Back in the ‘Hood

Just flew in from LaGuardia yesterday (well, Monday), and boy, are my arms tired. ;-)

OK, so I thought I’d run one past ya. Oh, well…

Anyway, my bride and I just returned from a trip to Connecticut, with a sidetrack to New York City on Friday. As usual, we had a wonderful time.

First Thought: we flew this time, instead of our usual 9-hour-plus drive. On Thursday, it was an aggravating experience, with the plane delayed 3 hours. We finally took off around 6:45 p.m., which brought us in to LaGuardia Airport about 8:15. The only upside for this was the fact that the plane flew Northbound up the Hudson River, right alongside Manhattan, taking us right over the Big Apple — and Ground Zero.

The City, from an altitude of about 2,000 feet, at dusk, is incredible — a sight to be seen by anyone alive. It’s simply awesome.

Second Thought: LaGuardia Airport. Wow. It really sucks. It’s run-down, grimy, and seriously needs remodeling. It’s cramped, and there are far too few gates for incoming flights, making for the delays. they blame the delays on the weather, but that has little to do with it.

Third Thought: Broadway. My bride and I ate dinner at Meson Sevilla, on 46th St just off Broadway (between 8th and 9th Streets — Restaurant Row) on Friday night, and followed it with Kevin Spacey’s performance in “Moon for the Misbegotten” at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. With train fare, dinner, and the theater tickets, this was a $400 date.

Judging by the play only, it wasn’t worth the effort. Spacey was too far over the top to be emotionally tangible. Eve Best and Colm Meaney (from Star Trek: The Next Generation and DS9) were outstanding, however. They made the show, in my humble opinion.

Add walking Broadway Avenue at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night (see photos) to the mix, and you have a memory. It’s hard to believe that Broadway sidewalks are just as crowded at this time as they are during the mid-day, any day of the week. Add to this that the store were all open, and you have a Mecca.

I was in total awe.

The only fly in the ointment was the temperature in Grand Central Station, by the trains as they idled: it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit down there. We sweltered as we waited for the trains to open.

We arrived back at our in-laws in Connecticut at about 1:30 a.m., which is really late if you need to rise early the next morning, as we did (our niece had her First Communion Saturday morning at 10:00). Now you know why I am tired this week…

Fourth Thought: Grand Central terminals need a serious upgrade. Not the station, mind you, which is one of the neatest places in the entire world: when you are down by the trains, however, it’s pretty ruddy. I guess I was spoiled by the Washington D.C. Metro, which is modern and spotless in comparison. Grand Central, down below, is old, grimy, and worn down.

It adds character, for sure, but it’s reminiscent of Cleveland’s Terminal Tower train center.

Which brings me to Thought Five: we here spend so much time comparing our fair city to New York when we really have no right to do so: our town is dinky in comparison. I had the opportunity to ride back seat back to LaGuardia yesterday (Monday), and crossing the Hutchinson Waterway, I had the chance to see the *entire* Manhattan skyline.

Manhattan stretches for miles, folks. There’s no comparison anywhere in the world to that view. It’s 40- to 60- story buildings for about two miles, followed by about a mile of 20- to 25-story buildings for about a mile, then another two miles of 40- to 50-story buildings stretching into Harlem. All this while driving through Queens and the Bronx.

It’s no wonder why New Yorkers love their city: there simply ain’t nothing like it anywhere.

While we were up there, my brother-in-law and I went to Stew Leonard’s Beer and Wine Outlet Store (a division of Stew Leonard’s) to buy some beer. In the store, you can purchase a mixed six-pack of beer by the bottle.

My six-pack, plus two bottles, cost $29.15. Oh, yeah.

In the pack: 2 12oz. bottles of Harpoon Smoked Porter (Boston): I had high hopes for this one, as I have had some smoked porters before, and I really liked them. That’s why I bought two: I thought I’d like this one. It’s good, but not repeatable: too smoky, really. It’s a good beer, quality-wise, with a great body and good notes, but the smoke overpowers the porter.

1 bottle of Saranac Caramel Porter (New York): This one was interesting. Too much caramel flavor for me (the caramel flavor was added), truth be told. It’s a quality brew, and it has some serious potential, but it’s overdone. A little less caramel would work better for my taste. Nice chocolaty finish, even though it was a bit too sweet.

1 bottle of Dogfish 120-Minute Imperial India Pale Ale (Delaware): An excellent I.P.A., although the alcohol content is 21%, which is quite noticeable. I’d rather drink Commodore Perry from Great Lakes Brewery, as the alcohol is not so noticeable. But this *is* worth trying. It has a great body and an excellent flavor, even though too strong on the alcohol front.

1 bottle of Ayinger Dark Lager (Germany): My favorite of the group. An original Schwartzbier from an original German brewery. Black Lager done right. Now I know what beer Sam Adams used to model for their excellent Black Lager. Outstanding.

1 bottle of Harpoon 100-Barrel Select English Pale Ale (Boston): Another favorite. Simply excellent. Far and away better than a lot of imported English Ales. Too bad it’s of limited production. Subtle hints of caramel and chocolate, with a great finish, and nice Belgian lace; excellent body.

1 bottle of McEwan’s Scotch Ale (Scotland): Wow. WOW! I can’t believe I haven’t had this for over a decade; I’ve forgotten how great this brew is. Smooth and silky, even and hoppy — you couldn’t beat this ale with a stick if you tried. One of the best from the English Isles, and one I will return to in the near future.

1 bottle of Morland Hen’s Tooth English Ale (England): Too sweet, until you get to the sediment in the bottom of the bottle (I drank it out of the glass, but couldn’t get away from some of the sediment on the second pour; it was a pint bottle). Once you had some sediment, the character of the beer changed greatly into something far more potable. Not repeatable, in my book: there are far better English Ales out there, like Newcastle or Sammy Smith’s, to waste your time and money on something like this. Pass.

OK, Thought Six: we arrived back in Cleveland on Monday afternoon, about 4:00. Back in the ‘hood, truth be told, and that’s exactly what we saw: the ‘hood. We have little connection to reality any more, truth be told. We have sunk to a new low, and we have little to pull ourselves up with.

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