Thursday, November 13, 2014

USA - Day 7. The Day After

Well, one last entry on the States before it completely becomes a memory. Painful. But let’s keep the joy going for a few more pages. Saturday after the wedding I finally had some time for myself. I woke up early as usual. There is no time for sleep or food in the land of my dreams. Let me remember…  Yes, it was raining. And I did not have an umbrella. I ran again to the Deli on the corner of the street and got one for 3 bucks. It served its purpose and it still does. I had the entire day to kill until dinner time when the gang would reunite to revaluate the post-wedding situation.

Looking for the closest stores to go to

My destination at the end of the day
So against the rain, calm and soothing, against the puddles collecting on the sidewalks and the leaking tree leaves above my head, I left the hostel in search of a little bit of adventure. As I said, for once in my life I did not want to be a tourist. I never felt like a tourist in this country in the first place. Yes, I was curious to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park, get on top of the Rockefeller Building and get the great view of NYC and possibly run to the Statue of Liberty and see the old lady and her ongoing flame. But the truth is that none of that was a priority. For the first time I was by myself in the country where I always wanted to be and it felt like taking pictures of my own home which would have been redundant haha. I would rather walk and enjoy the view, feel the city, inhale the smell of the small food shops, observe the people like a stalker and see what’s trendy. How people are in New York. So many women wearing either blonde or chestnut hair. I remember I had a sudden urge to change the color of my hair to chestnut. I had a previous attempt a few months back but I wasn’t fully convinced of the change so eventually I went back to blonde. But this time I needed the change so badly I almost entered a saloon for a makeover. But I held it together because I didn’t want to spend a few hours in a chair no matter my urges haha. I went deeper into Upper Manhattan in search of shops that I had selected the day before. Eventually I found the TJ Max I was looking for and as usual I got one or two things for me but many more gifts for friends and family. I don’t know. I always find it more pleasant and challenging to look for things for other people because I am motivated to find things they might enjoy so loking for the right gift is always fun for me.  Even if it’s just small things. So I spent a while there until hunger drove me out. It was still raining. I found a Whole Foods store. Rather expensive but surely an interesting experience. It’s like a huge shop where you can buy food and other things, but also have lunch in a special designated area and they have literally everything on the menu. From raw greens to already made salads and cooked food of all sorts, beef, pork, sausages, baked potatoes, rice, God knows! You combine them, place them in little boxes and then they weigh them and you pay per 100 grams. That’s why it’s rather expensive. I remember I paid like 22 bucks for three types of salad and some baked potatoes. But they were delicious and for a first time, it was a good experience. A hearing impaired person worked there. I did not know where to take a fork and napkins from so I realized he was an employee and went to ask him. Obviously, from outside you can’t say he couldn’t speak or hear. But when he started gesturing I immediately recognized the language as I’ve seen it in all the kids at Light into Europe. He showed me where they were and I thanked him with a huge smile and he was very appreciative of it. I felt literally happy and content to see people like him employed in such a busy store, quite demanding because there were lots and lots of people. And he did beautifully. I want to see this happening here, in Romania. Now that would give me a real sense of accomplishment when it comes to my support to this cause. Maybe he didn’t do God knows what of a job, but he took his small responsibilities seriously and he was as useful to me as any healthy employee had been. No difference. Ah! Really a great feeling!
TJ Max before going out

Lunch ar Whole Foods
Once out of there I started walking back and was desperately looking for a place to get coffee from. No Starbucks in sight. Horrible! I saw this small coffee shop that was actually pretty crowded for a Saturday morning and I went inside. I sat at the bar and ordered a latte and a chocolate chip cookie. That was like my favorite food in America haha. And they did this really nice design with the milk foam and that chocolate chip cookie was as big as it can get. Yum Yum! So tender and tasty and delicious! My brain is munching on it right now so better keep my mouth closed ‘cause I am drooling! Haha I was there for quite a while. The weather outside wasn’t necessarily inviting me out. Plus I made a quick call home to check on grandpa before they all went to sleep. It must’ve been about 11:00AM NYC time. When I was finally done, I went out on the streets again. The rain had stopped so I was umbrella free which is always a relief now that I also had a bag of stuff to carry as well. Incredibly so I managed to find my way back to the hostel without any incidents which is like a huge thing haha. I don’t think I ate anything else other than that, I just dropped my stuff and changed clothes because I knew that once I’d leave again I wouldn’t have the time to go back and change again for dinner. Plus it was a smart casual outfit so I’d be fine. Took my map, shoved my oversized umbrella in the new bag I had just bought – because the one I had brought form home only made it this far; the strap tore! And it’s funny because I had gotten that bag in 2011 from Palm Beach haha. I mean I can put it back together no worries, but not then. And I love that bag. So now I had my new bag, my new white blue horse shirt from Macy’s and my new dark pair of jeans from H&M. I felt ready to get out again. I wanted to look for more stores and even though I like walking a lot and I don’t fear great distances, I was pretty reasonable as to figure that it would take me a while to walk from the hostel all the way to downtown, find the shop, spend time there and then also arrive at the Lexington on time. Walking down Brooklyn was simple ‘cause it’s a straight line, but by the time you reach Columbus Circle things get complicated.

