an afternoon bus is perfect in that it gives me just enough time to do all the things i need before leaving. i love that feeling of not being rushed. i finally got to packing: 2 shirts, a pair of pants, 2 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of underwear, a spare pair of long underwear, a change of t-shirt. i was surprised by how light my backpack was, but i was planning on bring things back from new york so it's a good thing to have all that extra space. i also brought along my dSLR camera and the high-friendly 28mm f/1.8 lens. i did debate whether or not to bring it, since all that camera gear can be heavy, but i figured if i saw some epic snowscape in manhattan, i'd want to capture it in a better quality than just camera phone.
i left around 2:30pm, heading into south station to catch the 3:30pm megabus. when i arrived a 3pm bus was just about to leave the station. that's strange because when i checked the schedule to pick a replacement ticket, i didn't see any 3pm times. but even if i wanted to grab the 3pm i couldn't because megabus has a strict policy against ticket jumping. the old fungwah would have no qualms about letting me sit in on an earlier bus! times like this that makes me pine for the glory days of laissez-faire busing. stupid regulations ruined everything!
there weren't many people riding the 3:30pm, about a dozen. i climbed onboard the upper deck and found a seat, but when i realized how few people were riding, i gave myself an upgrade and moved to the front of the bus, seats 3-4, with a floating panoramic view of the rolling highway, one of the best seats in the house. or so i thought at the time.
given the direction that we were driving (west then south) and the angle of the late afternoon winter sun, i was in the glare for much of the first hour of the trip. the sun also made me warm and i quickly took off my jackets because i was overheating. once the sun went down however, the opposite became true: it was incredibly cold. i thought maybe it was the overhead vents pumping out cold air. i managed to close one register, but the other one was broken. cold air was coming out, but that couldn't account for how cold it was. a girl was sitting across from me in seats 1-2, and she seemed fine. maybe it was just my imagination. i put on my jackets though. i didn't get off when we stopped burger king. i brought some tea eggs and ate one for an early dinner.
as we made our way to new york city, it became progressively colder. i had my arms folded, legs raised, and even then that wasn't enough. i think the heaters in the front 3-4 seats were broken, and combined with the malfunctioning overhead vents, and some poorly insulated spots in front of the bus, made it incredibly uncomfortable. around the 3 hour mark i decided to switch seats. to play it cool however, i made my way to the downstairs bathroom, checking out the available seating options as i went. i used the bathroom, which was surprisingly clean. i haven't used a bus bathroom in a long time, afraid of the horrors i might find. returning to my seats, i quickly grabbed my things and moved to two empty seats in the center of the bus. so warm! i closed my eyes and went to sleep.
when i woke back up we were already in manhattan, making our way slowly down to the dropoff site midtown, which would take another half hour given the usual traffic. i knew NYC got more snow than boston, but seeing it for myself i realized what a mess the snow made of everything (i believe they got 24+"). the windows were tinted which made everything outside seem even darker. i gasped as i watched cyclists (mostly delivery guys) biking without any lights (i'm sure it wasn't that dark). when we finally arrived on 7th and 28th, the driver just dropped off us along the slushy curb. there was a wall of snow so we had to run the slush gauntlet before finding an opening onto the sidewalk. welcome to new york! it was 8:40pm. i called my mother to let her know i'd arrived and then made my way to koreatown for dinner.
i must've looked someone fresh off the bus with my backpack and camera bag, but i didn't care, after a long trip down from boston, all i wanted to do was to get something to eat. i arrived at the cacophony of the gallery32 food court. it was a lot more crowded than i've seen it before. i went to the shop that sold tempura and rice cake noodles and got an order of both. i thought it also included korean blood sausage but i made a mistake and it was just a black sausage stuffed with rice noodles. i took my order upstairs to the 3rd floor and found an empty table. i ate while trying to keep my eyes off of the noisy kpop music videos playing from overhead monitors.
after i finished eating, i went to hotel pennsylvania to wait for my uncle to arrive. earlier i saw the building and realized it was just a short 2 blocks away from koreatown. a group of gay black teenagers hit me in the back of the head with a snowball as i walked by greeley square. i confronted them but they were just being silly kids so i asked them to help clean the snow off my jacket. and when i took a photo of the hotel entrance, a big hispanic man angrily shouted at me, "are you taking a photo of me?!" i told him no and pointed to the entrance. i was going to show him the photo but he said it wasn't necessary, apparently he was just joking around. because it was still early, i did some extra walking around, even visiting a souvenir shop to get a postcard for WWY. there was a 10/$1 sale, but i couldn't even find enough good-looking postcards, so i ended up just buying one for 25¢.
i waited in the lobby of hotel pennsylvania. nothing special, sort of utilitarian in its overall drabness. although you really can't complain when it's only $80/night and right across the street from penn station (later i learned that it's only this cheap due to the fact that winter is a low season; all other times it's definitely more expensive). there was wifi but i didn't have the password. i texted my uncle to let him know i was already waiting. the hotel seem to be doing a brisk business, a lot of europeans it seems, not so much asians. patrons would return with armful of bags from a busy day of shopping. a korean girl with a suitcase was eyeballing me. my uncle finally showed up by around 10:20pm. after he checked-in, we went upstairs to see our room, 1199.
the hallways were nondescript, sort of dank and claustrophobic with it's low ceilings and winding corridors. it's a big hotel, with a capacity close to 2000 rooms. i thought it was weird that the clerk gave us the option of smoking or non-smoking; apparently smoking is allowed in the rooms, which is readily evident since the place reeks of stale cigarette smoke. 1199 is a corner room, with two windows: one facing the empire state building, the other towards 7th and 33rd street. there were scuff marks on the white walls, a painting was missing, the wall to wall carpet had tears in it, but otherwise the room was pretty clean given the slum-like conditions coming in. the guy at the front desk gave us the wifi password along with the room cards (fyi: hotel pennsylvania wifi password is "driver"). that was a pleasant surprise, because a lot of these old hotels charge money for wifi. the signal was pretty strong too, a lot better than some of the places i've stayed at in the past. we dropped off our things and my uncle said we should go out and get some food, since he hadn't eaten since leaving california.
i ended up taking him back to the gallery32 korean food court. i checked earlier and they don't close until midnight, so we still had some time. my uncle ordered some fried rice, stirfry noodles, and a serving of fried raviolis. i got us some drinks while we waited for our order. the food wasn't anything special, and didn't even seem particularly korean, but it was more for my uncle, since i'd already ate earlier. i ate as much as i could until i finally reached my limit. by 11:30pm almost all the customers were gone and it was mostly the clean-up crew. they gently kicked us out.
we could finally relax back at the hotel. since my uncle didn't have a meeting until 2:30pm, he didn't have to wake up early so could sleep in. i took a shower before going to sleep. very good water pressure, even a folding shaving mirror in the bathroom. the bathtub was refitted at one point, but the plastic cover had a rip in it, revealing the porcelain underneath. the towels were adequate but a little scratchy. i read in bed until 2am, the sound of late night midtown traffic still audible 11 stories down. i slept with a breathing strip, in the hopes of preventing myself from snoring.