I awake, in a Manhattan hotel room, next to a shirtless Spaniard and surrounded by half-naked women. This is the life I lead, people.
It’s Sunday morning! We’ve had two CRAZY nights of back-to-back mischief and mayhem. We’ve seen two Broadway shows, hung out at close to a dozen bars, had phenomenal food, been accosted by massage terrorists, gotten our shop on, wandered ’round Manhattan day and night, and brought together a group of strangers from Florida, New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey to create one big clusterfuck of a social group. It’s mid-morning, and there’s a lot of shenanigans to cover, so here we go.
Whitney has to leave us, for the rest of the trip, which makes me sad. I pout for a bit. Sal, meanwhile, nuzzles up to Erin in bed, half-naked, which of course demands photographic evidence. (See my album on here) We’re in a rush, as per usual, so we start filing downstairs to the lobby to head out to the Wicked lottery again. We run into a woman who’s unfortunate facial expression makes her look like a Pomeranian, big eyes buggin’ out in a persistent look of surprise. I blame the miscreants I was hanging out with for making me want to snicker — I am going to HELL, and it’s your fault!
Now, a word about the Wicked lottery… Premium seats for Wicked typically run over $100 a piece… But the first two rows of seating in the orchestra are set aside for a lottery at each performance. If your name is chosen, you can purchase one or two tickets in that section for $26.50 each, cash, at a drawing that’s held two hours before the performance. It’s invariably packed, but it costs you nothing but time to try. Because winners can get up to two seats, I had a master plan of getting EVERYONE in our group — whether they want to go to the performance or not — to put in for the lottery. That way, the winners can get two tickets and sell ’em to the people in the group that HAVEN’T won!
Whitney has to bail first thing, so she can’t be one of my ringers at the drawing. The Seans are hard to get ahold of first thing in the morning, but I confirm with Thijs & Jinilin that they’re down. So Jenn, Erin, Sal, and I head west towards the theatre district, and stop off for some much-needed coffee. Thijs & Jinilin beat us to the theatre and are concerned that the line extends around the block, but it’s a random drawing, so getting there early doesn’t help anything. We meet up at Starbucks, where I continue my scheming.
Finally reach The Seans. They’re having — get this — HIGH TEA so they won’t be joining us for coffee. They insist, however, that they’ll make it to the theatre in time for the drawing. I remain skeptical.
Erin has to head back to Jersey to get ready for work — and as Jenn pointed out, she admits to living in Patterson NJ the way most people would admit to catching a venereal disease, which is mumbling under your breath while staring at your feet. Sal, also, has a busy day ahead of him, so he’s gotta bail shortly after coffee. Alas, they both leave before the drawing, so they can’t help rig the lottery. CURSES!
Jenn, Thijs (for those that don’t know, incidentally, his name is Thijson, pronounced like “Tyson” only Dutch), Jinilin and I stomp on over around the corner to the theatre, and join the ever-growing line. We move a few feet closer ever couple of minutes, eventually getting halfway to the front, and here comes Sean 1 strolling over to join us. Apparently Sean 2 had to catch a train back to Boston, and left without saying goodbye to us! (sniff) So our giant group of 20 for lottery-rigging efforts has now shrunk to five.
I’ve seen Wicked before (and it was AWESOME), so I’m perfectly willing to be the last one picked. I think Sean’s seen it before also, but can’t recall. Jenn HASN’T seen it, but she also got to see both Spring Awakening and RENT, so she’s good on the theatre quota for this visit. Thijs and Jinilin haven’t seen any shows this trip, so the other three of us enter into a pact where if they don’t win, and one of us does, we’ll let them buy our tickets.
So who wins, in one of the first people selected? Thijson Slok, or as the announcer said, “Theege-son Sloke.” Whatever, he got tickets, he ain’t gonna cause a ruckus.
While Thijs & Jinilin are going through the required motions to purchase their tickets, Sean, Jenn and I nip next door to the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to see if they have any rush seats available. They don’t, so no go there… but that’s okay, two shows will do. Thijs & Jinilin are done, and have a little over an hour and a half to kill now, so we all get back up and decide to wander some more.
