Tag Archives: MSG

My Trip to Delaware, Part One: Penn Station

14 May

May 14, 2013

I was going on a very inconvenient two day business trip to Delaware. The Company I Am employed by was sending my team to Wilmington for two days of, well, honestly nothing much. I’ll get to the point of the trip later, if I can find it. The thing to recall is that the meeting was scheduled across Tuesday and Wednesday. No the beginning of the week, not the end of the week, stuck right in the middle.

We were all going by Amtrak and were meeting in Penn Station. For me, living in Brooklyn, this was not big deal. My luggage consisted of only what I could carry in my backpack. I made sure to bring a book to read- The Exorcist- and a journal to write in. And it was a good thing I brought the journal because there was a lot to take note of, starting with Penn Station.



Penn Station is one of the major transportation hubs in the City, located right under Madison Square Garden. (MSG bills itself as The World’s Most Famous Arena and they are right.)This is either a stroke of genius or a stroke of lunacy, placing the busiest railroad center under the busiest sports arena in one of the busiest sections of midtown. I have to think that this was planned for the ease of Al-Qaeda. There, you get a unique mix of businessmen and women, Knicks and Rangers fans, the homeless, tourists, and, I assume and hope, more NYPD surveillance cameras than even Michael Bloomberg can count.

To get to Penn Station you descend a large escalator located right under the Madison Square Arena sign and you better be paying attention because the number one hobby of folks on their way down is drinking coffee and shoving.

As you get to the bottom you arrive at a large circular mall. One side is lined with newsstands, seedy coffee shops, and dirty snack bars. The other side is lined with newsstands, seedy coffee shops, and dirty snack bars. Only the companies change. Even the homeless look identical. In the center of the circle, forcing you to go around, is a ticket window. The tracks are on the other side of the circle. This section of Penn Station is currently under renovation and has been my entire adult life. The estimated date of completion is ∞. However, since this New York, we know that the real date of completion will be about 10 years later.

I was lucky enough to be there on a holiday, the Annual Clearing of the Hobos. The men’s room entrance was flanked by what appeared to be an honor guard- two rows on either side of the door of uniformed policemen, backed at a discreet distance by heavily armed soldiers (seriously, yes. Penn Station was and still is full of heavily armed soldiers.) Down the center of the parade route were “escorted” an endless stream of filthy homeless sorry, I can’t be politically correct on this, they were too disgusting to be simply homeless. One man was clad only in a garbage bag wrapped around his waist. This was already in full swing when I arrived and went on for another 10 minutes.



However, the police did nothing to the rest of the homeless loitering around or laying down in the station. I was waiting with most of the other travelers near the arrivals and departures sign waiting for my team. I have to give the Penn Station maintenance staff credit for trying to keep the place clean. Unfortunately it was a losing battle.  For example, a business man would drop a newspaper into the garbage can. Problem was, the garbage cans were designed to be very wide to hold a lot of trash but they had very small openings. I saw this happen a few times. The business man would drop his paper into the can, but it would actually either get stuck in the small opening or just sit on the outside of the can. The homeless people each had what seemed like their own designated can. In other words, any trash in or around the can was theirs and when I once saw a homeless woman get too close to another homeless woman’s can the “owner” of the can hissed at her until the interloper moved on.

So a newspaper would land on the outside of the can and a homeless person would immediately swoop in from their position just a few feet away and grab the paper. But at the same time, a Penn Station employee would try to get to the can first to stuff the paper deep inside. I feel sorry for those guys because not only is it their job to outrace homeless guys for garbage but they also have to wear little red bowties with their uniforms.



New York Magazine called Penn Station the Community Center for the Mole People and I think they got it right.

Overall Penn Station was dingy. Superficially it resembles an airport terminal with shops and waiting areas, but airport terminals don’t have a layer of grime or roving packs of trash-stealing homeless. To be fair, the homeless were not a problem for me, in that they did not harass me or anyone else as far as I could see. The huge numbers of police and soldiers might have had something to do with that.

Al this time I was waiting for the other three members of my team to arrive, including my direct supervisor. I met up with her first. She then confirmed that the third member of the team was in the station, somewhere on line behind us. We were not able to confirm if the fourth person was even in the building when our train was called and we went to the tracks.





