Ray’s Pizza & the Power Outage of 2003
New York City, New York, U.S.A
Charlotte and I (Marcel) got married in August of 2003 in Beautiful Evergreen Colorado near our home in Denver. We didn’t have the time or money to go international for the honeymoon, so we decided to go to the greatest city on earth: New York, New York. Most of our family thought this was strange, but we both grew up in tropical beach areas in the Philippines and Florida, so it just seemed right for us. I had been to NYC once before on a three week road trip with my dad in August 2001. I’ve seen just about every place worth seeing in the U.S. and Canada but NYC is by far the most exciting city in North America. My wife was a city girl growing up in Manila and frequently visited Hong Kong. I knew she would like NYC.
We opted to visit with of our family as long as possible, which left us with only five days in the Big Apple. To add more time to our visit we decided to take the red eye flight on Jet Blue. It left at midnight and arrived sometime around 5 in the morning on Tuesday. I figured they could hold our bags at the hotel while we got some coffee and walked around town. Then when we checked into the hotel around 2ish we could crash out for a few hours before a long night of partying. Good idea but the results weren’t as good as we expected. We did see some cool sites like Times Square and the UN building, but mostly wandered around aimlessly like zombies.
Wednesday was a much better day. Our hotel was walking distance to Times Square so we started there every day. From Times Square we got one of those double-decker tour bus tickets that was good for 48 hours. Taxis are outrageously expensive here so the bus tour afforded us a great way to see the town. We went all over Manhattan, through Brooklyn, and even up to Harlem where I prayed the bus wouldn’t break down. The buses always went back to Times Square, close to our hotel, and all the action. It was here that we found Ray’s Pizza. I had Ray’s before when I drove through there with my Dad two years earlier and it was great. Little did I know that there were several Ray’s pizzas to choose from. There are famous Ray’s, Original Ray’s, and I think even Famous Original Ray’s. Who knows which one is which? We ate pizza everyday because it is cheap, and just so good in New York. One place we tried had a guy that was very pushy about getting the order in even with no one else in line. It was as if he expected you to know just what you wanted and order right away. We named him the pizza nazi. I have to say of all the pizza places we tried, Ray’s in Times Square was the best, but was it the original? We were so confused over the whole issue that we decided to get real Italian in Little Italy at Umberto’s. Mmm Mmm, now that’s Italian!
Thursday was the day we were waiting for. We had tickets for Phantom of the Opera! We couldn’t wait, but first we had some more itineraries to do during the day. We took the subway downtown to Chinatown. It kind of reminded me of Tijuana with all the haggling that goes on just to buy a fake Burberry purse. Charlotte said it reminded her of Hong Kong. Our bus tour guide actually told a story giving us the lowdown on Chinatown. He said if it’s a Rolex you’re trying to buy in Chinatown for $150, then it’s really a Folex (Fake Rolex). I guess this applies to everything as we found out they have Fucci, Fouis Futton, Foakleys and even the Ferminator III on DVD, which was still currently playing in theaters. Personally, I was amazed at the quality of these 15-20 dollar fake purses. They looked just like the ones we saw in Saks Fifth Ave, but without the several hundred-dollar price tags. Now whenever I see one of those designer purses I have to wonder, is it real or is it Chinatown?
Following our adventure in Chinatown, we made our way to the site of arguably the most heinous event in American history, the fall of the Twin Towers. This was a very sad place indeed. Before we even got to the fence a young girl probably in her twenties passed out on the sidewalk right in front of us. I was amazed, unsure if she was dehydrated from the heat or overwhelmed by the events that had taken place here so recently. Fortunately her boyfriend was with her and able to bring her around after several long minutes. I must say as we moved around the site, read the signs, and looked on, it was hard to hold back the tears. We will never forget.
After an emotional afternoon and a couple slices of Sicilian pizza we wanted to check out the Stock Market. We made our way to Wall Street and the outside of the U.S. Stock Exchange, which lightened our mood quite a bit. We weren’t quite sure what to expect here, but we were quite surprised at all the people standing outside in what seemed like chaos. I joked that those must be the people they wouldn’t let inside, or they got kicked out. We took some pictures and stopped in a local corner store for a drink. It was here that we discovered there was a power outage in the area. Hmm, interesting I thought, maybe that is why all those people are standing outside. Could it be the power was out for the Stock Exchange building too? That is a really big deal if they had to close down. As we turned the corner and got back on the main street we saw hundreds of people running around in a panic. A multitude of people in the street is normal, but the panicking was a bit odd. We found the tour bus pick up spot near Pier 17 and discovered that there was a delay of possibly a couple of hours due to a widespread power outage in much of New York. I couldn’t believe it – we had only a few hours before our Broadway show started and a really long walk back to the hotel. We contemplated getting a cab, but the traffic was deadlocked. Someone said the subways were shut down, and people were even trapped in some subway cars. Our only real option was to walk, and walk we did.
As we walked down Pearl Street we reached the Manhattan Bridge and saw a scene that was surreal. There were thousands of people walking over the bridge to reach Brooklyn. The vehicular traffic was at a total standstill. Sirens and car horns filled the air. In Chinatown, people were running up and down the street with a look of fear on their faces. We heard pieces and parts of conversations saying that the power was out in Canada, then Ohio, and Boston too. I, like everyone else, was beginning to wonder if this was something worse than it seemed. Why now of all times does this have to happen, and what of our Broadway show tonight? Would we make it, would it still be on, and would we even care once we finally got there?