We stop in a Broadway-themed gift shop, play with all the cheesy little souvenirs and whatnot, but make few (if any) purchases. We keep on walking, and on every corner — sometimes on various sides of the same intersection — are little tables set up with handbags. Of course, Jenn has to stop at each and every one. Thijs and Jinilin, who are eager to explore and couldn’t be LESS interested in handbags, get off ahead of us and are separated. Sean and I keep Jenn company on her quest for the MOST PERFECT HANDBAG EVER, gradually making our way block after block in hot pursuit of D&G-knockoff glory.
As we cross another block, though, we discover… the street fair that the day before had been over by our hotel. Apparently they pick the entire thing up and move it further each day! The same people were there, selling the same things (the dude with the iPod accessories and the bullhorn needs to shut the hell up.) Of course, by now you must know what is coming…
Handbags. Lots and lots of handbags. Handbags EVERYWHERE. And massage ninjas, but mostly handbags.
I write Jenn off as a lost cause, concluding that we each have hotel room keys, so if she survives, she can get into the room later that day. I stroll on off, dragging Sean with me, who is PETRIFIED that we’ll lose her. I assure him we can find a new Jenn if we have to, and he gives me a dirty look (see Jenn, someone was there to defend you). I point out that she’s a grown woman, with a cellphone, and breasts that could uproot a large tree, so she’ll be fine. We wander.
This is the part in the story where I get to spend Good Quality Time (GQT) with Sean #1, like I did for a short while chatting up Sean #2 the night before. And no, GQT does not refer to sex, for the gays that are winking at the screen right now. Sheesh. No, it was cool, we got to chat about stuff while dodging tourists and pedestrians, admiring every puppy we passed (and we passed a LOT of them, I wished I could’ve had Sadie and Jager with me!!) sat on the ground outside Radio City Music Hall, and just chilled. I learned about the saddest year EVER in San Francisco, and we waited patiently for Jenn to get her fix and join us… And when she does, the real adventure begins.
Jenn has an interest in — nay, an OBSESSION with — a grocery store in Manhattan called Zabar’s, on the Upper West Side. It’s on 80th, and we’re around 50th, so it’s 30 blocks north. Jenn has vowed to pick up Zabar-goodness for people, and this has been a central theme of her planned visit for MONTHS apparently. So, we’re off to shop for groceries in Manhattan. We are, in fact, the Fellowship of the Zabar’s.
The sensible approach would be to take the train north, or in a pinch get a cab… 30 blocks is a long way. But no, we’ve got an afternoon to kill, and a sense of adventure (plus I got out-voted) so we head up on foot, enjoying the city as we went. Among other things, we walk by Rockefeller Plaza on the way to our second visit to some chocolate store that’s apparently world famous. I catch myself in my Most Touristy Moment, walking down the street with my head tiled up at the skyline. ARRRRGH I almost got away without doing that, damn it!!
In short order we came upon the famous FAO Schwartz store, and marched on inside to explore. There was way too much in the store to really comment on, and some of it I’ve blocked out of my memory… There was a long stretch of time in which I was surrounded by dolls, which was scarily similar to the front living room at my mom’s house growing up. Creepy, creepy dolls, who watched you as you walked by them (shudder). They had the build-a-Barbie stuff, which we declined to participate in. They had a HUGE section devoted entirely to Harry Potter, with costumes and even Quiddich supplies. They had the infamous piano-floor from the movie “Big”.
And of course, they had stuffed animals. Lots and lots of stuffed animals, of every size and breed. For a couple of idiots with cameras (that’d be Jenn and me) this is a ripe opportunity for a photo shoot, so of course the three of us are playing with every stuffed animal we see and taking goofy pictures. This is us SOBER, for the record.
We eventually make our way back to the exit, and head RIGHT into the flagship Apple store next door. The air is ripe with smug sense of self-satisfaction from all the Mac owners. I feel somewhat threatened, having ordered an HP to replace my Mac earlier that week, and fearing that they may come after me for defecting… Alas, I make it out unscathed. We thought for a minute we had lost Sean, but it turns out he got captured by the pretty elevator and took it up instead of bounding up the stairs and jumping over entranced tourists with Jenn and me.
