As you can see, Sugarmama is much funnier than I am (and also much more photogenic; me, I look like an orangutan who somehow found his way into a suit). This is her
most recent post on our recent New York trip. Mine shall be forthcoming shortly.
I am headed off to the beach for a few days, but I wanted to finish posting the story of my trip before I leave. There it is, below. I will be back late Tuesday.
Trip to New York, days 3 through 5
On Sunday I woke up dehydrated with a sore, scratchy throat. Apparently the air in NY, both pollution and lower humidity, aggravated my throat and made me feel as if I had just smoked a pack of cigarettes. Which, by the way, was impossible considering that people are not allowed to smoke inside bars and restaurants in the city. I like this rule, no matter how unconstitutional. If you need some secondhand smoke, I found plenty on the sidewalks and streets, where the disgruntled smokers are still puffing away.
We had our first stop of the day in a midtown delicatessen. The menu fascinated me. I asked TPB what challah and latkes were. The sandwiches on the menu were each one pound of meat. This doesn't make any sense to me. Who can eat an entire pound of sandwich meat in one sitting? The waitress brought us Cokes (some places in NYC sell both Coke and Pepsi) and a bowl full of whole pickles and coleslaw. Excessive again. I don't know how two people could possibly consume four pickles each and one pound of meat in one sitting.
After lunch, we headed south to the WTC site. I knew TPB had reservations about visiting the site, having known so many people who were directly affected by the terrorist attack. My experience of September 11 has been limited to video and images passed through mediums such as television and print, and I wanted to see the area firsthand. The site is in the midst of the beginnings of a reconstruction effort (despite the current altercations about what to do next) and is surrounded by a tall fence. My eyes immediately drifted to the buildings covered in (a WTC building and the Deutsche Bank building) shrouds, waiting to be demolished, and then to the Century 21 department store behind us, damaged in the attack but now operational. And then we came upon the rusted metal cross that sits upon the site and a metal plaque commemorating the names of those who passed away during the attack. The feeling I got was similar to how I felt when visiting the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in DC and the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii. The other tourists milling about shared the same sense of solemnity. I grabbed and squeezed TPB’s hand as we were walking away. He was being very quiet and I was concerned that I had put a permanent black cloud over his head.
We continued walking until we reached Battery Park. The plan was to take the boat to Ellis Island, but we decided against this when we saw the line of a few hundred people with the same idea. TPB pointed out a few landmarks, including the area of New Jersey where some unfortunate people tolerate him on a regular basis.
Next we decided to take the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. This is quite a tourist attraction, and we MOOOOOOOOved through several lines and squished into an elevator, then at the top mulled around with a large amount of people in order to take photos from each direction. TPB pointed out several landmarks, one of my favorites being the Chrysler Building. At this point I am reaching a level of exhaustion quite unlike anything I have experienced even in other cities such as DC and New Orleans. TPB was very kind for being a conscientious tour guide during the weekend. He navigated well, was able to understand the subway (the maps STILL confuse me), was patient when I needed to sit down and rest, and also very patient when I was picky about where to eat. Traveling with Sugarmama is not always a walk in the park.
Speaking of park, we also visited Central Park. We walked through from the south to the west side, stopping to look at Strawberry Fields and a carousel. I was tired and wanted to sit down and people watch, which we did for an hour or so. I was amazed at how many people were in the park for no apparent reason at all other than to enjoy a nice day. If that many people were in the park at home, we would have called it a major music festival.
After this we decided to visit Grand Central Station, which is one of my favorite places in NY. The building is beautiful right down to minute details such as the antique brass mailboxes and ticket windows. The windows are breathtaking and the painted ceiling is gorgeous. We stopped and ate ice cream to maintain the level of blood sugar necessary for a whirlwind tour on NY on a hangover and little sleep.
On the way to dinner, we walked through Times Square at dusk and took photos. Photography in Times Square is nearly impossible. There is too much action, not enough stillness, not even for 1/125th of a second. Not even for 1/1000th of a second. I think TS is the most sensory-overloading aspect of the city. I chucked to TPB about the giant ramen noodle billboard placed where the apple drops at New Year’s: “They spent that much money to advertise a product which costs less than fifty cents?”