Pearl Street turned into Bowery, then Fourth, then Broadway until we finally reached Union Square Park. Hundreds of people were sitting in the park seemingly just waiting for something to happen. I watched as a mature New York went into action. Off duty police officers and fireman went to work in the street intersections directing traffic. Good Samaritans handed out bottled water. Some people with battery operated radios turned on the news stations so everyone could hear what was happening across the Northeast. By this time it was painfully obvious that the power was not coming back on anytime soon, and we had better make it back to our hotel before dark and chaos came about. I received a call on my cell from a friend of mine at work in Denver. He said everyone there was watching the events on CNN, and that most of the Northeast was in the dark. When we reached the hotel we were relieved that they had bottled juice, water, and snacks for everyone that had been suffering in the hot summer heat. Candles were lit in the lobby where we waited. The doormen led guided tours up the stairwell in pitch-black darkness to the guests’ rooms. We made our way up five flights of stairs and decided to turn in early for the night. With windows open for ventilation we slept to the sounds of car horns and people in the streets.
Friday morning we were glad to be alive. There was no surprise attack on New York during the hectic night. Too bad our power was still out in the hotel. I took a shower but the water ran out before Charlotte could take one. Apparently the big reservoir on top of the building was all they had, and when it emptied the water was gone. We went to the corner store to get some breakfast. Most of their refrigerated food had gone bad overnight, so we got some muffins and bottled drinks. We headed down to Times Square to find out what is going on with the show. Seems some places in town had power now, while others didn’t. Our hotel power was out for 36 hours total, but Times Square was up and running when we got there. We had the same questions as everyone else at the ticket booth, and their answer was the show must go on. We were issued new tickets for the show that night. We heard that Soho had power and that is where the Filipino restaurant was that my wife so desperately wanted to eat at. After an Adobo chicken lunch and some shopping in Greenwich Village we headed back uptown to check out Central Park. We had other plans today but many attractions were closed. I thought the park doesn’t require power, let’s go there. Seems many people were off work today and had the same idea as us. At Strawberry Fields in Central Park we saw people lying out in the grass like a scene from Barton Springs Austin. The park was huge, as if a city in itself. There was no hustle and bustle here like you find everywhere else in this megalopolis.
The city was nice enough to run free buses today amid the lingering crisis of the power outage. After a nice day in the park, we caught a city bus back to the hotel and readied ourselves for Broadway. I’m not much for these types of events, but hey, we’re in New York! After much anticipation we finally saw Phantom of the Opera, and it was glorious! Following the show we walked around Times Square some more then went to a nice Italian restaurant for a couple of drinks. It was after 2 a.m. and they were still serving food, so we ordered up a couple of the popular spicy Italian dishes they have here. While we were pleasantly surprised that they served food until 4 a.m., it turns out this is common in the city that never sleeps. Forget Chicago, NYC is my kind of town.
Saturday was our last full day here before we headed back Sunday afternoon. The Empire State Building was still closed to tourists due to the power outage. We tried to go to the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) the day before but it was also closed, and the MOMA (Modern Museum of Art) was being renovated. I would be sorely disappointed if we missed the MET, so we made that our priority today. By the afternoon they had opened up, we were in business. This place is gargantuan and the art was incredible! You could spend a week in here and not see everything.
After our art tour we caught the subway headed down to Pier 17 for some shopping and dinner. On the subway this seedy middle-aged guy got on and said; “now you all know me, you’ve seen me before, and you know what I’m here for”. Charlotte and I just looked at each other in amazement, could this be it? After all we’ve been through here, now were are going to get robbed? I was about to get ballistic before he pulled out these charity pamphlets from his trench coat. Whew, that was a relief. The last thing I wanted was to get robbed on our last day here.
Since we didn’t get robbed we still had some cash flow to spend at Pier 17 in their unique shops. I got a cool poster of Jack Nicholson in The Shining saying, “Here’s Johnny”. Charlotte added to her enormous purse collection. Later in the evening our grand finale of New York was an evening at the Blue Note Jazz club. It wasn’t cheap, but totally worth it. They had a Frank Sinatra tribute band playing, and the singer was a woman. I was a bit surprised by this but she did a good job on the songs she sang. The rest of the tunes were instrumental by some old time jazz artists.
On the way into Manhattan we reserved an airport shuttle since it was early morning. Per a friends advice we decided to try the 2-dollar subway ride to the airport going home Sunday afternoon. I was a bit nervous about it since we were leaving with much more than we came with, and we would go through some shady parts of town. By now we were proficient in the subway system so we thought why not save the thirty plus dollars and just do it. I think we only had one transfer downtown, but other than that it was smooth railing. As we traveled through Queens we got a tour of inner city Graffiti art, while the crowd on the train started to look rougher and rougher. Soon we arrived at the airport without incident and took an airport bus to our terminal at JFK airport. Back home in Denver we felt great as we were looking at the pictures from our trip and remembering all the fun we had. We popped in our five dollar DVD of Ferminator III, anxious to see it. We just laughed when we saw the movie was a camcorder recording from the local theatre.