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You're not in Tallassee anymore

By Michael Butler

My wife Leigh Anne was invited by her parents to join them on a trip to New York City - NEW YORK CITY! “You can come too I guess,” her pop Delmar said.  So, I back-doored my way into a vacation.

I owe the McCaigs for my only prior trips to New York.  There were two.

Foot reflexology in Chinatown

The last time I visited was in 2001. It was just a few months prior to 9/11.  On that trip, we went took a tour at the World Trade Center.  We revisited Ground Zero this time.  Construction is underway, and the skyscrapers are well on their way to highlighting the skyline.

This early June four-day stay began with an issue at Atlanta‘s airport security line. It had nothing to do with underwear bombs.  Leigh Anne managed to drop her necklace on the conveyer belt.  The little pieces with our children’s name rolled onto the floor.  We found two of the three and had pretty much given up on retaining the full collection.

“I can’t have anything,” Leigh Anne tearfully bellowed. 

I said, “Go back and give it a once over.”  Goodness sakes.  I didn’t want to ruin a trip to the “Big Apple” before it started.

Luckily, she found the final charm and we were on our way.

I ordered apple juice on the Delta jet, a tradition with my short list of flights.  Call it superstitious but we arrived unscathed.

We stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, quite possibly the most recognizable hotel in NYC.  President Barack Obama had been there for a production just a day before.  A room there is about $400 per night, but I wasn’t buying.

Delmar had earned some “points” and went first-class as usual.  We dined at the nicest restaurants including the Four Seasons.  The waiter there infuriated Ruthanne, but at least he had a nice English accent.

After Delmar complained about the service, the gentleman asked, “Where are you from?”  Whence, the man from Tallassee’s Noble Road replied, “Boston.”

“You’re from Boston?” 


Anyway, after the bellyaching - pun intended, the meal was $10 (tip not included).  A few things were comped, plus Del had $400 in credit card rewards.

My favorite meal was at Sparks Steak House , where mob man Paul Castellano was gunned down in 1985.  It’s known as well for being the “best steak house in Manhattan.”  I haven’t sampled a lot of steaks in the nation’s largest city, but this one would be hard to beat.  I savored every bite.

Delmar bragged of his American Express card earning him .1% cash back.  After the $250 tab for the meal was delivered, I said - “Well look on the bright side, you’ll get 25 cents back.”

Of course there are numerous dining choices in a place like New York, but there’s much more - the sights!  I mean more than just the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.  I’m also referring to the people.  There’s a diversity of cultures - things you won’t see in Tallassee, Alabama.

We trekked through Little Italy and Chinatown.  After walking probably ten miles the first day - no lie, I passed a foot massage sign two times before biting on the third.

It was only $12 for 15 minutes.  It’s called foot reflexology. 

“Let’s do it,” I coaxed.

Leigh Anne was a bit skittish, but it beat the $210 rate for a 50-minute massage from the Waldorf.

After a few jokes in Chinese between themselves, they took me back.

Remember the name; reflexology.  I wouldn’t call it a massage.  This small Asian man was about to bring me out of my seat.  Those knuckles were jamming into my toe jam.

Mr. Chin sat a timer beside me.

12 minutes, 11, 10...

When the final seconds dwindled down to nothing, I was relieved.  Worst 12 bucks I ever spent.  I don’t know what Chinese water torture is like, but this might rival it.

Leigh Anne said it helped her.

We learned a little about the subway system.  There are all kinds on there too.  There was a sad sight on the ride between Canal and 42 streets; a woman parading her young son around and pleading for money. 

“I lost my job,” she sobbed.

I wondered, ’How does she afford the subway,’ as she handed her kid a bag of Doritos.

On a much lighter note, there are hundreds of Starbucks around.  No kidding.  There are about 300 in Manhattan.  Hard to believe, but there are millions of people.  Still, couldn’t they let Tallassee have just one?

A tall Chai Tea Latte in Montgomery will cost you about $2.90.  The one I picked up in New York on Lexington Avenue was $3.45.  The Waldorf Starbucks is gauging sippers for $5.05 a cup.

There were a handful of Starbucks within a block of our hotel

Thanks to the McCaigs for an interesting trip.  If they want to pick up the tab again, I’ll accept the invitation.  Maybe by 2020 Delmar will have enough American Express points for another swanky meal or two.

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