Friday, July 8, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau" Scene on Top Of The Rock @ Rockefeller Center

Photos by Andrew Schwartz/Universal Pictures
The Top of the Rock was used in a pivotal final scene in the 2011 film "The Adjustment Bureau" starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.

In the film Damon is ambitious politician named David Norris who meets Elise Sellas, a contemporary ballet dancer, played by Blunt. As he realizes he is falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep them apart. The mystery men are members of The Adjustment Bureau who will everything in their power to prevent David and Elise from being together. They were never intended to meet and for her sake, David must not see her again.

The scene on the top of 30 Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock) is where David and Elise makes a final stand against The Adustment Bureau to bind their fates together.

Roger Ebert wrote in his review: "The Adjustment Bureau" is a smart and good movie that could have been a great one if it had a little more daring. I suspect the filmmakers were reluctant to follow its implications too far. What David and Elise signify by their adventures, I think, is that we're all in the this together, and we're all on our own. If you follow that through, the implications are treacherous to some, not all, religions. In the short term, however, the movie is a sorta heartwarming entertainment.

Click HERE to read about the Top of the Rock attraction.

"The Adjustment Bureau" is scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray on September 25, 2011.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rewind NYC: Top of the Rock @ Rockefeller Center

View South: Empire State Building, center.
View North: Central Park
(all photos except where noted: TheHopefulTraveler)
Ever since I took a three year break between blogging, there are so many attractions that I've visited that I did not have an chance to write about. These 'rewind' posts allow opportunities to revisit these attractions of cities past visited that may be of interest to other hopeful travelers.

The Top of the Rock observation deck re-opened in November 2005 after undergoing a $75 million dollar renovation having been closed since 1986 to accommodate other renovations at Rockefeller Center. Today it is among New York's most popular attractions welcoming over two million visitors and tourists each year. I had the opportunity to visit Top of the Rock a few days after its opening and then again in June of 2009. Even after four years, the zip ride in the express elevator and the breathtaking views from the top had not lost its excitement.

The 69 floor viewing deck.
The 67th floor deck (bottom) and 69th floor deck (top left) as seen
from the 70th floor.
Three expansive viewing decks, measuring 55,000 square feet in total, on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors offers bird eyes views of Manhattan. The 70th floor, 850 square feet above street level, offers an unobstructed panoramic view unlike any other in the city.

The entrance level includes mammoth video screens to entertain the throngs waiting for the next elevator. The ticket level is an elegant rotunda topped by a massive crystal chandelier by Swarovski. The Austrian company famed for cut crystal also is credited for the 180-foot geode crystal wall on the first level of the observation deck.

5th Avenue down below. St. Patrick's Cathedral, bottom left. 
View Southeast: MetLife Building (formerly the Pan Am building)
obscures the Chrysler Building behind it.
The view of the street level down below allows for an unusual perspective of the busy city. Each of viewing decks offer wonderful views across Manhattan in every direction. For obvious reasons fully-transparent, safety glass run the perimeter of the 67th and 69th viewing decks. The safety glass is not necessary on the top viewing deck due its situation above the two decks below.

Visit for more info. Top of the Rock is open 8am-midnight, 7 days a week except for special holiday hours. The entrance is on 50th Street between 5th and 5th Avenues. Standard ticket prices: Adults $25, Child (6-12) $16, Senior (62+) $23. Sunrise Sunset tickets allow two visits in one day and priced $38 for adults and $20 for children. Ticket offers combining Top of the Rock with other attractions available.

View Northwest: The building tops around the Theatre District and
Times Square. 
The Hopeful Traveler on Top of the Rock.
The Swarovski crystal chandelier at the Top of the Rock lobby entrance.
(image credit: branille/flickr)
The neon signs beckoning guest to come and visit.
(image credit:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Priority Baggage Delivery on American Airlines

One of the perks I've to come to enjoy from being an elite member on American Airlines is their Priority Baggage Delivery service. The kinks that kept the service from being consistent has appeared to be ironed out. On my most recent flights on American, most of the bags that were unloaded first were those marked priority. I love this service since one of the worries about flying is if checked bags made the flight you. The longer a passenger waits, the more there is a wonder if the bag is lost or will be delayed. Going on vacation this one thought every passenger can do without.