We found a very tiny Thai restaurant in the East 50’s that looked promising. A guy walking by stopped and said, “Not five minutes ago, someone was telling me that this place is very good.” New Yorkers are a lot friendlier than they are given credit for. I discovered this on my first trip to New York and was delighted to find that they haven’t changed in that regard. TPB and I dined on Tom Yum soup, Thai iced teas, chicken masaman and paht something or other. Very good, and I liked that the front of the restaurant was open to the street, that we were the only patrons there at the end of our meal, and that the mirrors on the walls offered a warped, infinitesimal view of the tiny room. I had one of those “record this for posterity” moments when TPB left momentarily to get cash from an ATM (oops, the restaurant does not take credit cards). The sound of cars passing by, the gentle breeze from the open storefront, and the sight of the waitress’s head bobbing (all hundred mirrored copies of her) while counting money at the register, is one of those odd, inconsequential experiences now permanently etched into my memory.
After dinner, TPB headed out of the city for his enslavery to the Man the following morning. I had a training class the next day and also wanted to get a good night's rest.
The training class was in the Grace Building and had a nice view of the Empire State Building (photo forthcoming). The instructor, who had an Italian surname, was surprised to discover that someone with an ethnic surname lived in Alabama. “There are a few of us left,” I laughed. The goal of the class was to listen and stay awake, and this required a heavy caffeine intake. For lunch, I pigged out on sushi, and was elated that everything I ate was so damn good, and put the sushi at home to a crying shame. Not to mention, sushi in the city is relatively cheap. California rolls: $3.50 in New York, $5.50 at home. And they have these cool take-out sushi places where you walk in, pick out a pre-wrapped package, pay for it and take off. Lunch was good, and I ate sushi again the following day. I could eat sushi two meals a day if my wallet would let me. If I lived in New York, I would turn into a human-sized piece of sushi, if you are what you eat.
After the class, I took some photos of Rockefeller Center and then wandered down 5th Avenue for some shopping. I spent way too much time in FAO Schwarz looking at toys for my future niece/nephew, and bought him/her/it a Pat-the-Bunny rabbit from the classic children’s book that I enjoyed during my childhood. I also bought TPB a giant purple teddy bear to be a companion to his pink one.
The next stop was Tiffany, and I used TPB’s purple teddy bear to catch the drool hanging out of my mouth. Not everything is insanely expensive at Tiffany. I already have an Elsa Peretti silver bean necklace, and I was eyeing some other necklaces that were pretty. And diamonds. And earrings. And bracelets. And diamonds.
I also shopped for clothes, although I am loathe to update my wardrobe from 1988. That was such a good year.
TPB agreed to return back into the city on Monday because I told him I was scared and couldn’t function without him. After being released from slavery work, he met me at the hotel and we decided to eat at a Spanish restaurant. The gazpacho was the first I’ve eaten that tasted exactly like it did in Spain, so I was elated. I wasn’t as thrilled about the paella, which I picked at. I was bad and played with a baby octopus, before realizing that I don’t think TPB would humor bad table manners.
After dinner we wandered around a bit in the crisp evening air, and reflected on the activities of the weekend. I was able to trick myself into feeling relaxed, although the constant noise made me feel wound up.
On Tuesday I was released from the training class around three and hung out in Bryant Park, enjoying an incredibly beautiful day along with a few hundred other New Yorkers. My time in the city was coming to an end, and while I was wistful, a good night’s sleep in my own bed sounded tantalizing.
I returned to the hotel and took a cab to LaGuardia. I have never been so exhausted. I sat in a chair at the gate, breathing quickly as if I had the flu, and could not muster the energy to read the New York Times. I felt like a rag doll. I am a stranger in a strange land, I thought, while watching travelers pass by. Two Southern women strutted by slowly, like roosters, holding their Cokes as if they were items for show-and-tell. Finally, I was roused by the call for boarding. As the plane took off at sunset, the view from my window was breathtaking: the island of Manhattan. I could pick out the Empire State and Chrysler Building from the air. I am amazed at how many people live on that tiny little sliver of land. At home, only three people live on a piece of land that size.
The flight home was quiet but cold (planes do not need to be 60 degrees). The heavy, humid air enveloped me as I descended the steps (this was a tiny plane) onto the tarmac and into Alabama. I walked through the 14-gate “International” airport, and one thought crossed my mind:
Shit. I am a homeowner.