13 August 2006

Seventh avenue meets Broadway

New York is awesome! After plans to go away camping on the August long weekend fell through, I decided to put the time that I’d already booked off work to good use and take a bite out of the Big Apple. Strange that for someone who’d been all over the world, I’d never been to NYC –even though it’s only 45 minutes away by plane. I was totally stoked to rectify that situation with a five-day trip there. I even managed to find an insanely cheap airfare on usually expence Air Canada, thereby saving me the trauma of the very un-shinkansen-ish 13-hour train ride (218$ versus the train’s 196$ seemed barely logical).

I stayed with my friend Andrew, another former Tokyoite, in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bed-Stuy. Apparently this is ‘ghetto’ –Lil’ Kim was even born here– but I found it quite friendly actually. (About a million times less scary than Vancouver’s Hastings & Main; no syringes on the pavement or passed-out Native crack-whores. Just yummy Popeye’s Chicken and Dunkin’ Donuts). Being from Canada, I don’t really feel I have that much experience with ghettos, but I’ve always imagined them to be hostile and dangerous (since that’s what TV told me to believe). That didn’t really seem to be the case with Bed-Stuy –at least not the part I saw anyway. And although the JMZ subway line wasn’t working for part of the time while I was there, it was still just a short hop across the Williamsburg Bridge to the Lower East Side, so it was super-convenient. Bed-Stuy put ya lighters up!

When I landed in LaGuardia, I was greeted by the pilot’s 9AM weather report of 34°C! The trip, while being totally awesome and amazing, had the salient feature of being very much like a tropical sauna. Especially the subway stations –no bloody air conditioning! While the subway cars themselves were comfortable (and generally un-graffitti-ed), the platforms were absolutely stifling. I’m talking worse than Tokyo on the worst day! After I dropped off my suitcase at my friend’s office on the Upper West Side, I sweated my way down Central Park and ran though some sprinklers to cool down. Fun! Continued on to Times Square, partaking in a rather disappointing NYC vendor-cart hot dog (Toronto’s vendor dogs are far superior and far larger). Then did a bit of shopping at ‘Century 21’ –a crazy, designer-discount madness across the street from the World Trade Center site. And by ‘a bit’ I mean I went totally crazy. I did sooo much shopping on this trip, spent far too much money of course, but I was able to get some tokyoitis shopping bugs out of my system (for now). Tonnes of fun stuff in New York – though I wasn’t able to track down any good underpants in fancy department stores like Saks or Bloomingdale’s. I even braved Macy’s crazy wooden escalators to no avail. I guess I’ll just have to depend on my lovely Tokyo friends for that (hint-wink-nudge).

The next day I braved the morning rush hour trains with my friend as he went to work in Manhattan (not even close to Tokyo's train-pushers rush hour BTW). I had a commuter’s breakfast at Grand Central Station and then maximised my geekosity and co-leveraged my nerdness with a tour of the super-sexy United Nations. God, I am such a nerd!! I totally loved it. It’s always wicked to see a place that you’ve seen in so often in photos but never in person. I did not love, however, the obnoxious, white ültra-Republican from Ohio who clearly did not like the U.N. –What happens when a country doesn’t pay their dues?,” tour guide explains, –“Well that doesn’t seem very effective!” “What’s the point of making a resolution if it’s not legally binding?” “Why don’t all countries participate equally in peace-keeping missions?” Gawd, I’m thinking, if you don’t like the U.N., why did you even bother coming on this tour? No one forced you. It’s like taking a holiday in Switzerland, but you hate coo-coo clocks and are allergic to chocolate and cheese! I hope that family had a horrible return trip to their whitey, suburban Americana lala-land. Serves them right! I still had a fabulous time, and Meredith suggested I apply as a U.N. tour guide myself –I’d be well qualified with my cunning linguistic skill.

U.N. tour followed by more shopping (naturally). And all this talk of shopping has reminded me one of the things I noticed most about New York was that it’s majorly all about the cash money. Even in Tokyo, where everyone has a Vuitton bag, or Hong Kong, a place founded on commerce alone, don’t come close to rivaling the sheer ostentation and blingyness of the Big Apple. Who has it, where you spend it, how you got it. Money money money moh-ney! So, obviously right up my alley –haha.

Saturday saw Andrew and me hitting the MoMA for an art overload. Too much art! It’s almost stupid how much art is all together there at the same place. It was a bit of a late start to the day, so by the time we were MoMAed-out, it was time for some shopping pick-me-up with the fancy people on Fifth Avenue. As I mentioned, no luck with the expensive underwear, but still totally fun. I brought the book Breakfast at Tiffany’s to read with me on the trip, so I simply had to recreate all my favourite Holly Golightly scenes. (So gay!).

Sunday I was able to meet up with Jane for another art overload at the Guggenheim. They were having an exhibition of Zaha Hadid, an up-and-coming Iraqi-born British archi-supertech à la Frank Gehry. She had some really cool designs –including a BMW car factory in Hannover where cars on the production line move through the office space on conveyor-belts enroute to other parts of the factory. However the archi-speak (as well as the art-speak from the MoMA the day previous) was a bit difficult to stomach at times. Ex: “While squarer than her previous outputs, the contextuality remains firmly Hadidian.”

Jane and I then met up with Andrew and proceeded to eat the biggest piece of meat I’ve ever seen at delicious Café Habana. Seriously, this thing was bigger than my head –I have no idea who could possibly eat that much meat all at once, but I certainly did give it the ol college try (and failed miserably, the uneaten mass of pork chop staring back from my place in a mocking gesture of defiance).

I rounded out the rest of the weekend with drinks avec Meredith, Sunday night gay bar, the top of the Empire State Building and more shopping (of course more shopping!).

So, in summery:
New York City: gritty urban realism
............................ghetto fabulous
............................Pet Shop Boys versus Lil’ Kim
Shopping: ........ Century 21, Filene’s Basement
Food: ................ Café Habana
Subway Stations: like a monsoon pressure cooker in a global warming heat wave
UN tour guide: . Austrian
Don’t Miss: ....... Chrysler Building Lobby
Overall: ............. Awesome!

3 comments:

jase said...

Sweetie, two things...one, I'm ALWAYS on the lookout for over-priced undies over here in Nippon for your wearing pleasure (payday's Sept. 10th so I wouldn't be expecting it in the next day or two) and two, did you get me a novelty Statue of Liberty? (That lights up. Or vibrates. Or both.) Oh, and I'm so glad you got to experience NY's mecha-pretzels! Those things are the shizz (on my nizzle fo' rizzle)...Shinjuku put yo lighters up!
PS by the by, Lil Kim needs to get a decent weave and some lip synching practice. Girlfriend be all over the place. She one hot mess. Mmmm-hmmm.

Princess Pessimism said...

Ohh...I couldnt believe that youd never been to NYC. It was part of what I loved about living where I did in MA. It was less than 2 hours on the express train. I actually miss going every other weekend quite a bit.

Im really surprised you didnt make it to Soho to go shopping *unless you did, but didnt mention it in your summary* I mean, I know the Gug is in that area, but the shopping is to DIE for, and easily one of my most favorite bits of NYC. It will give you another reason to head back there.

tokyo tintin said...

PP-- i didn't mention soho directly in the blog. giving a blow-by-blow of everything that happened to me while in NY was getting tedious, i mixed it up and edited. there are pictures of soho in the photo album though. you're right, i totally did love it. --fantastic! shopping overload really.