i gathered my things and went downstairs around 9am to checkout. the sleepy-eyed chinese girl took my room card and remote but didn't say anything. "that's it?" i asked. "yeah," she said, expressionless. i walked down to the subway station and put $20 onto my metro card (gave me a new one, old was about to expire) before catching an express 7 train heading into manhattan. i love express trains, always happy to ride one as we blow by stations. i got off at grand central and changed to a downtown 4, which is like the express train of the green line. from there it was just 2 stops to brooklyn bridge/city hall. getting out, it was another half mile walk to the golden unicorn. i got there at 10:25am but was expecting frances to be late so was surprised when she texted me that they had already arrived. i took the elevator upstairs and saw them already enjoying their dim sum.
it was still early enough that there weren't a lot of people yet - just a few tables. they'd ordered a few things but no tripe or chicken feet yet. when i came back from washing my hands though, the tripe and chicken feet had already arrived. the last time i came to the golden unicorn was back in 2016 when i brought my california uncle. it was a treat because he's cantonese so dim sum was second nature to him. frances and her family had dim sum before: not in norway but rather in london of all places. i'm curious as to the authenticity of english dim sum, since hong kong was a british colony for quite some time, maybe some of that cuisine migrated to england.
frances was experiencing a toothache caused by a loose filling which she temporarily patched before her vacation, but was now coming loose again. she called her norwegian health insurance to ask about overseas coverage, but they were only willing to pay around $125, which was nothing. the aspirins were kicking in so she was fine for the time being, hopefully the painkillers can last her until they get back home. i also got a chance to try out frances' camera, a
boxy canon prosumer model canon powershot G1X with a flip up LCD screen, i took a few photos of her family. finally, they gave me a bag of norwegian food they brought with them, easy 10lbs. at least. some salmon, some cheese, some crackers, and a bunch of chocolate candy selected by her kids. lars and hans seemed to be in high spirits, but june looked like she still wanted to sleep. as we got closer to lunchtime, more customers started showing up, including a high school field trip group that took up two large round tables. i discovered that all the times i saw frances looking at her phone, she was in fact playing pokemon go. her kids play it too, but she's addicted. i myself have successfully quit the habit, and even seeing frances catch pokemons didn't make me want to start it up again.
the original goal was to take a ride on the roosevelt island tramway on 59th and 2nd avenue, but due to the impending rain and strong winds, we were willing to switch plans, do something indoors until the weather improves. i recommended the free smithsonian museum of american indian down by wall street. but once we left the restaurant, the sky looked like it was clearing up. there were conflicting weather forecasts, but one now said the rain wouldn't come until the afternoon. so we decided to try the tramway after all. the nearest subway station was brooklyn bridge/city hall, from there a direct shot via the green train to our destination.
so we started walking. at one point we were intercepted by an elderly chinese lady who said she needed help to cross the street. she was wearing shoes but her feet were jammed inside. sensing a scam, i ignored her, but fredrik - who has a purer heart than i - slowly walked her across the middle of the road through traffic, as the rest of us stood and watched. that's when frances observed that life in the US seems hard, that we're lacking in certain social welfare services, which i'd agree. but at the same time, in a big city, there are bad people, young and old, and as locals we've become inured to suspicious situations. i was afraid fredrik wasn't coming back, but the old lady finally did release him.
we continued walking but had to stop once again when the children spotted columbus park. having not been a child for many years now, i've forgotten that playgrounds are like kid magnets. we simply had to stop so all three of the children could play on the equipment. even june seemed to regain her energy, joining up with her brothers to climb the jungle gym and go down the spiral slide. she even got fredrik to assist her with some monkey bars, and wanted to try the adult bars in a nearby park. while fredrik and i sat on the bench to relax and chat, frances left to buy some snacks for the kids. she told me earlier that's one secrets of keeping the children well-behaved is to feed them constantly, so nobody gets hangry. it was right around lunchtime as groups of smartly dressed men and women (most likely lawyers and law clerks) hurried off to get lunches.
