A few weeks ago I was out with friends and it was brought up that I'd never really ventured around New York City, and my buddy Healr (so aptly named because when she's not working as an EMT, she's volunteering as one) was foaming at the bit to take a trip up. Past experiences have led me to believe these sort of things never really pan out, but I knew this time was the real deal. I was actually going to go on a day trip.
It's not that going to NYC is any huge excursion, the hardest part is sitting on the bus for 2 hours. It's just that I've lived most of my life amongst vast fields of corn and cows, and heading to the big city is one small step for man, one giant leap for homebody kind. It was decided we'd leave Sunday morning, regardless of the fact we had plans late that Saturday night.
After all the hubbub on Saturday night, I didn't fall asleep until around 3a.m. and woke up less than 3 hours later. I spent approximately an hour and a half making myself look gorgeous, stuffing my giant tote bag with bottles of water, and hiding an emergency $20 bill in a secret compartment in my bra. Then my cell phone rang. One of my friends overslept, and the next bus didn't leave for another 2 hours. Fuck. I loaded up on caffeine and toast while details were sorted out and we decided to just hang at the diner by the terminal until the bus arrived. I love drinking coffee at diners, something about it makes me get this giddy feeling that I'm all grown up.
Lucky for us, the first bus filled right before we boarded and we got first pick of seats in bus #2. I decided to sit way in the back middle seat so I'd have plenty of leg-stretching room. I plugged into my MP3 player and got out the DS, and about 30 minutes into the ride noticed Miss Healr beating her head against the seat in front of her. She left the keys to her Jeep on the hood of the car. We called the bus terminal, and they said they had the keys and agreed to hold them until we got back. Crisis averted, or at least we thought.
The first hit of the day was Midtown Comics, which was pretty big considering most comic book shops these days are tucked into mall closets. I'm not a big comic book person, but I love movies based off comics because I'm just a terrible person like that. I get -25 geek points. The manga section was massive -- it always amazes me how far Tokyopop has come from their Smile Magazine days where all Sailor Moon fans were depicted as being bleach blonde Cali girls.
Three days prior to our visit Ripley's opened a new Odditorium in Times Square, and Stalking Cat or "The Catman" was there promoting the opening. Body modification at its finest. It wouldn't have done to just pass this by, so we joined in for a photo op and he smiled the greatest giant cat humanoid smile I've ever seen. I thanked him there, and again in his LiveJournal when I got home.
Next it came down to my #1 reason for going -- Times Square Toys R Us where any lesser friends would have been embarrassed to high hell at my antics of running around like a 3 year old touching things and releasing high pitched giggles. I'm not going to cheat you by showing you photos of the outside of the building, because it's what's inside that counts.
What's inside is me, running rampant in the Play-Doh aisle and using novelty banks as means of warfare. Crayon battles are serious business, and only one color can reign supreme. Healr's bold blue was no match for my mighty pink sword of doom. The battle of the blondes was a terrifying match indeed, but thankfully both our lives were spared.
When most people go on vacation, they take photographs of places and things. I'm exceptionally vain, so I feel the need to be in at least 75% of photos taken. At first I had to ask the girls to take my camera while I struck a pose, then whittled down to grunts and hand gestures and eventually they just knew to take the camera while I climbed on top of anything and everything.
Toys R Us was hot hot hot and I was amazed at how clean and well stocked it was. Even all the statues and displays I climbed all over for photo ops were well maintained. My local Toys R Us is a gritty ghost town, and it was practically a vacation in itself to see the store so alive and booming. I could have spent the whole day in there just ripping through the store playing with Legos and trying to molest various Mega Blok and Playmobile figures, but it wouldn't have made for a very diverse article.
After covering every square inch of the store, playing with every display available, and getting up close and personal in the Pokemon, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park sections, it was finally time for the piece de resistance -- a ride on the ferris wheel. And I had to go it alone. I walked up to the counter, smiling widely and bouncing up and down slightly in excitement as I purchased my ticket. I was hoping to get the My Little Pony cart, and uttering hexes against the Scooby Doo cart, but ultimately wound up in the Nickelodeon cart, which was kinda fitting. I waved to my friends as they tried to take photos that didn't wind up sadly blurry. The ride was mainly a lot of stop and go and I finally got a steady three circles in a row before it was time to get off.
