never sleep the night of a big adventure

i didn't bother going to sleep. so when 6am rolled around, i just gathered up all my stuff, put on my coat, and walked in the cold darkest to porter square, as the sun was slowly rising behind me. strange, so early in the morning, and there's people walking around and there's ample traffic. in the gym above cvs in porter square, i could see women using the treadmills and bike machines and stairmasters. it's like catching a glimpse of this whole new morning world i never knew about.

i grabbed the train, crowded, but seats were still available. i felt self conscious with my bag full of trip supplies: a few pairs of underwear, a few pairs of t-shirt, a pair of sock, my ibook and its corresponding recharger, my AA battery recharger, my cell phone recharger, 3 packs of spare batteries (2 rechargeable, 1 one time use), and a compact flash card reader.

i got off at dtx and walked to chinatown, where i climbed aboard the travel pack bus with 10 minutes to spare. i was surprised to see it was a large touring bus, because i figured there wouldn't be a lot of people who wanted to go to NYC this early in the morning. i figured wrong, because there must've been 2 dozen heads present. though probably half were asian, the rest where hispanic, white, southeast india, black, a diverse spectrum. seeing no one of particular interest that i wanted to impress, i played the role of angry longer on the bus ride. soon after we started to roll, i fell asleep, only to wake up at the midway point when we stopped off at a macdonalds for a bathroom break. i also got a sausage egg mcmuffin with an orange juice, the hispanic guy standing in the line next to me giving me 2 cents so i could come out even with my change. american generosity rock! with everyone back on the bus after the 15 minutes break, we started to roll again. after finishing my breakfast sandwich, i quickly fell back asleep. i didn't wake up until we were approaching new york city, its towering skyscrapers visibly dotting the horizon.

i arrive in new york city and i immediately get lost

when the bus stopped at bowery street (one of the five points from last night's gangs of new york), i got off and started walking, absolutely no idea where i was going. i found my way to the M subway line, which would take me off of manhattan, not the direction i wanted to go. after some circling around and a few embarassed checks of the map, i got to canal street where i took the 4 train uptown. the closest stop to the Met is the 86th street stop, but for some reason i jumped the gun and got off at 66th street, walking 8 city blocks before i figured out i was going the wrong way. 30 minutes and 26 blocks later i arrived at the Met. i didn't mind the walk, but never have i seen so many society folks, women wearing fur coats walking miniature dogs, or children exiting limos with their rich parents. i even saw a society woman sitting in the back of a bentley that probably cost more than the mortgage on my house.

while going to the museum i called john (who left a message on my phone), who told me that the museum has a new strict policy against large bags. fearing that i might have to go to a neighboring hotel just to check my bag, i entered the museum. my bag size wasn't a problem, although all bags were carefully searched, which i didn't mind. after checking my bag (fuller now than before because i'd stuff some extra outer garments i didn't want to wear in the museum), i got my ticket (just a little pin to clip onto the collar of my jacket, which i was still wearing because it had a lot of pockets to hold all my gadgets) using my sister's membership card and i redeemed a coupon for a free audio tour guide, receiving one of those tricorder with headphones.

it's time to museum

after a quick trip to the bathroom, i was ready for some museuming. first order of business: genghis khan exhibit. when china was under the rule of the mongol, the empire stretched as far as iran, where muslim culture was fused with chinese culture. i slowly browsed for an hour and a half, punching in the number for those special items with audio narration. it really is useful and informative, i kind of felt sorry for most of the other patrons who didn't have one. the first half was interesting, showcasing a lot of muslim-chinese artifacts, but the second half was mostly muslim only items of the middle eastern extension of the mongol empire. when i finished touring that special exhibit, i basically wandered around, taking pleasure in the fact that i didn't mind getting lost, surrounded by all this art both old and new, much of it world famous. europe might have its louvre, but here in america we have the Met. a single day is not enough to see everything at the museum. around 5pm i left the museum, having been all museumed out, my feet hurting from all that prolonged standing. i retrieved my bag from the coat check, leaving a $1 tip (tipping always makes me feel mature for some reason). i tried contacting cynthia but to no avail, so i walked back to the subway station to go back downtown.

john comes to my rescue

originally i was going to go all the way to chinatown, to kill 3 hours before 8pm when cynthia would get out of her class, but on a whim i got off at union square, i know a little bit about NYC to know that the strand bookstore is there, and i could definitely spend at least an hour or two in a bookstore. i got a call from john while i was browsing the cooking section, told him where i was, said he'd come over shortly. if he didn't show up, it would've been a very boring evening, because despite my secret love of books, i didn't know how much longer i could stay in strands, especially since every book i touched felt like i was contracting another disease. when john arrived we browsed around for a little bit more, i buying a hot flavored asian cookbook ("fire & spice: 200 hot & spicy recipes from the far east" by jacki passmore, no pictures though, all text, and its recipe for making kimchee is totally bogus, but i just couldn't put it down), while john bought a frank sinatra book.

we did a walking tour of some of the weirder places of NYC, before going back to his apartment to wait until cynthia's call. in the meantime we watched a 20/20 special on michael jackson, the man behind the myth. if anything, i have less respect for him now than i ever did before. to say that michael jackson is out there is an understatement. it was almost 9pm with no call from cynthia about dinner plans, so john and i opted to just grab dinner on our own, going to a peruvian restaurant (cocina cuzco) a few blocks away from where he lives. it was pretty good, particularly because the portions were large and i haven't eaten anything since this morning's macdonald's breakfast meal. we talked about work of course, past and present, like two war historians revisiting some famous battle of long ago. in the restaurant i saw that i had gotten a message from cynthia, so i called her back and made plans to go to her place after dinner.

i went back to john's apartment to get my bag, and then i took the F train to brooklyn, to cynthia's place. it was 10:30pm by the time i arrived, and i was very much afraid that cynthia had already gone to bed. the one thing you have to know is she's religious when it comes to her sleep time. so in my mind i was picturing the worst case scenario, which was cynthia had gone to bed and was dead asleep and wouldn't hear my phone call or the doorbell and i'd find myself homeless in new york for the night. i dialed her number but there was no answer, and her apartment only had one doorbell and i didn't want to wake her downstairs neighbor, but i rang it nevertheless, expecting some bewildered stranger to peek out the window and call the cops. turns out it was cynthia, talking on the phone (hence no answer), coming down to let me in.

cynthia's apartment

her apartment was very nice, very warm and inviting. old school wooden floors (these planks look like 100+ years old), exposed wooden roof beams, a side of brick walls with a miniature pseudo fireplace. two bedrooms, with a bathroom that's just as big as one of the bedrooms, a wall mounted rack full of new yorker magazines (always happy to see a girl who's not shy about reading in the bathroom). i just think girls are better at interior decorating than guys are. at cynthia's apartment, everything seems to fit. it was also my first time being in a brooklyn apartment, and the street that i walked down to get to her place reminded me a lot of south boston except with wider roads.

by then it was already getting very close to her bedtime, but cynthia made some tea anyway, and after an abbreviated chat over hot beverages, cynthia went to bed, while i took a shower to wash off a whole day's worth of new york city stink (the hot water was strong and soothing). i was surprised to see that there was no curtain over the bathroom window, which afforded backyard neighbors a free peepshow. i didn't mind though, and the fact that somebody would even want to look makes the shower that much more exciting. who knows, maybe it's a local custom. afterwards i went to bed (where i am now) in her sister's room (her sister currently on a crosscountry trip with her boyfriend).