, and we were on our way. Ellis Island is a short 5-10 minute ride from Liberty Island. We got there got off the boat, and headed for the main building. I had made no touring plans and had done almost no research on the island.
Me and the orginal torch
It was almost an afterthought when I was planning it, because I really didn’t know what they could do with it to make it interesting. But, there was a free guided tour ready to start almost as soon as we got there. So we waited for that. The ranger did a very good job, again. He told us about the history of the island and described a typical day for an immigrant passing through. That started with them getting off the boat with their luggage and being greeted by uniformed members of the immigration department, and told to drop their luggage and proceed forward to be checked in. The immigrants were then led up a flight of stairs where a medical person watched each person, in the span of a few a seconds walking up those stairs checking for some sort of medical condition. A limp or heavy breathing might be enough to get them pulled aside for a more in depth evaluation.
Inside The Statue of Liberty
Each immigrant was then interviewed gathering data, and checking to see if they had money and a job waiting. Then it was off for the physical. Mostly it was just a quickie checking for really obvious stuff and a few specifics, like tricanoma. That was a highly contagious eye disease, like a mega case of pink eye. The big difference being it could cause blindness. They check using unsterlized instruments, at least some of the time, and probably passed the very disease they were trying to contain. Finally, it was down the stairs to one of three destinations. Ferries to NY, Ferries to trains that would take them out west, or to the detention facility.
I found it very interesting.
Inside The Statue of Liberty
There was also a Wall of Fame, which we didn’t see. It is a fund raising project where people pay $100 to have an immigrant ancestor’s name inscribed. It was a little steep, or I might have done it. They also had computer stations set up to view their files, to find your immigrant ancestor’s ship manifest. I have already found mine, but it was too expensive to buy, so I didn’t. Anyway, we were getting tired, so we decided to head back, and get in a little rest before our show that night. Probably the worse part of our trip occurred at this point. There must have been several hundred late elementary age kids on the island as well. We had never encountered this phenomenon before, as in other states, the kids are on summer vacation and not on school trips. I guess they have year round schools here. But, there were some kids that must be kept in cages when they are back home, because out in public they were loud, obnoxious, rude, and disruptive.
Ellis Island as view from the Statue of Liberty
The best thing I can say is I saw no criminal activity. Of course I tried my best to just ignore them. We had to wait in line to board the ferry for about 45 minutes total. And there was one group in front of us that was trying to earn their Obnoxious Merit Badge, and doing a fine job. But, we lived. We got back to Battery Park, and I made a quick scan of the vendors. I try to pick up a polo shirt from the historic places I visit. I have one from the Hoover Dam and the USS Arizona to name two. I couldn’t find anything at the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, or the EmpireStateBuilding. At the USS Intrepid I found some in pastel colors, that I wouldn’t be caught dead in. So all I ended up with was a NYC shirt and a FDNY shirt.
Flag/Face Display-One view is the American flag
No luck with these vendors, either. So we found our subway and made it back for our afternoon nap.
We got up, got ready, and went next door for dinner, at the Key West Café. There food was pretty good. Nothing extraordinary, except the service. Fast service, big portions, and very polite staff. Finished up and grabbed the subway for our show. Now might be a good time to talk a bit about the subway. I was a little concerned about riding the subway. First, it doesn’t have the greatest reputation. Second you have to study this thing and ride it some before it starts to make sense. I did plenty of research, studying the lines and then making detailed directions of which line to take, where to transfer, and which stop to get off, for each of our destinations.
Flag/Face Display-The other is the faces of America
There haven’t been many hiccups. I don’t have it memorized, by any stretch, but I am getting to where I can navigate it pretty well. Couple it with the bus system, and I have to admit it works very well. As for safety, we have encountered no issues with characters that looked dangerous. Weird, mentally ill, or just homeless, Yes. But no one dangerous. We have run into a couple that were begging for money going up and down the cars. Another who looked perfectly normal, but was singing, moderately loud. Enough to be heard near by, but not like he was performing. You started to question his mental stability as he started to announce the stations as we arrived. He was accurate, and even pointed out that an express train was arriving at the same time as we pulled in. That got the attention of several of our travelers and they transferred. I think he provided a genuine service, in this manner.
Half and Half
Another man began preaching from the bible, almost as soon as the doors closed. But everyone, else pretty much ignored everyone else, trying to carve out there own little space. They were polite, excusing themselves if they accidentally jostled you. But all bets were off running to catch a subway. You stood a risk of getting knocked down, if you weren’t paying attention if you were on the stairs and the sound of an approaching train could be heard. Jessi and Margo each took a few shots from bags or such. I think I must have presented a much larger obstacle so I didn’t get hit too often.
Anyway, our show is called Avenue Q, it a kind of an R rated Muppets take Manhattan. Only its loosely set in Brooklyn. And the Muppets never dealt this humorously with racism, or ever touched the subjects of internet porn and sex. We got to see naked puppets having sex, and roared with laughter. It starts out at an apartment building run by Gary Coleman. Yup, that Gary Coleman, only the real actor didn’t play himself. A fresh faced English Major shows up looking for a place to rent. His name is Sterling. He meets the locals, a closet gay Republican investment banker, who rooms with his straight best friend. An out of work near-to-do-well, Nicky. The main female character is Kate Monster. A kindergarten assistant. There is Trek Monster. He is a cross between the Cookie Monster and Animal. There is a human couple. A Japanese-American named Christmas Eve and her fiancé. It’s a very diverse crowd that makes the racism song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” easy. The very first song was titled “It Sucks to be Me”, dealing with each character's problems. Honestly, when I narrowed the choices down to three. The Producers, Avenue Q, and Steel Magnolias.I figured we would end up with Avenue Q, as it would be the one we would compromise on. But, I did expect much out of it. But, I really liked it. It was the best play I ever saw. We laughed the whole time. It was over in a flash. There were no real dead spots, and even the slow spots were pretty quick. Afterwards we got Jessi a T-shirt and Margo the score CD. I would love to see it again. Afterwards, it was off to grab some ice cream for dessert, at Ben & Jerry’s. Then back to the hotel. It was about . I had originally planned to take a cab, but it wasn’t necessary. The subways were packed again.
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