Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Apple That Bites Back, Part 2

Oh, arch nemesis, thy name be procrastination. The memories must remain fresh in my head to continue typing what joys I experienced two Saturdays ago. A faithful reader mentioned that I ended the last entry on something of a cliffhanger, that the action kept building and building and then poof, end of entry. Well, to rectify that, I present to you the second day’s entry:

At around 11:30am, I woke up to ask myself what had happened the night before. My mind raced while I stayed in bed for about fifteen minutes. Thea emerged from her room, surprisingly well composed and not groggy considering she was here- there-and- everywhere last night and did a bit more jumping than I did. She took a seat on the bed and we tried to debrief about the evening, but to no avail. Sure, we could mention bits and pieces of what I mentioned in the last entry, but that’s it. The pace was much too rapid, the alcohol a little too free-flowing, and the memories a tad sparse. But that’s how any Friday night should go, right?

Yeah, about last night...

As good as our collective minds are, however, we knew we couldn’t spent the whole day backtracking. After getting ourselves spiffy clean and dressed as smart as could be, we set out for a nice semi-brunch (not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, and only on the periphery of brunch) at a good ol’ fashioned Irish pub for old times’ sake. Thea had the crab cakes and I had the bangers and mash (NYC Food Count: 4), and though that meal was several days ago, I still regret it. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good, but the sheer weight of it was… well, oof. A Chicagoan in New York indeed.

We needed a walk to use up as much bangers and mash in the tummy as possible, and we made the decision to go to the Museum of Natural History, the setting for Ben Stiller’s classic 2006 hit Cameos in Period Costumes aka Night at the Museum.* The sun was shining, traffic was steady, people were active, and everyone enjoyed a relatively normal Saturday afternoon in Manhattan. And then…

We were across the street waiting for a bus from the accident when it happened. We both saw the Mercedes speed through a Madison red light at 79th street, where it collided with two more cars at 80th before pulling a 180 and hitting another car and into the store. We joined other pedestrians in approaching the crash site. I called 911 (the operator asked for my number! Chicago, learn a lesson!) while Thea tried to gather as much visually as possible. Luckily, no one was too badly hurt, but a few pedestrians around us had to let loose. One woman ran behind us to a corner in order to cry, another woman ran after to console her.

However, I’ll always remember the loud Jamaican lady who screamed out hysterically in an “I told you so” kind of lecture, pointing at everyone as if the accident was our fault, yet blaming the driver for not being careful enough. I was about to snap at the lady since she wasn’t helping any matters by being morally superior to everyone else, but that would do no good, either. The funny thing is, now news reports say that the driver lost control and that the accident was probably due to mechanical failure. I hope Jamaican lady reads that and feels salty like the ocean to the east.

Thea was still out of breath while my thoughts were scrambled all over. Since New York is never a boring town, we left as soon as the fire trucks arrived, as the bus arrived at just the right time. We hopped on board and tried to process all that. The bus drove through Central Park, but I feel like I missed some of the sights because we kept replaying the crash in our heads. From that point on, we were much more cautious about when we cross streets.

So, we made it to the museum, where we found a fulldome video show called, aptly enough, Cosmic Collisions. We (perhaps morbidly) joked that we saw cars collide, now let’s see planets collide. We bought our tickets a half hour early and spent time "interacting" with various beasts of old.

Running of the Theas. Coincidentally, at the other side of the museum...

We made our way to the show, narrated by the great Robert Redford, and we had many, many audible gasps throughout. Being a space geek, I highly recommend it. And the next time I’m in NYC, I’d love to spend more time at the museum.

We do things big.

Hiking up to some galleries not too far away, Thea and I did battle (re: ran around inside) a giant Bamboo Iron Dino Snake. All in a day’s work, I suppose. You could climb inside and the snake curls upward. The snake itself is made of some heavy duty metal, but it’s held up almost solely by bamboo. The floors inside (the “bottom” of the snake) are made of bamboo as well, though held together by plastic straps and feeling like they could give way at any moment. There was even a warning sign saying that only three people were allowed. Of course, six fully grown adults went in, but what did we care? We saw cars and planets crash.

I found a way out, but it's not going to be pretty!

Off we went to a few more galleries before we stopped over at Union Square for some nice desserts. If we filled up on semi-brunch, we sort of sapped our energy from all the activity and excitement of the day. Thea bought a thick, creamy brownie and I had a large Red Velvet cupcake, one of my few weaknesses (NYC Food Count: 5. But since it was Red Velvet, we’ll up it to 6). On a side note, Red Velvet cake was invented at the Waldorf-Astoria, according to Steve Cohen. Oh, Waldorf, you’ll always be in my heart…

Also, a thing about Union Square… outside of concerts and Formerly Known As at Big Chicks, this was the largest concentration of hipsters, urbanites, and fashionistas I had ever seen. Tight jeans everywhere. Blazers and kaffiyehs in the midst of humidity. Huge sunglasses and chuck tailors all over. Ill fitting t-shirts and fedoras surrounded us. For such a humid and sticky day, everyone was surprisingly chill. There was no mob mentality, they were much too frigid for that.

Pictured: Union Square's Ratio of Hipsters Per Square Inch

Seeing all these young people make connections, I suppose, prompted us to try and contact our old friend Joey. A few years older than us, he was part of the triumvirate we formed ten years ago at our mothers’ college reunion. We’ve seen each other sparsely since then, but the three of us hadn’t been together in that time. Living in NYC to earn his JD at Rutgers, the time was ideal for us to reunite. And, much to our surprise, his brother Jeremy was also in town, also graduating from Hoffstra with a BA degree in film. Ten years is a long time for us not to see each other as a group, and Thea and I became excited/agitated/frustrated/nervous/enthusiastic to see Joey again, but we had no idea what we would be truly up against until dinner. In comparison, suddenly the Bamboo Iron Dino Snake didn’t seem so bad…

To be concluded….

