Sunday, September 23, 2007

New York, New York

If you’re on the East Coast, you might as well go to New York right? My reason for going: the Mets were playing and I could stop and see Dan and watch a Nationals game in D.C. with him on the way back. Unfortunately Dan had a race but you’ll see what unfolded for the rest of my trip.

Monday, September 10:

Stepping off the Greyhound bus at the Port Authority bus stop in New York, NY, I felt a little wary. It was dark and dirty under the streets. I walked into the station and I had to use the restroom. I saw two men at a table in the middle of the isle and asked them where the restroom was. To my dismay, the man acted as if I had asked him to give me all his money and was really rude. I was not impressed with my first interaction in the city.

I asked a cleaning lady where the restroom was and in her broken English she told me to turn around and walk down the stairs and go to the right. I did so, finally finding the restroom and relieving myself of 7 hours on a bus.

Once I got done in the restroom, I was faced with the challenge of finding my way out of the station, which proved to be a harder task than I had anticipated. I had no idea which way was out and no clue where I was once I got out of the station.

Luckily I have a decent sense of direction and I walked down the street through Times Square and up Park through Grand Central Station to where Rachel worked at UBS. I took tons of pictures, just like the tourist I was. I got to the building and the man at the front desk asked me if I knew what company Rachel worked for and I had no clue, so I called and she came down so we could go to get a cup of hot chocolate and coffee.

After we were done, she took my backpack and I went down to Central Park. It was beautiful. I feel so naïve, I feel so lost in wonder when I go to these new places. My small brain cannot comprehend all of the amazing creations God has set before us. It’s funny; many people don’t even see it. They walk by in a hurry to get to their next obligation. I am guilty of this as well, but I am making an effort to slow down and enjoy what God has given to me and created for us to live in.

I took timer pictures in the park, I attempted a jumping picture under one of the bridges but I guess it was too much for me. I couldn’t get the timing down today. It was overcast so having to time it with the delay of the flash was hard too, so maybe I can give myself a break.

I began walking back to UBS and the churches nestled into the huge buildings on the streets were impressive. I wondered though, if that’s what we had become. Have we become people who blend in? Are we no longer standing out on a hilltop letting our light shine? Questions I have asked myself. I don’t want to be one of the crowd; I want to let my light shine! I want to live my life pleasing to God. I want to allow God to use me in whatever capacity He wants.

I got back to UBS and Rachel text’d me and said she would be longer so I went to try to take more pictures inside Grand Central Station. They didn’t work because it was no longer just overcast, but it was getting dark outside.

I went back to UBS and sat on the steps watching people as they passed. I love watching people and wondering about their lives. I wish I could meet them all, but that seems like an impossible task. I saw a police man with a cue tip hat on his head. He looked stern but I would suspect that I would be angry looking if I had to wear a cue tip hat too. The cutest little old man pulling a cart behind him was hunched over and he looked frightened. I wonder if he was afraid of the big city too. I noticed tons of people smoked. I wonder what kind of anti smoking campaigns they have out on the East Coast. Everyone seemed tense and stressed out. They all had somewhere to be. I wonder if they ever just stopped and rested. I wonder if they ever thought about something other than material possessions.

Rachel came out and we took the subway to her place in Williamsburg. I bought a 24-dollar 7-day pass and was hoping that I would get my money’s worth. Little did I know that I would become a master of the subway system in New York in less than an hour.

We went to a Thai restaurant on the way to her place. The food was good and they had a bubble chair that was quite comfortable. The bathrooms were weird though. The sink was outside and they were little stalls or tubes even with a toilet in them. Some of them had screens that displayed what was going on in the restaurant while you were using the toilet. Weird.

We walked back to her place and I met her roommate Carrie and cat. We ended up talking for hours and finally went to sleep quite late.

Tuesday, September 11:

I woke up later than Rachel. She and Carrie had already gone off to work. I remembered it was my mom’s birthday, which also meant post-2001, it was 9/11, the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack and collapse.

I ate some Cheerios Melissa had left in my room when she left. Then I got ready to go outside, I brought the umbrella Rachel had left for me and went outside. The rain was coming at me sideways and pouring so much that I thought I might drown standing. I had rolled my pants up and was still in Rainbows, some of the puddles past my ankles. I thought perhaps I had made a mistake. When I got to the next corner I definitely was under the impression I made a mistake and I turned around. I went back to the door and tried to open it. I couldn’t. I felt so lame.

