I love the Rain Forest Cafe restaurants. The first one I ever visited was in Chicago - then I found out they are a chain. In the older ones (like San Francisco) , apparently before people complained that they're too scarey, there are roaring leopards as well as the charging elephants and the chest-beating gorillas. Personally, the gorillas freak me out. Of course, that's where we were seated in the one at the Menlo Park Mall. Yes, folks, a mall in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Some of you must know that is where Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. This trip we never did drive by the tower with the giant light bulb atop but the mall is off of infamous Route 1 of the Princeton back-and-forth adventure on day 5.
I collect T-shirts if they have the RFC location on them. The ones here only said New Jersey and weren't that exciting and as I might have mentioned, the suitcases started out full. I totally must recommend the Bourbon Chicken! This mall also had a great sock store, called The Sock Drawer, that had many color choices of my favorite type of socks. I just went on about this in my interlude space, so I'll spare you. We did bop in and out of several stores trying to find a rain hat to go with my new rain jacket but no luck.
Jersey City/Liberty State Park
Today was the day that I suggested to Nick that he pick a place to go in our free time. He seemed to think that I tasked him with doing this. I thought we were doing too much "esther" stuff and not enough "nick" stuff. The weather continues to be, well yucky, but as mentioned, we're done with museums. After some time with our handy-dandy AAA book (a factor in the large suitcase weighing 49.5 lbs back at SFO), Nick started telling me about Liberty State Park, close to Jersey City. I think it's a National Park (and I totally forgot to look for a passport stamp.) It includes a dock and an old, very cool, train station. There are ferries to Ellis and Liberty Islands, where the Statue of Liberty is. Walking around the Park, you can see parts of both islands, although it is a side view of the Statue, blocked somewhat by Ellis Island.
We bopped around a while then headed to the Liberty Science Center for their last movie of the day. They have the worlds largest IMAX theater. The show starts with an explanation of it; it's the same type of setup as planetariums. They did whatever with the lights so you could see all the projectors and sound-systems behind the screen. Very, very cool! Total tangent - anybody remember Cinerama? I guess IMAX is the next generation.
OK, back. We were there to see Hubble. The movie had a lot of footage of visuals from the telescope and info about galaxies and light years and mostly it's out of my head. But I'm sure Nick, the almost-astronomy major remembered a lot. But over half of the movie was about the astronaut mission to do one last set of repairs on the Hubble telescope. What I did pick up on was there wasn't going to be one and one of my favorite US Senators, Barbara Mikulski from Maryland helped make it happen! I've actually supported her reelection a couple of times and am now doubly glad.
The movie included showing the astronauts training to do the repairs and then their travel and then the actual repairs. At one point, something like 39 tiny screws had to be removed, gently, carefully. Two thumbs up! Of course, there were maybe 10 of us watching late on a Thursday afternoon, as compared to the several hundred kids who'd come out before us from Tornado Alley.
Dinner and a Show
The museum was closing and we were due to meet my sisters in Manhattan. Nick had planned to drive to the Secaucus train station and from there take the subway and walk, the usual. But the nice guy at the Liberty Park train station suggested we just go to the Path (more NJ transit) station in near-by Jersey City and assured us there was parking. We thought less driving, good idea. Well, yes, but. We found one garage that was only for the attached building, no street parking and lots which closed at 8pm. Eventually we found our way to Secaucus. Another quick tangent - the whole time, I kept trying to remember who were the Secaucus seven and never did. If I go google it now, I'll never get done.
There were some issues with the train and we waited and called Carol and waited. We only had to go one stop and eventually did and met the twins right on time. Caren had found a somewhat tony place called Brassier 8 and one half. As always, we had a great meal and great conversation. In a fun moment, the four of us shared one dessert. But, we'd let it go a tad too long and had to hustle to the theater where we just made last call.
The musical we saw was The People in the Picture at Studio 54. It was written by Iris Rainer Dart who's written many novels including Beaches (as in the Bette Midler movie.) It takes place, somewhat simultaneously, in 1939-46 Warsaw and 1977 USA, New York maybe, likely? The lead actress Donna Murphy is the link back and forth, playing Raisa in the past and Bubbie (grandma) in the more present. We were told, by Caren who has series tickets to the theater, that it was about three generation of Jewish women. And it was but not what I was expecting. As Carol said at intermission - I didn't know there would be Nazis. I think we all expected the timeline to be later.
It definitely has it's own audience - I was the closest and Nick the furthest from that. If you're into how history affects next generations and get passing references to Molly Picon, you'll probably enjoy this. Since we had to all take off fast afterwards, I didn't get to discuss with my sisters. Nick felt the middle character was slighted. We thought, until we looked up Iris Dart, that it was written by the "granddaughter" but actually Dart's age is that of daughter caught in the middle of several things.
After hugging Caren, Carol, Nick & I headed towards the subway, she to go uptown, us to go downtown. Back to Penn Station, back to Secaucus, back to Route 1 and it's bumps and no U-turns and finally, back to the Comfort Suites.
Coming up: Five states in one day, heading for The Cape.
© 2011 Esther A. Heller