before any trip there usually is a mad scramble to make sure i've brought everything i need. but there's one crucial thing that i actually leave behind that i didn't: i didn't go poop this morning (get ready for some light scatological talk, skip ahead if you're uncomfortable). granted, i tried, sitting on the toilet for 20 minutes since i woke up at 4:30am, but there was no action jackson. it left me feeling distressed since sooner or later i'll have to do my business and it's never fun finding and using a public bathroom in the city.
i woke up at 4:30 and left by 5:00. i made myself a simple ham-cheese-mayo sandwich since i wouldn't have time to stop and eat, and brewed some hot black tea in my insulated tumbler. i took my large messenger bag, and brought all 3 of my cameras (60D, ZS20, W3) along with the 18-200mm (on-camera) and 10-22mm (wide angle) lenses. i also brought a fully-recharged sero 7 tablet, so i could test its GPS capability out in the field.
the weather outside was in the upper 60's and it was already bright enough that i didn't need lights. it's nice to ride in the early morning, when the world is still asleep and there aren't any cars on the road. i probably made it to south station in record time, the only bottleneck when i actually arrived in the city and had to navigate through boston common and downtown crossing to reach the bus depot.
i arrived at south station a little before 5:30. i parked in an empty spot on a bike rack and then hurried to catch my 6:00 train.
it was weird being at south station without either fungwah or lucky star, they're like local institutions. i figured it'd be even more crowded as customers funnel into the few remaining boston-new york bus lines, but apparently people are wise to the change and the daily traffic seemed to have ceased. the message seems to be if it's too much hassle and too expensive to go to new york, people will simply not bother going. at the very least i was expecting to see a few clueless individuals at the station trying to buy a fungwah ticket, not realizing they've gone out of business, but i didn't even see that.
there was already a dozen people ahead of me in line, but i there relatively early as customers began showing up. although price is an issue (at least $20 versus fungwah $15), the biggest problem with the megabus is you have to order your ticket in advance online. if you're thinking about a spur-of-the-moment-4-hour-busride trip to new york, you can't (who does that anyway, though?). your only recourse is to be on standby, and once all the ticketed passengers have boarded, only than can you buy one of the empty seats (not sure at what price, i'm assuming the same).
megabus is by the book though, if that's your thing. passengers are checked on a manifest list before boarding. i immediately went to the top level of the bus (did i mention megabuses are 2-tiered?) for the best view, and found a rightside window seat in the 2nd row right behind the front stairs with my own buit-in table and a cup holder too small for a bottle. we were almost about to leave and i thought maybe i'd get both seats to myself when an asian girl with long pale legs sat next to me. we left south station at 6:07am.
besides the scenic view from the top of the bus, megabus also has other amenities, like power oulets underneath the seats and wifi. the girl next to me was actually texting the whole trip (hardly saw her face, her head was usually down, looking at her phone, hair covering her face), and i was amazed at the battery life of her smartphone until i realized she had it plugged in.
having not sleep very well or very much last night, i did fall asleep intermittently on the bus. when i wasn't sleeping, i was looking out the window. even from the bus i could do some naturing. i saw several deers, including a fawn with white spots darting along the roadside valley (i didn't see the doe). passing by a lake, i saw a great blue heron swooping across the water. i was also admiring all the different trees, all in secret war against one another, vying for the best growing spots.
an hour before we arrived in manhattan, i pulled out the tablet to try the GPS and wifi. the wifi was actually pretty good considering we were on a moving bus with the network shared by a slew of passengers. i didn't try to stream a movie, but i was able to check e-mail and test visit a few websites. the GPS also performed admirably. it found my location but it took a while for the maps to download since i was out of range from my preloaded new york city area maps. cruising on the highway, it was fun watch our progress on the map, and it seemed very accurate, set my location right on the road (and not 15-20 ft offtrack). i'm definitely returning the garmin GPS for a refund, this is sero GPS is all i need.
we entered manhattan by 10:00, but it'd take another half an hour to traverse the island north to south (through harlem to north central park, down the westside) to the dropoff zone at 7th avenue and 28th street. at least the fungwah was faster, avoiding manhattan altogether, dropping off passengers at the southern tip in chinatown.
from 7th & 28th i walked several blocks to 6th & 23rd to catch the F train to john's place in brooklyn. we'd decided to meet before the parade so i could pick up the dell mini he was giving me. he also told me i could take a slightly-broken 17" macbook pro (circa 2006) if i wanted it.
i arrived in carroll gardens soon after 11:00. i hadn't been there in a while, and almost didn't recognize the place with its new subway station entrance. i walked to john's place. i saw deanna, who's expecting in september. will made an appearance, transfixed on his ipad. i hadn't seen john since last year up in acadia (he invited again this summer but unfortunately i'll already be in asia) and he lost quite a bit of weight to the point where i had to delicately ask if he was okay. turns out he weighed himself one day and saw he was almost approaching 200 lbs. and decided to go the weight watcher diet. he looked good, younger, more vibrant. deanna and john were having lunch and i joined them with the sandwich i brought. i tried going to the bathroom but had some performance anxiety so once again there was no action jackson.
