“Uncut Gems”: Baubles, Balls, Bets, Beats and Beatings

Uncut Gems!

“Howard Ratner sent away to Africa / For a gem to pay for Hanukkah…!”

Prior to checking out the gritty new drama Uncut Gems, my total Adam Sandler film experiences ranked best to worst like so:

1. The Wedding Singer

End of list.

Now Uncut Gems makes two. I tossed The Meyerowitz Stories into my Netflix queue after the same director’s Marriage Story lanced my heart. Someday that’ll make three.

I admit Sandler was okay on Saturday Night Live (“The Hanukkah Song” was a keeper and Opera Man had his moments), but his post-SNL comedy brand has never been my thing. The Wedding Singer benefited at the time from above-average reviews for a Sandler film and a brief run at a second-run theater that used to be a couple miles down the road from us. It was nice to save a buck whenever we could.

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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 9: New York, Not Yet

Manhattan!

A lot of what’s visible here is Wall Street rather than all the most beloved Manhattan skyscrapers. In the wake of the 2008-2009 recession we nonetheless tried to draw inspiration from the view rather than glare at it in middle-class indignation.

When we decided to devote one day of our ostensible Philadelphia vacation to visiting the Statue of Liberty a reasonable distance away, we had no idea what to expect from the journey. We certainly didn’t envision it as a prequel to future vacations. And yet, there we were, and there it was.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #30: Leaving New York (reprise)

Delta terminal!

Day Seven. Early morning. The Comfort Inn had already shut off our cable TV, in case we were entertaining any notions of dawdling. Morning news was far from our thoughts, with a noon flight ahead and without knowing whether or not LaGuardia was one of those airports where passengers should expect mile-long lines worse than what we’re used to comic conventions. Sightseeing was over; now was the time to escape from New York.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #29: NYC Outtakes II

Chess & Checkers House!

Day Two: our endurance walk through Central Park included a rest stop at the Chess & Checkers House, moments before the clouds began sprinkling.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through the first six days of our second trip to New York City in twenty-eight episodes —- Sunday through Thursday, July 9-14,2016, our second time flying anywhere and my son’s first. Between the flights there and back again, we saw lots more New York we hadn’t seen our first time around when we drove out there from Indianapolis in 2011.

Here, in our penultimate chapter: a selection of outtakes from previous scenes — a couple skipped by dumb oversight; a few that captured isolated moments disconnected from the rest of the narrative; one or two alternate shots of cool objects and places; and a few left behind due to inadequate wow factor. We may be aging amateurs who don’t have thousands of unconditional superfans, but we do have light standards.

Right this way for more art, architecture, animals, and aircraft!

2016 NYC Trip Photos #28: The Last Manhattan Mealtimes

Junior's pastry!

Mini-pastry appetizer at Junior’s, one of the better experiences from the second half of our week.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

On our vacations the meals trend in the same direction throughout our week: at first tentative while we’re exploring new territory. After a day or two we’re emboldened enough to experiment with places more imaginative or just more expensive. After peaking midweek with the greatest meals of the year, our dinners then begin to descend in either quality or excitement level as we reach the far end of our budget and tap into our last reserves of energy just to finish out the trip. We try to keep finding gems among the dross, whether the results impress our friends back home or not.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #27: Queens of the Modern Age

DNA Walkway!

New York City’s uniquely hard-coded DNA is everywhere around if you know where to look. Sometimes it’s right over your head and ridiculously literal.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

When you’re gallivanting around Manhattan and exploring the same sights everyone tells you are must-sees, it’s easy to forget New York City has more than one borough. Unless we find reasons to visit them of our own accord, we outsiders are happy to stay latched on to the biased mental images that movies and TV gave us. The Bronx has tough guys and a zoo; Staten Island has the only ferry in New York and not much else; Brooklyn has either the trendy food or the most colorful TV shows, depending on your preferred channels; and Queens is the other one. A handful of us remember Peter Parker is from Forest Hill in Queens, but otherwise it’s the baseline Big Apple stand-in. Queens is to New York City what Vancouver is to all the other major cities. Or so we out-of-towners think, because sometimes we can be uninformed simpletons.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #26: Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?

Ramones!