The ride itself was $4 but at the end they hold a photo of you on the ride ransom and you have to fork over $15 if you want to go home with it. Since I needed a souvenir anyway, I just went ahead and handed over the cash like the sucka I am. At least the photo turned out well.
I went to the Virgin Megastore for "Yeah, I've been there," purposes and not much more. I'm not heavy enough into any bands to motivate myself into buying more than 3 CDs a year, so gigantic music stores aren't a pivotal point of interest for me. I mainly stood there amusing myself looking at non-music related things and trying not to dance. I'm one of those people that feels compelled to dance a little when music is playing, and it seems like everywhere I went had music playing. I did find a dancing partner in the form of a plush Gizmo, which danced with me all the way to the checkout and then into my jumbo tote bag.
En route to our next stop we encountered popular Times Square busker, The Naked Cowboy, surrounded by a pack of giggling asian girls. After they parted I walked up to him with a dollar in hand and said, "Hey baby, I got a little something for you," as I slipped it into the slot in his guitar. He got pretty fresh, wrapping his leg around me for the first photo and then grabbing my ass in the second.
I was then allowed to sit down for .698 of a second and eat, and since I was banded with a picky eater I forfeited my opportunity to try anything new and instead sat at Sbarro eating pizza. I was also allowed to go to the bathroom, which was past a partial labyrinth that lead to a closet with no mirrors and covered in used sanitary napkins. We got out of there soon enough, though, because a huge fight broke out between what I believe was a customer and the entire staff, so we bolted before anyone had a chance to pull a knife.
Next stop -- M&Ms World.
M&M's World was simply amazing. Candy coated chocolate that melts in your mouth (not in your hand) as far as the eye can see! Every color of M&Ms under the sun, awesome mixes, special edition flavors, and candy filled gift packs were only some of the edible treats. Aside from the candies themselves, there was a wealth of merchandise ranging from pirate M&Ms figurines to underwear and just about everything in between. Even sections of holiday themed novelties, for those who want to get a head start on their sugar themed decorations for the year.
One of the cheapest and most formidable souvenirs is the flattened penny, and M&Ms World had multiple machines to accommodate all your Lincoln torturing means. If the pennies came pre-smooshed in capsules these machines would receive a gargantuan F on their aptitude test. But that's just not the case, and it's aces all around for being able to make your own portable memory. I began a scavenger hunt in my bag, looking for the brightest and shiniest pennies I had. I got enough pennies to accent a scrapbook, and then was left with the task of taking more wacky photos.
The Green M&M looked especially ravishing dressed as the Statue of Liberty, and I was humbled to be in her presence. Yellow had no idea what the fuck was going on, and just looked curiously on me as I hopped onto his table and posed provocatively on it. Amongst the clothing, dispensers, collectibles, housewares, and novelties I decided to take my souvenir in the form of an oversized pen.
My friends wanted me to see Central Park, so I agreed to walk down and have a quick look. Central Park smells like the pig farm outside of my town and the most interesting part was watching kids with rapidly melting Spongebob ice cream pops. At this point my body remembered that not only was I running on less than three hours sleep, but that it was hot and humid as all hell outside. After looking around for only a few minutes, I began to bitch and moan incessantly about how badly I needed ice cream and air conditioning. We left, but not before being accosted by a man trying to sell us Fruit Roll-Ups "to buy the kids uniforms."
I re-energized with a frosty mudslide as we discussed the next plan of attack on our limited budget. It was decided that we should check out the Ripley's Odditorium, so after my feet stopped screaming for mercy, that's just where we went.
The place was swarming with people, but thankfully not all of them were paying to go inside. Most of them were standing slack-jawed watching a large animatronic bearded lady singing "My Humps" in the lobby. Inside it was breathtaking and the walls, floor, and even ceiling were covered in strange artifacts ranging from shrunken heads to beer steins to a fossilized walrus penis. There were also lots of interactive centers, and a plethora of cool places to jiggle into for great photos.
Lots of screams of, "OH GROSS! HEY! Come look at this!" were heard all around. There was even live entertainment in the form of captured cockroaches in a plastic tank with a bubble where you could stick your head in for a peek. It was downright masterful to check out a stuffed 4-legged chicken followed by a crazy tribal mask then look up and find a skeleton hanging from the ceiling.