This perk is in addition to the waived checked baggage charges for American's top customers. Upon check-in, luggage will be tagged and branded with "priority" bag tags and should be the first ones delivered to the baggage claim area. The customers eligible for Priority Baggage Delivery are:
- First Class and Business Class passengers
- Aadvantage Executive Platinum members
- Aadvantage Platinum members
- AAirpass travelers
- oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members

Those who hold gold status in American's elite status Aadvantage progam will be disappointed that they do no quality for Priority Baggage Delivery.

Circling & Crystal Mountain Art Installations at DFW

There are over thirty works of art that fill the International Terminal D and Skylink train stations at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). However there are two installations in Terminal D most passengers are unlikely to miss.

Circling (2005) by Christopher Janney
An interactive sculpture located in the south side of Terminal D, this work consists of a labyrinthine pattern on the floor in colored terrazzo and curved glass walls interspersed with bursts of sound along the paths. Walls of transparent colored glass and four concentric circles within a 32-foot diameter space allow a person to step out of the airport environment.

Crystal Mountain (2005) by Dennis Oppenheim
A large (30 feet x 45 feet) aluminum-frame sculpture located at the north side of Terminal D is a crystal-inspired work with an arched tunnel through the center that is wide enough for two-way pedestrian circulation.

Children think of both as amusement attractions while adults can't help to pass through each out of pure curiosity. Visit to learn more about these and the other pieces in the airport's public art program.

Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) International Terminal D

(image credit: Francois Hogue/flickr)
Today I return to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) as I make another connection to a flight back to Honolulu. If DFW is counted as a destination, I've likely traveled to this airport more than to any other city in 18 years. The irony is that I've never actually visited any city in Texas as I've stepped outside of this airport only once and it was to stay overnight at a nearby airport Marriott due to a connecting flight that was to leave the next morning.

But if I would choose a favorite airport terminal it would be the two-million-square-foot Terminal D at DFW. I'm a fan of the film "The Terminal" directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks as a stranded traveler at a New York City airport. The fact that the entire terminal used in the film complete with retail and restaurant establishments all housed beneath a massive canopy ceiling is a set design that continues to fascinate me each time I view the film.

(above four images: TheHopefulTraveler)
In a way Terminal D at DFW echoes the look of the "The Terminal" set designed by Alex McDowell ("Minority Report,""Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") from the 80-foot high ceilings to the two two-level concessions comprised of 100,000 square feet of retail shops and restaurants and escalators.

Rather than a semi-circular design of the four older terminals at DFW, Terminal D which opened in 2005 at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars is a square U-shape with wide walkways along the concourse and generous seating areas at each of the 29 gates. Restrooms are more strategically located throughout the terminal unlike the the other four terminals where they are spaced farther apart.

Even if I don't plan to buy or eat anything while at Terminal D, I normally spend a part of my layover walking through each shopping arcade and then finding a gate with no current departure to relax until my boarding time. One of the unique features of Terminal D is the Grand Hyatt DFW hotel constructed above the terminal. The hotel can be accessed directly from behind terminal security and overnight guests can obtain a pass to enter the concourse to visit the shops and restaurants.

Visit for more information about the shops, restaurants and services offered at Terminal D as well as the other terminals at DFW.

(image credit: Francois Hogue/flickr)

Skylink at Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW)

Today I return to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) which is one of the busiest and largest airports in the United States and is the main and largest hub for American Airlines. Thank goodness that DFW's five terminals, each with about 30 gates, are linked behind security check points through the efficient people mover system called Skylink.

The system opened in May 2005 to become the world's largest airport train system. It replaced the notoriously slow American Airlines TrAAin System which traveled at a top of speed of 17 miles per hour and were cramped in accommodating passengers in transit and their carry-on bags. Skylink travels up to 35 mph, is totally automated and runs every two minutes. The trains are bi-directional providing passengers the shortest route between any two terminals.

Skylink is free and accessed via escalators/elevators at two points within each terminal:
Terminal A: Between A13 and A16 and between A29 and A34 
Terminal B: Between B9 and B12 and between B28 and B31
Terminal C: Between C8 and C12 and between C27 and C32 
Terminal D: Between D11 and D20 and between D24 and D34 
Terminal E: Between E8 and E11 and between E31 and E32

Each Skylink station has a boarding area with entrances to the trains on each side that travel in opposite directions. Electronic signs indicate which train is the shortest route to each terminal.