Monday Night Was Magical 3- Enough of Ruby Tuesday

28 Dec

December 28, 2009

In order to spare you the pain and discomfort usually caused by reading my previous blogs, I’m providing you with a handy QUICK RECAP of the previous two blogs in this series. Of course, there is little I can do to spare you the pain and discomfort of reading this new blog, but hey, we all take our chances in life.

QUICK RECAP: The Earth cooled and life began. Plants flourished on land, while in the seas the oceans teemed with life. Eventually life got a foothold on land, the dinosaurs rose and fell, extreme weather conditions totally unrelated to man-made carbon emissions caused catastrophic Earth changes in a scientifically proven cyclical nature, and millions of years later my brother and I went into the city. (Brooklyn people always call Manhattan “The City,” as if we live in bucolic wonderland this side of the Battery Tunnel. But I digress.) We were on our way to a Rangers game, but first we shopped at Mid-Town Comics (their motto: “If you can make it up our stairs, why not spend $200 on graphic novels?”)

As our story today opens, Curtis is still recovering from his car accident, Rhonda and Janine are reading Blake’s diary, and my brother and I have made our way to the second floor of an oddly dark brown Ruby Tuesday restaurant, have been seated, and are perusing the menu while our black-clad Dark Jedi, er, waiter, hovers nearby….

The menu was-
“Let me tell you about our menu.” The waiter buzzed right in over and around my right shoulder and hovered over us. He had perfect diction, the kind you only hear when someone is trying to make a bus driver understand English in a non-English speaking country. I only wish I could enunciate like him. Not only did you hear each individual syllable, but you could hear the perfect echo off of each of his perfect teeth. Like every other server in the place, he seemed to be an (I assume) out-of work actor. I must say, he had memorized this script well.

“Our menu has changed recently. Have you been to a Ruby Tuesday before?”
“Well, I-“
“That’s wonderful. We now offer a greatly expanded salad bar, with new and fresh sides. Our salad bar used to have only one type of lettuce, but as you may have seen as you passed through to your table, we now have three.”
“Uh, I noticed.”
“That’s wonderful. You may see if you open your menu that we now have a selection of steaks that covers nearly half the page. Our old steak section only went down about a quarter of the page.”
“That’s wonderful. Below the steak you’ll find out selection of mini-burgers. These are fresh ground beef and come in a variety of types, each with a selection of special sides. If you prefer soup…?”
“Soup? I don’t know-“
“That’s wonderful. Do you have any food allergies I should be aware of? Because I can alert you to various potentially dangerous items on our menu that may cause a hazard to you wellbeing.”
“I’m allergic to penicillin. Do you have antibiotics on your menu?”
“Ha, ha, no.”
“That’s wonderful. Give us a couple of minutes to decide.”

I know what you’re thinking. And no, I’m not making this up. In fact, I have considerably edited his speech. To me, the menu looked like the menu at any other franchise, except the food was pictured on square plates instead of round. Truthfully, despite the fact that I had, in reality, not noticed the three kinds of lettuce in the salad bar, I did notice the square plates. They were nice.

Our server buzzed away, nearly ten whole feet, and buzzed around another table. They already had their food but he buzzed about them just in case.

When he flew back, I made the mistake of ordering a lemonade.
“Ohh, wonderful choice. Our lemonade comes in three flavors, and you have three choices of fruit to mix on the bottom.”
Ugh! After wondering if I could just get a Pepsi, I got a regular lemonade with peaches on the bottom. It may be tart, I was warned.

 It was. It was so tart as to be undrinkable and I asked for a Pepsi instead.
“That’s wonderful.”

We finally got around to actually ordering actual, “wonderful,” food. I had two mini burgers with the salad bar on the side. My brother ordered some sort of bacon cheeseburger (well done) with a silly pseudo-French name. (“Le Bacon Burger Avec Fromage, or something like that.) His appetizer (boneless buffalo wings like you could get anywhere, even Wendy’s, but only be charged a fraction of the Ruby Tuesday price) came and I went to the salad bar.

