48 hours in New York City

A few hours prior to our departure for New York City on Friday night, I was coming out of our bathroom, and in a completely uncoordinated move, kicked the doorframe with my bare left foot. It caused a lot of pain and when I was able to look down (after sweating profusely), my little toe was pointing away from, rather than towards, the rest of my toes. I bandaged it to the next toe and applied ice, but the damage had been done.

When we met Bec on the lobby of our condo at 5:30 so we could walk to the subway together, I was hobbling. The walk took a while but luckily was not too far and I was able to sit on the way to the airport. Alastair met us at Kipling Station, where we caught the Airport Rocket to terminal 3. Upon exiting the bus, we saw an abandoned wheelchair so I got in and was chauffeured through the hospital by Alastair. We then left the wheelchair behind.

We had our best experience yet with US Border Control. When we stepped up, the officer asked, without inflection, “what is your relationship?” We had been primed for something less appropriate so we pleasantly surprised by this professional approach. We even chatted with her and she asked what I’d done to my foot. Pleasant. I wish I’d taken down her name. She’s the perfect example of how it should be done.

Julian was waiting for us as the gate. Hassan got through security eventually and then, without any delay, it was time to board our one hour and two minute flight to New York. Glen and I were sitting in the exit row. I had been positioned by the window but when asked if I was capable of handling an emergency situation, I said no, that I had a broken toe, and Glen would be much better suited.

We had the three seats to ourselves and it was a pleasant journey, over quickly. Dad went to Sydney this weekend which is a four hour flight from Perth. Being able to get to New York in an hour is heaven.

We landed and, as no one had checked luggage, we were soon out of the airport, into transport and wending our way to Manhattan. Our taxi driver was insane and I thought we were going to die at any moment. Luckily, we survived and got to Aaron’s apartment in West Village. Unfortunately he’s away this weekend so we won’t get to see him, but he very kindly lent us use of his apartment (again).

Despite earlier protestations that we would be going to bed once we arrived, we went in search of food nearby. We settled on Sushi Samba, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant. We had some drinks, ate some tasty food (so good to eat food with lots of flavor again) and then went to Marie’s Crisis, a singalong piano bar where the patrons sing songs from musical theatre.

There were songs from Rocky Horror, Les Mis, Oklahoma and Rent. Some I knew (and song along to), some I didn’t (and mimed to). Glen didn’t know any of the songs so was a little lost. Plus it was very crowded with not much room to move. We stayed for a couple of drinks and then headed home for bed.

Saturday

I get a bit anxious organising groups of people. There are nine of us on New York this week (Umberto had arrived on Thursday) but we’d whittled down our expectations to meeting at one location to find food at Chelsea Market. We aimed to meet at 9, which was easier for us as we were closest, with the rest arriving by 9:30.

Chelsea Market wasn’t too busy when we got in so finding food was easy. We settled for some Aussie meat pies (served by an Aussie). I thought it strange that, as an Aussie ‘tuck shop’, it didn’t spell savoury with a u. The pie was watery but edible. We also had some doughnuts.

We solidified more of our plans. Glen, Julian and I booked tickets for a matinee of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while Bec and Al booked for A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Once done, we walked the High Line. It’s a lot greener than it was when I was here in November (obviously) and a lot busier too. I hobbled along at a slow pace, which was quite pleasant for a change (except for the pain).

We bid farewell to Hassan and Umberto who went to The Met, while the rest of us had lunch at a restaurant somewhere before going off to our matinees.

Darren Criss was headlining as Hedwig and he was excellent. I haven’t seen all of the movie version of Hedwig so my expectations were a little mishmashed. The narrative is a little obscure and was a bit hard to follow at times but overall the performance (his acting and his singing) were outstanding. We had no trouble giving a standing ovation for this one. I’m really pleased we got the chance to see it. The seats were good too (though the theatre was freezing).

After the musical, we walked up to Uniqlo to buy Glen a jacket. I bought some new gym shorts too. We then walked down to the New York public library, had a look inside, then caught a taxi home. We changed then walked to the Noodle Bar to meet the others for dinner.

Because it was so early in the evening (about 6pm), Al and Bec were able to secure the seven seats we needed. Julian, Glen and I had been to this restaurant the last time we were here, and Glen had been hanging out for a return visit. We ordered a bunch of dishes and shared them between us. We ordered just enough to leave full but still have room for ice cream, which we got from a shop on a nearby corner.

