Saturday, August 31, 2013

2 1/2 Days in New York City - Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of my trip report for our recent trip to New York City.  If you haven't read Part 1 yet, click here.

We didn't get back to our hotel room until a little after midnight thanks to train construction, but with no plans until noon, it was no big deal.  After a free breakfast at the hotel (thanks, Hilton HHonors gold status), we still didn't get our lazy butts out of the room until 10:30.  No worries, we'd still have a full day to enjoy the city!

Day 2 - Sunday, August 25, 2013

Prita's friend called just before we left and pushed back our meeting time to 1 P.M., so we decided to head to Central Park for a walk first.  A combination of trains got us there in about 45 minutes.  It was once again a tremendously beautiful day - not a cloud in the sky, and a forecast high of 82 - so this would be a great day to explore the city.  We started off at the western edge of Central Park, at 72nd Street, and then walked our way down towards Midtown.

At the southern end of the park, you'll find Columbus Circle at 59th and Broadway.  I tried getting a shot of the Trump International Hotel in the background, but couldn't get a good one.

It's a fun, lively walk from here to Times Square along Broadway, 15 blocks to the south.  Maybe next time, I'll plan far enough ahead and get tickets to the David Letterman show.

You can see just how crazy Times Square is during the day.  If you watch "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve", the "2013" on the building in the background is where the ball drops on New Year's Eve.

We managed to find Prita's friend Nivedita in all the chaos, and then headed across town to find something to eat.  We stumbled upon the rather dive-y Maharaja Indian Restaurant at the corner of Lexington and 45th.  Nivedita wasn't sure if this place would be good, but I've done enough traveling to know that these are the sorts of places you want to go to.  Sure enough, it was good.

The chicken was a tad dry, but the tikka masala sauce was quite tasty - creamy and spicy, but not overwhelmed with chilly powder - and the paratha was nicely baked and buttery.  As an added bonus, we didn't have to pay an arm and a leg for our meal. 

After lunch, we walked down to the East Side, and got some photos of the UN Building and Brooklyn across the East River.

We then walked down 42nd Street back towards Times Square.  The Chrysler Building made for an amazing backdrop.

We also made a quick stop at Bryant Park, in front of the historic New York Public Library building.

After a long walk back, we grabbed a couple of empty chairs at Times Square and rested for a bit, then headed down to Grand Central Station to catch a train to White Plains to attend my cousin's surprise 50th birthday party (he was surprised - probably even more so given that he was paying for his own surprise birthday party).  The party was fun, and it was good seeing family that we don't see all that often.  We had a bit of an adventure getting back, though.  The train back to Grand Central was fine, but taking the PATH back to Newark involved taking two trains.  The first one was on time and went fine, but when we got off to get on the connecting train, the one that was supposed to meet ours didn't show, and we had to wait for another.  Normally that's not a big deal, but since they only run every 35 minutes late on Sundays, it kind of sucked, especially since it was now well past midnight.  We didn't get back to the room until almost 1:15, and we had to meet my other cousin and my brother at 8:15 the next morning to catch a ride to the religious ceremony at the Hindu temple in Queens.  Not fun, to say the least.

Day 2 1/2 - Monday, August 26th

Today was actually the entire reason we made the trip.  My cousin's son was having his "threading" ceremony today.  The best way to describe it is similar to a bar mitzvah or Communion.  For Hindu Brahmins, the ceremony officially starts your path to priesthood and a life of enlightenment.  The ceremony is only for boys, and is typically done at the age of 12 or 13.  Similar to other types of Hindu ceremonies and weddings, it ends up being a social gathering as much as anything else.  There are a few points in the ceremony where audience attention and participation is required, but otherwise, people get up and mingle throughout.  Captions are included in the photos below to explain the significance of the various parts of the ceremony, as best as I can.

My other cousin and his wife, who also live in NYC, graciously offered us a ride to the ceremony.  It took a good 25 minutes just to get to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel - pretty amusing, considering he lives 2 blocks from it - but we made it to the temple only about 20 minutes late.  Which actually meant we were about 20 minutes early, since South Indians never start anything on time.  Considering he had to parade around shirtless, wearing what I derisively refer to as a "diaper", he was pretty chipper about the whole thing.  For the record, I made a non-negotiable demand to wear a t-shirt during my ceremony.

The guest of honor gets carried to the stage

Various chants are done, where the high priest explains the importance of joining the priesthood and the sacrifices that are required.

The guest of honor, his dad, and the high priest confer privately, where the guest of honor is convinced to give up his earthly possessions and give his life to do God's work.

When all is said and done, the guest of honor is awarded a thread, worn around the chest, which certifies his acceptance into the priesthood.
With that, it was time to head home.  The ceremony was done by 11:30, but our flight wasn't until 5:15.  We had originally planned on walking around Manhattan a little more before heading to the airport, but not having gotten much sleep the night before, we were completely beat, so just grabbed lunch at Penn Station, walked around for a few minutes in the area, and then went back to Newark to grab our bags from the hotel concierge and catch the shuttle to the airport.  I did get one last photo of the Empire State Building before catching our train.

And one last view of the City from the plane before taking off.

I normally don't sleep during daytime flights, but I was so beat, I ended up sleeping most of the way home.  I was grateful to United Airlines that the pilot hauled butt back to DFW, and we arrived at the gate a good 50 minutes early.  Much appreciated considering both me and Prita, after an action-packed 2 1/2 day vacation, just wanted to crawl into bed!

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