It’s mind-boggling to me that one of the greatest bands from the original American punk rock scene released their self-titled debut album a full forty years ago. When I learned the Queens Museum was hosting a temporary exhibit commemorating the anniversary of their recording career, it shot straight to the Top 5 on my vacation to-do list. Fortunately my wife and son were generous enough to allow this fan’s diversion.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #25: Yesterday’s World of Tomorrow

Unisphere!

Hi, I’m the Unisphere! You might remember be from such films as Men in Black and Iron Man 2!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Our second trip to Queens brought us to a convergence of historical attractions in scenic Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. The Queens Zoo was an incidental delight, but we had to walk quite a few more blocks east through a sunny July day to reach two of our most anticipated stops of the entire week.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #24: Mandatory Zoo Visit

peeking parrot!

Peeking parrot doing its best Laugh-In impression.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Zoos were a staple of our early road trips once my son began tagging along. Now that he’s college age, animal sightseeing isn’t the obligatory concession it once was, but if the option presents itself, we’re open to it.

During our vacation planning, Day Six was one of the first that I’d mapped out before all the rest for a few different reasons. As with our Day Five excursion to the Museum of the Moving Image, Day Six would take us out to Queens, but farther south than the Museum and consequently using a different subway. The Queens Zoo wasn’t a primary objective, but it was close enough to the other sightseeing temptations that I figured why not add it to the mix. No matter how young or old your kids are, animals are cool.

Right this way for EMERGENCY ZOO ANIMALS.

2016 NYC Trip Photos #23: Times Square for Old Times’ Sake

NY Gifts!

Manhattan nighttime even makes mere souvenir shopping look cooler.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

After our Wicked matinee and dinner, my wife and son were wiped out and done sightseeing for Day Five. I had a bit of energy left and one more errand I wanted to run. Anne was a little uneasy letting me go traipsing alone through the streets of New York City, but I promised I wouldn’t be out all night. My destination was an easy half-mile walk, and gave me an excuse for one last stroll through the electric scenery of Times Square.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #22: Back on Broadway

Wicked!

“I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so / Some things I cannot change, but till I try, I’ll never know!”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

On our first Manhattan foray back in 2011, The Lion King was the first Broadway show we’d ever seen. I’m sure there’re locals and/or hardcore Broadway fans who consider it too populist a choice or whatever, but it was our unanimous decision that didn’t disappoint us in any way imaginable. For our next feature presentation, we once again took our family interests to heart and chose accordingly.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #21: Motion Picture Makings

The Mask!

Kids, be sure to ask your parents about that time Jim Carrey tried to make “ssssSMOKIN’!” a thing.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Our trip to The Museum of the Moving Image, from Times Square out to Astoria, was the longest subway ride we’d ever taken up to that point. I think we were in agreement it was worth the experience, particularly as we walked through their collection of movie memorabilia — actual masks, costumes, models, pre-production art, and writings from some of your favorite Hollywood spectacles. We were grateful not to see the word “replica” on any of their labels.

Right this way for movie stuff and film things!

2016 NYC Trip Photos #20: Imagination in Motion

Tenth Doctor!

Me whenever Republicans and Democrats bend over backwards to rationalize their appointed idols.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

The morning of Day Five, we set forth on an ambitious journey to do something completely different: we took a subway out to Queens, our first time stepping foot into any New York City borough besides Manhattan, unless you count our landing at LaGuardia. All it took to lure us beyond Manhattan’s river boundaries was a museum dedicated to the preservation and contextualization of works and universes that usually keep us entertained and fixated within our living room boundaries.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #19: Ultimate Manhattan Mealtime

Grill!

If you’ve ever gone to Benihana but resented those showy chefs as superfluous middlemen in your tableside cooking experience, have we got a restaurant for you.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Visiting two museums along Manhattan’s Museum Mile seemed insufficient, but we’d already seen the Metropolitan Museum of Art on our 2011 trip, and we were running out of time. We had restaurant reservations at the end of Day Four that would prove to be the best meal we’ve ever had in New York City, possibly a contender for Top 5 Meals of All Time.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #18: 20th Century Art Faire

Kandinsky!

My wife and I split up at the Guggenheim and walked the galleries at our own respective paces. Among the works we each photographed, one of the very few to end up in both our photo sets was Kandinsky’s “Black Lines”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we gave you an inside look at Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum, renowned repository of assorted arts by myriad masters, with a focus on the early Modernists. That entry was the first in a long, long time to elicit a reader response on the ol’ MCC Request Line. Juliette Kings, a fellow WordPress blogger over at Vampire Maman writes:

Wonderful. More please.

