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THE IDLE AMERICAN
From Hassle to Hustle…
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 • Posted July 23, 2008

“Getting there is half the fun” was an oft-heard expression over the course of several decades. Sadly, these words rarely come to mind these days; gasoline prices make highway and airway travel “unfunlike” indeed. In fact, it often is downright painful.

Airlines are minimizing schedules and hacking away at employment numbers. (An apt current definition for “optimists” describes airline employees who take sack lunches to work, expecting to eat them there.)

A sales rep who flies regularly said it well: “For years, travel has been hard work; here lately, it’s been torture.”…

  • * * * *

This scenario in place, it’s not a stretch to feel that Americans are feeling far less mobile, their styles severely cramped.

With prevailing mindsets, we reasoned last month that a two-week vacation including a week in New York City and another on Carnival Cruise Line’s Miracle embarking there made good “travel and dollar sense.”

Off we flew, finding in NYC teeming masses that seem to be just as mobile as ever….

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Visitors who want to identify locals need only to ride the subway. (Easily the largest public transportation system in the US, it has twice the usage as any other, and is one of the largest in the world with 622 miles of track, 422 stations and round-the-clock schedules 24/7, 365 days each year.)

Locals are the riders who often are nodding, or maybe even fully asleep. Yet, they spring up at the split second doors open for their station.

Tourists are the ones with wide, unblinking eyes, and gaping mouths to match. The locals’ slumber-like postures suggest that everything has already been seen. The visitors? Well, their eyes are ready for sights never viewed before….

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No matter how often one visits the Big Apple, there is still more to be seen. One couple who provided directions claimed to be 50-year NYC residents “with so much yet left to see for the first time.”

Our eyes widened upon our first visit to Central Park, the USA’s largest urban park with more than 800 acres. Again, people-watching was most fun. Unlike city sidewalks surrounding the tranquil respite, it is a contradiction with its pastoral ambiance, topiaries and impressive statues. (A sign conveys a subtle message: “We have more than 50 statues in the park. It takes an arm and a leg to care for them!”)

There are trails for walking and bike-riding, vast rolling lawns for picnics, a world-class zoo, colorful horse-drawn carriages and a renowned eatery: “Tavern on the Green.”…

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The tavern, dripping with chandeliers and assorted finery, is substantially upgraded since its original construction in 1870. For more than a half century, it housed 200 sheep that grazed in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. Converted into a restaurant in 1934, the Tavern was transformed with a $10 million renovation in 1974.

With seven dining rooms and an exquisite garden dining area, it is now Central Park’s most spectacular structure.

Chefs are from throughout the world, and the cuisine is from another one….

  • * * * *

We watched several diners polishing off massive meals, topped off with fancy desserts of similar stature.

Each of them carried small bags.

At meal’s end, they were seen in the lobby. They took walking shoes from the bags, preparatory, I suppose, to walking off some of the calories in one of God’s special places….

  • * * * *

After a leisurely luncheon, we were determined to walk the two miles to the 47th Street Theatre, where Forbidden Broadway spoofs current Broadway hits.

“Spoofery” continues to work. The musical is updated regularly—and hilariously so.

And it has been running in NYC for 26 years….

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Walking back to the subway, we did double-takes on Broadway, where a photographer drew a crowd. Some of us, though, remained on the fringe.

His body was entwined by a python. For a fee, he offered his pet to adorn others’ bodies for what was considered unlikely “photo-ops.”

We passed, opting to listen to a TV interview nearby….

  • * * * *

Interviewees were winners of a just-completed “outhouse race.” There were dozens of entries featuring “privies on wheels.”

Each had three members, two pushing and one inside. Oh, you want to know the winner? The “Flying Buttresses.”

Only in New York….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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