Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What to Do in New York City: a Shaggy Dog Story

At the Berkley Heights Public Library Reference Desk, we get lots of questions about travel books. We have a pretty good collection of Fodor's and other publisher's books covering travel around the world. Because our town is a suburb of New York city, most residents already know how to get around in the city and where to go, but we have some books on the topic, just in case our patrons need some fresh ideas. Which reminds me of the shaggy dog story about the Montana rancher who longed to see New York city and asked his neighbor, a retired New Yorker, for advice. Everything in this story could be true and there are links to the attractions listed. The Dewey Decimal number for New York City travel books is 917.471 if you want to browse our book collection. Enjoy the story. This is dedicated to our native New Yorker, Alice at the library, who introduced me to Cel-ray soda at Goodman's Deli. To me, native Philadelphian, it tastes like old socks, but Philly sights and food is a story for another day. 

Having retired from his job as an influential NYC tycoon and man-about-town, Simon bought a small idyllic ranch in the foothills of the Rockies in Montana.  His next door neighbor, Jake, was a third generation rancher with a 40,000 acre cattle ranch.
            One day, Jake knocked on Simon’s door and asked, “What is New York City like?”
Somewhat taken aback by the question, Simon inquired why Jake was interested.

            It seems that Jake, having lived on Montana all of his life was fascinated with New York City, having seen it as the setting for many TV shows, and having read about it in numerous magazine articles.  And now, as he was approaching late middle-age, he wanted to visit NYC.

            “After having worked non-stop on my ranch for the last forty years, I’m going to be taking a two-week vacation, and I’m going to NYC.  What do I need to know so I don’t look like a hick in the” City”?  What should I do?  Where should I eat?  How do I get around? . . .
            Amused by his neighbor’s questions, Simon began to answer Jake’s questions.

            “There’s so much of everything in NYC.  There’s something to do for everybody.  Take museums for instance.  You can go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Guggenheim, or the Whitney, or MOMA, the Museum of the Barrio, . . . or any number of other museums.  Depending upon the season, you can go see various NY sports teams -  the Mets, the Rangers, the Knicks, the Giants, the Jets, the Devils, the Islanders, or my favorite team, the Yankees, play.  For sheer entertainment, you can take a Circle Line cruise around Manhattan – I recommend you do it on a clear night!  You might want to go to the top of the EmpireState Building or the Freedom Tower, visit the NY Stock Exchange, ride the Staten Island ferry, go to a Broadway show, window shop on Fifth Avenue . .  . go to the Bronx Zoo, or the Botanical Garden, or the American Museum of Natural History . . . or the Hayden Planetarium.  It’s up to you.  There’s so much to see and do, and everywhere you turn, there is world-class everything!

            After enumerating NYC’s offering for over thirty minutes, Jake excitedly began making a list of all the placed he wanted to visit, and all the things he wanted to do.  And in short order, Jake’s two weeks were filled with things to do in “the city that never sleeps.”  Then, Jake asked Simon about where to stay and what to eat,

            “Well, Jake!  There are chain hotels, boutique hotels . . . Hotels from the very expensive to the relatively inexpensive.  There are world famous hotels like the Waldorf Astoria and Plaza to budget hotels such as Holiday Inn.  And there are lots of world class restaurants representing many of the cultures of the world.  And then, there are all the dives in the neighborhoods such as Little Italy, Chinatown, the lower East Side, Harlem, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, the Upper West Side – there are too many to name!”
            One of Simon’s favorite places to eat had been the Carnegie Deli, and so he advised Jake to have lunch there one day.  And knowing how “New York” the Carnegie Deli could be, Simon instructed Jake how to act when ordering lunch.

            “When you enter, you’ll be propelled to a table and immediately asked what you want.  Just say, ‘I’ll have a pastrami on rye – and make it lean.’  You’ll also be asked what you want to drink.  Real New Yorkers drink Dr. Brown’s Cel-ray soda”

            Impressed by his friend’s knowledge of NYC, Jake asked Simon to create an itinerary that would make full use of his vacation time in NYC.

            Two months later, Jake found himself in NYC.  No longer wearing his boots, his wide-brim Stetson, and his worn Levi’s, he felt like he could fit into the hustle and bustle of NYC.  He felt comfortable riding the subway, enjoyed the special exhibit at the Met, almost fell asleep during a lunch-time folk concert in Thompkins Park, experienced a Yankee game, visited the SouthStreet Seaport, gawked at the exotic foodstuffs displayed in Chinatown grocery stores, thrilled at the view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building, was mesmerized by the precision dancing at the Radio City Music Hall . . .  By the end of his two week stay, Jake was exhausted but awed by the variety, vitality, and quality of New York life.

            On his last day in NYC, Jake, having checked off the activities which Simon had deemed “experience worthy,” discovered that the one thing he had not experienced was a lunch at the Carnegie Deli.  So before taking the “Train to the Plane,” he walked into the Carnegie Deli.

            “And what’ll you have?” asked the graying waiter, propelling Jake toward a small table across from the deli counter.

            “Pastrami on rye – and make it lean,” replied Jake, trying to act nonchalantly as Simon had instructed.

            “Very good, sir!  And what’ll you have to drink?”

            “Dr. Brown’s Cel-ray . . .”

            “Very good, sir!  And what’ll you have with your pastrami?”

            “Oh! Just a little mayo.”

            “And how are things in Montana?”          

Thanks to Ted, raconteur of long, long jokes... I promise to hold the mayo.
Happy Birthday, Alice!

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