Short, sweet, and entirely possible. Consider it done! Presented here are twelve of the many paintings we saw on our whirlwind tour of the Guggenheim’s geometrically dazzling facility. The Guggenheim’s complete collection is also viewable online via their official site, their official app for interactive use while you’re there in person, or through the numerous art aficionados who’ve shared these famous works on Pinterest and elsewhere. Enjoy!

Right this way for eleven more noteworthy works for your own independent art study!

2016 NYC Trip Photos #17: Art Museum as Art Itself

Guggenheim!

The Guggenheim’s original design concept was “inverted ziggurat”. As a Midwesterner I look at it and think “fat tornado”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

Two blocks south of the Cooper Hewitt, New York’s famed “Museum Mile” continues with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, one of the most distinctive-looking cultural centers around. Credit goes to architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who passed away six months before his last groundbreaking creation opened its doors in 1959. You’re supposed to look at the works of early Modernist masters when you enter, but the building itself is fascinating to the point of distraction.

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2016 NYC Photos #16: The Museum of Intelligent Designs

Vitruvian Flik!

Do we have enough fans of either da Vinci or A Bug’s Life to appreciate Vitruvian Flik? Here’s hoping.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

After our tour of the USS Intrepid and its aircraft and spacecraft collections, our next ambitious stops were a bit farther away, up into the mannered nether reaches of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I’d pegged a couple of Museum Mile mainstays whose current exhibits might be in our aesthetic wheelhouses. Getting anywhere near them was half the battle.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #15: Shuttles in Starshine

Galileo shuttle!

A battleship turned into a museum was a fascinating concept in itself. Their vintage aircraft collection was a value-added bonus. But for our money the greatest exhibit of all aboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum was a premium exhibit space on the upper deck showcasing the great-granddaddy of the American Space Shuttle program, the one that started it all, the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

Parked beneath the Enterprise is a second vehicle: one of the shuttles used in filming episodes of the original Star Trek series during its 1966-1969 run. Because someone among their ranks has dual senses of humor and awesomeness, we have the Enterprise shuttle and an Enterprise shuttle, basking together with an aura of simulated starshine for ambiance. Call them the Astrodynamic Duo.

Boldly go here for more shuttle pics!

2016 NYC Trip Photos #14: War Wings III

F11F-1 Tiger!

This F11F-1 Tiger served from 1961 to 1963 as one of the Blue Angels. Now it’s retired and sunning itself in New York City.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

On our two trips last year, I found myself in the presence of two different aircraft collections: one at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which keeps several full-size wartime plans suspended in midair inside a multi-million-dollar building; the other, at the unrelated National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs, which is relatively newer and dreams of funding that same square footage someday.

We found the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t have quite as large a fleet as those two, but the worthy assortment on its upper deck, lacking the specialized scope of those other two museums, includes vehicles from other wars and eras, not just World War II.

Side note while you’re scrolling through the photo gallery: film fans may recognize the Intrepid from its big scene in I Am Legend, in which our hero Will Smith hangs around the upper deck by himself and whacks golf balls toward Manhattan for fun. I guess that’s one way to pass the time after the apocalypse.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #13: The Intrepid Walk at Dawn

USS Intrepid!

Love, exciting and new! Come aboard — we’re expecting you!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

We saw our first battleship on our 2008 road trip to Virginia Beach, which included a side stop in Norfolk to tour the USS Wisconsin. That story hasn’t yet been represented here on Midlife Crisis Crossover, but the short version is that it was huge, our veteran tour guide was a nice gentleman, the day was sweltering, and we hardly got to see inside. Our 2015 road trip through Alabama to New Orleans allowed for a digression in Mobile, home of the USS Alabama, which allowed us access to more areas of the ship while offering zero protection from the South’s summer heat. Frankly I have no idea how our soldiers can stand to serve on these things without roasting to medium well within minutes, but God bless ’em all for being better, sturdier people than me.

When most folks think of New York City, “battleship” isn’t usually among the first 500 words that come to mind. For us that changed when we learned the eastern shore of the Hudson River is the home of the USS Intrepid, docked on the western border of Hell’s Kitchen, several blocks from our hotel. It was convenient, it was showy, and it had a few special exhibits that dovetailed with our geek interests. So that’s why it was our first attraction on the morning of Day Four, and why this entry was nearly titled “Battleship III”.

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