Concerning The Isle Of Manhattan

I really didn’t want to love New York. It’s gigantic, it’s frantic, and it’s other words that don’t end with -antic. And that’s what I was telling myself even as we hopped off the plane and into the line outside LaGuardia leading to the cab that would whisk us away to midtown Manhattan. But as soon as I saw the sprawling city from a highway I’d be terrified to navigate, plus a skyline peppered with buildings that could easily house the Bat Signal, my stubborn attitude and, perhaps, those little town blues were melting away.

Staying with knowledgeable friends in an otherwise unfamiliar city is, as it turns out, very different from striking out on your own. Elizabeth and Rebecca, who were just about the best hosts possible, helped us make a list of what we’d like to do and see during our visit. Kyle, another longtime friend, added a couple more suggestions. We hit a lot of places on our list and then some, but left enough that there’s reason to go back (as if there weren’t already).

What We Did. Elizabeth and Rebecca live within walking distance of … well, I was going to make a list, but it seemed too long. So, with the occasional aid of the subway (and a ferry or two in there), we were able to make it to Times Square, Rockefeller Center (where we did the NBC studio tour, wee!), Liberty & Ellis Islands, Battery Park, Central Park, New York Public Library, the Museum of Modern Art, Union Square, and elsewhere. Whoops, that was a list. Also, Kyle introduced us to the Chelsea area, where we went to High Line Park and, later, UCB (see below).

Plus, we saw an animatronic T. rex and a Jurassic Park gate at the Toys R Us store in Times Square our first night, therefore convincing me that New York might actually be the greatest city in the world.

What We Saw. Elizabeth and Rebecca were gracious enough to stand in line for rush tickets for How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. We ended up in the fifth and sixth rows of the orchestra section, watching Daniel Radcliffe, John Larroquette, and a group of ridiculously talented singers and dancers do their thing. The next day, Kyle, Scott, and I headed to Chelsea for ASSSSCAT 3000, Upright Citizen Brigade’s weekly show. It was pretty amazing to see these comedians (Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Paul Scheer, among others) getting paid next to nothing to perform a free show for a group of 200 sweaty people who have never laughed so hard in their lives. On our last full day, Scott, Rebecca, and I went to a Daily Show taping. We nearly didn’t get in–they were counting out 12 more people, and we were numbers 6 through 8–so it was that much sweeter and funnier, and altogether more entertaining when we did.

Also, Scott’ll be sad if I don’t mention this: he spoke with both Amy Poehler and Jon Stewart, and in both instances, he made them smile and laugh, and as consequence, he is not allowed to complain about anything ever again.

What We Ate. We skipped out on the standard New York hot dog and instead opted for some of our friends’ local favorites, in addition to an experiment or two. John’s Pizzeria was our starting point. It’s across the street from where The Phantom of the Opera … plays? Exists? Thrives forever and ever? And it’s a prime example of why people love New York pizza. Since this is one extended love letter to NYC, I’ll still drop this in here: Chicago style is better. Anyway, we also had sushi and other deliciousness near Central Park, some of the best Italian I’ve ever had in Little Italy (I ate an artichoke! Who does that?!), remarkably satisfying burgers and fries at Shake Shack near (?) Broadway, some quality BBQ in Chelsea, tasty soup in 30 Rock, the best pie EVER in Murray Hill, great Thai near Union Square, and other assorted yumminess. That’s right. I said “yumminess.” And I’m not looking back.

So. There you have it. New York is amazing, and I should’ve known it would be irresistible.