I decided to just weather the storm and get to the subway station. As I turned and walked around the corner, the rain started to let up and eventually stopped by the time I got to the station. It probably had nothing to do with me, but it was like a sign. God was telling me that if I just stuck through the heavy rain, the blessing and sunshine He would give would be worth it.

I took the subway down toward the World Trade Center stop and accidentally stayed on it too long and ended up going back uptown part way. I got off and jumped back on a downtown train and got off at the right stop. It’s a good thing it’s only one swipe per entry into the station and not per train otherwise I would be swiping all my life.

I got off and took the stairs up to the top, following the signs that pointed to the direction of the World Trade Center. When I got off the stairs the police were telling me to move along. I guess there were loads of people there since it was the anniversary. There were people peacefully sitting there with signs and signs all along the fence around the area where the twin towers had stood. It was crazy to think 6 years before I had been sitting in my car and listening to 94.9 (the dog house in the morning) driving to work and thought it was a terrible prank for them to be playing (the played pranks every morning on the dog house and I thought it was one of them, but a horrible one because people were dying). It turned out it wasn’t and 6 years later I saw the site. Rubble still lay in piles. The towers had taken up a full square block and all the rubble from the buildings was still being cleared away.

It was a sad site. I was wondering about the people’s families and all the people who perished that fateful morning as I walked down Liberty Street. I continued on and people were making their way through the rain hurriedly while I slowly shuffled away from the sight.

I wonder how many people were there to mourn, and how many thought that they should be done. It seems as though we’re only supposed to mourn a specific period of time before we move on with our lives. I don’t know if I could do that if someone I loved was killed. I mean, I would go on living, but I would have the memory and the hope that they were somewhere in heaven hanging out with Jesus.

I continued on down toward Wall Street. I guess I looked lost because a man asked me if I needed some directions. I asked him where Wall Street was and he pointed me in the right direction. I reached Wall Street expecting to see all kinds of stock people and stock tickers every where or stock quotes filling the streets, but it was solom. Most of the people that surrounded me were tourists. I had always wondered why it was called Wall Street. Rachel told me a little of the history behind it. According to Wikipedia the name ‘De Waal Straat’ refers not to a wall, but to an important group of people that helped establish New Amsterdam: the Walloons. The Dutch word for Walloon is Waal. The Dutch, led by Peter Stuyvesant, using African slaves in part, had built a large stockade on behalf of the West India Company. By the time war had developed with thee English, a strengthened 12-foot wall of timer and earth was created by 1653 fortified with palisades. The wall was created, and strengthened over time, as a defense against attack from various Indian tribes, New England colonists and the British. In 1695 surveyors laid out Wall Street along the lines of the original stockade. The wall was dismantled by the British in 1699. Though the original name referred to the Walloons, the French speaking Belgians that helped populate this settlement in the beginning, the name was now easily taken to refer to the wall that had once stood there.

Now that you are up to date on the history behind Wall Street, I will continue with my journey. I walked down Wall Street past the Trump building, the New York Stock Exchange and the bank. I saw the roots of the Sycamore tree that were made into a sculpture as a reminder of 9/11.

I walked down to a subway station and got on the subway toward uptown. I took it all the way to the Bronx and visited Yankee stadium. The new stadium was being built right across the street. It was an impressive sight. 26 World Series had been won in the stadium. The greats had played there. Since no games were being played at home I didn’t get to go inside, but one day I will. I took pictures of the outside and went on my way.

I ended up taking the train out to Shea Stadium in Queens. I was all about the metro system in New York City. I bought tickets for the next day’s game because we had decided it would be sunny and nice weather for Wednesday’s game so we’d go then. I don’t mind rain as you will see.

I walked around and took pictures so Rachel wouldn’t have to follow me while I took massive amounts of pictures of the outside of the stadium. It’s not very exciting to people who aren’t as into baseball as I am. The new Shea Stadium is being built right next door, pretty much in the outfield of the current one. I was so tempted to just stay and watch the game that night as well, but I saw a small line forming and I got into it. It turned out Ed Charles was signing autographs. I had him sign our tickets and lucky for me I had my camera and took a picture with him. He was the 3rd baseman for the Mets when they won the World Series in 1969. They called him “the glider” because he ws so graceful.

