it was warm outside, temperature in the mid-60's. i wore 2 layers of jacket, which felt too warm, but i knew this weather was an illusion as the rest of the weekend would be colder. i arrived at porter square at 8:10am but the train didn't arrive until well after 8:20am. crossing longfellow bridge, i noticed the fog obscuring parts of the city.
i arrived at the south station bus terminal by 8:40am. since i purchased my ticket online ($5.50), i had to check in with the counter first before waiting in line. i used the bathroom before heading to the terminal. there was already a line, but it there didn't seem like there were many people traveling today so i felt sure i could get 2 seats all to myself.
when the bus pulled into the station, a chinese family at the front of the time helped themselves without asking and began loading their luggages into the cargo hold. "whose bags are these?" a lucky star employee called out when she arrived. half the cargo hold was filled with this family's luggages, at least two suitcases per person. the employee scolded them for going over the limit, but in the end gave them a pass since there was still enough storage space for the other passengers.
just as i'd hoped, i got 2 seats all to myself, on the right side of the bus. i took off my jackets. going through the overpass turnpike toll booth, i could see the charles river and and boats racing in the water. looks like i still managed to catch a glimpse of the head of the charles after all!
as we left the city and headed out into the suburbs and beyond, i watched the blur of color foliage rushing by. besides how pretty it looked, another thing struck me: just the mix of different trees. if they were all the same trees, it'd just be the same color, but our new england forest is made up of many different trees, each species with its own colors. was it always like this? or is it because these are all relatively new trees? it's like a melting pot of trees, just like america with its people.
there was nothing much to do but to go to sleep after that. it was an uncomfortable sleep, my head jerking me awake every time i fell unconscious. finally i used my hooded sweatshirt as a pillow so i could lean my head up against the window. the weather was grey for most of the trip, with occasional breaks in the clouds as we approached new york. it began drizzling, and at certain points it was raining quite heavily, which made me worried it'd be just as wet in the city.
we arrived in manhattan chinatown at 1:20pm. i texted john to let him know, then gave him my itinerary: get a haircut in manhattan chinatown before taking the subway to the flushing chinatown for a late lunch early dinner, before heading over to his place in brooklyn around 6pm.
given how cold it was going to be this weekend, i did have second thoughts about getting a haircut, but figured if my head did get cold, i could always just wear my hat. i went to the same place that i got a haircut from back in june, bao ying salon on eldridge street. at first i thought it'd closed because i didn't see it, but after a more careful look, i was able to pick it out from the camouflage of other chinese businesses. i thought they did a pretty good job last time, not bad for a $6 haircut (+$2 for tip). i had the lady last time, but this time the man cut my hair. the lady was giving a woman a shampoo treatment, chatting in a chinese dialect i couldn't decipher, but if i had to guess, fujian or a close neighbor. i wanted to ask but didn't.
around 2pm i walked to delancey street to catch the F train northbound. my mother gave me an expired MTA card (expired early this year) and i managed to get a new card for her from the vending machine. i rode it all the way to roosevelt avenue-jackson heights, then switched to the 7 train at 74 street-broadway. from there it was 7 more stops to flushing main street. the entire subway ride took about 1 hour, arriving in flushing by 3pm. i then went to new world mall (136-20 roosevelt avenue), downstairs to the food court to indulge in some taiwanese food. that's when i made the unfortunate discovery that the taiwanese cafe was no longer there, replaced by a korean restaurant. i walked the food court twice to make sure i wasn't mistaken. i came all this way for nothing! there were of course other foods there, but i was looking forward to taiwanese, and none of those other places appealed to me.
i went back upstairs to the chinese supermarket to get some snacks. i then went to xi'an famous foods (41-28 main street #36), a restaurant i've also seen in midtown that i've always wanted to try and today was my chance.
by that point i was pretty hungry. i ordered a bowl of lamb paomo ($8.75), a lamb roujiamo sandwich (chinese arepa, $4), and a can of apple sidra drink (which is actually taiwanese, $1.75). for this to be a truly authentic shannxi eating experience, they should really have some sort of orange-flavor soda. next time, bring your own! i grabbed a table all to myself, but an indian father with two daughters came in and asked if his daughters could sit at my table because the table they got was close to the door and was cold. i nodded okay, didn't say anything. later when another table opened up, they moved.
