The Best Of Times

If any people could make this place boring... it's me and my Dad.

If any people could make this place boring… it’s me and my Dad.

Bwahahaha!!!  Happy Halloveen, everybody!  Did you stop by The Nest today to get your fix of your favorite neverending horror story, my Millionaire Journey?  That’s good, because have I got a scary tale from the urban jungle to tell you little ghouls and goblins on this All Hallow’s Eve!  After spending an entire afternoon and evening in the most exciting city in the world shut up in our hotel room watching TV, me and the paternal unit aren’t about to make the same mistake with our last handful of hours left stuck in the Big Apple’s clutches.

Good!  We'll be waiting on you two!

Finally coming out of that room?  Good! We’ll be waiting on you two!

It’s before the asscrack of dawn on Friday January 19, 2001.  Early to bed, early to rise, and it was a much better night’s sleep than the first night for both of us… me because I no longer had a game show to worry about choking on, and for Dad because his back was mostly in one piece since he abandoned the iron maiden he’s slept in the night before.  Of course, the TV goes on again initially… it’s the Golden Girls and a little Carol Burnett.  I believe this is the only time since I was a kid that I’ve gotten to watch Carol’s show, other than all of the cast reunion shows my Mom would faithfully watch when they were on seemingly every year… since apparently Tim Conway was the funniest man to ever shuffle the earth.

If I'm so funny, what am I doing on this blog?

If I’m so funny, what am I doing on this blog?

Our ride back to the airport was going to be waiting on us at 2:30 PM, so we had the entire morning and the early part of the afternoon to actually explore more of Manhattan than just getting the grand tour of local delis that don’t serve fried chicken.  A little after 9:00, we had made the decision that if we were going to see only one thing in New York City, it was going to be perhaps its most popular hangout…. the legendary Times Square.


The weather’s perfect for a stroll through the Square…

As me and my Dad exit the hotel in the perpetual cold drizzle that had been lingering over the city ever since my game show misfortune yesterday, it took us exactly two and a half seconds to be accosted by one of New York’s reputable street vendors selling cheap umbrellas from underneath his trenchcoat.

Three bucks!  No exchanges or returns!

Three bucks! No exchanges or returns!

We passed on the kind offer and quickly scooted towards the Empire’s doorman to have him hail us a taxi.  Though Times Square is only 20 short NYC blocks from where we’re staying, we’d probably get pneumonia by the time we made it there… so a cab it was.

Times Square!  And step on it, buddy!

Times Square! And step on it, buddy!

Our driver was a bearded Arab man whose name had somehow escaped me even when I wrote my original retrospective seven months after the trip.  But I do remember one thing about our ride to the Square… some asshole cut off our Middle Eastern driver, and he showed off his commendable English skills when, much to the amusement of both of us, he blurted out…

taxi driver

It doesn’t take all that long for us to get to Times Square.  The fare winds up being a relatively cheap (for New York) four dollars.  Dad hands the man seven, hoping that a three dollar tip will prevent an unfortunate international incident.  That’s also seven bucks that’s coming out of my $150 in Regis money Paul gave me Wednesday evening

So the two of us gaze up in wonder at the sights to be seen from America’s best known town square.  It doesn’t look quite as impressive during the day as it does on TV New Years Eve night… and particularly not on a nasty, wet day like this morning.  Knowing the dangers presented to visitors by local hooligans, the first thing my Dad tells me is to try not to look like a tourist.  Then, of course, he asks for the camera…

How not to look like a tourist in New York City.

How not to look like a tourist in New York City.

I wasn’t much of a photographer at the time, and neither was my Dad.  But there was gonna be one pissed off mothership back home if we didn’t get some pictures of something other than the inside of a hotel room.  So Dad started snapping random shots as we walked.  You’ll now see where I got my world famous shitty photography skills from…


Well, neither Times Square nor Compaq has stopped yet.  Can anyone tell me what that ad is for to the left of the red Virgin billboard?  It’s driving me crazy trying to figure out what it is (It looks like it says “Galactic Cute”)…


Broadway shows… as if I know anything about them other than they make annoying time-killing songs for game show contestants.  I’m not sure why the flags were at half staff, unless New York was officially mourning the death of my Millionaire dreams…


Anyone up for some XFL?  With the NFL starting to pussify its game, this upstart new league promised us “real football”… and of course, it was being delivered to us by the same man who brought us all that 100% real professional wrestling action in the WWF.  The XFL didn’t survive past its inaugural season, and only made a star out of one man.


Alas, poor WaMu, we knew ye well.  Having a loan for every home is exactly what brought you to the bailout table in 2008 when you went belly up.  I’m sure that big ass Times Square ad didn’t help your bottom line either…

Along the way, we passed by a souvenir shop adjacent to a Marriott Hotel.  The store was named Broadway New York, and I’m absolutely positive of that because the bag we got from that money sucking kninkknack store has housed my Millionaire treasures for the past 13+ years…

World Trade Center location no longer open.