We then had plenty of time to walk across town to the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB Theatre) where we had tickets for the 10pm improvisation comedy show. Bec’s friend Victoria, who lives in New York, had bought us the tickets and came along as well with her partner, Simon. Because we were there early, we sat in the bar and had some drinks until it was time to go in.

There were five actors on stage. At the beginning they asked for a member of the audience to come up and share a story from their love life. A woman called Mary Jane jumped up and relayed her tale, which the actors then used to create little comedic vignettes on stage. Then in the second half they chose a word shouted out by the audience and then created scenes that spun off from that. It was all very funny and we had lots of good laughs.

After the show we went in search of some supper, choosing first a loud Jamaican restaurant where we sat down and then left before ordering anything, and then went to Momofuku Noodle Bar (which I have no desire to go to ever again). On the walk to the restaurants, I said to Victoria that I was certain I’d met her before and she pretty quickly pieced together that we shared a mutual friend and I’d met her about ten or so years prior at Curtin University. Talk about a small world.

Glen, Julian and I left the restaurant as soon as we had finished eating and walked home to collapse into bed at about 1:30. No late night dancing for us. My toe was nice and purple by then anyway.

Sunday

We woke to some sad news that the father of one of our close friends had passed away overnight (during the day in Perth time). We both felt awful that we couldn’t be there to offer our condolences in person or to do more to help the family at this sad time. This is when distance is so hard.

I also called my grandmother as it’s Mother’s Day and we had a chat. Glen gave her some medical advice as she’d recently had a fall and, while back at home, still had some bad swelling. It was nice to talk to her regardless.

The previous night we’d decided to forgo trying to coordinate brunch with everyone, especially as it’s Mother’s Day here too and everywhere would be busy. Glen, Julian and I went to Cafe Cluny, which is just around the corner from us. Julian and I had been there before. Luckily we were able to get in without a wait. Food was good and very welcome.

We caught a taxi uptown to the Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park. The Cloisters is part of the Met Museum that houses medieval European art. It’s also designed and built to look like a medieval monastery complete with chapels and cloisters. It’s in a nice spot too as the park is a reasonable sign, very green and beside the river. It’s one of those places that doesn’t feel like it’s in New York.

There was a lot of old religious art, relics and bits of old buildings from Europe that had been collected and brought back to America. It was interesting to see these things in their architectural context, but I must admit I didn’t read too many of the signs that talked about the meanings behind the paintings, just enough of the ones that I found interesting. I’ve seen a lot of religious medieval art and it starts to blur after a while. (Yes, I’m a philistine.)

The cloisters themselves (gardens surrounded by a covered walkway) were my favourite and again, a peaceful part of the city you’d never expect to find. One of the gardens is arranged like a medieval garden with time-appropriate plants arranged into their uses (e.g. medicinal, culinary, craft). After about an hour, we left and walked down the rest of Fort Tryon park, then caught the train to Chinatown.

Our walk down Canal St was a typical experience, I’m told, whereby lots of people ask you if you want to buy watches, perfume, purses etc. If you say yes, they then lead you down some dark alley to a whole in the wall where the fake merchandise is sold. We didn’t take anyone up on their offer. Apparently it’s a little scary as you’re not sure if you’re going to get a new bag or abducted.

We walked through Chinatown–which looks like every other Chinatown in the Western world–and went for yum cha at one of the oldest yum cha restaurants in Chinatown. It was busy, the food was ok, but it might have been better off going elsewhere. We went against our usual rule, which is if the place is full of white people, it’s usually not the greatest.

After a very filling late lunch, we walked to the start of the Brooklyn Bridge (we didn’t walk it but we took some photos). We then decided it was time to go home for a bit of a rest, so we caught the subway back to the apartment. We rested for a few hours, before heading out to get some food at the tapas place on the corner.

Aaron and Justin arrived back at about quarter to seven so we had a short catchup with them before it was time to go to the airport. I was sad to say goodbye. We’ll probably see Aaron at Christmas back in Perth, which will be great but different from seeing him in New York.

We arrived at the airport an hour before we were meant to depart but our flight had been delayed an hour and then another fifteen minutes (as had Al and Bec’s earlier) due to thunderstorms in Toronto. We boarded after 10 and landed just before midnight. Home by one. Asleep in five. Whirlwind trip complete.

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