Friday, November 5, 2010
Flashback Friday - My trip to New York last year
“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy…”
My NY Trip
I was finally on the verge of fulfilling a life-long dream-To see the Big Apple. The place has always captivated me mainly because of its mythical status as a place that exists “out there”. Out there in the history books-Out there in the movies –Out there where Robert Deniro roams the dark streets in a taxi-Out there where Andy Warhol displayed his portraits of American icons while surrounded by the city eccentrics-Out there where “The Warriors” are being chased by gangs in the trains to avenge the killing of a gang leader-Out there where Kool Herc played break beat records in the Bronx to the youth in what became Hip Hop as we know it now. The truth is that the city has been cleaned up and the trains have very little graffiti. I was to discover that although things change, they oftentimes remain unchanged in its essence and character.
DYING IS EASY
Before the trip, I got ill. Where I got ill, I will never know. But, if I had to bet, I’d say I got sick at the casino. (Did you catch that clever pun?). Once, after losing cash and hope at the Commerce Casino, I noticed that I felt very weak. So it is with this lowered immune and running nose that I approach The John Wayne Airport. The good news is that I get to share same oxygen with, I don’t know, 250 other fuckin’ people! I close my eyes pretending to be normal. I feel worse. I want to vomit and I have to shit. My body is basically telling me, “ what is inside must come out”. I ask the stewardess(Is that correct?) for water and I prevent an episode of chunk projectiles. We arrive at the Chicago airport. I must compliment the Chicago airport for their clean and heavy duty toilets. I was relieved. We take a plane from Chicago to New York. I close my eyes and when I wake up I was in La Guardia.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THE MAP
We arrived in N Y and now what? We still need to reach Brooklyn Heights. (We rented an apartment for 5 days). We were lost and we had luggage out. We did have a map and a one week pass to travel. As soon as we stepped out into New York, I got hit with the elements. It was cold and windy and the air smelled like diesel fuel. I was in NY and air quality doesn’t mean shit here. We asked a black lady how to get to Brooklyn Heights and were told that we need to take a bus and a train to our location. While waiting for the bus, I noticed a young Asian man talking loudly to himself. “You made a big mistake”, he kept muttering to himself. I began to think that he may have been talking about me. I felt at home. It reminded me of Hollywood where they take schizophrenia to a new level. On the bus it was mainly brothas’ and sistas’. (That’s right I said it. They had attitude (shocking) and were pretty funny. I got to overhear a phone conversation. I can’t recall the details; just that it was funny. They had “Homeland Security” jackets. I thought to myself, “America is doomed”.
We stood in an old apartment in a town called Brooklyn Heights. We were by the river near a promenade. From the park you could see the river and the Brooklyn Bridge. I fed the pigeons and they liked me. It turns out that just liked my bread. The buildings looked like a street scene of Seinfeld or the Cosby Show; Old buildings made of bricks and couples walking their dogs. The leaves were bright yellow and orange and it was very windy. The place smelled of wet leaves and dog shit. This created a dichotomy. On the one hand, the leaves and buildings are beautiful. On the other hand, it smells like dog shit. The people seemed to be comfortably middle class; almost yuppie. I knew I wasn’t in the “real” Brooklyn. There were no black people. I wanted to see where the Notorious B.I.G lived. The place was safe to walk at night. I also noticed that all the blocks leave their garbage in big bags out front. Apparently, the mob still runs the rubbish industry and Mickey “the ears” Luizzini picks up the garbage if and when he wants. There was a neighborhood store that sold produce and goods for high prices. There were Delis and several mom and pop shops. They had an Indian Restaurant that was delicious until my girlfriend discovered a roach in her soup. The vibe here was positive. The local Starbucks was always filled with people reading or couples talking or working on their computer. Across the street they sold muffins. I bought one and enjoyed it. I kept drinking OJ. I was still sick.
The good thing about having a week pass is that allowed us to travel NY by train. We took many, many trains to be like the locals. On one trip I wanted to yell, “Holy Torah there is a lot of fuckin’ Jews here!” But that would be considered anti-Semitic. Seriously, on one trip there were 20 Hasidic Jews on the train-black coats, curly hair, bearded and all. The waiting station is hot and riding the train made me very uncomfortable only because I have social phobia and riding the train forced me to be close to strangers. It was worse when I had to stand and gaze at people’s empty stares. There were a few entertainers as well that helped with the wait and ride. There was this white girl who fiddled country tunes. There was a Latino guitar player that changed a tune to Spanish when he saw my girlfriend and I. There were bongo players on the train. The New Yorkers were very gracious with giving directions. We got around the city simply by saying, “Hey how do I get to X?”
I was supposed to see a hip hop show at a hall in Harlem but I went on the wrong day so I got to walk around near the Apollo Theatre. I liked Harlem. They had a lot of Hustlers outside their shops trying to sell you shit. It was very busy on the street but I didn’t stay there long.