frances was gone a long time. she came back with chocolate pocky snacks and yogurt drinks. it was around that time that it began to drizzle a little bit. we continued walking, now past the courthouses. they seemed to be shooting a movie or show, and there were cranes and cameras and a group of spectators. i didn't get a chance to check out the scene (could it have been a scene from my favorite courtroom drama for the people?) because i was helping frances called new balance, which messed up an online order. she ordered a bunch of shoes on sunday that were supposed to be 2-day delivered to their hotel, but only part of the shipment was coming. i called the 1-800 number and talked to somebody who also didn't know what was going on. he took my number and said he'd call me back.
we finally reached the subway. we could've taken the 6 train but that was local stops and would've taken longer. we ended up waiting a bit until a 4 train arrived, which was just 3 stops to 59th street lexington avenue. we waited in the covered entranceway of the subway station since it was still drizzling, not sure how much farther the tramway was. but i ducked out to investigate, and i could see the tramway scaffoldings from where we were, about 2 city blocks away on 2nd avenue. i'd never been to this part of new york, midway between midtown and the upper east side. there's so much of new york city i still don't know about!
we got to the tramway. for the price of a subway ride, it takes you via cable car to roosevelt island. i've never taken it before, and didn't even know about it until frances asked me and i did some research. she said she saw it in an old king kong movie, which sounded vaguely familiar. it wasn't crowded but there were still a sizable number of people, mostly tourists like us. there was also a lot of hassidic jews for some reason, and their entourage of children of various ages. some kid accidentally double swiped his MTA card and i got through for free.
the last time i took an aerial tramway was back in chongqing in 2013 (that's not entirely true: i took a gondola in kangding in 2014 but that was to go up a mountain, not across a body of water). because of rainy and cold weather, there was a lot of humidity inside the cable car and the windows were all fogged up. the ride was interesting, very stable, no swaying, you wouldn't even know you were suspended in the air from cables. it did feel like we were flying above the city, but the views were of 1st avenue and FDR drive, which wasn't very photogenic. running next to the tramway trusses was the queensboro bridge.
once we arrived on roosevelt island, everyone got off to take photos. for some reason we thought the island would be deserted, but there was actually a lot of development, what looked to be office buildings, and maybe some apartments as well. no stores though, none that we could see at least. roosevelt island is actually not that remote: besides the tramway, you can also get there via subway, and there's even a bridge that goes to the island from astoria (none from manhattan however). i went to go use the station bathroom, by the time i was finished, frances and her family were already back inside the tramway station, waiting for the next cable car to arrive and take us back to manhattan.
back in manhattan, we made a beeline to bloomingdale's. apparently frances knew the area fairly well, as she would often come to bloomingdale's whenever she visited NYC in the past. as for me, i believe this was my very first to a bloomingdale's. not only that, but this was their flagship store. i was expecting it to be like macy's, but it seemed more high-class, more about luxury brands. fredrik took lars and june to use the bathroom, while i followed frances who took hans. bathrooms weren't that easy to find, and the elevators took forever to arrive for some reason.
once everyone had used the rest rooms, it was shopping time. as there was no toys in bloomingdale's it was sort of boring for the kids, but there was a nintendo display with a working console game and the children gathered around the screen to play. frances wanted to show lars the price of gucci items, when he expressed some interest after seeing a classmate with a gucci t-shirt (lars quickly lost interest when he saw the prices). frances was helping fredrik buy a suit, while i was just happy to be sitting down. june and lars were playing games on their phones, while hans was nowhere to be seen. i went back to the nintendo display where i found him playing zelda. i tried to coax him back to the grop but he told me his mother said it was okay as long as he stayed there. i was worried he might get abducted, but there were other store workers around who would hopefully keep an eye on him.
