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New York City - Episode VI

Tue, Jul 31, 2001 07:41PM -0600

Well I didn't really keep a good record of the first time I ever went to NYC, back in January 1993, when I was still in high school and we only spent a couple of days there, and from the third and fourth time (both in 1999), I have, at best, fuzzy memories. So while I'm only a week away from my sixth trip, I thought I'd write it down (leaving out all the incriminating evidence, of course.)

Monday, Jul 23, 2001

So I get up at 6am, completely fried from my weeklong debacle in Chicagoland, and catch the PACE 563 at the intersection of Forrestal and Green Bay Road. This is much more comfortable than the last time I tried to get to the Great Lakes Metra Station, when I had to walk. I get on the southbound Metra train with no mishap, where I listen to the random CD I made in San Diego. That seems ages ago, but it was only slightly more than two months. It made me reminisce about taking the Amtrak Surfliner up the California Coast to L.A., among other sundry thoughts, particularly as "It is You (I Have Loved)" by Dana Glover off of the Shrek soundtrack played. I took the Metra train all the way to the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago, hopped onto a Green Line train headed for Ashland/63rd St, then transfer onto an O'Hare bound Blue Line train. By now it's around 9:30am CDT, and I'm barely conscious. I remember getting a Sausage McMuffin with Egg, then stumbling clumsily to my gate.

I really don't remember much of the actual flight. I'm pretty sure I slept. Or maybe I listened to Radiohead. It's quite a blur.

I landed in La Guardia right around the predestined time of 2pm EDT. Remembering my misstep from last trip of being unable to use coinage on the Q33 MTA bus, I bought an all-day Metro card first thing. Yes I know Bram had twice warned me about taking the Q33 already, but I was trying to get to Brooklyn this time. I had made sure to carry a smaller bag so that I wouldn't have to bend my legs at unnatural angles as the bus filled. Thankfully, it wasn't yet rush hour, and the load was quite light. I also remembered to stay until the end of the ride this time. I think I caught an F train to Queens Plaza, then transferred onto an R train until Lexington Ave, then finally got on a W train (oh yeah, they've totally jacked up the subway lines. It's a real doozy). This took me to my 36th St. stop in Brooklyn in five stops or so. I was at Joce's apartment by 4pm EDT. It felt pretty neat having taken nothing but public transit from my doorstep to hers over a thousand miles or so.

Now Ben had entrusted me with Joce's keys. (We hung out in her apartment while she was in the Dominican Republic doing a Spanish language immersion program.) Yes, this can be quite a risky thing, to entrust me with something like that, but all went well. I never got the hang of using the four color coded keys to open the three doors and was quite happy to eventually turn over the responsibility.

Once I got there, all I did was watch T.V. and sleep. Oh, did I mention that it was insanely hot, and the apartment didn't have air-conditioning? Well, at least it wasn't as hot as Chicago. I also did manage to call up Bram (who was busy that night) and my uncles who lived in Newark (who weren't actually there, but I did try and call).

I think I finally woke around 8pm and I was absolutely ravenous. Feeling that my all-day Metro card would otherwise be a waste, I took a train back to Manhattan and got off at 14th St-Union Sq. Little did I know that this would be a familiar theme on this little weeklong odyssey of mine. I wandered off westward, looking for Gray's Papaya, completely unaware of where it was. I ended up just walking north on 6 Av until I got to 34th St., decided that I'd had enough, then got on a train to go back to 14th St. Well, at least I had taken enough rides to make my Metro card worthwhile.

This time I chose to walk down Broadway, stopped at some hamburger joint whose name I don't remember, then I chilled at the Barnes & Nobles because I felt that The Strand was too far. There I got mistaken for a Java programmer. I ended up getting Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman which was touted as an excellent subway book.

