i was originally scheduled to wake up at 4:00a and await my parents' arrival sometime after 4:30a. but 30 minutes just wasn't enough for me to get ready in the morning without feeling rushed, so i gave myself an additional 30 minutes by waking up at 3:30a. i'm not even sure i went to sleep. i was in bed by 1:00a but anxiety about the next day prevented me from actually falling asleep. the rest itself would have to do, i would sleep on the bus to new york city anyway, a 5 hour ride. i ate something bad last night (probably those expired hot italian sausages) and had several bouts of "upset stomach." so this morning i was hoping for a full cleanse but only managed to do a little "morning business."
i was pretty much ready by 4:15a. waking up early and not have to rush puts me in a calmer mood. i packed light, leaving behind my dSLR, bringing just my 2 phones (which both have cameras), my broken distant-focus-only panasonic lumix, and my fuji 3D camera. i also brought an umbrella because i heard it might rain. i wore my favorite pair of china pants, but switched to a pair of dark blue khakis because they had bigger pockets (to carry my oversized phones).
i went outside to move the motorcycle to give my parents a spot to park when they came. it wasn't as cold as i'd imagined but my motorcycle was covered in condensation, which i wiped off with a towel. moving the bike turned out to be unnecessary, as there were two adjacent empty parking spots right in front of my house. i called my parents at 4:30a to let them know they could just park there instead.
waiting by the window, periodically peeking through the blinds, i saw an unfamiliar black cat sauter down the sidewalk. i gently thumped the window which surprised the cat, making it stop and look up at me. it sat down, maybe hoping to come inside. i went away from the window and when i looked again it'd disappeared.
my parents finally arrived by 4:45a. my mother came inside briefly before the three of us walked the 10 minutes to porter square. overhead the full moon from last night was still shining brightly. we arrived at porter square before 5:00a. a homeless woman was sleeping inside, but the doors were all locked. a few minutes later we saw an MBTA SUV drive up and an employee came out to unlock the doors. it was so early the escalators hadn't even been turned on so we walked down into the station.
the first red line train leaving alewife was at 5:16a. our plan was to catch this first time to south station, where we had tickets to the 6:00a megabus that'd take us into new york city. the train was surprisingly full so early in the morning, but still enough space for everyone to grab a seat if they wanted one. we saw people wearing hospital scrubs, or folks wearing the uniforms of their place of employment (a few hotels). many were hispanic or black. there were also people with suitcases, probably on their way to the airport. there's something very solemn about traveling so early in the morning, as everyone was quiet, too tired to chat, or lost in thought.
we arrived at south station at 5:38a. there was enough time for everyone to take a final bathroom break before waiting at the megabus line. there were already more then 2 dozen people in line. we thought we were the last but minutes later more people filed behind us. we bought these tickets more than a month ago, so they were cheap, $5 per person.
we climbed to the top of the bus. i sat on the left, my parents took the right seats. a filipino man ended up sitting in between us. the bus left a few minutes after 6:00a (price: $15 for 3 passengers). there was free wifi onboard, although intermittently slow. i looked out the window for the first 15 minutes or so before falling asleep. the full moon appeared to be getting larger the closer it got to the horizon. it'd be gone by the time the sun came up.
it was a 5 hour ride from boston to new york city. we were going against traffic, but here and there we'd still hit some patches. i was oblivious to everything, going back to sleep whenever i woke up, adjusting myself for a more sleep posture. i did notice we were taking a lot of exits and circling ramps. within the last hour before we arrived, i woke up to an unfamiliar landscape. marshes. i had a suspicion where we were, i looked over at my father who told me we were in new jersey. this was a new route! we came into midtown via the lincoln tunnel. not having to traverse upper manhattan seemed like it would've saved us some time (the usual megabus route to/from manhattan), but we still arrived at our destination in just under 5 hours (10:50a, 28th and 7th avenue).
as usual, we marched to penn station to use the bathroom after a 5 hour bus ride. but instead of taking the 7 train to flushing, we went to korea town on 32nd street between 6th and 5th avenue. we went to food gallery 32, a small food court, to sample some korean dishes for lunch. i knew about this place from the last time i was in NYC with my uncle willy last month. that time, we came here after a big steak dinner, so only ordered some drinks. unfortunately that drink kiosk store was closed, but all the other shops i remembered were still opened (they open at 11a).
my mother and i went upstairs to use the restroom before we left around 12p. we had plenty of time on our hands and didn't want to go to flushing right away, especially not after we just ate lunch. the plan was to head out to queens sometime after 2:46p, when the first 7 express trains begin running, which would save us at least 10 minutes versus riding the local 7 train.
so we walked down 5th avenue. before we got to the flatiron building, we took a detour on one of the side streets towards 6th avenue. there was all sorts of wholesale stores, selling everything from jewelry, to hats, to cheap handbags. the street was clogged with delivery trucks making their rounds. my mother went to one jewelry store and bought half a dozen earrings. once we reached 6th avenue, we headed up (saw a toppled crane!) until we were back at greeley square again, the head of korea town.