World Trade Center location no longer open.

What can possibly be more non-touristy than buying a shitload of few souvenirs?  I look around at all of the wares, and while there’s a lot of neat stuff here, I can’t get past the obviously inflated prices that make even my Cafepress shop look like a bargain.  I picked out a keychain (Of the still standing twin towers, no less), and called it a day.  The same is not true for Dad, however, who has just been transformed into a kid in a candy store.  He snatches up snow globes for my sisters… there would be hell to pay from the one sister if she didn’t get her New York snow globe.

Assuming we can get it back home without a cavity search.

Assuming we can get it back home without a cavity search.

Dad plops the toys, a few postcards and some other crap on the counter… and the man running the register asks if he’s done shopping yet.  No, he isn’t, and Dad turns around to look some more.

“Please, take your time!” says the clerk with a wide smile.

Shop all you want, just no checks, yo?

Shop all you want, just no checks, yo?

He has to get something for his in-laws.  Grandma and Grandpa will be getting two New York themed coffee mugs.  After they’d both passed away, I repossessed both of the mugs and they are now in my collection (They’re the top and leftmost two mugs you see in the background of the yellow bag photo)… they’re only two souvenirs I still have from this rather expensive diversion we made into tourist hell.

The mugs go on the counter with the rest of the bounty, and my Dad turns around again…

Our clerk is smelling a big sale...

Our clerk is smelling a big sale…

Oooh, look at all the pretty ballcaps!  After looking through hats with every design but a Rainbow Donkey, Dad picks out a Yankees cap and one that has “NYPD” on it to add to the mountain of trinkets he’s already thrown on the counter.  Then one last thing… he decides he has gotten wet enough and adds an umbrella to the haul.

It cost three times as much as this guy was going to charge for one earlier.

It cost three times as much as this guy was going to charge for one earlier.

Dad’s total rang up to over $75.  He’s going to put it on his credit card, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t end up coming out of the per diem money he’s holding hostage.  By the time we get back to Illinois, I’ll literally be coming home without a single dollar in winnings…

rainbow donkey bum

How to go broke trying to win a million dollars.

And back out onto Broadway went the two gullible tourists, with a neon yellow bag full of useless bullshit and a designer-priced umbrella to hold back the freezing drizzle.  It was now past 11:00, and we were both quite hungry.  After subsisting off of winged mystery meat and tater tots for the past two days, I wanted a little slice of home… and I already knew exactly what that was going to be…

I'm finally lovin' it!

I’m finally lovin’ it!

I knew Times Square had a Mickey Dee’s, so the two of us tread our way across the congested, wet street to get ourselves a little slice of Americana in the middle of this international melting pot…

Well, Americana that loses a little in the translation.

Well, Americana that loses a little in the translation.

Just like at the delis we’d popped into earlier, English is not even a second or third language in the Times Square McDonald’s.  This is somewhat of a problem since me and my Dad both get special orders, and pointing to menu items isn’t going to keep the boys in the back from not putting cheese on my double quarter pounder.  The girl who waits on me appears to be of Indian (as in the country) origin… and she’s not understanding me all that well.  The Mickey Dee’s workers back home who do speak English fuck up my order half of the time, so it’s almost a virtual lock that at the UN culinary staff here is going to send out my panda burger with soy sauce or extra yams.  And after patiently waiting 10 minutes for “fast” food, that’s exactly what happens with BOTH of our orders…

Excuse me, I asked you to please hold the Vegemite!

Excuse me, I asked you to please hold the Vegemite!

So I attempt communication once again to have our lunches fixed properly.  Now the clock’s ticking on round two.  There’s a long metal chute running from the kitchen area to the front line where the sandwiches are fed through.  Here comes my DQP…. and there goes my Dad’s cheeseburger…

Meat overboard!

Meat overboard!

Splat!  The burger jumped the end of the chute, came out of the wrapper, and spilled its guts out all over the floor… and not a single worker behind the counter even noticed it.  So now I really have to watch like a hawk to ensure that someone from a country who doesn’t believe in the five second rule due to mass starvation doesn’t just scoop the burger roadkill back up and throw it on my tray.  Fortunately, the manager finally sees the mess, pitches the lost cause before New York City’s infamous rats can get to it, and barks orders back to the kitchen in some unintelligible language that I can only hope translates into “Remake this shit!”

And next time be a little more careful shoving mystery meat down the slide!

And next time be a little more careful shoving mystery meat down the chute!