By then it was 10pm, and I had taken my fill of pretending to be having a typical evening in New York by my lonesome. Yep, this is probably what I would be doing if I did live out there, and if I didn't know anyone who lived there. I think I made a quick stop at the On-the-Run mart at the Mobil on 4 Av in Brooklyn, and that was that. Sleep, oh blessed sleep.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2001

For some reason, this date seems like it should have significance. I wrote about it somewhere else, and maybe I'll bring it online some day if I feel like it. (Why bother, you ask? Who knows? Why ask why?) In any case, I couldn't pick myself off the couch until around 2pm. I managed to find a post office so I could send some financial aid administrivia to my school, then I made my way to Canal St.

There, I gave Bram a call to see what he was up to later tonight. For the meantime, he suggested I go look for a Chinese noodle shop. After circling around Chinatown a couple times, cutting through Little Italy once or twice, and after twisting my ankle as I walked up Bowery (I got that "snow crash" effect in my visual cortex again. It's kind of eerie, really. It happens whenever I experience pain. I'm so weak.), I finally found somewhere to eat. I have no idea what it's called, but they had some pretty good chow fun. I then had some boba, then I headed for Midtown.

Bram works across from Bryant Park, and I just chilled out there, scrawling some random notes and signing Clear Air Act petitions. After he got off work, we just decided to hang out at his place in Astoria. We had some Greek food delivered, and then we watched this bizarre movie called "Jesus' Son" on DVD. Then I had to try to make it back to Brooklyn in time to meet Ben and Jen. After 45 minutes and two transfers, I plopped myself in front of the T.V., semi-comatose. Ben and Jen finally got there from JFK, and then we had our Whitecastle/Church's Chicken experience and which I might narrate somewhere else (I'm just trying to get this whole trip on paper for now.) Then there was the sweet oblivion of sleep.

Wednesday, July 25th, 2001

We had quite an ambitious plan for today, and if we had kept up at this pace, I would've had to have been buried at the adjacent Greenwood Cemetery. Let's just say it was hot, I was quite tired, and it's a miracle I survived.

We started out checking out Brooklyn Heights, admiring the view of downtown Manhattan and the smell of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. I remembering laughing at the gastroenterologist's office that I saw, which reminded me of the Cosby Show. Afterwards, we clambered unto the Brooklyn Bridge (reminding me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon) and tramped across it to Manhattan, enjoying the breeze. When we got to Manhattan, I looked like someone had dumped a bucket of water on my head. At least I wore deodorant.

We then zipped up the 6 train to Grand Central Station, took the shuttle to Times Square, then proceeded straight into the Gap at the corner of 42nd St and Broadway. I took the opportunity to dry my shirt with the air blower in the bathroom. We then took a 2 train to 72nd St and Broadway, where we got some food at Gray's Papaya, which we took to Central Park. We passed by the Imagine Mosaic (in memory of John Lennon) and found some benches and ate.

After a brief interlude, we took a B train to 53rd St. and 7th Av. which was coincidentally where I stayed the second time I had gone to New York. We rounded the corner around Carnegie Hall, then made it to 5th Av. and ducked into the Trump Tower to enjoy the air-conditioning. Of course, we had to check out the Tower Records.

We then headed back out, hitting a Banana Republic and a Gap on the way to HMV. Can we say shopping mania? Afterwards, we rushed through Rockefeller Center, barely glancing at Radio City, and caught a B train to Herald Square, from where we walked to 32nd St, where all those Korean restaurants are. There, we met Ben's cousin for dinner. After dinner, I gave Bram a call and we hung out in Astoria, watching Beastie Boys videos and maybe half of "The City of Lost Children". Got to love French movies. We then made our way back to Brooklyn, somehow missed our transfer (it wasn't until a couple of days later when we realized that there was a service advisory about it), hiked three avenue blocks, then finally got back.

Thursday, July 26th, 2001

The weather changed. I had gotten used to sleeping in my underwear, without any covers. Luckily I had fallen asleep in my clothing last night, but I was nonetheless very cold, and didn't sleep very well. It was a little gloomy, but the coolness was quite a relief.