The trains are roomy to accommodate passengers and their carry-on bags. Seating is very limited to a pair of seats located at each end of every train car. Otherwise passengers who stand should take a hold of the poles or overhead braces for safety.

For more information about Skylink and DFW visit

For Your Safety: No Snow Globes

One of the more unusual signs I passed encountered while waiting at LaGuardia airport security were the ones stating that snow globes are not allowed through the security check point. Obviously its because they contain liquid but I guess that point may not be clear enough that airport officials felt it necessary to make a sign for this one object.

Actually it may not be weird, the signs through security out of Honolulu International Airport clearly state that fireworks are not allowed. For anyone who has visited Hawaii during New Year's Eve of season's past will know the reason why. It may be less problematic since home fireworks are now banned on the island of Oahu from 2012.

Maybe a sign should be made noting that peanut butter is not allowed through security either. As I left security I could not help to notice a couple being pulled aside for the peanut butter they packed in their carry-on bag. In the future it wouldn't be a surprise to find food manufacturers labeling their food regarding if it will be allowed through airport security.

The Journey Home: LGA to DFW to HNL

Taxis lining up to drop off passengers on the departure level of LaGuardia.
The return trip back home to Honolulu, Hawaii from New York City has always felt long for several reasons. First of all there is the travel time which can total about ten hours just in the air not counting time waiting at the departure or connecting airport.

Secondly none of the itineraries on American Airlines heading to Honolulu (HNL) are overnights unlike the flights heading east. Because the flight is in daylight straight through it makes it far more difficult to get some rest. I have a preponderance for being unable to sleep on planes and even when every passenger have their shades pulled, the fact that its daylight outside is hard to put out of my mind.

Thirdly in order to make a connecting flight to Honolulu, early flights and therefore very early hotel check-outs are required. A flight out of LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR) between 7am-9am is necessary in order to have adequate time to make one of two connecting flights from Dallas-Ft Worth (DFW) to Honolulu. These flights are on American but other airlines have similar schedules through their hubs.

The fourth reason has to do with the early departure that a check-out by 5am is not unheard of. Taking a taxi (about $30) to LaGuardia at such an early hour is quick as traffic is lacking. However because part of the night before (and in many instances part of the morning) is spent packing there is very little opportunity for a good night's rest. Again my issue is that I can't sleep on planes no matter how tired I may be. I may doze off for few minutes but I'm constantly aware of my surroundings on the plane. This makes for a far more exhausting flight. Probably the biggest issue is simply the uncomfortable seats in economy. Good for you if you can sleep or have no issues with taking a medication to induce sleep.

Food concessions at the American Airlines terminal
at LaGuardia are very limited before 7am and those
that are open offer a very limited menu with basic
breakfast items.
There is an American Airlines flight that departs out of JFK at about noon and connects in Los Angeles (LAX). However this is a popular flight and is often more expensive than flights departing out of LaGuardia or Newark.

Since I have been regularly departing from LGA and it's the closest of New York City's three airports to Midtown Manhattan I take a taxi from the hotel to the airport. I would normally use a shuttle from JFK or have booked a car service from Newark which are both much farther away from Midtown and therefore more expensive to reach by taxi.

There is one more consideration between flying to a vacation destination and flying home. The excitement and adrenaline of getting away is replaced by exhaustion and the reality of heading back to our regular lives and routines.

So since I cannot tailor a flight itinerary that is perfect, I try to make these flights as comfortable as possible by doing the following. Most of these reasons are common sense.

1) Maximizing sleep the night before by using a taxi rather than a shuttle.
2) Arriving early at the airport with enough time to check-in and pass through security.
3) Drinking water regularly throughout the journey and eating breakfast.
4) Bringing more than enough reading material and movies or television episodes downloaded on to my iPad to keep from feeling restless. I can't stress enough the value of noise-canceling headphones.
5) Booking a connecting flight that has enough buffer time in case the first flight is slightly delayed and to allow time to travel between terminals/gates.
6) Wearing comfortable clothing, shoes.
7) Keeping things that may be needed during the flight readily available such as a chapstick, tissues, a pen, etc.

