Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead



This is the second in a series of articles about traveling the byways of New York State


By Charles N. Stevens

Photos by Dolores Seidman

Our boat tour finished, we ride the bus through downtown Manhattan. 6th Street or the Avenue of the Americas is blocked off at two ends to clear the streets for a Saturday market. Tents and canopies line the street, smoke rolling up from the barbecues and ovens of the food vendors, the entire pavement filled with people milling around and stopping at the booths. Blocking off streets for markets and frequent parades adds to traffic congestion, but gives the police a lot of extra duty for patrolling them.

We turn on 5th Avenue where plants in large white pots placed along the sidewalk glisten in the sun. The slant of the sun fills the street with light and strangely appears to form a semi halo around everyone’s head. The sidewalks are alive with tourists and shoppers, a sea of bobbing heads. A fire engine’s siren wails, its flashing red lights disappearing down the avenue.

Grand Central Terminal is our next stop, its classic front adorned with a sculpture of Mercury flanked by Hercules and Minerva. The cavernous, echoing interior of the station is wonderful to behold. The interior walls are cream-colored marble and limestone, large arched windows on either side, marble staircases leading to the next level. A small information booth with a four-sided clock on top, a golden acorn topping that, stands in the center of the station lobby. It is a famous meeting place—“I’ll meet you down by the clock,” say New Yorkers. The ceiling high above is a sea foam-green firmament, golden signs of the zodiac trailing across it. Brass-barred ticket windows, most of them closed, still wait in vain for customers. The constant rustling and murmuring of people resounds in the great chamber. One floor below is a popular modern food court offering every imaginable delicacy from food stands and sit-down restaurants. Beyond are the tunnels to the trains. Sixty seven tracks on two levels serve New York commuters as well as travelers on long distance trains. We walk part way into one of the tunnels to observe the trains poised in the dim light. They would leave the station soon, jammed with people. Grand Central Terminal, completed in 1913 is one of the last great stations built entirely with private money, this one financed by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.

We step out of Grand Central to the street and the hurtling cars and taxies, pretzel and hot dog stands, red-coated tour bus hucksters, car horns and afternoon shadows. Mixed with the swoosh of traffic is the spicy fragrance of hot food. A man wearing a knit cap sits on the sidewalk leaning up against a building, a rat perched on the top of his cap, two more rats on each shoulder. We wonder why he is doing this, but perhaps there is no reason.

Back on the bus, we pass small Bryant Park, the sun filtering down through sycamore trees on lawns and shrubs and relaxing people. It is an oasis in a desert of concrete and asphalt.

Leaving the bus we walk along Broadway toward Times Square, the sidewalks choked with people, mostly tourists like us. We’re constantly trying to avoid bumping into people, a situation that grows annoying after a while. What really catches our eye is a huge electronic sign like a giant television screen raised high above the street on a building across the way. What’s on the screen is a panoramic view of our side of the street, all of the people walking along the sidewalk. We see ourselves in it. People wave and jump up and down to find themselves in the picture. Knots of people stop with grins on their faces, gawking at their images on the screen. What is even more amazing is that a large picture of a smiling young woman suddenly appears on the screen. She reaches for a person or a couple, lifts them out of the picture with her hand, looks at them then throws them away. It’s fascinating!

For a rest we walk down to the Hotel Edison where we have stayed several times on previous trips. We relax in soft chairs in their Art Deco mural-decorated lobby.

Later, our group gathers at Bubba Gump’s Restaurant, the name a take off from the 1994 film “Forrest Gump” starring Tom Hanks. We crowd into cozy booths with plasticized wooden tables. Old implements decorate the walls and neon signs with the logo of the restaurant glow in the dim light. Like many good restaurants it’s packed, the overflow waiting in lines to get in. Music, the clanking of dishes and silverware and the babble of diners fill the place with sound. We dine on delicious breaded shrimp and scampi on pasta, their specialties.

Our final event of the day is a night time visit to the top of the Empire State Building. It helps to be physically fit to endure the long serpentine lines waiting for the elevators that will take us to the top. After perhaps an hour of standing in the slow-moving line, we step into the first elevator. It zooms us up eighty stories, our ears popping from the quick change of altitude. A second elevator takes us up another six floors. Finally we step out on the observation deck, a cold wind meeting us at the door. Manhattan is spread out before us like a twinkling treasure chest of jewels. Surrounding it are the dark mirrors of the Hudson and East Rivers. We look down on all the excitement that is New York, the glitter and lights, the red ribbons of tail lights and the glare of headlights from traffic filling every street. Far away, near the tip of the island are the high rises of Wall Street while farther away incoming planes at the Kennedy Airport appear like orderly fireflies. Tourists hunch their shoulders against the chill wind and attempt to capture the scene, perhaps futilely, with their digital cameras. Among the shadowed admirers we hear scraps of many different languages and notice several couples with their arms around each other gazing at the amazing scene below. Policemen wearing heavy overcoats, collars turned up around their necks keep their eyes on the crowd. It’s a grand ending to our first day in New York.

Grand Central Terminal is still a very busy place.

Grand Central Terminal is still a very busy place.


This amazing "billboard" videos the crowd on the other side of the street in Times Square.

Bubba Gump's in the heart of Manhattan serves excellent shrimp.

Bubba Gump's in the heart of Manhattan serves excellent shrimp.

Although photos do not do it justice, this is the scene from the top of the Empire State Building at night.

Although photos do not do it justice, this is the scene from the top of the Empire State Building at night.

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