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.

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