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Apple That Bites Back, Part 1

I should be ashamed of myself. It’s been a week since I left for New York City to see the Divine Butterfly herself Miss Thea Vanessa, leading to one of the most exciting weekends I’ve had, and only now am I blogging about it. I will procrastinate no more! If NYC taught me anything, it’s that you cannot let up. You simply cannot stand still or else… things happen. Or don’t happen. Or do happen but not in the way you would like. Or something to that effect. Then again, if I had waited until 5/21/09, I would have been in the midst of Fleet Week. No joke.

Code Name: Shore Leave

Here is the first day’s entry:

My flight was mostly uneventful. The stewardess emphasized that if passengers wanted seconds (or thirds) of complimentary soft drinks and snacks, they were more than welcome to do so. In order to test what sounded like a boast, I ordered not one but TWO cans of Sprite Zeroes. Kudos to living up to your word.

Of course, I did use the qualifier “almost.” The last half hour was dominated by a Filipino with a cowboy hat and neon blue shirt (who earlier had a rather nice back pack made of straw) who kept leading the passenger to his left into a discussion/debate about those two social no-no’s called religion AND politics. He had something to prove to no one who asked, and worse yet, he had a high-pitched voice. Yes, this voice was so annoying that it completely overrode any points he made on the virtues of organized religion and the Republican Party.

We landed in JFK, and I was a little lost and slightly flustered. JetBlue’s Terminal 5 is a mix between upscale mall and Starfleet Headquarters, but with more neon lights. Everyone was in a rush. Oh, the Hare Krishna tried to get me, but I gave them a dose of my tried-and-true Heat Vision, which wasn’t personal but just a measure of self-defense.

Navigating the MTA subway system was daunting. It took awhile for me to realize that I’d have to use three trains to reach my destination. By comparison, Chicago’s L is color-coded and London’s Tube leaves room for error . I hesitantly boarded the AirTrain from JFK to my next train. Lately quite a few friends and acquaintances have moved to NYC, and from time to time I wished I would run into someone I knew.

I forgot to wish that I would run into someone who would know me, so my wish technically came true; I recognized Animal House legend Tim Matheson (That Guy actor extraordinaire), traveling with who I assume to be his wife and son. I walked over, asked him if he really was who I thought he was out of curiosity, and he shook my hand and chatted me up for a bit. After the three of them reached their stop and disembarked, the thought that I forgot to ask him his autograph and perhaps came across as rude flashed for but a moment.

Pictured: Tragically misinterpreted wish

Reaching the subway, punching through people to reach my trains became my next objective. I confess, aside from seeing Thea, I wasn’t too thrilled about going to NYC. I’ve gone every year from 1991 to 2003. My only real memories include the usual touristy spots, fun family times, feelings of vast insignificance coupled with little personal consequence, and layers upon layers of grime. Fighting past the crowds like salmon swimming upstream would be no problem for a Chicagoan, but I just happened to come on a day of 90%+ humidity, too. I was back, and the city remembered our old dance.

I finally made it to Thea’s gallery, the Paul Thiebaud Gallery. It’s beautiful inside, with nice high ceilings and at the time Chinese contemporary art on the walls, being installed when I walked in. A thought crossed my mind: “How cosmo could I get? Travelling from out of town and my first stop is seeing an exhibition installation in a Manhattan art gallery?” Woo!

I went back to Thea’s apartment with her coworkers Min and Stella (drinkin’ buddy) and had some decent Mexican food (NYC Food Count: 1). We prepped and headed out to the Waldorf-Astoria for a magic show and reception in the Presidential Suites, all of which was a surprise birthday party for their boss. And I say this because frankly, how often can anyone claim such a thing? We were easily the youngest people there, and so there was quite a bit of intimidation.

Adorable: Little Kids at the Grown-Ups’ Party

The magician himself was very engaging and very much a pro. His craftsmanship, artistry, and showmanship was superb.His name is Steve Cohen, and I call him the Majewcian, but he preferred the slightly arrogant moniker of the Millionaires Magician. Who am I to argue? Only 40 people were invited into the party (and thus the show), and Thea and Co. (and me) were probably the only plebeians there, invited by the good will of the boss’s wife. So yes, I consider myself lucky, and I consider luck magic.

Luck, Parlor Tricked-Out

I must say, I met quite a number of very pleasant people who were not at all what I expected (and I didn’t expect much, rarely being in a situation like this before. One was a Clinton staffer!). If I ever get to hobnob with elites, I know I can rely on my handy-dandy crowd-pleasing improve skills. Props to Mick, the bartender with beer AND vertical hops. On top of that, the desserts and hors d'ouerves were excellent, complete with champagne and three wines (NYC Food Count: 2)

After that, Stella, Thea, and I went to a Korean restaurant in gasp Koreatown and had lychee soju. I never had soju before, and thus I was surprised how quickly and fluidly my buzz came about (NYC Food Count: 3). Good conversation, new people, baseball, and futbol make for a great combination.

Pictured: Giving New York a run for its money (Get it? GET IT?!)

Thea and I didn’t get home until 2:30am or so. Of course, we asked what just happened, as we couldn’t process the events of the day. Exhaustion is good, but this was only round 1. I was determined to stand up to whatever NYC had to throw at me, but she started the match with great fury.