You can take this as a rock out in the United States on a budget kind of post as well. I had kicked the idea around for a while, there is a pencil store so close-Boston and New York are close to me-so I had to see it for myself. I get it, in the small community of stationary junkies, I am a small fish, but I still thought it would be awesome to hit the store up and just spend a day in New York City a place that a lot of my favorite movies and TV shows are set (I either obsess about something or I let it die) and this is what I do, I like to randomly go and do something. I started my planning Amtrak.
Amtrak is my new favorite way to travel, especially to a place that when I drove there I hated it. First off there is no ridiculous security line like the airport. Went in, waited for the train, ate and then boarded. A conductor scanned my ticket and we went on our way. The price is worth noting as well, I got to New York and back for 120$, and I did not have to drive in New York. Add 40$ to the total for parking my car in Boston. The train is something I am going to use as much as humanly possible on my adventures. I had time to work or read whatever I wanted, I am not crazy about flying, no take off no landing, and I can go and buy my own soda rather than waiting for it to be brought. If you travel by train you get to see some amazing views of the country.
Im not even sure where that is, somewhere between Boston and Connecticut, it is probably Rhode Island, but the whole thing just felt right. Watching America go buy with a pencil in my hand was pretty great. Im kind of stoked to figure out where to go next, but I will need to save for the next one. The next thing about train travel is the people you meet. Sure I probably lucked out this time, but right now it is train 1-plane 0. On my last good plane ride I spent four hours listening to a woman who was convinced that denim was making a comeback in fashion, and she was excited about it. Head phones are not the international symbol we think they are. On the train I met a Vietnam veteran who was an actual hobo.
I asked him if I could write about him, he said that would be cool, but part of the story is about how many beers he had during this time so for the sake of his Dignity we will just be calling him JL on the off chance he was not sure to what he agreed to. JL sat and rode for a while and looked well enough, minus the fact that he was running through beers at a good clip (he had them in his bag. See what I mean about security? BYOB!) At some point I got a pepsi and he assumed the can to be beer and wanted to know why I paid the eight dollar train price of beer. I told him it was soda, he then offered me a beer, to which I declined, being 0750 and all. He told me his story. He is a hobo (his term) and he was on his way to Tampa. He stays in Boston as long as possible, and then heads south for the winter where he has connections with a lot of street people (his term also.) His sister had bought him a nice new pair of boots as a Christmas gift, and his Ex had let him spend the night waiting on his train. He said she woke him up promptly to be on his way. He had a backpack with him and he would hop off the train to smoke at any stops longer than a minute. He said if he missed the train he wanted me to have his bag. We talked for a while about why he moved about. He said he came back from Vietnam and eventually moved into a bottle and stayed there. The long and short of it was that he travelled back and forth according to the seasons and ate and drank on his VA check while living in shelters. He has it figured out and seems to work for him. We enjoyed a little pizza before he hunted a liquor store and went on to his connecting train to move on. If your in tampa and you spot JL remind him to call me so I can check up on him. He has my number.
SO that leads us to my first slice of New York City pizza. We had it at a place called Little Italy, that is the name of the eatery.
I was not disappointed. New York Pizza was everything I had dreamed it could be.
Next came The Empire State Building. The fee to go to the 86th floor was 35$. That brings our total (with the pizza) to about 200$. I wanted the open air observatory, so thats where I went rather than the top to be in a box. It was here that I got to kill off a bucket list item. They cram the elevators full for efficiency. The second trip on one of them and as soon as the doors closed I said to the full elevator “I suppose you all are wondering why I gathered you here today.” Needless to say the uncomfortable was palpable. It took me fifteen minutes of tour dodging and security to get to the top. Let us describe a special kind of cold at the top of that building. However the photos and the recreation of a Home Alone 2 moment were worth it. As well as meeting a British woman and her daughter who seemed to believe that my southern accent was from some forgotten colony island rather than the southern United States.
On my way out I acquired my Rough Guide to New York ( a must and it is in the first photo.) Brings our total to 215$. I escaped this building and set off on the three mile trek to CW Pencil Enterprise. Here is part of the beauty of a trip like this. Whip out the pocket guide, grab the map, plan your route and see what attractions are listed along the way. A ton of them are things like buildings that cost you nothing at all to admire and take a photo of. Things like The Flat Iron Building make me wish that I could sketch. However I cannot sketch so I tell you how to visit cities and sites on a budget.