Often the things we remember most about our vacations are the things we last experience and in most instances it's the flight home. Some time and care in the planning of this process will help to preserve the fond memories of any great vacation.

Heading to airport security at LaGuardia.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Times Square: Another Last Night in Manhattan & the New York City Mounted Officers On The Patrol

Times Square facing south. The former New York Times building center is from
where the New Year's eve ball regularly drops. At left is the Minskoff Theatre where
'The Lion King' is likely to roar for many more years.
Times Square facing north from 46th street. More specifically this is Duffy Square
which makes up the northern portion of Times Square. The statue entertainer
George C. Cohan is at bottom. Towering behind him are the billboards attached
to the southern exterior of the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel.
The steps of the tkts discount ticket booth
is a popular hangout for visitors in Times Square.
As I regularly do during my last night of each visit to New York City is linger a bit longer in Times Square. It's my last opportunity to soak up the frenzied atmosphere before heading back to Honolulu, Hawaii which is gentle by comparison.

One thing many visitors will notice are the New York Policy Department's mounted officers (pictured below). Some would think they exist for the benefit of tourists but they also patrol Coney Island Boardwalk, Rockefeller Center, Yankee Stadium and the many street demonstrations that regularly pop up in the city.

The added height and visibility give the officers a wider view of an area they patrol and helps the public to identify officers and deter crime.

The mounted unit is smaller than it was a decade ago with 79 police officers and 60 horses, down from 130 officers and 125 horses. This is a small number compared to the loss of 6,000 officers in total through attrition. The force now numbers 34,820 members. However NYC has retained their mounted units when other cities including Philadelphia, Boston and San Diego have retired all of their police horses.

This is my seventeenth visit to Manhattan and many more will come. So as is customary I end the visit with some last photos of Times Square at night. It would be interesting one day to compare photos taken in 1995 when I first visited NYC with one taken each successive year I've returned. But I'll save that for another time.

A member of the New York's mounted officers and his horse patrolling
Times Square along 7th Avenue.
The Times Square Visitor Center closes in the early evening but
the McDonald's next door is open 24 hours daily.

Earl of Sandwich: Coming Soon & Calling Me Home

(photo credit: TheHopefulTraveler)
An up and coming competitor in the fast-food sandwich market is Earl of Sandwich. The Times Square billboard pictured above announcing the opening of its Midtown New York location also served as a sign calling me home as I made my way back to the hotel to pack for my morning flight back home to Hawaii.

The Earl of Sandwich shops pegs their niche in the market by connecting their food to the story about the sandwich. John Mantagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (there has been eleven) is best known for the claim of inventing the modern concept of the sandwich. Though the subject is up for debate, Montagu would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread when he was busy gambling. Because of his title, others would ask for the "same as Sandwich".

The Original 1762
(food photos:
The earl was a supporter of Captain James Cook's explorations. Many are unaware that when Cook first discovered the Hawaii in 1778, he named them the Sandwich Islands.

This history has influenced the shop's signature sandwiches. Among them include:
- The Original 1762 (the year the earl supposedly made his first sandwich): roasted beef, sharp cheddar and horseradish.
- The Earl's Club: roasted turkey smoked bacon, aged swiss, lettuce, tomatoes and sandwich sauce.
- The Full Montagu: roasted beef, turkey, aged swiss, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and earl's mustard sauce.
- Hawaiian BBQ: grilled chicken, roasted hame, aged swiss, pineapples and Hawaiian BBQ sauce.

The Full Montegu
In addition to sandwiches, the chain also serves sandwiches, wraps, salads, desserts and a selection of breakfast dishes. The beverages menu include the Earl's Coffee (Kona blend coffee) and Earl's Grey Lemonade (infused with earl grey tea). The cutesy menu item names are used on a very limited basis.

Their newest New York shop will open at 1290 6th Avenue (West 52nd between 5th and 6th Avenues). A second location is at 90 John Street in lower Manhattan. It may be worth a visit to try one of their signature sandwiches on my next visit to New York City.

Hawaiian BBQ
Ironically the eatery was opened by Robert Earl (who has no relation to any of the Earls of Sandwich) in Florida in 2004. In a Fast Company article, he saw a product he could make quickly and sell for $5.99, a simple product for cash-strapped times, pegged to a novelty that raises it above whatever other generic shops are out there.