True, the salad bar did feature three types of lettuce and square plates. What it did not feature were croutons. In place of croutons was a jar of small pieces of soft white bread. Had to be a mistake, I figured, and looked for the croutons. The soft white bread was the croutons. So I took one kind of lettuce, some broccoli, carrots, cheese, onions, and Thousand Island dressing. I passed on the cherry tomatoes, the cauliflower, the strange raisins and carrots in hot cream sauce concoction, and totally pretended I never saw the German potato salad with the green hue and things that may or may not have been pimentos mixed in. There was also a large urn of soup. I couldn’t see into it but the sign on the urn said that the urn contained SOUP-HOT. I remembered that my server said something about soup, but he also said something about every single item on the menu, including items no longer found on the menu.

I skipped the soup.

I returned to the table to eat my salad, which turned out to be quite good. While I was gone, the server had switched my lemonade for a Pepsi. I’m good. I can tell a dark brown fizzy drink from a light yellow drink with fruit on the bottom, especially when the brown fizzy drink is in a glass labeled “Pepsi.” I may not know the capital of New Jersey, but thanks to my NYC public school education I can tell a Pepsi from a lemonade.

Swoosh! It was my server. Before I had both cheeks settled on my seat, there he was. “I made that change you wanted.”
“Thank you.”
“The Pepsi for the lemonade. It was too tart. I told you it may be. We use fresh lemons, not powder and some find it too tart.”
“Umphrgrub.” (I had a mouthful of salad.)
“That’s wonderful. I’ll tell the kitchen to get moving on your entrees.”

At around this point we started worrying about what kind of tip we’d have to leave this guy. My brother suggested we tip him now so he’d leave us alone.

A different server brought out our main course so we were saved from Hamlet’s soliloquy. This server, a cute young girl, had a perky smile, perky hair, and other perky anatomical parts that I appreciated but I’ll leave to your imagination. I would have much preferred she stayed awhile because as soon as she left, and the plates were still settling down on the table and getting comfortable, our server swooped in and asked “did you get your meals?” Jeez, THEY WERE RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. This guy NEVER deviated from the script. I merely pointed to the plates.
“That’s wonderful,” he smiled.

My two mini-burgers were tasty, not too unlike White Castle’s truth be told, but even with the salad bar, were not worth the $21 dollars I was charged. My brother’s “Le Bacon Burger Avec Fromage,“ well done, was only well done until the first bite, when we realized that the burger was light pink inside. Rather than deal with the waiter he ate it anyway. He decided it was preferable to risk the parasites.

We signaled for the waiter, who was reciting the dessert menu even before he reached us.
“…..in both sundae and float varieties-“
“Sorry, sorry, we just want the check.”
“No time for dessert?”
“No, we have to get to the Ranger game.”
“That’s wonderful.” He turned to look straight at me. “I like your shirt,” and he walked away.

I looked down, suddenly curious to see if my Fantastic Four t-shirt had spontaneously morphed into a nicer shirt. It had not.

The check came and, annoyingly, it had an 18% tip already included. Larry David did this shtick far better than I can, so I’ll let you find it on youtube. Suffice it to say that after some calculations on my phone’s tip calculator, we figured the server was entitled to another $4.58, which we rounded down to $4.

Now it was time to go. We were going to jump on the subway one stop to the Garden and had time to get there early if only the waiter would take our check. For the first time all night he was nowhere to be seen. I was just fed up with the place and we left the money on the table, something I never do. I always imagine that as soon as I walk away somebody from a nearby table will reach over and steal the money, and I’ll get grabbed by security on the way out. But at this point I didn’t care, and no, we weren’t stopped.

The Ruby Tuesday restrooms were harder to find than the elevators but I managed. (The trick was to look behind the benches. Yes, they had benches blocking the entrances to the restrooms.)

We took the crowded spiral staircase down, and made our way to MSG. Despite the fact that the Rangers lost on an overtime shoot-out, Madison Square Garden and the Broadway Blues always put on a good show. We sat in the next to top row, and I have always maintained that there is no bad seat in the Garden.

Well I was wrong. Section 401 is one of the only places in the building with obstructed view seats. Believe me, the way the Rangers played, I was glad not to be able to see some of it.

Later on, the evening over, as we took the train back to Brooklyn, I just had one question still bothering me; what kind of soup was in the urn? I knew I should have listened to the waiter.

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