After having our tickets signed by Ed Charles I ran back to the metro line and went back to Rachel’s place. I got a little turned around when I got off the green line in Brooklyn because I wasn’t in the Williamsburg part of it. I was all right with my metro map and a phone call and direction from people on the street.

Rachel made dinner, we ate and then went out to get ice cream with her friend Pat, from church. It was good ice cream. We ate it and walked down to see if any of the bars had dancing. It turns out that it was the beginning of Roshashana. I guess I never thought out it, but New York has the 3rd largest Jewish population in the world or something.

There wasn’t any dancing but we did get some really good French fries. I think Bel Frites in SLO is better, but French fries are still good either way. I’m a big fan of fried food.

We went back to the subway station and went home. Pat walks weird and you really have to pay attention when walking with him because he’ll zigzag. It’s quicker but if you’re not really thinking about it, then you’re left alone on the corner and he’s down the street.

We got back and went to sleep, it was a late night again. However, my metro ride total was now up to 7 because I rode it 6 times that day and once when I bought it the night before.

Wednesday, September 12:

Again, Rachel woke up earlier than me. I was trying to look up clubs and see where we could go out and go dancing Thursday night but I’m not very New York savy. I ate an omlette for breakfast and headed toward the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free for everyone! I was excited. My tour of the entire city was 24 dollars for the metro card and everything else I did I either walked or was free. It was really windy on the ferry but it was neat to see the Statue of Liberty across the water. I thought about going to Ellis Island but I figure none of my relatives went there, so why should I? Besides I could see it from a distance and admire it for free rather than paying some ridiculous fee to see it.

When we arrived at Staten Island I got off and saw signs that said there was a baseball stadium. So, of course I went to go see it. I tried taking timer-jumping pictures along the shore and there was a 9/11 memorial on Staten Island too. It was beautiful, different but nice. I saw the stadium and went back to catch the ferry again.

This time there was no top deck, which was disappointing. I met a guy from Denmark who I walked toward the Brooklyn Bridge with. He went to the body exhibit. They had it in LA and SF last year. I went to go find out how I could walk across the bridge. It was quite a distance from the shore and I was a little confused, but eventually I saw City Hall and found the footpath. It was cool because it was in the middle of the bridge rather than on either side.

I took a bunch of timer pictures and was pleased that my jumping picture on the Brooklyn Bridge was successful the first time I tried. The sky was a brilliant blue and it looked as though there was not a hint nor chance of rain. I walked across down to the subway on the other side. I took it back to Rachel’s figured out how to open the door and got our tickets for the Mets game so I could meet her at work and we could just hit Grand Central station and take the 7 straight there.

I met her outside work and we went to the game. The train took longer than I expected, there were tons of people on the 7 express. One of the men in the train was complaining that it wasn’t an express train because it was so slow. It was kind of funny.

We just caught the end of batting practice. It was the Atlanta Braves against the Mets, my two favorite NL teams. I was pretty excited. We went up to our seats and ate the sandwiches Rachel got from work and the cookies, which were delightful. I love M&M cookies. When the game started, we ended up switching sections because there were too many people around us.

Eventually we ended up near the front of our section, even though it was in the 400s you could still see. I loved it. The Mets haven’t won since 1969 but they have promise. David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes to name a few.

The Mets had a home run and unfortunately my camera was being poopy and I didn’t get a picture of the “big apple” popping out of the top hat in the outfield. It had the Mets logo on it and the board lit up. The Mets logo on top of the scoreboard lit up too.

It was a good game. Afterward we took some pictures at the bottom and it was amazing to see how fast they cleared out 51,000 people. It was funny because there were stock quotes on one of the scoreboards every inning. A lot of people were fashionably late and trickled in until the 4th or 5th inning. I didn’t realize Shea was so big. Fifty one thousand people on a weeknight! Amazing.

We left and got gelato from Little Italy. They were going to have a festival of some sort the next day. The peach gelato I got was amazing. It’s all made fresh daily in the restaurant or store. I love it.

We went back to her place and my tally for metro rides was 6 that day so I was up to 13. I would hit 20 when I rode the metro to the Port Authority bus station on Friday morning to catch Greyhound to Washington, D.C.

Thursday, September 13:

I woke up with all the intentions of walking across the Queensboro bridge or the 59th street bridge. I was really excited because it looked so nice when I had a glimpse of it from the 7 train on the way to Shea Tuesday.

