New York Diaries, Vol 2

The first order of business upon arriving in a foreign town is to locate a good place to drink. Well, maybe that’s not a rule or anything, but it seems to work well for me. I’ve had almost one-hundred-percent success in using this little scheme when I visit new towns. I want you to look at the inset picture here really closely, without clicking on it yet. There. Right in the middle. Do you see it? Okay, now click it.

Now you see it, don’t you? Yes, friends, that is indeed a BREWERY. Sorry for the shittastic image – there were raindrops on the window through which I took the photo. {aside} When I checked in, I played some charm on the cute clerk and said in my best Texas accent, “I’m from Dallas. I’ve never been here. Can you give me something really high up?” She smiled and said yes, then upgraded my room to the 43rd floor, so I got a pretty good look. So yes, I walked into my room, dropped my crap on the floor and immediately walked to the window to have a look at the world below. Once I spotted the brewery, I was back down on the street within three minutes. My suitcase was still on the bed, zipped up tight.

This being my first and only completely free day to myself in New York City, I wanted to check out as much as I could. It was Saturday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good, and I had about nine hours until I had to start getting ready for bed. Remember, my primary reason for being here was a class that puts me into a new career field – so I was really serious about getting good rest and being fresh for that. So I wanted to be in bed by ten or so.

The brewery was, in fact, a brewery that brews their own brew. A couple of them were wheat beers – a witte and a hef – and I had absolutely no interest in trying those two. But I did drink their IPA, their lager and their Irish Red. And dear God. That Irish Red, Kelly’s, was probably in the top three beers I’ve ever drunk. Creamy, thick head and a powerful malty flavor… Oh my dear sweet grief. So this pretty much set the stage for the rest of my stay in the Big Apple. I would be back here every night drinking this beer.

I also met a guy when I entered – the security guard – and hit it up with him for a while. Todd and I got along great and ended up hanging out for the rest of the evening. We traded numbers so when my red-haired wife and I return, we plan to roll out to the Bronx to hang out with him.

At some point during the evening, I walked down the street to check out another bar, and ended up front and center in a Belgian bar. This bar served Belgian beers on draft. Belgian ones. As in not American ones. It was one of the highlights of my trip watching these muscle-bound idiots in shirts two sizes too small stumbling in and asking for Miller Light and being told they were in the wrong place. I giggled all the way down in my soul as the smiles fell off their perfectly chiseled, albeit green-painted faces, and they realized they would either have to go back out into the snow, or drink a real beer. I am giggling right now as I write this.

As a side note, since I began drinking real beer a couple of years ago, my tolerance has improved greatly. Since BMC is all around 3.5%, and real beer is usually 5-7% average, and real beer is all I drink anymore, when I switch back to BMC, I can drink it all day. I would love to see one of these douches drink a Duvel.

St. Patrick’s Day is not my favorite holiday, but it’s not far off. But in New York City? My friends kept telling me I was lucky to get to go to NYC for St. Patty’s Day. I was like, “Uh… Why? Is New York an especially Irish place?” :raise: I wasn’t impressed. The thick-necked idiots who think it’s Mardi Gras were the same in New York City as they were at home. It’s a big drunk-fest where all the dudes are out looking at all the girls, every one of them thinking he’s God’s Gift to Humanity, acting like he’s the coolest thing since freon, thinking there’s no possible way he can be shot down. He’s louder than normal, more obnoxious and more of a moron – just because he’s drinking and surrounded by his buddies. :yawn:

Next. I just sat at the bar ignoring all the idiocy. I don’t go to bars to get drunk and act like a douche bag. I go to enjoy a few good beers.

I also ate my first hot dog from a street vendor. You know you always hear about the hot dog stands, and how they’re so good? Well I was dying to try one. These things are not rare, either. I mean, there’s a hot dog stand on every block. So I walked up to one (“What’ll it be, bwoss?”) and ordered a regular dag, and shoveled it down so fast I might have been viewed as a contestant in a dag-eating contest, but kept walking. And on the next block decided I wanted another one. So I ordered one of the big ones. It’s a twelve-inch wiener on a six-inch bun. Covered in mustard and onions. I think the only thing that could have made that better was being able to eat it in the Brewery with a pint of Kelly’s. Alas, I couldn’t carry food in there, and I couldn’t bring beer out. So I was torn between two realities. The eating and the drinking. And they were never to be joined into the smooth, seamless reality I envisioned. My love for one suffered while I enjoyed the other. If I ever get to design my own universe…

New York brick oven pizza? I’ve had it. Nothing to report here. However, I do have something to say to all you guys who have for so many years told me “Man, you ain’t lived until you’ve had a New York-style pizza. This Pizza Hut crap is dogshit.” Uh huh. Maybe you’re right. But I’ll take Papa John’s over that brick-oven NY-style shit any day. Yeah, I said it. I like my southern-style pizza better. Get over yourselves.