Finally, after almost 20 minutes, I bring our lunch over to where Dad had already taken a seat in the two story restaurant while I tried to play foreign diplomat at the counter.  It felt wonderful to have something that was actually tasty for a change… and yes, I realize most of you would never think of McDonalds that way, but if you hadn’t had comfort food in 48 hours, even nasty Mickey Dee’s fries taste like a gift from the fast food gods.

I'll leave a sacrifice to those fast food gods for this wonderful meal.

I’ll leave a sacrifice to those fast food gods for this wonderful meal.

As we were finishing up, we noticed a couple of guys in suits began talking to a couple who was seated not too far from where we were.  It was obvious from what we could oversee and overhear that these two were trying to solicit something to them… and likely up to no good.  We were done and out of there in a flash before we could get caught up in whatever con game these two dudes were trying to run… and as we exited the restaurant, we turned to see the targeted couple had followed us out.  Well played, fellow tourists…

Heeeeeey!  C'mere, folks!  I've got umbrellas, imitation snow globes, and panda meat I found lying on the floor!  Cheap!

Heeeeeey! C’mere, folks! I’ve got umbrellas, imitation snow globes, and panda meat I found lying on the floor! Cheap!

With a little international cuisine McDonalds in our bellies, we stroll around the billboard infested Square a bit more, and my Dad takes some more pictures.  That means I get stuck holding the stupid umbrella I didn’t want in the first place.  During this phase of our walkabout, we passed a man in dreadlocks walking the other way who left behind a strange, but nevertheless, absolutely unmistakeable odor.  I guess the drizzle wasn’t making it too wet to keep a doobie lit…

Skanki might look good in dreadlocks.

Skanki might look good in dreadlocks.

Keep in mind, this was a decade before some states managed to finally enact marijuana legalization laws, and even before those efforts were getting massive public support… so we were both certainly a bit surprised by this public display of toking… which probably just made us look even more like we were two people who were a looooong way from home.

You guys aren't from Wonderland, are you?

You guys aren’t from Wonderland, are you?

It was coming up on 1:00, and we’d managed to kill almost four hours walking, eating and getting fleeced shopping in Times Square.  We needed to get back to the hotel so we could get packed and ready for our ride to the airport at 2:30, so Dad flagged down another taxi.  This cabbie was very clearly Chinese…. and according to the dashboard, his name was Xiang Chung.

Everybody Xiang Chung tonight!

Everybody Xiang Chung tonight!

This ship of fools will sail on….. next Friday!


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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26 Responses to The Best Of Times

  1. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Galactus Circus…whatever that is…

    New York City - Times Square - Bar Code - Virgin Megastore - Post Card - 2000

    I was wondering if you were done with the story yet! You had me scared for a minute there!

    • NotAPunkRocker says:

      OK, did not mean to embed the pic, but that’s how I was able to read the print at least.

    • NotAPunkRocker says:

      Galactic. Dammit. It’s not a comic book. OK, I am done commenting for probably a week now.

    • Thank you!!! I wonder how old that image is you posted, because that scene looks almost identical to my 2001 photo…

      Yeah, when the sun came up this morning, and I was still working on this damn post, I figured better get a little sleep and just finish it off after lunch. I was shocked the angry village mob hadn’t already stormed my blog wanting to know where their next Millionaire fix was! (Yeah, right!)

  2. You see, now when I won my little New York city vacation, I found a shoe store having a sale and got two pair of sandals and a bag for half what I’d normally pay for them, even online through Amazon. But then again, for me bargain-hunting is a contact sport. My mother taught me well.

    McDonald’s? Wow. You really had THE ultimate New York experience. It doesn’t get better than that. Honest, I wouldn’t lie to you, now would I?

  3. Scout Paget says:

    I’m not sure if this is related to the Times Square billboard but, there’s a huge indoor arcade in Melbourne Australia called Galactic Circus. It’s a big tourist attraction. Thant’s what came to my mind when I saw the name. ❓❓

  4. gentlestitches says:

    I agree with Scout plus vegemite is the best toast topping EVER!!! We are all sons and daughters of beaches here because we are an island. A teeny easter egg in first photo of my Halloween Special. 😀

  5. draliman says:

    I clicked on one of the links you put in (the fried chicken one) and it was like a walk down memory lane. I was instantly transported back to 1995 when you started this blog series a-ha-ha-ha 🙂

    I thought it was only in the UK where “fast” food turns into a 30 minutes extravaganza?

    • It would’ve been cool had I actually started this in 1995 and were predicting the future of 2001! Of course, if I’d already known in advance I was going to lose, I’d have probably just stayed home!

  6. This is the song that never ends. Yes, it goes on and on… 🙂

  7. Well, as it’s now Sunday, I’ve only 5 days to wait until the next installment. I’m glad you’ve not finished writing!

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