My morning treats
Columbus Circle

AlongCentral park on the left

Intersection between Central Park and 5th Avenue

Columbus Circle is at the corner with Central Park and from there you literally hit 5th Avenue as you walk along the side of the park. And that’s when the streets get crazy crowded, small, intricate and asking for directions becomes a challenge. See, you go to China and see white people, chances are they are tourists so you go ask Chinese people for directions. In New York everyone seems to be a tourist. You got White, Hispanic, Brown, Black and Asian people, living there and visiting as well so who is who to ask for directions. There is a 50/50 chance that you’ll ask a tourist for directions and unless they’re coming from where you want to go, they’ll direct you the wrong way haha. So, I’ve walked up and down Brooklyn so many times by now that it feels like Liviu Rebreanu in Bucharest, my street. Isn’t that a stupid comparison?! (especially that they’ve been trying to fix the tram lines for the past 4 years here and still haven’t finished while this boulevard was like a dream come true!) Haha But anyway, you get what I’m saying! So I started taking pictures once I got at this major intersection with Central Park.

I felt no picture could capture the magnitude of this city. The buildings, the height, the crowds, the buzz of the streets, the mix of cars, yellow cabs and horse carriages decorated with fancy colorful plumage and horrible plastic flowers haha. But it was all part of the scenery and it all made sense there. So I filmed most of it because I felt that was the best way to visualize and remember this experience once I left. But by the time I left the main boulevard behind and moved down on 5th Avenue, filming became a challenge. I ran into so many people that I couldn't watch the camera and where I was walking at the same time. My roommate at the hostel said: “Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk and be a tourist ‘cause New Yorkers get annoyed with it. No room to walk.” No shit! So I managed to squeeze in somehow, holding the map and the camera and watching my step. I passed by some of those cheap stores like Prada and Bulgari, then I said hi to the Donald Trump Tower – a small insignificant probably 200 story building haha (I craned my damn neck to be able to see the top of it!), then I passed this store that one of my colleagues told me of. I didn’t realize it was that store until I saw a queue. And I was like, why do people queue to go in a store when obviously we’re not on Cheap Street. Then I saw the shirtless male models standing in the door to greet the ladies and it hit me. This shop basically has male models half naked that take pictures with the customers. Is like free abs patting for a hundred bucks. I guess not free after all haha. I moved on. I was too hungry and for once it wasn’t for abs and male bodies haha. But for actual food. Also, it seemed that I might have been lost and I had to find my way pronto back to wherever Lexington street was. My mathematical mind (that’s a joke, I have no such thing!) said I should somehow go left. Like just keep left and I’d get there. And amazingly it proved to be correct. Of course I went up and down a bit, still on the left side, but that’s a small price to pay as compared to always walking in the opposite direction! Haha Like I always do! I have no clue how I got there but somehow I did and I always loved how I’d end up asking people, for example: “Excuse me, 45 corner with Madison?” Mwwuahaha!!! I was like a 4 year old repeating stuff from the movies! I always loved action movies when the cops are in the car chasing the bad guy through New York and the operator radios in: “Suspects seen on Broadway corner with 52!” Hahaha “Copy that. Will cross them on 53. Call in for backup!” I’m such an idiot and I LOVE IT! Haha.

Eventually I made it to the Lexington. Jim was astonished. I even had time to go to the bathroom, I was that early. Haha. The gang joined in like 20 minutes and we walked down to the restaurant, a street away from the hotel. We had a table for 16 people and we hurdleed around the chairs, sneaking into our seats. Ladies came together to have a chit chat while dining, the big boys staid together to discuss their manly issues. The youngsters (haha!) namely the newlyweds and Ian sat across the table from me. The menu came in. I hate their American sizes and measurements! I can never tell how big that steak is going to be. 10oz. What is that? Is that a hoof or half a cow?! Rib Eye. What is that? How can there be a an eye in a rib and how big is this eye? 30oz. Yes, that definitely cleared things up for me. So I figured mignon is small. Fillet is small too. But this marinated Cajun sauce steak winked at me from the bottom of the list. I asked the waiter what’s the difference between that and the rest of the steaks on the menu. He said it hasdextra flavor but it was not spicy. Yum. (Brain drool!!!!). “I’ll take it!” my order came in firm. James watched me from across the table and grinned devilishly. “I think you just took a big one.” I swallowed in. Damn it. We would see soon enough. Eileen still debated on what to take. She eventually took something smaller. Only because she somehow knew she was gonna get more from me haha.

