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Jewish World Review August 30, 2000/ 29 Menachem-Av, 5760


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Consumer Reports

No politics spoken here -- THE CIRCLE LINE is the only New York City tourist attraction I look forward to doing at least once a year. The Empire State Bldg.? Went to the top when I was 10 and never again. Glitzy and dopey Broadway shows? No, no Nanette. And when Mrs. M and I finally lunched at the Carnegie Deli, we were so put off by the yakkity-yak staff, and the shtick that a jaw-breaking, and exorbitantly priced, corned beef sandwich signifies quality, that we've never been back. But I can't think of a single New Yorker, when pressed, who won't admit to still getting a thrill at seeing the city's skyline, whether by car, boat or plane.

Two Sundays ago, we had a bunch of California relatives in for the week, and a boat trip around Manhattan on what happened to be a sunny and breezy summer day was the logical kickoff to the visit. Sure, it's a little weird, if you live in the city, when the tour guide says: "And if you look straight ahead you can see Greenwich Village, a neighborhood that's historically famous for attracting bohemians and artists." But it was cool when we cruised past Tribeca, and Junior pointed out with pride our apartment building to his cousins Xela and Kira, their mother Barbara and my late brother Doug's companion Dan.

The Circle Line's concession stand is a wreck-a replica of those at Yankee Stadium-and Dan, in particular, was flabbergasted at the rudeness of the men and women behind the counter. He was polite enough not to also mention their sheer stupidity. I shrugged and told him it was a fact of life. Frankly, I'd take this particular inconvenience, 10 times over, rather than live in the never-never land of California. So after I fetched a tray of hotdogs, Cokes and ice cream bars for our group, I wandered up to the front of the boat to get the best possible look at the Statue of Liberty.

The sight of that stern lady has always mesmerized me. Perhaps it was my imagination, or more likely that I need stronger eyeglass lenses, but I could've sworn I saw two round Bush-Cheney stickers stuck near her torch. It would make sense: While New Populist Gore, his nose brown from too many backdoor sessions with Dick Gephardt, David Bonior, Jesse Jackson and about 100 special-interest groups, has no desire for ongoing immigration, Bush, to his credit, remembers that the country was founded and made powerful by refugees from all over the world. When former California Gov. Pete Wilson loudly backed a hateful anti-immigrant proposition in the angry '94 elections, Bush was one of a handful of GOP aspirants who vocally disagreed. That's just one of the reasons to vote for the occasionally tongue-twisted Texan.

Oh, my. My relatives from San Luis Obispo have vastly different political views from my own, so, in the interest of family harmony, I held my tongue for nearly a week. I feel empowered, as Gore or his narcissistic boss might say, to get back on track in speaking the truth. Keep hope alive, swing voters!

Mrs. M, the boys and I love staying in hotels, even in New York, so for a few days we lodged at the Millennium, an underrated downtown establishment that has clear views of the Twin Towers, prompt room service and a wonderful health club and pool. Xela and Kira were wowed looking out at Brooklyn from our 52nd-floor suite, not to mention by the crow's-eye view of the Woolworth Bldg., Junior's favorite edifice in the entire city.

I must report that one of the bedrooms was haunted. On Tuesday morning, a hair dryer turned on at full blast at 1:38 and didn't stop until its engine burned out. Three hours later, a security guard opened the door, understandably spooking my wife and MUGGER III. Still, the Millennium remains a favorite. A year and a half ago, when the renovations on our loft were ridiculously behind schedule, my family was forced to stay in a hotel for six weeks. To this day, both boys believe that they've lived in three discrete residences: a sixth-floor Hudson St. apartment, the Millennium and our current penthouse at the epicenter of Tribeca.

While I was at work that Monday, the crew went shopping in the area and Xela, who just celebrated her 13th birthday, stocked up on an eclectic selection of books from the nearby Borders, as did Mrs. M. Junior purchased the new Baha Men CD, with the hit single "Who Let the Dogs Out?" that'll be featured in the next Rugrats movie, due for a Thanksgiving release. I don't care for much of the Nickelodeon/MTV crap that he listens to-look, I suppose his Backstreet Boys are my Herman's Hermits-but the B.M. are at least palatable. A little too much thanking the Lord for my taste, but their Caribbean bark & bite leaves the atrocious Aaron Carter (who inexplicably covers the Strangeloves' "I Want Candy") in the dust.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2000, Russ Smith