i woke up at 5:00, after having gone to bed at 2:00 last night. i took a shower and got dressed. i debated whether or not to have some breakfast, but in the end decided to forgo the most important meal of the day. i took just my telephoto and wide angle lenses, preferring to travel light. i was out the door by 5:25. i was a bit worried about my pinky toe, which i accidently kicked into a corner of a wall late last night. i didn't break the toe, but i did snap the toenail, causing a bruising like i painted it with purple polish.
this early on a saturday morning, the streets were pretty much empty. i biked down to south station because i'd need to bike back home later tonight when the MBTA is closed. i didn't want to pedal so fast that i'd be in a sweaty mess by the time i reached the bus station. fortunately it wasn't a problem since the early morning air was still on the cool side (around 60's).
parking a bicycle in the city is very easy. basically anything that's bolted down that i can fit my u-lock around is a potential place to leave a bike. as part of the recent bike week events, south station put in a new bike locker, which is where i locked my bike. instead of leaving the helmet, i decided to take it with me in the chance i might do some riding in new york.
i bought a ticket for the first fungwah bus of the day - 6:15. next to the fungwah and lucky star stations was the new megabus line, touting a double decker ride and free wifi access (though not guaranteed). not sure how much it costs, but i heard a few dollars more. unfortunately it drops you off near penn station (actually outside the fashion institute), which isn't where i usually want to go.
i was hoping for an emptier bus ride (so i could stretch out) but the seating was to full capacity. i wonder had i waited for the 6:30, would there have been less passengers? next to my sat a tall young russian man, who spoke russian on his cell phone a few times, and then later befriended a trio of russian girls sitting directly in front of us. the russian girls might've been going to new york for the very first time, because one of them kept taking photos of the view outside the window. my russian seat mate got in the game as well, an outstretched arm across my face with his cellphone camera clicking as we approached manhattan.
i tried to sleep on the bus but i only managed a partial sleep at best. the seats on the bus didn't have a middle armrest, so my russian friend and i had to bump shoulders. my seat was also missing the foot rest for some reason. we stop midway for a 10 minute break at a mcdonald's, then arrived in the new york city chinatown for a total trip time of almost exactly 4 hours.
i'm beginning to become a creature of habit with these new york city trips. the day's activities can't start without a visit to one of the noodle shops. my recent favorite spot is the lan zhou hand pulled noodles restaurant at 21 division street. it's never busy when i go (usually in the mornings) and i also use their bathroom before i leave. however, when i got to division street this time, the restaurant had disappeared! i stood there across the street for a few long seconds, trying to make some sense out of the situation. in its place was a new restaurant called king of the casserole. what exactly is a casserole anyway? while weighing my other options, i looked in the window to get a closer look. even though the signage was new, it still looked to be the old restaurant, and the placard outside still advertised noodle soups (just in chinese). why the name change? and an awful one at that? what's more important is the restaurant is still there, and i can still get my noodle fix. i ordered a pork chop noodle soup for $4.95. it was okay, but i didn't finish the broth - which is usually taken as an insult in a traditional noodle soup restaurant - because it was just too hot. i left my customary $2 tip, visited the bathroom, then left for the subway station on canal street.
i'd been in touch with john since my arrival. originally we planned on meeting up and riding down to coney island together, but he had to take his son will to soccer practice (he's only 3!) so he said he'd meet me at the parade instead. that freed me up from having to take the F train, and instead i could grab either the Q or the N directly from the chinatown station.
it didn't seem that long but it took me about an hour to get down to coney island riding the Q train. i sat across from a girl dressed as a mermaid with a banner across her chest proclaiming herself as "miss fag," with her two presumably gay friends, one dressed a lobster, the other wearing a violet wedding veil. they sat next to another exuberant young man who couldn't stop talking about how excited he was to see the mermaid parade and couldn't wait to start drinking a bottle of vodka he had in his backpack. "hey you! you going to the parade?" he asked me at one point. "yeah, i knew it, from that big camera!"
i got to coney island at noon but the parade wouldn't start for another 2 hours. i decided to take a stroll down the boardwalk. it was a very hot day (but a dry heat though). fortunately i had the foresight to bring along my SPF45 sun block, after getting burned a few years ago. i also brought a hat to prevent my head from cooking under the sun.