the dell mini was definitely small, and john had already re-installed the system (windows 7 starter) with a personalized password for me. he also included a recharger and a neoprene pouch. i paid him $50 since this was the amount he would've spent shipping the laptop. as a bonus though, i also got an old macbook pro. it was actually a 15" and looked just like my old MBP. everything works except the spacebar (water damage). i was going to put all the laptops in a canvas shopping bag i brought along, but there was enough space in my messenger bag to fit everything if i took out my dSLR camera. this would make it easier to take photos since i didn't have to hold the laptops. with that i bid them goodbye, it was already 11:30 and the mermaid parade was starting at 1:00. i figured it'd take me about another hour on the train before i got to coney island.
the train i was on had a few mermaids heading to the parade. some passengers were asking if they could get photos taken with them. we arrived in coney island shortly before 12:30. i didn't have time to walk around, all the best stops were already taken, but i did find a small space in front of a light post that i managed to squeeze into, but not before some townies we seemed to have been camping there hours ago shouted at me that the area was reserved, but let me have my spot since i was by myself. i was right behind the metal barricade so i could put my large bag on the ground, but it made me feel self-conscious with memories of the boston marathon bombing. to get ready, i slathered on some sunblock. if i was going to be standing there for hours on end in the sun, best to have some protection.
to my left was a petite old black woman with a pentax (?) prosumer camera. those usually have very long zooms which are great for parades. i thought she was with another group but when i noticed she wasn't talking to anyone, i chatted with her. she was here by herself, and comes to the parade every year. she'd been waiting since 11:30. we both cringed when some in the parade tried to glitter bomb the spectators (i did get some glitter on my arm, couldn't get it off). she wasn't very talkative and once the parade started, she stuck around for another hour before leaving (the parade itself last almost 3 hours total).
last year the barricades on the other side of the street was placed so far back that the parade marchers only interacted with the people on my side. this was great for photography. this year they finally got wise, and moved in the barricade, so now the mermaids interact on both sides, so there were a lot more photos of their backside. there also didn't seem to be as many photographers this year. last year they'd crowded the parade route so badly that sometimes i'd get photos of just photographers.
it was a bright sunny day, not too hot, with temperature in the 80's, and a nice sea breeze. i would've preferred a more overcast day since the sunlight causes harsh shadows (and especially since the parade route goes west to east, the sun is shining on the backs of the mermaids). but all the gear i was packing, it was for the best that it wasn't raining.
unlike the boston pride march where i got a lot of beads, i didn't get any at the mermaid parade. granted, the mermaid parade doesn't have the corporate sponsorship so private money is spent more on costumes than trinkets (which is a good thing). the demographic is also different. somehow my chances of scoring free stuff is better at an event with a lot of gay men than one that features bevies of scantily-clad women. go figure.
good spots were at a premium and 2 girls were trying to squeeze into my space, before the townies called them out. once the old lady left though, i moved down so they move in. one of them was shooting with a 70-200mm white canon lens. they didn't seem to be from around here but i didn't ask where they were from. we ducked when our towny friends were squirting water on everyone.
after the route finished, i went down to the boardwalk to see if there were anymore photo opportunity. the crowd of people combined with parade fatigue made me only stay there briefly before heading out to the station. i bought a bottle of water for $1 and filled up my empty tumbler.
i took the F train to herald square (34th street), then exited the station and walked to penn station. i wasn't sure which direction and when i asked a police officer he seemed kind of annoyed. at penn station i used the bathroom (no action jackson, just numero uno). it was 5:30 and i figured i'd get something to eat while i was within close proximity to the train station food court. i selected KFC as my poison, paid $10 for an overpriced combo of 2 pieces of chicken, a biscuit, some corn, and a drink. it didn't matter though, it was nice to sit down and relax and eat and enjoy the AC.
after dinner (around 6:00) i walked up to time square. that turned out to be a bad idea, as i was swallowed up by tourists. i climbed the stairs, snapped a few photos, then started walking towards the pick up location for megabus, on 34th street between 11th and 12th avenue (next to the javitz convention center). somewhere nearby was also the entrance to the expanded high line but i couldn't see it and didn't want to look so i just went to the bus stop with less than a hour before departure.
bus ride back to boston, sitting in front of the bus next to 3 young korean ladies
i did manage to install OS X onto the dell mini but with a few glitches. sound, screen brightness, double finger scrolling all work fine, but missing are wifi/ethernet and sleep. looks i might've made a mistake when i created the installer disk. i used netbookinstaller 0.8.5 instead of netbookbootmaker 0.8.4. i don't know what the difference is but apparently it makes a difference. i'll recreate the installer disk tomorrow using netbookbootmaker to see if i can fix the problem.
i say this every year after coming back from a mermaid parade, "never again," but after going through my haul of photos and seeing a few good ones, i find myself changing my mind again. sure, the journey is rough (8+ hours round trip bus ride), and standing out in the sun for hours with pushy and obnoxious people can be draining, but it's one of the most photogenic events in the area, and an annual highlight.