I walked down to the Grand Street Park in Williamsburg. It was all right. There were some rocks painted red, some of the rocks had mosaics on them and you could see the Manhattan Bridge. However, there were also couples making out on the benches and tables in the park, which was a little awkward and I just took pictures of thee bridge and moved on. I’m not a PDA fan.

I got on the subway and got up to 59th street and was trying to figure out how I could walk across the Queensboro. I asked a lady and she said it wasn’t that great and that I should take the tram. If I had a metro pass I could use that to go to Roosevelt Island. From the tram I would have a better view of the bridge if that was what I wanted. I thanked her and went up to wait for the tram. I took it across and it was pretty sweet. It reminded me of Disneyland.

I got to Roosevelt Island and the red buses cost a quarter that I didn’t have on me. I went into the welcome center and the lady gave me a map and told me I should see the lighthouse and the old hospital that was in a lot of movies. So I walked down to the southern tip and took tons of pictures on that side. It was a nice view of the Manhattan skyline as all the people as told me. I walked back and took the tram back across to Manhattan. I took the subway back to Rachel’s place and chilled out while I was waiting for her to get off work. We were going to go dancing no matter what that night because it was my last night in New York for a while.

I got dressed (borrowing Rachel’s clothes because I didn’t bring anything nice to wear out, I was just planning on watching baseball) and met Rachel at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Garden. I got the best shroom burger, fries, and black and white milkshake. It was great. I want to go back and get the blueberry cheesecake custard when they have it. I may have to move to New York for a year if I can get a job there.

We went down to 8th street, met a tall, nice, cute German fellow in a store while we were getting gum. We should have invited him to come dancing with us. We passed a bunch of clubs but there weren’t many people out at 10pm in New York. Apparently the “city that never sleeps” is called that for a reason. The bars don’t close until 4am and people don’t start to go out until 12:30am. It’s pretty crazy, especially when you just came from a small place like SLO.

We walked down and were passing the Lotus and stopped to talk to the bouncer. He was pretty funny; his name was David. If you go to the Lotus, you should talk to him. We got in for free around 11:30 and I got a glass of water and Rachel got a glass of wine. We waited till more people arrived and started dancing around 12:30. There were two guys behind us who I thought may want to dance with us but they didn’t make a move. I guess they were content to chill on the side and drink their drinks. After a while people danced with us and finally home boy on the side danced with me. He was a triple major at school in New York, but he was originally from Jersey and going to get his PhD when he was done with his undergraduate studies.

We left around 2:45am and got back to Rachel’s place around 3:30 and went to sleep.

Friday, September 14:

We woke up around 6am and took the metro. Rachel to work and I was going back to Port Authority station. I felt a lot better now that I had experienced New York and the station was no longer daunting.

I reached the station and found out which gate the bus to D.C. was at. I talked to a lady in line and the bus loaded. I fell asleep next to the window until we got to D.C. Then I got up and it was raining again in D.C. What is up with rain and me getting off buses?

I got off the bus and walked down to the metro at Union Station. I took the red line to the blue line and met Brett, the Amtrekker. He and his friend were going to Arlington National Cemetery and I was on my way to Froggy Bottom. They don’t announce the stops in D.C. like they do in New York and I missed Froggy Bottom the first time around. I went in a little circle from blue to yellow back to blue.

I got off in Froggy Bottom and asked a girl who went to George Washington University where Georgetown University was. I think everyone thought I meant Georgetown because it’s a place that isn’t far from GW. I walked to Georgetown and had to walk another 2.5 miles or so to get to Georgetown. I was really tired at this point. It was a decent walk at least and it wasn’t raining at that point. I got to Dan’s house and put my backpack down and reorganized my stuff.

I immediately left for RFK stadium. This time I used the Rosslyn station in Virginia. So I walked to Virginia, but it was closer than going back to the Froggy Bottom station. I got to RFK and it looked like it was going to rain. I mentioned this to another guy who was getting off the Metro and it turns out he had an extra ticket. He gave it to me because I was rooting for the right team… the Braves, ha ha. It was a good seat too in the 4th row from the field.

He was drinking before he even got in. I think he put Jameson in his Pepsi and was drinking that. I went inside and went to batting practice. It started raining and they covered the in field. It was an omen, the rain was coming down pretty hard, but they don’t reschedule in September!

