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Pizza Pies, Cocktails and Ubers

Broadway, Pizza Pies, Cocktails, Ubers and Greyhounds

My blog about a mancation trip to NYC

It would be best to start the timeline on this journey back to when I was 15 years old.  On July 6th of that year, my buddy Don and I attempted to cross 59th and Center Street in Omaha.  I made it.  Don did not.  That day I feared he was dead as his motionless and bloody body lay on the city street.

He rebounded quite nicely and is one of the best dudes walking this planet.  So, every July 6th we get together (either in person or on the phone) for “Celebrate Life Day”.  We had always talked about planning a mancation trip to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that trip, but busy lives make that difficult.  That’s another article for another day.

So, when the Creighton Bluejays basketball team were ranked in the Top 10 and with an 18-1 record, we had the perfect locale to celebrate life in a big way.  The Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden baby!

IMG_5942So, pull up a chair – here’s my diary from Big Apple.

We arrive shortly before midnight on Wednesday.  Jorge’ the cab driver from Peru whisked us away to our hotel across the street from MSG.  When we started out on the $60 cab ride he gave a knowing glance to another cabbie and I thought there was a slight chance he was going to take us to a warehouse and mug us in a weird underground Peruvian dance club.  (I may watch way too many movies) He sped through the neighborhoods of Queens at high rates of speed, honked his horn with angst and I quietly recited a Hail Mary.  We arrived at the hotel and I attempted to sleep despite constant sirens and angsty car horns.

We started Thursday at Andrew’s Coffee Shop in Manhattan.  We were seated next to men in their late sixties talking about Big East basketball and some local New York high school kid with a killer jumpshot.  The food and service were top notch and the establishment felt very Seinfeldian in nature.  At this time, I heard my first conversation from two men discussing “This is Us” on NBC.  This is a show that has really connected.  I overheard FOUR conversations in NYC about the heartfelt smartly written and superbly acted show.  And it was diverse fan base too – from young women in the 20’s in Greenwich Village, to two Villanova fans from Philly in their 70’s and others in the middle.

If I could buy stock in one item this week it would be Starbucks.  We must have walked by 50 Starbucks locations and every darn one of them was packed like a Luke Bryan concert.  Upon our first trip to get java as we were donning our Creighton gear, a local asked if we were here for the games at MSG.  We replied yes.  He looked at our logoed merchandise and quipped “Providence is going to murder you guys”.

My goal this week was to do things local New Yorkers might do for fun.  My other goal was to stay off Facebook and not document every step.  My intention was to be completely absorbed in the city and not stare at the glow of my phone.  I wasn’t enamored with the tourist traps and observation decks.  However, Don convinced me to try out the 35 mile boat tour around the city and it was equal parts touristy and awesome!  The Circle Line Boat tour guide John made the experience superb.  He chatted about the day he was working and had to clear the way for Sully’s plane on the Hudson River.  Also, when pointing out the former residence of the 18th President of Ulysses S. Grant he explained how his life story was told by Mark Twain in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (How did I not know this?)  He also shared historical footnotes, the story of early residents and so many nuggets of info that will stay with me for a long time.

IMG_5913One of my 17 New Year’s resolutions was to attend more church.  I’m thrilled to report this so far is a success.  Kinda.  I went to the Ryman in Nashville last month.  And on this trip I visited John’s Pizza of Times Square – which is in a converted church.  Ding! Ding!  Let me just say the pizza was near a religious experience – but not my favorite.  More on that later.

The security process at Madison Square Garden was efficient and rather pleasant.  The police in riot gear was re-assuring…just in case that Providence fan at Starbucks wanted to rumble.  We sat next to three fun-loving knuckleheads from Rhode Island that chanted “N-B-A!” every time Creighton redshirt frosh Justin Patton missed a shot or turned it over.  I was amazed at how their voices carried throughout the world’s most famous arena.  I hope J.P. didn’t hear them.  The Jays rallied from a halftime deficit and we celebrated by visiting John Sullivan’s bar where I toasted that dude at Starbucks and exclaimed “we killed them guys”.

IMG_5958We kicked off Friday morning by walking about 2 miles to the Museum of Modern Art.  MoMa for us fancy folks.  I heard it referenced in a few segments on CBS Sunday Morning.  The second floor was dedicated to sex.  Thank God I went to church the previous day.  From there we took the M Subway to Lombardi’s Pizza.  It claims to be the first pizzeria in the United States.  If so, they’ve perfected the pizza pie.  It was delish. I made a mental note upon delivery to our table – gotta hit the gym when I return home.