We headed out to Union Square, chilled out there for a little while, then headed for The Strand, where I managed to buy a couple of books. Hopefully I can get more people hooked on The Lord of the Rings before the movie comes out. We then ate at Dojo, amidst the buildings of NYU, walked around Washington Square, rushed down to Canal Street Jeans, then made it to West 4th St. (yes, the basketball courts). There, we met Bram, chilled in Greenwich village, had a few beers, walked around Christopher St., then headed back to Brooklyn.

Jen's old roommate Char arrived, and they sent me out on an errand to Whitecastle. It wasn't as amusing as the other night, but it was nonetheless an experience.

Friday, July 27th, 2001

We headed out to Manhattan, getting off at Whitehall St. There we boarded the Staten Island Ferry and took it round-trip, admiring the skyline. It was a panoramic shot of the highrises in Jersey, downtown Manhattan, and downtown Brooklyn. Unfortunately, there wasn't any practical way to actually take a picture of it, but it was nonetheless impressive. We also marveled at the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. We then walked around Battery Park, then made a beeline for the World Trade Center. After checking out the mile long line for theater tickets, we made our way to Century 21, which is apparently to a shopaholic what a crackhouse is to a crackhead. All we had to eat was a knish a piece, which was nonetheless pretty good. Tired and exhausted (at least I was), we took an N train up to Prince St. and found our restaurant in Little Italy and had our wine. By then it was time to head back to Brooklyn. Let it suffice to say that I didn't go to sleep until 8am on Saturday.

Saturday, July 28th, 2001

After waking up (miraculously) at 12:30pm, we made plans to watch "Planet of the Apes" in a theater adjacent to Union Square (surprise, surprise). We each had a sausage in a pita, then found ourselves consigned to the front row of the movie theater. After the movie, we headed out to the Virgin Megastore to see what was on the soundtrack, then we walked over to the East Village to meet Bram. Unfortunately, the meeting place was not a tapas place after all, so we ended up walking to St. Mark's Place and having sushi, sake, and Kirin. We left Bram at a Starbucks, checked out some of the T-shirt stores on St. Mark's, then headed back to Brooklyn. I don't remember if this is where the Chinese fire-drill comes in. (Maybe this was earlier.) I never knew you could do it with subway trains, though. We made it back without further incident. I tried to stay up as long as I could to extend my stay, but sleep took me at around 3am. Yeah, I'm still kind of bummed that I had to leave so soon, but school beckoned. (Bleh.)

Sunday, July 29th, 2001

I remember waking up a little somber. "La Luchas de Gigantes" from the "Amores Perros" soundtrack was playing in my head, and for some reason it makes me think of leaving people behind. I suppose it's because I played it continuously as I flew out of L.A. on July 14th, already missing my family. And now I was leaving Ben, Jen, and Char. I woke them up before I headed out and said goodbye, but I was feeling quite sorry for myself all day. Oh well. I always manage to run out of time for some reason.

It took some work getting up to La Guardia since it was Sunday, and everything was kind of loopy. I took a W train to Pacific Av., then got on an R train which I took to 57th St. From there I got on an N train (which was the train I was supposed to have taken in the first place), which dropped me off at Queensboro. There I had to catch a shuttle bus, and then the M60, and had just enough time to have breakfast at the airport, check-in, and chill-out. Unfortunately, I got stranded for a couple of hours on the runway because apparently the air traffic control system had gone haywire due to an outage in Cincinatti. Luckily, I was pretty sleepy, and I don't remember too much of the flight. I got to O'Hare around 2pm CDT or so (two hours later than expected), hopped on a Loop bound Blue Line train, then transferred to a Green Line train. (I think I'm convinced that the Chicago subway stations smell much worse than New York subway stations.) Then I hoofed it a couple of blocks to the Ogilvie Transportation Center and took a Metra train up to Lake Bluff, whereupon I called a cab to take me home.

And I guess that's the end of my story.

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