The company plans an expansion from its current 17 to 40 locations worldwide. In the United States, shops are also located in Nevada and Texas as well as various airport locations. International shops are found in Paris and London. Visit for more information.

Review: 'The Normal Heart' Beats at the Golden Theatre

Lee Pace, Ellen Barkin, Wayne Alan Wilcox, Patrick Breen, Jim Parsons,
Joe Mantello, John Benjamin Hickey, Luke Macfarlane, Richard Topol
and Mark Harelik. (Production Photos: Joan Marcus)
Ellen Barkin
One would wonder if author Larry Kramer’s ‘The Normal Heart’ would be a dated product of its time. Guess no more. The 1985 drama has been revived for a new generation. Its subject matter is still relevant today made all the more powerful by the searing performances of the all-star cast especially standouts Joe Mantello and Ellen Barkin.

Set in 1981 New York City, the play focuses on the early years of the AIDS plague and the criminal silence of the political and media powers in addressing the issue. A tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the media dismiss the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence.

Joe Mantello
Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe co-directs the actors and Kramer’s script not as a period piece but as a brutal reminder that the struggles and issues continue to today. More recent topics of same-sex marriage adds another dimension to the story. From the start there is a quiet fury brewing as Dr. Emma Brockner (Barkin) sparks a passion in the journalist Ned Weeks (Mantello) to spread the word about an unnamed disease of which she knows no cure inflicting gay men in the city.

The performances by Barkin and Mantello are a contrast of portrayals. Both are equally loud and unwavering in their convictions. Barkin’s portrayal feels passionate and enlightening as in the scene where she expresses her outrage when she is refused a research grant for the disease. Not once throughout the evening is her confinement to a wheelchair because of polio is addressed for sympathy. Mantello’s Weeks is constantly abrasive in his efforts that he alienates the powers as well as the volunteers of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis center which he started and from which he is ousted. His unwillingness to be calm in the face of the adversity reveals a frustration on stage and in the audience. Both Barkin and Mantello deliver individual, bitter and sharp speeches criticizing the apathy towards their efforts and receive the kind of show-stopping applause usually more common for the big number in musicals.

Jim Parsons and Lee Pace
Joe Mantello and John Benjamin Hickey
John Benjamin Hickey
Patrick Breen (of last season’s ‘Next Fall’), Lee Pace (“Pushing Daisies”) and Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) are all excellent among the great supporting cast. Each has their moment in the spotlight for an emotional comment on their own various dilemmas with living in the new world of AIDS. Mark Harelik (as Ned’s brother Ben) and John Benjamin Hickey (as Felix and who falls for Ned) have more complex and charged exchanges in separate scenes with Mantello.

The simple set design by David Rockwell and lighting by David Weiner assist to emphasize the story with their starkness. Textured bare white walls progressively come into clearer perspective as projections reveal a short list of those who fell victim to the disease until the full set and proscenium are flooded with the names of the dead.

Yes, the play has not lost its importance and after twenty-five years we realize and are made to remember how much the AIDS crisis and the fight for its support and cure have changed the way many of us think and in the many ways it has impacted our lives.

‘The Normal Heart’ is at the tail-end of a strictly limited 12-week run. Unspectacular initial audience reception is now a near sell-out after its three Tony Award wins including best revival of a play and acting awards for Barkin and Hickey. A percentage of the production’s weekly profits will be donated to a group of dedicated nonprofit organizations.

Lee Pace, Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello and Patrick Breen

Where: John Golden Theatre
Location: 252 West 45th Street, New York City
When: Tue 7pm; Wed-Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm; Sun 2pm & 7pm
Running Time: 2 hrs 35 min (one intermission)
Ticket Prices: $26.50-$126.50
Opening: Apr 27, 2011 (previews from Apr 19, 2011)
Closing: July 10, 2011
Book Online:
Book by Phone: 1-800-432-7250

left to right: Luke Macfarlane, Patrick Breen, Ellen Barkin, Jim
Parsons, Joe Mantello, Lee Pace, Richard Topol, John Benjamin
Hickey, Mark Harelik and Wayne Alan Wilcox.

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