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originally i was going to wake up at 7:00 and arrive at south station by 8:00, but decided to sleep an extra hour to get to the bus station by 9:00 instead. since john's surprise party wouldn't be until in the evening, i didn't want to arrive in new york too early with nothing to do, especially on such a cold day. it was bitterly cold this morning (15F with strong winds), the kind of temperature that leaves frost on the road surfaces. at one point walking to the subway station i think the tears on my eyeballs froze because i had this sudden ice cream headache. i didn't like the idea of riding the T right during morning rush hour. i wasn't able to get a seat, but figured i'd make up for it sitting for 4 hours on the fung wah bus. a man standing next to me had a deformed right hand which i couldn't stop staring at it, despite the rudeness. his pinky and ringer fingers were mangled, whether congenital or mutilation i couldn't tell. i tried to imagine what it'd feel like shaking hands with him, or maybe he goes out of his way not to shake hands.

i got to south station right at 9:00. figuring i already missed the 9:00 bus, i was surprised when the ticket counter woman said i could still make it. the bus was packed, and i kept moving further back into the rear, subjected to the gauntlet of eyes, nearing the potential stink of the bathroom. i had to ask a man to remove his bag so i could sit in the free seat he was trying to hide (not a good start for a busmate relationship). fortunately it was a window seat, which is what i prefer. he spoke french with a friend sitting nearby and also on the phone, so i wondered if he was haitian.

all was well for the first half of the ride. i listened to the 300+ songs in my mp3 player and was lost in my music. can't remember the last time i went bus traveling during the winter, but the landscape outside looked new now that all the trees and bushes have shed their leaves. every once in a while i'd spot a hawk perched in a tree.

then we took a 15 minute break at a mcdonald's rest stop. and that's when things got interesting. i got out to go use the bathroom. when i came back onto the bus, i felt the bus shaking, like maybe a strong wind was rocking it. looking out the rear windows i suddenly realized the shaking wasn't due to the wind: a large semi truck had actually collided with our bus, scraping the side for a few seconds before parking nearby. we watched as 3 truck drivers stepped out; instead of inspecting the damages though, they just walked into the rest stop, as if nothing happened. all the passengers looked around, not knowing what to do. our driver was still inside the rest stop, so he had no idea what just happened. my haitian friend sitting next to muttering "somebody should do something," but nobody did. so finally i had to step up and do the right thing.

the irony of the situation wasn't lost on me. the fung wah bus is (was?) notorious for it's spotty safety track record. so an accident involving a fung wah bus, one wouldn't be wrong to assume that it was the bus driver's fault. in this case however, the opposite is true. i went outside and told the driver, "your bus just got hit by a semi truck." he gave me the what?! face as we walked to the back of the bus to inspect the damage. there was a lot of scrapes on the right rear corner and the tail light was broken in a few pieces. then we walked to the truck to check out the corresponding scrape marks. the driver got on the phone with his boss and i went back onto the bus figuring my job as the resident samaritan was done.

a few minutes later the driver came back inside and angrily pointed to me, "you! come here!" because i'd seen the 3 truck drivers, he told me to go inside and get them to come out. so not only was i treated like i was the one in trouble, but now i was also acting as the enforcer for the bus driver, given the task of hauling out the 3 offending truckers. i really didn't get a good look (my haitian friend had a better view, but apparently he didn't want to get involved) but it wasn't hard picking them out from the rest stop, since they were the 3 biggest men sitting at a table. "hey, you guys drive a semi truck?" i asked them, while they gave me a look that said, "semi truck? what semi truck?" i continued: "well, you guys hit our bus when you pulled into the parking lot." they seemed incredulous. "hit a bus? we don't know anything about that," one of them replied. "well, we got a bunch of witnesses on the bus who saw it happen. maybe one of you might want to come out and see?" so one of them left his lunch and followed me outside.

the trucker met the driver and i began to describe once more what happened, showing them the damage to the bus, followed by the damage on the truck. each of them then got on the phone with their respective superiors. "we all set?" i asked the bus driver, as i returned to the relative warmth of the bus (i didn't have my jacket on the whole time and it was cold). by then everyone had returned to the bus, but nobody really knew what was going on except me and my haitian friend. we watched as the two drivers talked it out. by then the 10:00 fung wah bus had already caught up to us. it was practically empty, and i was scheming to switch buses in case this accident dragged on any longer. to make matters worse, our bus - which had been on idle this whole time - suddenly just stalled. we'd been parked for about 30 minutes before our bus driver finally came back. i was afraid he wouldn't be able to start the bus (dead battery perhaps?) but he managed to get the engine back to life. he never explained to the other passengers what happened, and the police were never involved. it was all very mystery, but i was happy we were moving again. my haitian told me "nice job" and wanted to share some grapes and pistachios with me.

we finally arrived at the new york chinatown by 1:30. i got off the bus and asked the driver if he wanted my contact information since i witnessed the whole accident. i was kind of surprised he didn't make any effort to get this info earlier, but i gave him my name and phone number in case the fung wah insurance people needed somebody to talk to.