with still 1:30 left to go, i got into position once i noticed more and more people showing up. i wanted to use the bathroom one last time, but the one inside the station was actually behind the gates and i didn't want to pay just so i could use the bathroom (i didn't need to anyway, i ended up sweating out all my fluids; and in hindsight, i think there's a public bathroom/changing room by the bench on the boardwalk). back outside, i parked myself behind the wooden barricade directly across the street from the subway station entrance. in years past this was the best place to be, since i could see all the mermaids arriving. however, this year, the MTA parked a pair of vans in front of the entrance, blocking my view.
john finally showed up 30 minutes before the parade started. he could only stay until 3:30, when he had to go home and relieve deanna of childcare duty so she could go read scripture to the elderly parishioners at their local church.
the mermaid parade was so-so this year. it didn't seem as organized as past parades, with lengthy gaps between the processions. the costumes also seemed lacking, with a lot of people protesting BP because of the oil spill and the usual aquatic themes of the parade, and a typical costume would be to smear themselves with dirt. it also seemed more subdued somewhat, with the surprising lack of boobage a clear indicator (contrary to photographic evidence, which shows you how much more toplessness in a typical mermaid parade).
after john left, i stuck around for another hour, before catching the F train to his place. i got a little confused and couldn't remember which station to get off at. i managed to correctly pick carroll gardens. once i got to the surface, it was both familiar and new. there must've been new construction recently, because i just couldn't get my bearing, and even returned to the subway station to take another look at the street map.
john and deanna were having a movie night, with film screenings on their backyard projection screen and barbecue action. i hadn't seen their son will since he was still a toddler barely making coherent noises. now he was fully talking and walking, with his own developed personality, which currently at this phase in his life tends to be on the testing-the-parents side. he can easily be amused with the simplest things, like a strand of accordion piping, or pulling flowers off of plants and pretending to sneeze.
i helped john put up some lights in the backyard before the guests arrived. i had a hot dog, then later a burger. their neighbor jeremy brought along his little boy josh for will to play with. john set up the projector and played wall-e for the kids first, before the adults showed up.
i left soon after 9:00, unfortunately before the start of the main event, raiders of the lost ark. there were 2 more fung wah buses leaving the city tonight, a 10:00 and a 11:00. i didn't want to push my luck and decided to try for the 10:00, with 11:00 being the backup. i grabbed the F train and got off at east broadway street, about 7 city blocks away from the fung wah ticket counter. even this far away though, most of the stores were still chinese, evidence of the expanding chinatown. it was dark (where's the street lights?) so my traveler's street sense was on high alert, but i was surprised to find people (especially single young women) just going about their business without a care in the world.
i had 20 minutes to kill before the 10:00 bus would arrive. there was a torrent of double decker tourist buses passing through the area, with wide-eyed sightseers snapping photos of the exotic new york city chinatown.
there was only about a dozen passengers riding the 10:00 fung wah. everyone had their own double row of seats as a busload of sleeping travelers careened towards boston. although i didn't listen to my mp3 player on my way to manhattan, i had plenty of time for music on my way back home. my biggest problem was finding a comfortable sleeping position. i went through a bunch of positions - from propping my feet in the cracks of the seats in front of me, to the fetal - until i finally settled on the classic feet splayed on the ground with arms on armrests (this bus had them).
there was no point in rest stops and we made it back to boston in a single journey with a fast time of about 3 hours and 30 minutes.
i wasn't sure if my bike would still be there so i was relieve to find it just where i left it. here and there, homeless people were asleep, curled up in blankets and sleeping bags. i unlocked my bike and made my way through the financial district. i figured i could do some nocturnal sightseeing, but many buildings had already turned off their lights for the evening. and the streets aren't exactly empty at 2:00 on a weekend evening, as people get out of bars and taxis patrol the area looking for fares.
at one point i almost ran into a drunk woman standing in the middle of the street trying to hail a taxi. i rang my bike bell, but that thing sounds like a teaspoon ringing a teacup at best, and this woman was too drunk to care.
things got better once i cleared boston. the night time temperature was perfectly cool for riding, as i slowly pedaled home. i finally got back by 2:30. after a shower, i was pretty hungry from all that traveling, and ate a banana along with two tea eggs. after sorting through my photos (2298 total, ended up erasing 130 bad ones), i finally went to bed by 5:00.