FullSizeRenderConfession: They said if you master the game of pocket billiards, then you have wasted your youth.  Well, I by no means have perfected the game, but I’ve spent plenty of hours in which I could have pursued a doctorate degree with that time on the green felt.  Inspired by our mutual love for “The Color of Money” and
“The Hustler”, we strolled over to Amesterdam Billiards and Cocktail Lounge.  It was a thing of beauty.  25 pristine tables and leather couches!  Inspired by Paul Newman’s character in “The Hustle”, I saunter to the bar and wanted to order a bourbon on the rocks, hold the rocks.  Instead, I stammered “Uh, bourbon and some club soda”, the bartender responded “what bourbon sir?”.  “Uh, that wasn’t in the movie” She retorted “What’s that sir?  “Uh, Bourbon.   (Paul Neuman was way cooler)

Playing pool was rather inexpensive – $12 / hour

Our 2 drinks – $37.50


IMG_5989Marcus Foster nails a three pointer with 7 seconds left at MSG as the Jays defeat Xavier.  It was a moment I’ll never forget.  We went to a Jaybacker party at our hotel.  This was MY Times Square ball dropping moment.  We had so many high fives!  The team returns to the hotel.  I capture their arrival with my iphone.  I go into crazy Taylor Swift fan mode.  Upon my late night return to the hotel room, I watch 60 minutes of ESPN Sportscenter.  Not a single reference to the magical Marcus Foster shot!

I tweeted:

Dear @espn, No Marcus Foster clutch bucket in the world’s most famous arena @TheGarden in the Top 10?  Lame.  Just because the game was on FS1?

I woke up Saturday morning to view my witty tweet blow up on social media.  I received one favorite total– from Marcus Foster’s mom.  Apparently, she felt the same way.

We had a 15 minute conversation about whether or not to buy Broadway tickets.  There was one matinee Saturday we could attend and still make the championship game at MSG.  The cost of which I will not say as my mother may read this article and chide me for wasteful spending.  I initially bypassed the Broadway option, but reconsidered.  How often will I be in NYC?

I am SO glad we made the choice to see Cate Blanchette in “The Present”.  It was phenomenal.  The Ethel Barrymore theater was about a third the size of the Sioux City Orpheum and for 3 hours I was treated to see the 6 time Academy Award nominee (and 2 time winner).  I’ve so gotta have a Cate Blanchette movie marathon.  It turns out the same theater was host to Fred Astaire’s last Broadway play and where Marlon Brando starred in “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

Villanova is wicked good.

After the game, we journey to Greenwich Village to go to a speakeasy called Chumley’s.  It was nestled in a neighborhood without hardly any markings.  At first, we were told it was over an hour wait just to get drinks at the bar.  After I stated that we (my buddy Don) read about it in Esquire magazine, the attitude of the hostess changed entirely and we had a table in about 20 minutes.  I ordered a burger for which I probably could have purchased a quarter of beef and washed it down with Chumley’s Best Bitters brew.  (My vacation goal was NOT to order a single Bud / Miller / Coors product as I have done the majority of my life). The walls were adorned with pictures of famous authors – I kinda knew the one with the turtleneck – turned out to be Hemingway.  The experience was as if I was on a set of a movie.   When I returned home, I researched the place a little.  Apparently, you have to have a reservation at least a month out…or say you read about it in Esquire Magazine.

We finished the night at the uber trendy Pegu Lounge where I ordered the house cocktail and a Singapore Sling which was referenced in a NYC based movie (shot in Toronto) “Cocktail”.  I explained to our 22 year old waitress the awesomeness of the movie “Cocktail”.  She never returned to our table.  She probably told her manager “there’s a crazy guy talking about 25 year old Tom Cruise movies.  Save me from the flowery drink ordering dweebo.  It’s safe to say I’ve never ordered a beverage with so many flowers.


Omar – our uber driver, delivered us to our hotel and we tried to re-charge in time for our return trip home.  We took about 10 Ubers total during our journey.  I’m a fan.  Can’t wait until it starts here on March 31st.  The fares were cheaper and you could track their location on the app.  No money was physically exchanged.

The Chicago airport O’Hare bustles thousands of travelers to their appointed destinations daily, I’ve never done well there.  So, our travel back included a detour to Des Moines and a Greyhound bus back home.

So, my week included rubbing elbows with Broadway patrons and Greyhound passengers.  As we were awaiting our inbound bus, we watched 3 episodes of Steve Harvey on “The Family Feud”.  We high-fived complete strangers with every suggestion we shouted out at the bus station.  (We entered as strangers – left as Family Feud watching pals)  Steve Harvey would be awesome on Broadway.   Man, that Family Feud has a lot of sexual innuendo – and about every show has a reference to a private part.  Just imagine the possibilities for a Broadway play.

The Greyhound bus was occupied by 4 people total.  We could have taken a Honda Accord to Omaha.



Tony Michaels

NYC Blogger / searching for a second job

Celebrate Life!