The Statue of Liberty? I think had I actually taken the boat out to the island, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. As it were, I stood on the tip end of Southern Manhattan looking out across the Hudson at this tiny little figure that looked exactly like I imagined it… except smaller. That thing really just isn’t that impressive. Even with what it stands for. I was underwhelmed. But I think there might have been other factors influencing my impression here. Let me tell you about the day.

It was Sunday evening. My first day of class had just finished, and I’d run upstairs to drop off my backpack and grab my coat. Then I ran down to the street and hopped on the subway. I took the E train down to World Trade Center and jumped off, ran up the stairs and proceeded to start looking for signs to the 9/11 Memorial. There were light-blue signs every so often directing the way to the entrance. And then there weren’t any anymore. I went too far. Then I made the turn and couldn’t find it. I walked around lower Manhattan for about a half-hour, walking fast, freezing my ass off, and trying to find something I had no idea how to find by landmark. I know nothing about New York, you see.

My face was so cold that my lips and mouth and cheeks were numb. It was only slightly above freezing and the wind was a killer. I was asking people how to find the memorial, but it came out sounding like I had a speech impediment – because my face was so cold. Well, when I finally came to the gates, it was closed. It closes at 5:30 on Sundays. Oh. So it’s not just something I can approach. I don’t know why I hadn’t realized it would be controlled. I felt this terrible sense of disappointment begin to come over me as I realized I wouldn’t be able to see it on this trip. If it closes at 5:30, and my class gets out at 5:00, I’d just not be able to make it. This was the only thing I really wanted to see. Monday (which was tomorrow) was my last night in New York, because on Tuesday, as soon as I got out of class, I’d have to hop a taxi and rush back to the airport for my 7:25 flight out.

Well, as I walked away from the memorial entrance, I decided I could at least mosey on down to the south to see the Statue. And there you have more disappointment.

Another half-hour later, I was finally back on the subway, thawing and thinking. At some point, my frozen brain woke up and I realized that it was Sunday, and hey – maybe this place is like a normal business and it closes early on Sundays, but not during the week! So I felt re-energized as I got back into my room and hopped in the shower to warm up. I got on the website and made a reservation for 6:00 Monday evening. Back in business. I would just have to make another subway trip downtown.

Monday was worse. It was sleeting and snowing. But I was in. As I walked around the two pools, slowly taking it all in, brushing the ice out of my hair every few minutes, I began to feel a strong sense of sadness creep into me. I had attained my goal. I had made it to the 9/11 Memorial – which I’ve wanted to see for six or seven years now – but to what end? Had I not realized it would be overwhelmingly depressing? Not to be tacky, but isn’t that the point?

I stood staring at the North Pool for about thirty minutes, soaking from head to toe in freezing rain. I had no earmuffs, no beanie, no hat… My hair was literally wet and covered with ice. But I let the cold in. My emotions bared, I stood looking at the names of those we lost on September 11 over ten years ago. I have watched those videos many, many times. I’m very familiar with those two World Trade Center buildings that are no longer here. I’ve never seen them in person. Never will. But I felt a strange connection with this place where they once stood, because I have invested such a great amount of time grieving over them and wondering why this happened. Who had perpetrated the act. And now here I am staring at this footprint where once the most recognizable buildings in the world stood. And now there are these pools.

Infinite sadness.

Incomprehensible loss.

Overwhelming sense of confusion and turmoil. How could this have happened?

The Memorial is beautiful. While it’s surrounded by blue fabric strung on chain-link fences (there is major construction all around), it’s still very sobering and separate from the rest of the world. You can see the other skyscrapers all around you, but you feel disconnected, like you’re in a separate reality once again. A different reality than you want to be in. A place where once the song of souls sang beautiful harmony but now have been forgotten. This memorial’s entire purpose is so that we do not forget them. And though we may remember their names, it seems we’ve forgotten already the lessons we should have learned from their loss. Apathy has seeped back into our everyday lives. We’ve forgotten why we built the memorials in the first place.

If the night before I had been numb, tonight I was burning. As I stood on the subway staring out at nothing as the lights flickered and the train rocked, I was literally steaming. Steam rose from my coat as I defrosted. My skin burned as the cold finally faded. And my soul screamed as if it were on fire as I put to rest the emotion to which I’d just been exposed. I think it’s important for people to see this. There are so many things to do and see in New York City – the busiest and most complex city in the world – but you need to stop down and take this in. You need to experience the peace and solitude and quiet and reflection that comes in surrounding yourself with this emotion. Experience it, at least once, lest you forget.

I have a lot more to say. See you soon.