with that i began my new york city adventures. first order of business was to get some food. authentic chinese hand-drawn noodles is hard to find back home in boston (the place i used to go to in chinatown closed their doors a few years ago) but here in the new york city chinatown there are several places. the last time i visited i ate at a shop on division street, but i wanted to try a new place. i ended up going to tasty hand-pulled noodles on doyer street. there wasn't enough empty tables to go around so i had to share one with another customer. i put down my bags on a nearby empty seat but kept my coat on because i was sitting close to the chilly entrance. i ordered a bowl of lamb hand-pulled noodles for $5.50. the noodles had the characteristic bundled look of hand-pulled noodles, but the broth was very weak. i added a few scoops of hot chili oil to make it more palatable. after paying my bill, i went to go use the bathroom before heading back outside.

i wandered around chinatown a little bit. although it was 15F back at home, here in new york it was a relatively balmy 25F. still, i saw a lot of people bundled up like it was the coming of a new ice age. watching them struggle against temperature i considered comparably mild made me feel warmer somehow.

from chinatown i started moving north to little italy (bowery, centre, broome, lafayette). i wanted to find out how far chinese businesses have encroached into an area formerly known for its italian restaurants and shops. my plan was to then walk up to union square and take the L train to williamsburg (brooklyn) and hang out there until 6:00 where i was meeting deanna and some friends to do some surprise party preparations.

classic new york water towers:

some random bike photos:

one thing i noticed that i never picked up on before was just how many bicycles there are in new york city. there are even dedicated bicycle lanes, which i don't ever remember seeing before. parked bikes can be found everywhere, and often times - as often the case in new york with car parking - there wasn't enough space so bikes become stacked one on top of another (literally) vying for locking positions. i also saw a lot of single speed bikes. is it because manhattan is relatively flat? or a style issue?

although i've been to new york city more times than i can count, i've never been on an official tour of the city. many of the major sights i come to visit rather surreptitiously, usually because i'm doing something else nearby. nevertheless, i still feel very much the tourist whenever i come. it doesn't matter how carefully i plan, i always get lost (usually on the subway going in the wrong direction or realizing the train i got on doesn't stop at the station i want to get off at). so it shouldn't be a surprise that i never did find union square. i had a map of course, but i was too cool to check it even when i realized i was lost, and kept on walking north up 3rd street (had i shifted just one avenue over to 4th, i would've found union square on 14th street).

somewhere in soho i think i might've had a celebrity sighting. a tall young man wearing a dark leather jacket over a yellow hooded sweatshirt walked right by me. he looked familiar. john mayer? also in the area i saw a woman i could've sworn i recognized as a model in a fashion magazine.

i got as far as 42nd street all the way to grand central station. time square was just a few more blocks away, but it was already well past 4:00 and i still didn't know how long it'd take me to get to williamsburg, so i hopped on the subway and headed back south.

i did get to union square after all, but just underground via subway. from there i switched to the L train heading into brooklyn. williamsburg was the first stop out of manhattan (bedford avenue). this is when i realized i had a spot of bird dropping on my coat that must've fallen on me during the hours of walking around in manhattan. this is just perfect.

arriving in williamsburg, i went up bedford avenue, watching the street numbers go up. there were a lot of stores and young hipsters walked the streets, but off the main drag, there were a lot of industrial looking warehouses and seemingly out-of-place modern condo complexes. i hit mccarren park and turned down 12th street to check out a cool looking russian orthodox church. i still had an hour to kill before 6:00 so basically walked around the area in circles. i tried to get to the shoreline where there was a great view of manhattan but there was no access, all the piers were privately owned and at one point a security guard even came out and said i couldn't take photos ("i could lose my job," he told me).

so there i was, homeless, cold and getting colder (with the sun setting), stained with bird crap, my feet were already beginning to hurt, and i had to use the bathroom. i decided to wait outside brooklyn bowl, the location of the surprise party. doors weren't opened until 6:00, but it was nice just to sit down and rest for a little while, having been walking non-stop since 2:00 this afternoon.

before the doors opened deanna arrived. she had with her a tank of store-bought helium for balloons. her son will was spending the night at his grandparents place. she arrived early so we could reserve some bowling lanes, but apparently they don't do reservations, so we'd just play it by ear. andi showed up soon afterwards, followed by megan. we were in the waiting area but decided to move to some tables inside. balloons were blown, as we hid behind benches when john finally arrived for the surprise.

john's friend tim and his fiancee show up (john originally thought he was on a double date with them for a quiet night of bowling). deanna's brother and an actress friend came too, but they left early after his friend lost her credit card. john's high school friend kristen drove up from connecticut, john's cousin john showed up, and christine came with boyfriend lou. finally, lionel dropped by towards the end of the evening with a date.

besides bowling and drinks and food, brooklyn bowl also had a concert stage. tonight's lineup was 2 tribute bands, cheap trick or treat, and judas priestess. massive projection screens dotted the establishment, playing anything from earth the documentary to vh1 classics. by the time the live music started, our 2 lanes were ready. the music was so loud that i ended up putting in my ear plugs (which i had the foresight to bring - but who brought the old guy?!). we bowled 2 games, neither time did i manage to break 100, but i did get an occasional strike or two (all that wii bowling practice paid off).

we all left around midnight. john and deanna showed up their new car (a toyota RAV4), and gave andi and megan rides back home (in nearby brooklyn). i of course followed since i was staying over at john and deanna's place for the night. i marveled at the magical glowing static electricity effect underneath my blanket before finally going to bed.