i went back to the suits department and waited. later hans came back with a store employee: apparently he tried returning but didn't remember where we were until he got help from someone. also while we were waiting, one of the employees came out and asked if we wanted water, and came back with bottled water for everyone. not only was the water cold, but it was also bloomingdale brand water, which i've never seen before. i sort of regret not bringing wangyang here when she visited last year, but it would've probably emptied her bank account if she did come.
the suit that fredrick bought had to be altered, so they needed to come back tomorrow to pick it up (today was wednesday, they weren't leaving until friday). so we left bloomingdale's, taking the 6 train to 33rd street, to get some barbecue in korea town before i returned to boston. by this point the rain had stopped.
i didn't have a place in mind, every time i've had korean barbecue in koreatown it's been to a different restaurant (which goes to show just how many korean bbq restaurants there are in koreatown). my advice was to peek inside, and if a bbq place looked good, we'd go in. we ended up settling on the kunjip, getting one of their upstairs tables long enough to fit all of us, leaving the wheelchair downstairs by the entrance. i asked frances if she was familiar with korean barbecue; turns out one of her uncles owned a korean barbecue restaurant in oslo.
we didn't order too much, with the addition of side dishes, suddenly the table was covered with bowls of food. it's also the sort of barbecue where the waitstaff cooks the food for you, so it was a crazy kaleidoscope of korean sights and fragrances and tastes. frances didn't think we had enough meat and ordered another barbecue combo. i ate so much i was near bursting again, just like yesterday. one of the waitresses brought out another small side dish (some sort of kimchi tofu), i managed to sample a little but really had to force the food down.
we also had to keep an eye on the clock, as my bus to boston was leaving at 6:40pm, and i'd take me 20 minutes to walk there. we finished by 6:10pm, which was perfect timing. frances ended up treating (just like she did with dim sum earlier). they handed me my bag of norwegian foods, we said our good byes, and i began walking down to my bus stop.
the bus stop was farther than i'd thought. in hindsight i should've taken the subway, but there was no guarantee the train would come in schedule, at least with walking i had better control of my own destiny. a few things weren't my favor however. first, i had a lot of cargo, from my backpack to my bundle of presents. second, i'd just finished one of the largest meals of the year, and now i had to speed walk more than a mile to my destination. i could feel the food balling up uncomfortably in my stomach, like a bad heartburn. finally, the winds! even though the rain had stopped, there was very strong winds like blew my bag in the air like a sail. nevertheless, i persevered, and finally got to the megabus stop across the javits center. i got in the boston line, but there were only a handful of people. finally a kid told me this was the line for the toronto bus. i looked back, and the bus to boston had already boarded. i quickly went to the bus, showed the attendant my ticket, put my backpack in cargo, and climbed onboard.
the bus was still pretty empty, with plenty of free seats in the back. i found a good seat, even had time to go downstairs and use the bathroom real quick before the bus left on schedule. i sat back in my seat and gave out a sigh of relief. i texted frances that i was on the bus and everything was fine. i then did some sightseeing as our bus traversed manhattan from south to north. just leaving the city took us an hour. once we were on the highway, there wasn't much to see so i slept.
i finally arrived in boston around 11:20pm, faster than i was expecting (i was thinking closer to midnight), but still slower than a typical trip between new york to boston (4 hours). after i grabbed my backpack from cargo (i had a fear that the bottle of chinese baijiu would break), i made a beeline to south station. it was a relief to be back on boston, the comforting feeling of familiarity, but i wouldn't be entirely relaxed until i was finally home. getting off at porter square and walking home, it was still very windy. i noticed the alarm was sounding at the corner bike store. i was going to call the police but i looked inside and didn't see anyone. what probably happened was somebody didn't close the back door tightly enough and the strong winds just blew it open. i'm sure the police would arrive soon so i didn't bother calling. i finally got back to the house by midnight, making pretty good time. i was determined to go straight to bed after a shower because i was so tired, but i got my energy back afterwards and didn't go to sleep until after i watched some late night talk shows.