We all ordered in. Miss. Emilia sat right next to me. She ordered fish just like Valeria and Steven. Mimi ordered some lobster and Bryan lamb chops. So far so good. I think Jim went for lobster as well ‘cause he’s into the vegetarian thing. Luckily – NOT! Haha – I am the first to be served. And everyone went AAAAAAHHHHHH when the waiter landed literally half of a cow in front of me. “Well done Mela! Good luck with that!” James laughed at me from across the table just when the waiter serveed him probably the other half of the cow missing from my plate. HAHAHA. “You were saying…” I fed Eileen and Emilia from my plate and there was still some left. We had spinach soufflé on the side with fresh tomatoes and yogurt dressing, some sort of fries that are not fries, I can never remember what they are called haha. They are like mash potatoes panned fried just a bit. Oh well, it was delicious. It took us a few hours to go through the whole ordeal but alas, despite unbuckling my belt a couple of times I could not possibly miss on the desert. I stole some fruit form Valeria and Emilia then convinced Eileen to share a hot apple pie and vanilla ice cream with me. DE-fucking-LICIOUS! I swear too much I know, but it was sooooo amazing!!!!!

Eventually, when we were all done eating and making fun of Ian for that matter – the whole Lady in Red thing was very in vogue that evening! – we frightened the new couple a bit asking them to pay the bill. HA! Breatheeee… haha. We walked out and it was freezing cold because we had been eating and partying in a cozy place and the wind blowing harshly among the skyscrapers literally did us no favor when walking out of the restaurant at about 11:00PM. We clustered in small groups as we walked back to the hotel and somehow I ended up walking with Jim, joking and laughing about things, it was a good out of the office interaction where we could be so dorkish. I can say that about my boss right? Haha He’s a fun guy and we can act pretty childishly when time and circumstances allow it. Well, the youngsters broke loose first as they had places to be and things to do. Haha. The “elders” staid behind and went to the bar. Haha. Our place to be where surely we found plenty of things to do. Eileen and I shared the same drink pretty much all night which reinforced Jim’s idea that I am a cheap date haha. A few glasses later, laughter to tears and memories from seven years of working together and a lifetime of friendship among the other “gang” members we thought it was time to conclude the night. It was past 1:00AM at least. It was the last time I’d see them for another week or so. I said goodbye to all my new friends and wished Jim and Eileen good luck with their baby sitting for the upcoming week. Not that I ever worried about Eileen handling it. Jim was the one to worry me haha. Actually he was very silent that week. No phone calls, no emails, nothing went wrong. The kids had him all wrapped in giggles and games haha. Couldn’t be all that bad that he was a full time grandpa for an entire week!

I left the hotel with a huge smile on my face. Valeria made sure she has my number again because they were in town until Monday as well and she felt I needed to be in someone’s care if my “foster parents” Jim and Eileen were leaving the following day. That was sweet! Well, I took a cab and was at the hostel in about 15 minutes. I checked my email, downloaded some of the pictures I took with my phone so I don’t somehow lose them. I mean I have taken so few pictures compared to my usual number that each one of them was precious haha. But it felt so good to just enjoy instead of seeing the world thought the lenses of a camera for once.

I went to bed late as usual. But excited and a bit confused because the following day would be my first day truly alone in NYC. No Knight. No Julia. No Gang. Just Mela and the Big Apple. Or at least that’s what I thought until I remembered I had scheduled a meeting with Ned, John’s brother. We were supposed to meet on Saturday for lunch but both him and his girlfriend went down with a mild cold so I’d rather have them stay inside than come out in the rain that way. So suddenly now I had half a day to roam by myself, do some more shopping, find a few things and meet an old/new friend that I should have met a long time ago.

Making sure I know where I need to go

So off to sleep to wake up to a great Sunday, filled with beautiful weather, adventures in Time Square a visit to the Rockefeller Center where we got the best of chocolate chip cookies ever and then a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and up on the Brooklyn Bridge for a night shot of the city. A dream come true for me, above and beyond everything else. But I guess I have to keep this story for the next blog. I thought I’d have room to do Sunday and Monday as well, but I guess not. I talk too much and I write too much haha so there will be one more entry before ending this adventure. Or so she said haha!

Enjoy what’s left of the week darlings!


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