The game started and it was still raining. They have President racing instead of dot racing in Washington D.C. it was pretty funny, they were those big President mascot looking guys. They’re moving to a new stadium next year so they are trying to pump up the fan base by giving away tons of shirts and free stuff. The people who were the randomly selected ones to receive a trip if so-and-so hits a home run during the game actually won! The Nationals had two home team home runs. They have fireworks when that happens. I was kind of mad that they got those home runs because I wanted to go home.

The guy and I moved to the corner right next to the dug out because everyone was leaving, the rain was coming down really hard and I refused to buy a clear plastic poncho for 5 dollars. What a rip off. I would rather freeze, which I did.

Andruw Jones made a 3rd out catch and threw me the ball when he was coming back to the dug out and a boy from Georgetown University actually put his hand INSIDE my glove and took the ball. I was shocked. I was about to punch him in the face. I asked him, “are you serious? Are you really going to keep it?” and he said yes and kept it for another 15 minutes before the guilt over came him and he gave me the ball saying sorry and that he felt bad.

Later Hubbard, the 1st base coach for the Braves, Andruw Jones and another guy in the dugout would throw me balls, so the guy who gave me a ticket, the boy who gave the ball back to me and his friend and I all got baseballs that night. Of course, we were there in the rain and the game went to 13 innings and lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes. It didn’t even start on time because of all the rain.

(new day even though it didn’t feel like it!)
Saturday, September 15:

The guy who had given me the free ticket had gotten them from a friend. His name was Cory with no “e”. we went back to the metro and got on the train back to where his car was and I was headed back toward Rosslyn.

I got off and there were no taxis at 1:15 in the morning so I walked back to Dan’s house and called Philippe because it was his birthday, or it would be his birthday in 2 hours. I’m still getting used to the time difference. Three hours makes a big difference.

I got back to Dan’s and it was 2AM. I was going to go to sleep but I was reading the schedule for the Metro and it closed at 3AM and opened on the weekends at 7AM. My train left at 7:30AM so that wouldn’t work at all. I changed out of my wet clothes because the rain ceased or at least was just mist instead of pouring. (There were also deer roaming the front yards around Dan’s house, it was kind of neat, yet creepy by yourself.)

I packed my backpack up fully, locked the front door, and there was no turning back. I had to make it to the metro before it closed. I was thinking about taking a taxi but I didn’t see any until I had already reached Key Bridge and they can’t stop on the bridge. So I was running. I got there at 2:30AM, which isn’t too bad for running through massive puddles across bridges on concrete with Rainbow flip-flops on.

I got to the station out of breath and waited for the train. A freshman from AU, I forget what that stood for but he was from there and he was wasted. I told him I would make sure he got onto the right train to get back to school because we both had to transfer to the red line at the Metro Center station. Turns out he was from Jersey and at the next stop his friend got on and he was from California as well.

We got off at the Metro Center and I waited for the red line in one direction and they waited for the other side. I met a guy from Spain who had been living in DC for the past few months for school. He was going to the Catholic University. I guess that’s what it was called.

I got off at Union Station and said farewell to the guy. I walked over to the Amtrak waiting point and tried to get my ticket from the automated ticket dispenser but it was broken, I guess all of them were. Since it was 4AM, I just went to sleep on the bench with my arm through the strap on my backpack so no one could take my stuff while I was sleeping.

I was woke up around 6 by a police officer who was asking everyone who was sleeping at the train station if they were actually taking the train and making people leave if they weren’t. I went to pick up my ticket since the ticket counter was open now. A lady was in a rush and ended up behind me because she went over to the machines to see if they worked right after I had just told her they were broken. Some people need to learn to listen to people even if they are younger than them. She looked like a busy lady who was stressed out. I had just slept in a train station and I was feeling fine. I think it depends on your outlook of life.

I got my ticket and waited for the train to board. It turned out I was at the wrong spot, the guy told me gate E but it was gate H or something. E was going to New York. I got on and fell asleep right away once I got in my seat. Kelly and the kids came to pick me up at the Staples Mill Amtrak station in Richmond. I was so tired I didn’t even see them waiting for me when I got off the train, I was about to walk into the station and wait for them.

With school starting on Monday, it looks like my traveling adventures would be placed on pause for a while.

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