There is a ton of free city to experience along the way. However the point of this entry is of course CW Pencil Enterprise. We have arrived.
This is why I had come. This is the reason for the trip in the first place. Four hours on a train, three miles on foot, and do it all again later to see this wonderful little shop that has gotten so much press. I know that I am a small fish in the world of blogging and especially among stationary junkies, however The Pencil Ladies will make you feel like they opened the store just so you can visit. That is how awesome they are. I got to meet two of them on this day. I walked in, sat down my bag and proudly declared that I had trekked from Boston to see this store and write about it. Caitlyn did not miss a beat and told me to stay as long as I like. The resident blogger showed the shop off, allowed me to show off some of my own pencils and exchanged my dollars for quarters so that I could gleefully continue to feed them to the pencil machine in the store. Eventually Caroline, the pencil lady that started it all, came in and I was introduced while trying not to come off as weird. Again The Pencil Ladies are awesome. They chatted with me for quite a while. Now the super fun part comes in when two ladies who had already checked out and left came back to the store. Apparently there is an Atlanta based stationary blogger/podcaster named Brad whom I mildly resemble (I am sure to them the accent is basically the same) and so they came back and asked if I was Brad. I was not sure what was going on, but we eventually established who they were talking about and that I am not The Pen Addict. However I was very flattered and of course the stories are the point of the whole thing. They added me on Instagram and such (she’s a popular artist herself @penguinscreative April Wu, seriously she’s talented) and they allowed me to get a shot with them just because…they are awesome.
The Pencil ladies showed me some of their cooler vintage items, like a box os 1950s Blackwings and a 1920s case of mongol brand pencils, which we established the packaging was a little racist.
Lastly before taking off I presented them my humble offering. I figured they would have some sort of wall of fame for analogue items people would bring to the store as an offering to The Pencil Ladies. Turns out that is not a thing…not yet! See for yourself that they enjoyed the excellent military compass!
I think it goes without saying that I gave up a good bit of my spending money in this store. This will not be factored into the cost of the trip as you can recreate a trip similar to this without feeding an addiction. I have two friends (you guys know Carl, and will soon know Tyler) who had asked for an awesome grab bag of graphite from my travels. I was happy to suck them into this world with me. I cannot lavish enough praise on this store or the wonderful ladies who run it, it will become a New York must for me. They treat you like a friend the moment you hit the door. Now the rest of this is going to go fast as it is getting long.
I made the trek back to the ESB. I want to point out that every single citizen of New York that I encountered along the way was awesome. Everyone was helpful, kind, did I say it was the perfect day? Anyhow seeing as how this became a part pilgrimage for another one of my obsessions (Home Alone 2) I wanted to see The Plaza Hotel and Central Park. I was getting low on time and would have to book it if I wanted photos. Fifth Avenue here I go. Free attractions along the way.
Along the way I encountered a building playing what could only be the soundtrack to Home Alone 2 and putting on a light show. I asked an officer of the NYPD why this was happening. He pointed behind me. I had unknowingly come upon Rockefeller Center. As any Home Alone Pilgrim would, I fell to my knees and wept…and face timed my son and mother so they could see…then I took pictures.
In the end I made it to The Plaza Hotel, and had my photo taken on the steps in true Home Alone fashion.
After this I headed into Central Park. I did not go far, I wanted my Grandparents to see it on FaceTime, and so I took them in as far as a bridge, and from the first bridge along the path of Kevin, I took what will be some of my favorite photos. They will be seen after my signature when this finally ends. It was 1850, I was low on time and had a train to catch and 1.5 miles back. I started walking. A quick duck into a store for souvenir NYC snow globes for the family and I made my train with twenty minutes to spare. For less than 300$ I had an utterly awesome day in New York City and am already thinking ahead to what to do next time. One of my big savings is that I walked. New York is a walking city. (The Ganger means Big Walker.) I accomplished a lot of goals (home alone and otherwise) and I made my journey to see the awesome CW Pencil Enterprise and meet the pencil ladies. Needless to say despite it being 0200, Carl came over and we dug into our goodies from the pencil store. I hope you enjoy this and can take a trip on the cheap and live a little for yourself.