At this point, Sean pauses to ask where the grocery store is, and realizes that while we’re walking up the right direction, we’re on the EAST side, and we need to be on the WEST side. Oops! He has the *UTTERLY BRILLIANT* idea of cutting across Central Park, which framed the next hour of our day. This isn’t sarcasm — it was a GREAT thing for non-New-Yorkers to do. As we’re walking up that direction, we get hot dogs and pretzels, ’cause you know, it’s Manhattan… We pass a woman that Sean INSISTS was Julia Roberts, but I didn’t get a good enough look to judge — he’s 90% sure, a figure he quotes often in defence of his assertation over the next fifteen minutes or so. We finally reach the park, grab some Italian Ices (that’s what those are called, right guys?) and dive on in.
As we’re semi-hiking our way up hills and through bushes, Jenn concludes that we look butch, so she starts taking pictures. If I had the energy, I would’ve thrown a rock at her. There are a ton of detour signs redirecting traffic, which looks shady, and we become convinced that there’s a fiendish serial killer at work, picking off hapless tourists whose only fault was literacy… We pull up a map on the iPhone to confirm precisely where we’re going, and we curse it for not having GPS capability (I didn’t mean it, sweetie, I still love you!)
Finally, our adventure comes to an end, and we reach the appropriate park exit. All the bitching and complaining above is just a joke — it was SO peaceful, so much fun, and a great chance for us all to get to know each other better. And again, NO. Geez.
We make it to the infamous Zabar’s. It’s… well, it’s a grocery store. A crowded, compact, labyrinth of a grocery store. Sean helpfully grabs a cart, but we quickly realize this is futile, both because the cart slows down our navigation through the crowd, and because Jenn has BOLTED the second she crossed the threshhold, has gone up some stairs to another section, and has completely forgotten we are alive. I’m pretty sure I saw her shove a little old lady out of her way in her mad dash for Zabar’s glory.
Sean and I decide to find a beverage, but even we get split up while trying to cut around corners, dodge other shoppers, and avoid getting trapped against displays. After traversing the entire freakin’ first floor, I finally find a small cooler with drinks, right at the entrance we came in at! Ugh… So we grab a couple, pay for them, and get the hell out.
After each courteously offering the opportunity to sit on a small ledge to the other, and steadfastly refusing to take it, we shrug and sit on the ground. Our chat about nothing-and-everything continues, and we dish the dirt on random passersby. It is at this moment that I feel most like a New Yorker… Sitting out in public, on the ground in shorts and a t-shirt, indifferent to the stares of people walking past, comfortable with just doing what makes me happy. Eventually Sean has the inspired idea of pulling out the iPod from his backpack (which he has, tragically, been forced to carry around with him on this adventure) and splitting the headphones between the two of us.
Classically, midway through the first song, Jenn escapes the store and shows us the pink chef’s knife she bought, along with a hundred other purchases that I promptly forgot.
We catch the subway back south towards midtown, chatting along the way of course, and make our way back to our hotel. I take a shower while Jenn and Sean get better acquainted. (By the way, why was I missing one of the NYC subway-themed condoms? Just curious) We all change clothes and get ready for dinner.
Thijs and I have a tradition of getting Indian food in New York, because we did on our very first first up to the city together nine years prior. So while they were at the show, we were supposed to find an Indian restaurant for us to all have dinner at. Alas, we were too busy finding Zabar’s to be properly motivated (cough) so they did it for us, using the clever method Jenn had introduced the day before — finding one mentioned in the Playbill from the show they were seeing. We settle on meeting at Bombay Palace, right around the corner from the theatre.
Unfortunately, because I took forever to get ready, and because our cab driver didn’t speak English and had to follow a bunch of suddenly-erected detours around Manhattan, it took a long time for us to get there. Thijs and Jinilin were sitting at the bar, staring at the fish tank, when we finally arrived. Good things come to those who wait, though, because dinner was AMAZING.
We ended up getting a bunch of appetizers, an entree platter for two, and two other entrees. And two bottles of wine. Though the service wasn’t what you’d call prompt, they were helpful enough to tell us what each thing was when they delivered it (because the platters included a wide variety that my meager knowledge of Indian food couldn’t identify). Rather than relive the nightmarish bill-paying experience from the Thai restaurant the day before (which I forgot to mention!) we just split the check evenly across the board and all enjoyed a bit of everything. Good times.
