Thursday, March 22, 2007

Great day

NOTE: A few folks have emailed me, and I HAVE received them. However, due to a glitch in the hotel internet service, I found tonight that my replies did NOT send. I hope to have this fixed in the morning. Any and all are encouraged to leave a comment. You will have to sign up with Blogger to leave comments, but I have found it to be non-spam producing, so go for it and let me know you are tracking with us!

What a day! After a great breakfast at Pop Diner, we hit the subway at about 9:15 EDT, arriving at Times Square 30 minutes later. We found the Gray Line Tour bus and got our tickets.

If you're ever in New York, be sure to do the Gray Line All Loops Tour. It's the best way to soak in the city over the course of a couple days. You can get on and off at several points and the ticket is good for 48 hours. And between the double decker bus and the subway, you've got all the transportation you need around Manhattan.

Anyway, our first stop off the bus was Ground Zero. Wow! St. Paul's Chapel is an amazing testimony. Check out their site.

Last time I was here was only 19 months ago. The progress they've made is incredible. I just can't get my brain around what this city must have been through with the events of 9/11. We walked all the way around the World Trade Center site just trying to imagine what must have gone through people's minds as the events unfolded.

It remains to me an absolute miracle that the tallest buildings in the world collapsed within moments of each other and did not do more damage or take more lives than what it did. When you are physically here and get to see the proximity of the neighboring buildings, without a doubt, I can almost see the hands of God upon those buildings, making sure that they did not topple onto more surrounding area.

From there, we walked the southwest section of Manhattan down to the southern tip to catch the red bus again. While waiting, we enjoyed a genuine New York street vendor hot dog that hit the spot and held us over for what was to come!

We rode the bus to the United Nations, which, as interesting as it sounds, is actually a fairly mundane area of Manhattan. From the UN, we walked the "New York short" distance to Grand Central Station.

On the way there, we developed the phrase of the day. Chuck would ask, "how far is it?", wanting to prepare himself for the jaunt. The phrase of the day became, "just a couple of blocks."

Once at Grand Central, we connected with Andrew Favilla, who just crossed 30 years of service there, the last 11 as Deputy Chief of Operations in charge of Safety & Security. As such, he was able to give us the highlight of the day, a behind the scenes look at Grand Central. We got to see their Situation Room, where top leaders gather in a crisis to monitor and strategize. He also shared some fascinating tidbits with us about Grand Central.

  • The City of New York actually had plans to tear it down, but it was saved by the influence of none other than Jackie Onassis. She saw what a shame it was for the city to have torn down the old Penn Station to replace it with the current Madison Square Garden and believed Grand Central should be saved.
  • Grand Central sees 600,000 people come through it DAILY!
  • The terminal has its own Police force of about 400 officers. They each carry a bio-chemical detector as part of their equipment that would instantly let them know if anything dirty was nearby. The building also has sensors that do the same thing.
  • After 9/11, all trash containers were replaced with specially designed cans that will not blow outward if a bomb were placed in them, thus saving injuries from shrapnel. Any debris would blow only straight up into the air.
  • Grand Central closes from 2:00-5:15 am so that every square inch can be cleaned by a crew of over 200 workers. The floors, the walls, the fixtures (I could not find ONE burned out light bulb among THOUSANDS!), and the brass (LOTS of it).

The tour there was a real treat. VERY interesting.

From there, we took the subway into the Upper East Side (ritzy area near Central Park), where we made our way to Lady M Confections. Check out what we had to treat .... I mean, eat! They were amazing! Excuse the low quality phone camera, please.

From there, we had our first downer of the day. We waited 45 minutes for our tour bus, which was supposed to be running every 15 minutes. We were wanting to get to go up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, but darkness was falling. I called the dispatch center and was told the bus should be there in about 10 minutes. 45 minutes later, still no bus!

Fortunately, we were able to joke about it and made our way "just a couple of blocks" to the subway, which took us to Times Square. Once there, we hopped on the Night Loop for a 90 minute ride throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Funny thing was that about 5 minutes into the Loop, it started to rain. We're on top of an open air double decker bus, and it starts to rain. Being prepared, the tour guide hands out "Gray Line ponchos". White trash bags complete with holes for arms, a hood for the head and the Gray Line logo! Souvenir it is! Here's Chuck in his ...

After a good dinner near Times Square, we headed back to our hotel in Queens. The Conference starts at noon tomorrow. A good chance to get some rest from an early day and late night.

I only slept a few short hours (I won't say how little) the night before we left. 3:00 am came early, but fortunately, I do OK sleeping on planes. I slept almost the whole way yesterday. Eye masks and ear plugs baby! They work wonders!

However, my body is still on Pacific time, so it was a late night and early morning. While I'm stating that, I should put this body down for some rest. Good night all!

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