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2023 - August - New York - Day 2

A slightly gentler start to the day meant we didn’t get down to breakfast until about 8.30am. I had had a much better night’s sleep and after not taking my blood pressure tablet was looking forwards to a much better day.

Breakfast was busier today and overall not quite as good as yesterday. The eggs were described as an egg patty and most peculiar. I tried the porridge; it was bland but hopefully will help any potential sugar highs/lows that I may be having.

After cleaning our teeth, we set off on the subway to go to the HI Line. This was very high on my priority list to see. It did not disappoint.

Someone had had the bright idea of converting the old Hi Line railway track into a long thin park meandering through parts of New York. It is planted with trees, shrubs and flowers all along it. The walkway was quite busy but not impassable. The track weaves it’s way through Chelsea which for us was the nicest part of New York we have ever been to. It was clean and modern as well feeling safe. The architecture of the new buildings was also a joy to be seen. We loved it all. Perhaps I had been too hasty in my condemnation of New York yesterday.

At the end of the walkway and after finding some toilets and another Whole Foods store for some bits for lunch we decided to walk to Times Square via a Starbucks. It was another one though that didn’t have any seats inside, presumably to stop any vagrant’s loitering inside but very inconvenient when you want to sit down to enjoy your drink. Karen perched on the window ledge whilst I sat on a fire hydrant.

The closer we got to Times Square, the busier and seedier it became. I immediately disliked the place all over again. Karen immediately became ultra paranoid about pickpockets.

Times Square itself was a heaving mass of humanity, some good and some not so good. The bright lights are though a sight to see. The hawkers dressed as poor Disney characters demanding money with menaces are not a good sight to see. I can see why people are drawn here, but it’s not really for me.

Just as we arrived into the square, I had my second light headed moment of the day. It passed quickly and Karen fed me a few m&m’s which seemed to help. The first had occurred as we ate our food in the Whole Foods Store. Whatever is causing the issue is obviously not my blood pressure tablet. Today there is a connection with eating. I still think that the residue of the virus in my system is just messing with me.

We spotted an Old Navy store and went in. Karen found herself a shirt reduced by 50% to cheer herself up as she had been chugging flu tablets all day. Naturally I was fully to blame for passing on the virus to her. Just as we were leaving the store, I also found a much-reduced T Shirt I liked and purchased that as well.

After sitting for a while people watching, we walked to Junior’s restaurant which had been recommended by Al. We were soon seated and served by the lovely Tahlia for the next couple of hours. She was a delight. Two of her friends were performing in the theatre next door and she was determined that she would be the next to crack the big time.

Under her guidance she got us to order from the lunch menu whilst we could as the system automatically closed it down at 4pm. We had just 6 minutes to order our small Caesar salad and half a roll each before the prices doubled. I had brisket in mine whilst Karen had Turkey. There was more meat on the plate when it arrived than roll. They were both excellent.

Now this place is really known for its New York cheesecake. Karen was sold by Tahlia on the Key Lime Special one. Even I ordered one as they had a diabetic Cheesecake which contained no sugar. It was fabulous. We ordered more tea so we could stay longer and gave Tahlia a very generous tip for her help.

It was then time for one of the main reasons for this trip, to see Billy Joel perform as part of his residency at Madison Square Garden. This has now run for 10 years and will be his 139th show there.

Billy Joel provided the soundtrack to Karen and I first meeting and getting together. I used to play his music constantly for the first few years. I remember the girls at work buying me ‘The Stranger’ album for my 18thbirthday. I loved every track. Our first dance at our wedding was to ‘Just the Way You Are’.

This will be the 3rd time we have seen him perform live. The first time at Wembley was good but the sound quality was poor. The second time at Wembley was much better but not exactly intimate. We both had tears in our eyes when he sang ‘Always a woman to me’. This summer he played Hyde Park but no chairs were allowed and so we sadly gave it a miss. However, I have always longed to see him in the more venue of what he calls ‘The Garden’ in his hometown, and so this trip was partly planned around this.

I have also thought that should I ever wanted to complete the last 25% of the MBA I started but never finished (which I never will), then a deep dive into the lyrics would be a good dissertation subject. Some of the songs make a real social commentary of the time.

We walked to MSG and again the route down 8th Avenue is not the most pretty one to take. We were a bit early so waited till the doors opened. We were soon in and headed to one of the bars on our level as we had received an email telling us that all food and drink was half price until 7.30pm. I ordered a Bud Light for Karen and a ‘can’ of Red Wine for me. The server rang it up and said $42. I looked at him and said ‘you have got to be kidding!’. He looked at me strangely. I asked about the half price offer and was told that it didn’t apply to alcohol. Karen tried to argue that the email did not make that clear. I just told him to forget about the drinks and walked off without looking back. Afterwards I think he must have rung it up twice because there is no way it could have $42. $21 would have seemed about right and reluctantly I would have paid that even though I was expecting it to be about $10.

We bought a bottle of water at half price instead from another bar.

Our seats were on the side, right in line with Billy’s piano. They were great. I must admit my bottom lip quivered as he walked on stage and played his first song. Karen & I were almost word-perfect singing along all the way through the show. He was simply brilliant from start to finish. His band were so good (not that you can go wrong having 3 saxophonists) and there was an impromptu couple of Rolling Stones covers when he was talking to the crowd and just mentioned he was no Mick Jagger whilst holding a microphone. He ended up stopping half way through the second one as he said he didn’t know all the words’

During one of his earliest hits ‘The Entertainer’ he was joined on stage by Kevin Bacon to do lead vocals which made us smile.

The highlight was as ever ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant’. Not released as a single it is an absolute crowd favourite and ours too. We all joined in waving ‘Brenda & Eddie – goodbye’.

And then it was over. It’s a close-run thing but probably the best concert I have ever been to just surpassing Coldplay at the Emirates Stadium.

We left at near the end of the encore to try and get ahead of the crowd and just made it. The subway back involved one change. Sadly, we just missed our train and had a 19-minute wait for the nest one in quite stifling heat. Now this was one journey Karen had been dreading. However, the train was quite full of relatively normal people. It was however the slowest train ever for some reason.

Karen was also fearful of the 200-yard walk from the station to the hotel. However, it seemed that most of the train also got off at our stop. We walked some of the way in the middle of the crowd and felt safe. We then darted across the road and safely made our way back to the Hotel entrance. I don’t think Karen drew breathe though until we were back in the lobby.

And so, our second full day in New York was over. It had been another good one. Still not sure I would want to be here much longer than we have booked for, but then over 8 million people who live here must disagree with me.

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