Now it’s time to figure out what we’re doing the rest of the evening… Sal’s going to be getting off of work and coming to hang out, Mark has been talking about going bar-hopping again, and tonight is our last night in the city together. We have no plan, no big events on the agenda, we’re just wandering aimlessly. (Though Jenn did want to get some Times Square photos at night, so we wandered in that general direction).
By now, I’m tired from three nights in a row of little sleep (the night before the trip in Charlotte, and the first two nights in the city). Whatever we do tonight, I want to spend it together with my friends from out of town, especially since my only night with Thijs & Jinilin was when they were exhausted from being up at 3am to go to the airprot. So a gay bar is NOT going to happen, despite Mark’s repeated insistences that we should go to one. Sal is getting off of work, and is sending Missy over to join us while he changes, but we don’t have a precise location yet so I’m giving directions to the intersection we’re walking towards.
We end up going into a music store that sells sheet music, knick-knacks, souvenirs, etc, which amuses me because I’ve accidentally ended up in there several times with different people over the years. And because I got the walk-walk-turn (aka the “look back”) from a foreign boy inside the store. This makes me smug for several minutes.
We end up inside Virgin Megastore, checking out music, DVDs, Transformers toys, etc. Jennifer finds a clearance room with a bunch of toys, including a giant box full of various HATS, and insists on a photo shoot. We get pictures of every person with every hat, in every conceivable combination. The ones of me are hideous, and I vow to find a passing bus and throw myself in front of it.
Sean finally succumbs to Mark’s persistence and heads off to a gay bar, where he insists he’ll have one drink, stay a half-hour or so, and hurry back to us. We say our goodbyes for the evening, and expect to never see him again 🙂 Thijs and Jinilin get ready to head back to their hotel room, because they’ve got to get up to get pictures of/from the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:30 in the morning. It’s down to just Jenn, Sal, Missy, and me.
I feel like a punk, but by now I’m tired and cranky, and not feeling like another crazy night of partying. Plus we’ve gotta pack, ’cause we have plans for “brunch” at 10:30 the next day with old friends of mine from Jersey City, so we’ll have to check out and stash our luggage BEFORE that to make our check-out time. In short, I’m bitchin’ out for the evening.
I suggest we walk in the direction of the hotel, and see if anything or anyplace catches our eye along the walk. Sal, having had just as little (and in fact, even less) sleep as me over the past two nights, graciously declines and concedes that we’ll all just call it a night. We have a streetside farewell, the four of us, involving multiple rounds of goodbyes and public displays of affection. Eventually the two pairs split off and head home.
As Jenn and I are nearing our hotel, we get a series of drunken txt msgs and phone calls from Sean, whose half-hour turned into about two hours and who would like to get his backpack from our hotel room. He heads over to the hotel with Mark and Keith, with whom he’s “going to share a cab home” because he’s “tired”. I speak Gay, fool, I know you’re going out partying! haha
So he gets his bag, chats with Jenn and me for a few minutes, and says his goodbyes to Jenn. I walk him to the elevator and come down to say goodnight, tell Mark and Keith that I’m sorry I was so cranky, and confirm plans with Sean to see him in San Francisco in a month when we’ll coincidentally both be there at the same time. (Side-note: I’m going to go visit Will & Jager, and hopefully see Becca, Dylan, and Brendan!)
I go back upstairs and finish packing, but can’t sleep… my body isn’t used to being in bed at 2:00, what the hell! So we watch some reality TV and I finally drift off. My last night in New York City has come to a close.
Those that read my best/worst blog a few nights ago will note that this was both the best day in NYC, and the worst night in NYC, on this trip. The day was a terrific opportunity to wander and explore, go places I’ve never been in the city, get to know new friends better, and feel like a New Yorker. (We won’t revisit the subject of my touristy walk-and-gawk, shush).
While the dinner experience was amazing, the final few hours that night were me being cranky, tired, and disappointed… That I didn’t get to spend as much time with everyone as I would’ve liked, that the trip was coming to a close, and that I was actually going to have to sleep in my bed ALONE for one night! (I’m kidding…mostly). All in all, the disappointments from the evening were certainly overwhelmed by the delights of the afternoon, so no hard feelings, Sundays-in-Manhattan 😉
When I wake next, it’ll be my final day in the city, on this trip anyway. (sigh) My heart is pained in advance.