After we escaped the crush of Chelsea Market, we sat in a park — possibly Hudson River Park? — for a few minutes. People were lying in the grass, sunbathing. I can’t imagine ever doing such a thing. So I sat there and contemplated the differences between these folks and me. And tried to ignore the still-building disturbance in my intestinal tract.
We decided to check out the High Line, which is a former railroad trestle, now an elevated park/walking trail. It’s very cool, indeed. It’s basically a nature trail between skyscrapers. However…. it was super-crowded, as well. We just entered the flow of foot traffic and shuffled along. It was a little too Bataan Death March for my tastes. But whoever came up with the idea is some kind of crazy genius. I’ve never really seen anything like it. If it wasn’t so insanely crowded, I would’ve loved it.
We exited the raised shuffle path, and returned to the street level shuffle path. Toney asked if I was ready for lunch, and I silently groaned. Food did not sound good to me, at all. But I was trying not to be a sad sack drag on the day. So I said, “Sure!”
The New York Burger Co. looked promising, and it turned out to be a good choice. I considered just having fries and a soda, since I felt like something was about to give. But I went all-in, and had a cheeseburger meal. It cost about $30 for both of us, and the burgers were good. Possibly cooked over charcoal? I’m not sure, but there was a definite grilled taste that I enjoyed.
There was some woman in there, part of a largish group, who could not sit still. It didn’t take long for me to zero in on this mental patient, and marvel at her inability to just sit in a fucking chair like everybody else. She was up and getting condiments. Up and topping off sodas. Up and grabbing some napkins. Just continuous motion. This is not unusual behavior, either. People are ridiculous, in giant numbers.
They had a perfunctory bathroom situation there. Clearly, it was the minimum they could get by with, and still be code-compliant. I was starting to panic. There was ABSOLUTELY no way I could have a sit-down in a circumstance like that. It was literally right off the dining room, and was unisex, as well. I mean, seriously. You had to punch in a code from the bottom of your receipt to gain access, which stopped people from wandering in off the street to offload. But that didn’t make it any better. Look at all these people in here! Every one of them with a receipt.
I somehow ate more than 50% of my meal, and we sat there discussing our next move. I thought about the Strand Book Store, but it was about two miles from where we sat, according to Google. Under normal circumstances, we could’ve just walked. But there was no way. I was one step away from collapse. Toney suggested we take the subway up to Central Park, and just spend some time there in the sun, people-watching. That sounded good to me.
Of course my train pass would not work, and I had to go talk to the surly guy behind bullet glass. He told me to just walk over to the gate, and he’d buzz me through. I did as he said, and two sketchy looking gentlemen darted through behind me. I looked at the guy behind the glass, and he gave me an exasperated “what are you going to do?” shrug. I was just relieved I wasn’t getting the blame for not properly executing the gate maneuver.
We found a bench in Central Park, outside a building marked Ethical Culture School. I did a little phone investigation, and found out it’s a fancy-lad Ivy League prep school. Check out the tuition. Wonder if it’s as good as Dunbar High School, where I went? Anything’s possible, I guess.
We sat there for a long time. I was not doing well. It felt like I was right on the cusp of full-on sickness, without ever actually crossing over. I was sweating and felt like crap. Some guy in a Loyola t-shirt came over to us and asked us for money. “I swear I’ll spend it on a bag of groceries,” he said. A bag of groceries?? How much did he think I was going to give him? He got nothing.
Also, a very old black man stopped and told us a lot of historical information about “Mr. Thomas Edison.” I don’t know why this happened, but he certainly had a lot of data at his disposal. Eventually he wandered away, stopped in front of another couple down the trail, and gave them the same speech. The man was fully locked-in on Edison.
And we saw a guy lift his little girl, maybe six years old, over a fence. She ran down into the woods, like they’d done this a hundred times, and returned a couple of minutes later buttoning her pants. Is that a normal NYC thing? Kiddy pissing in the park? Hey, whatever.
A few minutes before five, I told Toney it was beer time. It actually sounded pretty good. The soda at the restaurant settled my stomach a bit, and a fizzy brew might do the same. We had to be on the bus at seven, so two hours in a beer bar sounded about right.
I summoned an Uber, and a man in a perfectly-detailed Lexus SUV picked us up within seconds. I wanted to talk with him, and ask him some questions. I always have a lot of questions. But he couldn’t speak a lick of English. The app said he’s from China, and we were one of his first customers. Interesting.
He dropped us at Beer Authority, which is right across the street from Port Authority. We noticed it when we arrived, and decided we’d end the day there. They advertised 90 beers on tap, and it looked like a place we’d probably enjoy.
We started with a couple of Bell’s Two Hearted Ales, which were going for $7 per pint. Reduced happy hour prices. There was something on the list that was $40 for a pint. What the? While we were waiting, Toney went to the bathroom, and I began watching a couple almost certainly in the midst of a first date. It wasn’t going well, and this fascinated me.
And when Toney came back, she casually mentioned that the bathrooms in this place are amazing. My ears perked up, like a dog hearing a UPS truck way off in the distance. Please tell me more, I said. She tried to explain, but I wasn’t really picking up what she was laying down. So, I went to investigate on my own.
There was a hallway with four or five doors on each side. The doors on the left were marked WOMEN, and the doors on the right were marked MEN. Weird. I opened one of the doors on the right, and there was a full bathroom in there, complete with toilet, sink, and towel dispenser. A private bathroom — super-clean and possibly new construction — with a locking door. It was as if the gods of elimination were smiling down on me.
I found sweet relief in that tiny room, my friends, and it was not pretty. When I returned to the hallway to pee, about an hour later, I was certain they’d have yellow caution tape across my old door. But everything seemed status quo back there.
I felt a lot better, and we drank three beers each before boarding the bus back to Scranton. Broadway Betty announced that her show was “spectacular!” And everybody promptly passed out. As far as I could tell, every single person on that bus, except the driver, slept all the way home.
It was a long, long day. But it was fun, and I think I did fairly well under the circumstances. I didn’t want to ruin it, and soldiered on despite feeling like absolute garbage. And for the record, I still didn’t feel all that great on Sunday. I think I got some kind of low-grade food poisoning or something. I’m not sure. I’m far from the delicate type, when it comes to that kind of thing. I can basically eat like a goat, without consequence. But something did a number on me this time.
I hope you enjoyed this rare two-parter. Here’s the first part, and here are some photos from the day. I don’t know anything about the guy at the base of the Ralph Kramden statue. We just walked up on him, and I snapped a picture. This song started playing in my head, though.
For a question, please tell us about the most memorable public restrooms you’ve ever encountered, good or bad. Do any immediately jump to mind? Please share in the comments.
And I’m gonna call it a day, my friends.
I’ll see you again on Thursday!