my day began at exactly 5am in the morning. the night before i went to bed at 3am, getting that only 2 hours of sleep action that i've been trained over the years to occasionally operate under with more or less a degree of relative success. this was that kind of day. i got myself ready. 5:30am with the sky still dark outside i left with my father, who was giving me a ride to chinatown because he happened to be going to logan airport to pick up a friend of his visiting from california.

i got to chinatown at 6am with time to kill. picture this scenario: it's still dark outside, 20something degrees not including the wind chill factor, columns of smoke are rising from manholes, the streets of chinatown are completely empty and everything is closed. and i have some time to kill. meet alex by the chinatown gates at 6:30am, catch the chinatown bus at 7am. just to stay warm, i started walking around, hat on my head, hands deep in my coat pocket, a brisk pace to keep the blood flowing. i think i would've probably made hypothermia my good friend if it wasn't for this lone saviour in the dead of the early morning called dunkin' donuts. i went inside (so warm!), ordered a small hot chocolate (so warm!), and sat there inside the shop, the hot beverage warming up my cold hands and occasionally taking small sips of its soothing sweetness.

at 6:30am i met alex at our designated meeting place and walked to harrison avenue, where our bus was waiting. it's a weird scene, still early enough in the morning to be dark, all these large touring buses parked on the streets (all going down to nyc as well), with people congregrating on the sidewalks waiting for boarding.

chinatown minibus
(not ours)

travel pack
chinatown bus

people waiting
to board the bus

onboard the bus we grabbed our seats and waited for everyone else to arrive. the heat was turned off so i sat with my arms folded, still wearing my scarf tightly tied around my neck. most of the passengers were asian (including southeast asians), but there were also hispanics, blacks, and whites. the chinatown bus is for everyone! the sun started to rise, the sky turned from black to violet to magenta, eventually to blue. a few minutes past 7am we started to roll (finally turning on the heat), the beginning of our 4 hours nyc trip. alex and i chatted briefly but then we both fell asleep. during the trip i occasionally woke up to watch a little bit of the movies they were playing on the ceiling mounted monitors. they played three movies, the animal (that rob schneider masterpiece), the replacement suspects (some chinese movie about a botched heist), and finally tomb raider. it was hard not to watch the movies, i never knew how hypnotic television can be. the replacement suspects was a really weird movie, especially this bilingual police detective who almost every single thing he said had the work "f*ck" in it. language-wise, it was kind of inappropriate for a bus where some of the passengers were little kids. we made one stop midway through the trip at some roadside rest area. most people got off to use the bathroom and to stretch their legs.

when we finally approached new york city after about 4 hours of traveling, it felt really weird. i couldn't help myself and i saw a few other people do the same thing, but i kept on looking at the new york city skyline, looking to see where the world trade towers use to stand. of course i never knew where it was before, but i think in my mind i was expecting to see two empty rectangles in the sky from where the buildings use to be. i felt really sad. here i was coming into this city where this horrible thing had happened. it felt awkward, like meeting a friend for the first time after a death in his/her family. what do i say? what do i do? we drove by a fire station, an american flag still flying at halfmast. how many firefighters died from that station?, i wondered to myself. i don't know how new yorkers do it. while the whole nation trembled over the fact that this was a terrorist attack on americans, for new yorkers i imagine it to be even worse, because not only was it a attack on americans, but it was also an attack on native new yorkers, twice the amount of anxiety to bear. but as we drove through the city, through the streets of new york, the lesson to be learned is life goes on. i didn't see people just frozen in fear on the streets from this overwhelming sense of imminent dread (irrationally, that was what i was expecting). everyone was up and about, doing their own things. whether they worried in their minds about their futures, that i have no doubt, but it sort of made me not sad anymore to see that new york city, from where i was anyway, remained very much the same, and if you didn't tell me that 4 months ago terrorists destroyed the world trade center and took the lives of almost 4000 people just a few blocks away from chinatown, i would've never known. these people have my upmost admiration just simply from getting back to their lives.

the bus dropped us off on forsyth street in nyc chinatown and everyone scattered to their own personal destinations. with my nyc map out, folded as inconspicuously as possible so nobody could easily spot the fact that we were just visitors, alex and i tried navigating to our first order of business, which was getting some lunch. earlier in the week i had consulted with laurie and had asked her where she use to go for dim sum in nyc chinatown. "the golden unicorn," she recalled, and i got the address online, 18 east broadway. we went down canal street for quite a few blocks, finally arriving at broadway street. broadway is not east broadway. i found that out the hard way, as we stood on the outskirts of chinatown, nowhere near any sort of place resembling a restaurant let alone a dim sum restaurant. but, the one good news was it brought us to industrial plastics, one of the places i wanted to visit during my trip here.

klea first told me of industrial plastics. she said if i was in chinatown, then i had to visit this place that sold nothing but plastics. i was intrigued. later, i consulted with laurie, who knew of this store as well, and gave me the exact name of the place, and raved about how great this place was. so i was doubly sold. when i got there though, it wasn't like i had imagined it. i was thinking more of a toystore that sold all these plastic novelty items, but industrial plastics is more or less a crafts supply shop, selling bits and pieces of materials one would use to make all sorts of interesting projects. there were many bins selling odd bits of plastics of various colors and extrusions and shapes and textures. drums filled with foam balls of various sizes, plastic containers of different shapes, and rolls of plastic fabrics and papers of all sorts, irresdescent, flourescent, furry, transparent. this would be a great place to come if you wanted to decorate your room in a funky style. i almost got a few yards of this fabric that looked like sea grass, as part of a preexisting nonsexual fantasy i've had for about a year of furnishing my workspace so it looked like an under-the-sea diorama, complete with rubber sea creatures suspended from invisible strings from the ceiling and the constant music of water bubbles. anyway, i didn't want to leave there without buying something (see how nice a consumer i am? see how i could easily get into debt if it wasn't for the fact that i hardly ever go anywhere special to spend my money?), so i ended up buying a plastic box with little compartments to organize my various trinkets and small objects at home.