Have you ever seen an army of ants attack a piece of bread on the ground? That’s what Time Square is like-millions of people, millions of lights and just nonstop energy. It was impressive. But, again, too many people in too small a space. I ate a hot dog off a stand cuz I had to. I was in NY and the hot dog sucked but I did my duty as a tourist. I took a picture of an Asian lady dressed as Hello Kitty. As soon as she removed the head, I snapped a picture. That is my favorite picture.
STATUTE OF LIBERTY
Took the Ferry and waited my ass off. By this point in the trip I had mucus in my lungs and was spitting like a sailor. Got to where the statute is and the bitch is big and green.
We went to Lil’ Italy at night and it was beautiful. The main block was bigger than I thought and we ended up in some restaurant. I ate Lasagna. When I left, the man said, “Grazi”. I was like, ”hell yeah that was Fuckin’ Italian. There were countless rows of restaurants, lights, bars, and Italian flags hanging from buildings. I was disappointed to not witness a mob hit.
They are all the same.
This park was amazing because the landscape looks like a Monet painting. There were tons of trees and the orange leaves were like it was part of a romantic scene. There were many couples, and joggers, as well as people giving tours on bikes and horses. Most of the tour guides were Jamaican. One directed me to the bathroom. It was windy and cold and my body wasn’t used to it. I didn’t venture too deep into the park but it was a magical place.
This place had tons of Gays. That’s cool I’m anti Prop 8 but man oh man I heard so many lisps that night. I had the best pizza ever at John’s of Bleeker Street. Apparently, this is Woody Allen’s favorite place, besides elementary schools. Outside, on the window is a signed poster of the Ramones. We walked around a bit and stumbled onto a bar that played live New Orleans style Jazz. Super Fuckin’ cool. I would definitely go back. The waitress was nice and the customers were as well. The jazz players were these old guys with mad skills on the trumpet, trombone, and drums. It was fun and low key.
I put on the ice skates, held the rail, and left after 20 minutes. My old bones were aching.
It was pretty emotional to be at the place where the 911 attack took place. It was boarded up so I had to see it from its parameter. But you still get to appreciate the enormity of the damage as the hole where the twin towers is still there. Also, on the other side, the fire department lies smack across and I got to see and videotape the wall of the station that is a memorial to the fire fighters that lost their lives. It was very sad to be there. Directly facing Ground Zero are buildings that were present when the 911 attacks took place. The buildings were huge and to think that the twin towers dwarfed those. Recently I was watching “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy and there is a night scene where Eddie is on a date and you can see the lit twin towers in the back. It was chilling.
THE JOKE’S ON ME
A funny incident occurred on one night. My girlfriend and I decided to go to a comedy club in Manhattan. The host was trying to make small talk with the audience members; looking to embarrass them later. I know the game. For this reason, we decided to sit in the back to be invisible. It didn’t work. “Hey you back there. Where are you from?”(Silence).”Hello you two” he continued. (more silence). “Habla Ingles?” In an instant, the host determined that we were non-English Speaking immigrants from Mexico. He’s almost correct. That became the tag line. Even now I ask my girlfriend, “Habla Ingles?”
NY is not Los Angeles. This is obvious logically. But until you experience it subjectively, you can’t begin to appreciate the nuances. For one NY has few Mexicans. I missed the homies and their attitude. I missed Mexican food. I couldn’t find a taco stand anywhere. True Story: I went to a deli in Brooklyn Heights and asked the waiter if he could get me a side of salsa. “Marinara sauce?” he asked. I asked if he had tortillas. He chuckled and said no. They had neither. The guy looked Hispanic. I thought he would feel my pain of eating food tortilla-free. I do like the direct communication of New Yorkers. Cut to the chase man. I have shit to do. “ Hello how are you today?” NO! I don’t want to bond with you sales person at Old Navy.
I could see how Californians could interpret the direct talk as rude but I am of the opinion that wasting time communicating is ruder still. Because NY is so compact, a lot of shit is at walking distance. That was pretty cool-to be able to survive without a car. The thing is you pay a price for that. The price is a lack of private space. I liked the energy of NY. There is a night life and tons of people are out and about doing shit. L.A sucks in this regard. You pretty much have to go Hollywood or the Westside to do shit and then when you arrive, you have to contend with Paris Hilton wannabes.
That reminds me, in NY people are too busy to be worried about “image”. I got a sense from observing the street vendors that work is work and even the least glamorous workers like those passing out flyers take pride in that. I liked that. It’s like New Yorkers are being reminded daily of the hustle that is New York. I learned that you need a lot of time to see NY. There is so much to do. But for me, the adventure was in not knowing what was going to happen. It was like watching movie in real time where I didn’t know the ending and at the end of the show I felt entertained and gained a little more insight. Credits roll…