Tips on trips to N.Y.; ‘tanorexic’ headlines

JAMES F. QUINN/CHICAGO TRIBUNE New York City makes a great travel destination, if you can afford it.

So here’s what you do if you plan to take a trip to New York City and want to try and do it somewhat on the cheap — not that there’s ever anything cheap about New York. Get on the computer and go to www.Priceline.com. From there, you can survey the listing of hotels varying in price based on

one- to four-star ratings. (The five-star and exclusive boutique hotels don’t play this game.)

You then may submit a “bid” at a fraction of the average going rate for a given class of hotels and see if there are any takers. For example, let’s say the average going rate for a three-star hotel in midtown Manhattan is somewhere between $200 and $300 nightly. You want to stay in a hotel of at least that quality but don’t want to pay more than $100. So you bid that amount and see what happens.

The catch is you cannot choose a specific hotel and then make an offer. You simply make the offer and the group of participating hotels in your specified price range quickly evaluates it. The first interested hotel to respond wins the offer, which is then immediately terminated. This should all take place within a minute or so.

If no one is interested, a notice will pop up after about a minute has expired stating that the minimum acceptable offer at that particular moment will require a bid of at least such and such. You then would offer a little more accordingly or simply log out and come back later to try again.

To shorten a long enough story, my wife and I ended up at a hotel between 1st and 2nd Avenues on east 42nd through Priceline for a recent weekend getaway, paying a rate about 30 percent less than what the room might have gone for otherwise — not too shabby!

While in the city it’s always tempting to get news from the alluring headlines of the New York Post, if not in the mood for the more serious tone of The Gray Lady, The New York Times. The big news in the Post that weekend was about the “tanorexic” New Jersey mom who has absolutely ruined her skin through repeated forays into the tanning bed and was now being accused of placing her child in one.

The woman is being referred to as tanorexic because of the remarkably dysmorphic self-image she has of being attractive when there’s clearly something wrong — in this case looking like an iguana who has undergone a reptilian peel of some sort — while still continuing self-destructive behavior.

Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel wondered if she was actually tanning or somehow ended up falling down a chimney, and further suggested that she looks like Wile E. Coyote after the dynamite stick blows up in his face.

Many of us making fun of her don’t remember our own tanning habits, or at least have some component of selective memory loss. This would include yours truly, who through high school, college and young adulthood took no precautions despite a strong family history of skin cancer on both sides, and is now paying the price (three skin cancers so far in recent years despite being careful with the sun for 30).

Anyway, the New Jersey mother of five’s view of herself was as prominent a story in the Post as the arrest pertaining to one of her children. She had a meltdown that weekend, ranting that she’s an excellent mother and the victim of “fat and ugly” critics who are “jealous” of her beautiful bronzed body.

Good grief! Doesn’t New Jersey have enough image problems without all this?

Despite unseasonably hot weather in Charleston that weekend (and the emergence of another dry weather pattern, alas), the weather in New York was overcast and chilly — meaning perfect for walking — miles and miles of it, pounding the city streets, soaking up the fragrances, sights, sounds, accents and architecture. One evening the cloud ceiling was low and my favorite skyscraper, the Chrysler Building, pierced into it with its top aglow, creating a halo of light over the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, as the street lanterns cast a penumbrae of shadows below.

We had two excellent meals (Docks Oyster Bar at 633 3rd Ave. and French Vietnamese cuisine at Le Colonial, 149 east 57th) and, as long as computers are part of this story, would point out that Yelp.com is an excellent website to get the skinny on user reviews and recommendations pertaining to restaurants, nightlife and entertainment. We found Docks that way. The reviews were good; we checked it out and were very pleased.

The focus of the weekend was really on relaxation and not culture, although we did visit the Chinese “Terra Cotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” exhibit in the Discovery Building just off Times Square, which used to be the home of The Gray Lady herself.

New York City is an amazing place. As “Miss Lillian” Carter once said of Studio 54, you sometimes may not be sure if you’re in heaven or hell. But it’s invariably entertaining and will always beckon a revisit — once the previous trip is paid for, that is.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.