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Madi and I spent a terrific day in New York City yesterday. We had to be up and on our way to Baltimore to catch the train by 7:00 a.m., and she couldn’t have been more of a trooper — especially since we’re approaching the final days of summer vacation, and teenagers like to get all the sack time they can get before the regular routine starts again.
We made it into New York Penn Station just slightly after 10 a.m. – a bit late, and I had to be at the Paley Center for Media at 10:30 to do some talking head filming for a documentary piece that’s being put together on Washington Irving and Sunnyside. Rather than cab it, Madi and I opted to hoof it and, in spite of a false start by me, when I steered us in the wrong direction out of Penn Station, we arrived at Paley just before 11:00. An elevator whisked us to the 11th floor, where I spent the next hour sitting just near William Paley’s Emmy Awards and talking All Things Irving while cameras rolled, trying not to talk too fast or too much with my hands, which can be particularly embarrassing. I have no idea yet when the piece will run — it’ll be a while, and will likely be just a regional thing — but I’ll let you know. At any rate, it was fun, and I got to do my James Fenimore Cooper impression.
After the taping, Madi and I headed over to the Le Parker Meredien to meet my editor, Casey, and dine on what I’ve been told are the finest burgers in the city. The restaurant — a tiny little place called Burger Joint — is crammed in the back of the Meredien’s lobby, almost unnoticeable except for a small neon sign shaped like a hamburger. There was already a line out the door when we arrived there at 12:30 — which, I was told, was the norm — and at the recommendation of an incredibly nice concierge, we got in line to hold our spot until Casey arrived, which she did within a matter of minutes.
The place was the size of a postage stamp, and the real trick once you’re inside is to watch for someone preparing to leave their table — at which point you hover over them like a vulture and slide into their seats while they’re still bussing their mess. While standing in line, we spotted a corner booth being vacated, and managed to slip Madi into it just seconds in front of a fellow who had just gotten his food. The food was, indeed, outstanding, though the slightly melted shakes left something to be desired.
Following lunch and bidding farewell to Casey (who texted me shortly thereafter to officially designate herself a Madi Fan), Madi and I spent the rest of the afternoon back over at the Paley Center for Media, where I had some clips I needed to take a look at for Project Blue Harvest. I had never been to the center before, and I gotta tell ya, it’s a Pop Culture Junkie’s Candy Shop. You can scan through the center’s enormous video library, select any clip you want to see, then slide into a darkened room where your clip runs on a video monitor. I had them pull about an hour’s worth of footage involving my subject, while Madi chose an old Twilight Zone (“The Bard,” one of the humorous ones in which a hack television writer conjures up William Shakespeare to do some ghost writing for him) and for the next two hours, we sat in front of a monitor with headphones on, laughing and, at times, pointing to other monitors in the room (one was showing “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek, while another showed Lucy gagging on Vitameatavegimin). We got a particular kick out of the old commercials that were still intact on the Twilight Zone clip, for Marlboro cigarettes and Reynold’s Wrap aluminum foil, the virtues of which were extolled by a straw-hatted barbershop quartet.
After shutting off our monitor and hanging up our headphones, we decided to spend a few hours watching some of the presentations that were running in some of the theaters throughout the building, and finally settled on the program in theater four, which featured over an hour’s worth of Super Bowl commercials — some good, some bad, and some shown only once and never seen again because they were deemed too offensive or too ineffective. We thought one of the most interesting was Apple’s sequel to their incredible successful “1984” commercial — where they unveiled the MacIntosh, as we called it back in the Dark Ages, kids. In 1985, Apple was promoting Mac Office during the Super Bowl — and given the success of their 1984 ad, expectations were running high for the new spot. The commercial — called “Lemmings” — was a failure, considered too dark and rather sick, and was never shown again. But see what you think. Here it is:
We ended our day with a slow walk back to Penn Station, where we ate pizza in Bryant Park, tried unsuccessfully to locate an open bookstore, and munched on doughnuts (which I slobbed all over myself, much to Madi’s enjoyment) while we waited for our train. We finally made it home well after midnight — and here at noon now, I only just heard Madi get out of bed. But you know what? She deserves the late morning. It was one of the nicest days I’ve spent in a long time, just hanging out in New York with my kid.