Loose in The Big Apple — And M&Ms

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NEW YORK CITY — It is said that one can see, buy, eat or drink anything in the Big Apple. We are staying just off Times Square, about a half mile south of Central Park. Hotel rooms are pricey if one wants to stay close to the action, and we did. After considerable gnashing of teeth, I finally gave up trying to find a bargain; three nights in a Hampton Inn — a rather nice one, but still — cost nearly as much as a month’s mortgage payment. And the hotel room would fit in our living room with plenty of space to spare.

But it is vacation time, our big blowout for the summer, so we vow not to obsess over money and just feel blessed that we can afford to treat daughter Abbie to her first trip to this crazy, amazing city.

Thus we find ourselves late one evening, with the clock pushing midnight, in the M&M store on Times Square. Three stories of merchandise and candy all devoted to M&Ms. I indulge in M&Ms about once a year, being more of a Reeses Peanut Butter cup guy. I had no idea that M&Ms had become a cult icon. The store sells M&M-related everything. Alarm clocks, plush monkeys, keychains, magnets, sweatshirts and caps, even boots and shoes. M&M shoes?

And at the M&M store one can buy every possible variety of M&M available, have the candy personalized with one’s own initials, buy five pounds of only the red candies if that is your bent. You will pay more than double what buying a package at Walmart will cost, this being New York City and Times Square. But this clearly was not impeding profits, because even at this late hour the M&M store was filled with folks cramming shopping bags with merchandise and buying plastic bags filled with candy.

Across the street is a Hersey’s store, but one whacked-out establishment making a fortune selling candy-related merchandise at midnight was our limit.


One hears nightmarish tales of the outrageous prices for food in New York — $16 hamburgers and such. These are not tall tales. Even Starbucks cost about 30 percent more here for the exact same tall latte with skim milk that I occasionally treat myself to in East Texas. We are not exactly connoisseurs of fine food, so we spent an inordinate amount of time staring at menus on display at the entrances to eating establishments before making a decision. Even selecting judiciously, it was rare that we spent less than $60 on lunch for three, and often dinner pushed $100. Luckily, the hotel had a free breakfast — if one considers it a “free” meal when the room costs north of $300 a night. But at least this lowered eating-out costs.

Then one evening we were wandering around famished after seeing a stellar performance of “Les Miserables” on Broadway. We have found ourselves eating like Spaniards, with lunch around 2 p.m. and dinner at 11 p.m. This is not conducive to maintaining one’s waistline, but what the heck. We were on vacation. As we kept rejecting one restaurant after another — too pricey, overcrowded, not in the mood for Brazilian food — we happened along a quiet, modest Mexican restaurant with just one table occupied. Yes, the kitchen is still open, the hostess said. Soon we were diving into complimentary chips and salsa — another NYC rarity — and waiting on a plate of steaming enchiladas for the famished 16-year-old and nachos for my Beautiful Mystery Companion and me. And the price was, if not at Piney Woods level, more like what one might pay in Dallas for Tex-Mex.

At least we walked a lot to attempt to burn those late-night calories, in the morning through Central Park, a sea of tranquility in a world of honking horns and sirens. Manhattan is filled with yellow cabs. Fire trucks use their sirens to wind their way through the crowded streets in order to stop and flush a fire hydrant. I witnessed this one morning, as my newshound instinct kicked in and I walked down to where a truck had stopped, camera in hand. I expected to see a fire or at least a little smoke. Instead two firefighters were flushing a hydrant. I guess if I had a siren I could legally use to help get through Manhattan, I would use it, too.

The national sport of Manhattan is jaywalking without getting killed by a speeding taxi trying to beat the light. People blithely ignore the “don’t walk” signal and head across the one-way streets. Soon a taxi is barreling down on them, driver laying on the horn. It is a scary game of chicken that we quickly decided we would not play.


We took the train to Boston from New York and were amazed by the relatively quiet streets and sidewalks in our Back Bay neighborhood. After Manhattan, Boston felt like a genteel, small town.

More on that next week. In the meantime, I have had this strange hankering for M&Ms.

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