It was the kind of place you could bolt through in 20 minutes or spend 3-4 hours slowly going around looking at all the assorted hodgepodge and reading through the placards. Nothing there was so gross you were going to throw up, but there was something else that did nearly make me loose my lunch. A pathway from one room to the next featured a dark, moving tunnel in which you walked across on a flat crossway, but the tunnel and its light turned around you, making it feel as though you were drunkenly falling over with every step. I really wasn't expecting that effect when I first walked in, and had to go back and compose myself because I wasn't about to take the coward's door over.
Not everything was gross or macabre, some if it was plain mind boggling or inherently amazing. The last room was the "end of the line" gift shop, which seemed fairly empty either due to it being so new or everything simply being bought out.
Across the street was a Sanrio store, featuring everything Hello Kitty short of toilet seats and wart removers. Kitty and all her friends were accounted for and branded all over the tiniest eraser to the t-shirts with $100+ price tags. I can only wish to own that much Hello Kitty junk.
Then it was onward and upward to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum to reach my quota of photos of me molesting statues. On the right is me practicing my Monica Lewinsky impression. On the left we have a photo of me displaying where I most desire to live one day -- in Nick Cage's pants.
That's most of what I did while I was there, take turns being photographed and photographing my friends with all the wax people. This place is much more enjoyable if you're with friends, feeling a little uninhibited, and have a camera in hand. Sure wax statues are interesting, but they're much more interesting when you're getting photographed pretending to nibble their ears as opposed to just standing next to them like a dumbfuck. Some of the wax figures were much more accurate looking than others, so it might take more than one guess to figure out that's Harrison Ford I'm rubbing my ass up against. Really, he should have been dressed as Han Solo.
When you start the trip around you get a "photo card" which is resemblant of a credit card and allows you to store the photos they take of you with the prime set ups like The Hulk and Jack Sparrow. Everything else is fair game.
The sports figures and historians didn't perk my interest, I was more into the celebs. As we moved from room to room my ears perked as off in the distance I heard the chimes of, "One, two, Freddy's coming for you," and sang along as my friends looked at me in utter disgust. A small "chamber of horrors" type deal was ahead, and although I positively lit up when I saw it, my friends bolted for the side door. I was told to go ahead inside, but that I wasn't allowed any photography, and that various horror movie characters would jump out at me, but they wouldn't touch me, and I shouldn't touch them.
I entered forth, peeking slowly around corners, stepping carefully and wondering if the figures on the floor were real, or very still actors waiting to pounce. I was attacked by Leatherface, Freddy, AND Jason Voorhees, each time screaming and then laughing my head off immediately afterwards. I should have gone back around a second time.
Great Scott, I even got to practice my karaoke skills. There was an American Idol setup complete with Simon Cowell figure and decorated stage. That night a few random tourists got to enjoy the true delight that is me singing "Like a Virgin". Thankfully one of my friends had a video camera, otherwise I might have been tempted to buy a DVD of the performance, which I'm sure would have cost more than a season box set of the real American Idol.
By this time our visit to Madame Tussaud's was coming to a finish, but not before wandering around the large gift shop featuring all the classic souvenirs and even some unusual ones. I picked a more unique parting gift -- Madame Tussaud's Chocolate Rocks. They look just like normal rocks you'd dig out of the garden or pick up off the street, only they're delicious candy treats. Perfect for playing tricks on your friends. "I'm so tough I can even eat rocks," you might say, and when your friends called you out on your bullshit, you'd pull out your baggie of chocolate rocks and munch right through their hard candy shell and right into the chocolate center. Oh what fools they'd be.
The sun had set and it was time walk back to the bus port, on the way hearing about ONE DAY SALE ONE DAY SALE ONE DAY SALE from a black cowboy dressed as Superman. I have no idea what he was selling, but judging by the quality craftsmanship on the costume and sign, I'm sure it was nothing short of spectacular.
We reached out gate and crashed down on the floor waiting for the midnight bus to arrive. On the bus we goofed around, talking about the old days and swapping "remember when" stories back and forth. Finally we arrived back home and went to the diner to pick up Healr's keys. The place was shut down. Main office, too. The bus driver agreed to let us back on and he'd drive us to the terminal closer to home, but at the end of the day we needed a parent to come bail us out. But I guess that's what gives trips that extra charm -- having something bad happen that'll leave someone the butt of many jokes for years to come.