since i was in no hurry, i took my time eating. the paomo was okay, points for having pickled garlic cloves (the xi'an restaurant i ate in chongqing didn't even have this). however, points off for not having hot sauce on the side. when i ordered, the girl (jasmine) asked me how spicy i liked it. apparently they add the spicy sauce to the broth. at first i told her very spicy, but when she replied incredulously "very spicy?!" i changed my mind and went with regular spicy. in the end, what i got wasn't all that spicy. paomo in xi'an comes with a lot of vegetables and whatnot; this one had some wood ear mushrooms and a bit of cilantro, but could've used a bit more for authenticity. as far as paomo experience though, it was okay. very filling for when you're starving and cold.
the roujiamo sandwich was a different story. it wasn't good at all (but neither were the roujiamo sandwiches i had in xi'an), oily stir-fried lamb, and the bread a little hard and dry and hurt my mouth eating it.
a quartet of young men all dressed in black came into the restaurant and ordered. from their accent i could tell they were from northern china. they didn't hesitate in speaking mandarin to the cashier, just assumed she'd be able to understand him (i spoke english when i ordered). from their clothes i could see they were rich, but a taste that was distinctively garish mainland chinese, like rhinestones boots. on the back wall behind the cashier was a flatscreen monitor replaying tv stories about this restaurant. apparently it was reviewed by the likes of anthony bourdain and andrew zimmern.
i finally finished eating by 4:40pm. i texted john to give him a status update. he told me they were having dinner with their in-laws and wouldn't be back until 7pm at the earliest, if not later. so i had about 3 hours to kill. it'd take about an hour to get to brooklyn, but that still left 2 more hours. i went to pho bang (4107 kiseena boulevard) to buy a pair of vietnamese sandwiches ($5/each) for tomorrow's hike. the place seemed okay, pretty crowded. another woman came in and made an order as well, but when they were done making the sandwiches, they gave it to her first instead of me. i was going to complain but i already paid and you never chew out your servers while they're making your food for fear of contaminations. finally my order was finished. i then went to taipei liquor store (135-27 40 road #1). i thought about skipping it but decided to go anyway and got a bottle of wuliangye baijiu ($11); who knows when the next time i'll be back here.
i left flushing a bit before 5pm. i decided my next destination would be the brooklyn heights promenade. i haven't visited it in a while, and if the sunset hits the city just right, i could get some good photos. i was on the subway for another hour, getting off at jay street-metrotech (F train). i got a bit lost on my way to the promenade, went all the way up to the romanesque revival post office building, then wandered through brooklyn heights before finally reaching my destination.
i caught the sun right when it was setting behind the statue of liberty. i then walked north, following the coastline, until i got to brooklyn bridge. i thought the view from the promenade was special, but the view from underneath the bridge is even better, and that's where all the photographers were congregating with their tripod setup. maybe the view from on top of the bridge would be even better, but i didn't know how to get there and seemed like it'd take too much time even if i did.
i got a bit lost in the dumbo district, trying to find the nearest MTA station. i finally arrived at york street, where i took the F train 3 stops to carroll gardens. i could've walked down there, but at a distance of 2 miles, the subway was the better option. besides, i would be doing a lot of walking tomorrow, so i wanted to save my feet.
i arrived in carroll gardens at 7:38pm. i texted john to see if they were home yet, waiting outside the station. a bit later he replied, saying they were already back. i walked down to their place, where deanna's parents were still there. her mother was in a hand cast, recovering from trigger finger surgery. deanna's father asked me about my recent travels, and said their family visited china (beijing, shanghai, hong kong) about 2 decades ago. i told him he wouldn't recognize the place now, and her mother said they installing the first highway in beijing when they were there.
john and i went to cvs; he got some detergent while i stocked up on bottled water. afterwards we went back out again to see his rental office space across the street from his house. a former warehouse that was converted into a shared office park, there was free beers on tap and fresh ground coffee (during the weekdays). most interesting were the dedicated office rentals on the 2nd floor, all glass walls so we could look inside. there seemed to be some kind of rivalry to see who had the coolest office space. the lights were all on but nobody was there, except a man working upstairs. later john let in 2 women who forgot their security card. we returned home by around 10pm.
i managed to do a quick no.2 before taking a shower. i was in bed by 11pm. the outlet was too far away from the couch so i could only surf the web a little bit before putting my phone away to recharge on the dining table.