so, lunch! dim sum at the golden unicorn seemed like out of the question, especially since i couldn't find the place or the street for that matter. so we decided to just start wandering around, maybe hit upon a good restaurant and just stop there and eat. we couldn't have picked a better place to do that, because the nyc chinatown is just blocks after blocks of restaurants of various tastes to please even the most discriminating of palates.

speaking of eating, the chinese like to eat. an uncle of mine observed that when other people visit a foreign country, they're out sightseeing. when a chinese visits a foreign country, he's out looking to eat. the stomach of the chinese is both good and bad. good because chinese cuisine is perhaps one of the most varied and flavorful in the world. bad because occasionally the chinese stomach gets him in trouble, especially when he eats things that he shouldn't be eating (don't say dog you racist, don't say dog!). my trip through the new york city chinatown was a real kaleidoscope of what the chinese eat. here presented to you from least offensive to most offensive is a sampling of what i've discovered:







bucket of

frogs detail
(aka sweet chicken)

after over two hours of wandering around, it was time to seriously get something to eat. more importantly, someplace where we could rest and where i could use the bathroom. suddenly we found ourselves on east broadway street, the elusive street that i couldn't find when we first got there. we turn around and behind us is the golden unicorn! our quest to find the golden unicorn (which was earlier abandoned) was finally over! we got a number and started to wait. i remembered being here before on a few occasions, it's a pretty famous nyc dim sum restaurant, the myriads of positive reviews decorating the downstairs foyer a testament to that fact. i remember coming here when we visited claudio during his morgan-stanley training (that was the night of lucky chang's). because we didn't want to share a table, our wait was 20 minutes versus the 5 minutes or less wait of the less anti-social patrons. when our number was finally called, we took the elevator upstairs to the second floor.

dim sum's pretty much the same where ever you go, which meant that i wouldn't have to go a weekend without catching up on my fill of tripe and chicken feet. i ordered both items when their respective cart rolled by. the carts at the golden unicorn have photos and the names of the food in front of them. although both the tripe and chicken feet were very tender (which i always took as a sign of better preparation, because it takes more food care to make something tender versus not cooking it enough and leaving it hard), my favorite tripe/chicken feet combo is still china pearl in boston without a doubt (only that place i went to in the queens chinatown the last time i visited nyc might possibly be better). the golden unicorn also charges for the tea, 60¢ per person, something that i've never seen in any restaurants in boston chinatown, and i didn't think the tea that they offered was anything worthy of a 60¢ surcharge.

while eating at the golden unicorn it started to snow outside. when we got out, there was a moderate sized flurry. with umbrellas raised, we wandered chinatown some more, visiting whichever store just happened to catch our fancy as we walked on by.

where i got my
ninja stick

security cameras
at a bookstore

arch near
confucius plaza

video rental

chinese penthouse
being sold at
hello kitty store


at the blt martial arts supplies store, i got a ninja stick, which is this retractable baton that spring out when you strike with it. the animated store owner was demonstrating the device to us, which was what really sold me on this dangerous product. "aim for the head!" he said, "only the head! somebody pulls out a knife on you, whack! he falls down! less than a second to pull out and strike! whack! only the head! here, you, practice on your friend over there! not near the glass!" then for the rest of the day i must've made about a 100 ninja stick jokes. we'd see something out of the ordinary and i'd whisper to alex, "okay, i'm going to use my ninja stick on that guy. you want a piece of me? meet ninja stick! whack!" i also bought some buddhas from blt, my crowning purchase being a pair of violet buddhas that glow in the dark.

as the hour drew close to 7pm, we made it back to forsyth street, the original drop off point and also where the bus would come back to pick us up. the snow was still falling as people started to arrive at the pick up zone, standing around in the cold, waiting for the bus. when the bus finally got here, we all climbed in. i yelled at an old lady with white hair to get out of my seat, until someone told me that for return trips, there are no designated seating numbers, and that we basically sit wherever you want. woops, sorry grandma! the driver turned off the lights and we began to roll out, back to boston.

waiting area

waiting area

view outside

on the bus they placed some more movies for us: rush hour 2, dummy mommy, without a baby (a hong kong film about a woman who pretends to be pregnant so she wouldn't get fired, pretty good movie actually), and crouching tiger, hidden dragon. the ride home was one of accelerations and deccelerations, occasionally feeling the grinding of the breaks skidding on the snow covered roads. it goes without saying that the bus was traveling slow, and we didn't make it to boston until over 5 hours later. everyone got off the bus, i said good bye to alex, and we went our separate ways, he to the orange line back to malden, i on the red line to belmont.

at harvard square i waited for the last bus which was late to arrive. when it finally came (quarter past 1am) and everyone was already on board, the bus driver turned to us and said, "sorry folks, there's a football game in foxboro, we're waiting for the last train to arrive before we can leave. this could take a while." everyone on the bus had that "i got the shaft" look. i got off the bus and went to make a phone call to my father. he was still up chatting with some friends staying over at the house, and he was able to swing out to harvard square to give me a ride. i left the station to wait outside, the snow falling heavily in the night. my umbrella was out but i was still coated in snow because of the swirling winds. 10 minutes later my father arrived and i finally got home close to 2am. thus concluded my 21 hours new york city adventure.