we decided to do another loop, this time going down broadway until we finally reached the flatiron district. there was some kind of food festival happening and we grabbed an empty seat that happened to have a handy umbrella because it soon started to drizzle a little bit. we hung around there for a little while, before deciding to walk 23rd street west to the high line. along the way we passed through the chelsea district, an area my parents had never been before.
we'd been to the high line before but there seemed to be new additional work since our last visit. from 23rd (1:45p) we walked south to 17th street (2:15p) , before turning back and walking the highline until it ended at the hudson yard extension (34th street, 3:10p). the high line is mostly tourists, or perhaps guided by a local chaperone. we did see some fake buddhist monks trying to scam a few tourists.
i used 3 cameras: iphone camera (for convenient wide angles), fuji 3D camera (for 3D capture), and my panasonic lumix camera (for zoom). the lumix was working great, even doing some intermittent wide angle focusing (that was the thing that was broken). but a short time later it started to act weird, like the extending lenses was somehow getting caught, and it wouldn't close back down all the way. finally i just gave up and went back to my 2 other cameras.
i'd seen the hudson yards station on my last visit, but it wasn't opened yet. everything was new and shiny and smelled nice. the station has some very long escalators that take you below ground. one of our MTA ticket was expired (even though it had $30 on it) and when i went to the station clerk to ask for an exchange, he threw me some attitude ("sir, sir, let me read your ticket first, okay?"). we made sure to grab a 7 express train (3:30p) (one platform express, the other platform local), which would shave at least 10 minutes from our usual travel time.
we arrived in flushing by 4:00p. we picked up a few things first (like smoked duck and special northeastern china flatbread) just to get them out of the way before making it to the basement food court of the new world mall. we found a table and began to collect things to eat from the various food shops lining the perimeter. it didn't seem as busy as our past visits, maybe because this time we were here during the mid-late-afternoon crowd. enough time had elapsed since lunch that i was already hungry and looking forward to eating again. we got duck broth soup, yiansuji, smelly tofu, lamb and garlic chive dumplings, squid nugget soup, lamb broth noodle noodle, and xi'an lamb paomo. i went to get some bubble tea but the shop i went to were out of tapioca balls, and another shop was too expensive ($4.25).
we finished around 5:30p, but our megabus going back to boston wasn't until 8:20p. so we still had almost 3 hours to kill. we hung around in the food court a little bit longer, using the bathroom before we left. usually we'd get a few things from the supermarket upstairs but we were already carrying so much stuff we decided to skip that.
back outside, my mother bought some fruits, before we visited a liquor store. there's one we always go to on kissena boulevard, but i remember spotting one on 40th road, auspiciously called "taipei liquor store" (chinese name). they had the chinese baijiu i always get (wuliangye brand), but for just $11 (much cheaper than the $13 at the other store). we also bought another brand of 5-blend baijiu for $13. our last stop was a small bakery just by the entrance of the MTA station, to get some chinese egg tarts (actually they're more like portuguese pastel de nata - oven-burnt topping served warm).
the ride back was simple enough: from one terminal of the 7 train (flushing) to the other terminal (hudson yards). the new station at hudson yards saved us a lot of time, since normally we'd get off at time square or penn station and walk 20-25 minutes to the javitz center to catch the returning megabus. nearly everyone got off at time square, seemed like we were the only people going to the last station. we arrived at hudson yards at 7:00p, using the station bathroom (inside the station after you pay your fare) before coming up to the surface.
since there's no real place to sit by the bus line, we waited in the park surrounding the hudson yards station entrance. nearby was the ongoing construction site, a forest of cranes lit up by flood lights. for some reason there were still people working. my mother was the first to see a rat. then my father saw one. finally i saw one too. apparently the park is infested with rats. we saw a woman lie down on a bench and almost wanted to warn her.
we went to wait by the megabus line around 7:45p. we were behind a trio of smoking european girls. with so much high price construction going on in the area, i wonder if they'll force out megabus at some point. close to 8:20p they began allowing people to board the bus. the return trip wasn't as crowded as the morning bus and i got a seat all to myself.
our bus returned to boston via the usual route, up amsterdam avenue theough the upper west side, then eastward before columbia university over the willis avenue bridge. i stayed awake while we were in manhattan but once we left the island i quickly fell asleep after a long day.
we made it back to boston in good time, arrived by around 12:20p. my sister was coming to pick us up, but it seemed like we had enough time to catch the last subway train to alewife, so i texted her to wait until she heard back from us. apparently she never saw my message and when we called from the station, she was already on her way. fortunately we were able to tell her to go back before she got on the turnpike. we had enough time to even use the bathroom in south station. the last train was ashmont was at 12:30a, but the one from braintree seemed to be leaving at the same time, just a few minutes apart. the train finally arrived by around 12:50a.
we got off at porter square, and walked the 10 minutes back to my place, where my parents' car were parked outside. i unloaded some of the food i was carrying in my bag into the vehicle and watched as my parents drove home. it was close to 1:30a.