Travel Diary Part I -- Part II -- Part III
I swear it couldn't be sweeter...
--Jadakiss, New York
Friday, June 24
9:00 AM -- I've shared this with you guys before, but my friend Nick has a terrific little theory when it comes to those of us in our 30s who attempt to recapture the evenings from our 20s. "I'm like Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards", he says. "I can still put up 40 points. I just need to ice my knees a little longer, afterwards." At this moment, my physical condition places somewhere on the spectrum between these two men. (Yeah, that was a rather lazy reference on my part. I should've went with my first "between these two men" choice.) Also, I need some metaphorical "ice".
9:30 AM -- Sitting at a table inside Dunkin' Donuts, nursing a large black coffee and a small hangover. A woman walks in and sits down one table over. She spends the next 10 minutes applying make-up from a small black bag. She changes her footwear from cross-trainers to sensible two-inch heels and leaves without ordering anything. In California, working women take care of this in their cars while idling in rush hour traffic or at red lights. Even the shoes, I presume. Advantage: west coast.
10:00 AM -- Checking my phone as I walk back to my room, I see the following tweet from another New Yorker whom I only "know" through this lightly-read blog and social media. I've already got plans later in the afternoon to meet -- for the first time -- two of my absolute favorite people. Nick and I were going to the Yankees v. Rockies game that evening and the possibility of meeting a third...wait. I wanted to respond to Carrie, but not in the creepy "I'm going to be where YOU'RE going to be" way. I'd say I failed.
12:00 PM -- In 2007, during my last visit to New York City, Nick took me on an unintended two-hour walking tour of various bars as he searched for "this one bar he thought he remembered". Today, he's celebrating the four-year anniversary of our circuitous journey by taking me on an unintended walking tour of various pizzerias as he searches for "this one pizzeria he thought he remembered". Nick lives in Connecticut, so his sense of recall is only three hours away and one state over.
12:30 PM -- Nick and I ended up...well, somewhere on Third Avenue. Nick would walk in to a spot, size up the menu, examine the slices sitting behind the glass and silently move on. For his next birthday, I'm buying him an especially haughty monocle. After the fifth or sixth time, I would've settled for one of those Trump n' Palin pies. Thankfully, he decided on...well, some place on Third Avenue. I can't remember the name. Who wants a review?!
I don't care if it was a tourist's mistake, I ordered two slices: pepperoni and the intriguing-to-me "lasagna". The pepperoni slice had some great flavors with a light smokiness from the crust working well with the kinda-sorta sweet sauce. The lasagna slice was topped with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a blend of ground beef and coarse Italian sausage. The richness from the ricotta weighted down -- figuratively and literally -- the rest of the toppings, but the same ricotta's creaminess gave it a texture unlike any slice I've ever eaten.
1:30 PM -- Back to Brother Jimmy's BBQ for some mid-afternoon weekday libations. Nick and I order six light beers between us. He pays. The bill does NOT total $66. Remember this later.
2:50 PM -- I head off to Perfect Pint to meet Movie Joe and Michiewah for the very first time. It's just a one-mile walk, but along the way I experience New York's unique interpretation of rush hour traffic -- on the sidewalks. It's the last Friday in June, yet I've time-traveled exactly five months into the future. With the weekend beginning for the city's eight million residents and the streets filling up, everyone's usual frenetic pace cancelled each other's out. This physiological anomaly was first identified by the late Dr. Robert Marella.
3:15 PM -- Finally...I meet Movie Joe. He and I actually go back a little. We first crossed paths in 2003 while writing for 411mania.com -- he wrote a weekly movie news column and I wrote the same for music. Years later, he was the biggest inspiration for the creation of this lightly-read blog. (If I recall, he IM'ed me: "You need to start your own blog.") And, now we're having beers.
Joe is the epitome "good people", y'all. As I told him, myself, the thing I admire most about his writing is his ability to convey his love for movies or music or questionable football picks at all times -- whether he's praising something or pointing out its shortcomings. Mrs. Bootleg would love him. I've got to bring her with me next time.
4:15 PM -- An hour later, I finally meet Michiewah as she joins us at the bar. Her off-center sense of humor syncs up perfectly with mine, as do her 9:00 AM cravings for steak sandwiches and innate inability to suffer fools gladly. As the three of us sat out on the crowded rooftop patio, I was grateful for the opportunity to mention my admiration of her livewire personality. Even with the synthetic sheen of preening professionals all around us, this woman's spirit couldn't be suffocated.
And, she shared the story of how she broke eight of her fingers all at once. (Joe's anecdotes were disappointingly lacking in freak physical accidents.)
5:30 PM -- With three or four Brooklyn Lagers sloshing inside my stomach, I took my temporary leave of the bar scene. First pitch for the Yankees v. Rockies game was scheduled for 7:05 PM and I had to sprint all the way back to the hotel to meet back up with Nick and get the tickets. I...didn't plan well.
5:45 PM -- Embracing the notion that red lights and crossing signals are nothing more than informal suggestions and ignored by pedestrians, I make it back to my room in pretty good time. Running through New York City is a LOT like this. Right down to the half-bird/half-Busta Rhymes creatures that shriek from the rooftops.
6:45 PM -- Nick and I arrive at NEW Yankee Stadium. The two of us attended a Yankees game together in 2007, but that was at the team's previous ballpark. The usual "difference between night and day" cliché doesn't quite capture the chasm between the two. The old place -- for all its "history" -- had become one with its squalid surroundings. Still, it was absolutely one of my favorite baseball experiences ever. The new stadium -- right across the street from where the original once stood -- is an opulent monstrosity. It reminded me of Biff Tannen's Pleasure Paradise Casino & Hotel towering over the slums of 1985A Hill Valley. Y'know, from Back to the Future II. Remember? The "A" stands for "altered reality". Remember?!
7:00 PM -- All kidding aside, this place is spectacular. I've been to better Major League ballparks, but new Yankee Stadium is unlike anywhere I've ever watched a game. Everything is enormous. Everything! The concourses, the signage, the scoreboard, the restrooms -- even the concession stands seem to extend into eternity. Before the game begins, I send a text message to Carrie (from earlier in this post...remember?!) and notice that my cell phone battery is on life support.
7:30 PM -- I've hastily made plans to meet Carrie after the third inning. For now, I've hasty-lier made plans to try the cheese fries at the Nathan's stand. For some surely litigious reason, the menus in New York are required to disclose the caloric content of every item offered. The cheese fries? 1,442 calories! However, the buyer's remorse didn't kick in until I returned to my seat. Thick, crinkle-cut fries asphyxiating in cheese sauce...and it was wholly mediocre: bland, flat and flavorless. Hard to believe the Nathan's brand would be associated with something so unappetizing. Right?
8:00 PM -- Between innings, I meet up with Carrie for the first time. An aspiring lawyer, she owns my absolute favorite Twitter feed -- riffing on everything from law school to Cocoa Puffs. As I awkwardly -- possibly drunkenly -- blurted out to her, "Dude, I'm rooting for you more than anyone I've never met before!" I didn't want to take her away from the game -- or her boyfriend! -- for too long. In the past 48 hours, I'd met four different people whom I'd admired from afar for years. New York trip = worth it.
9:00 PM -- Also, "worth it"? Watching ancient Rockies DH Jason Giambi turn back the hands of time. In the second inning, he tied the game with an absolute bomb over the right field wall. He walked in his next plate appearance and in the fifth inning, he singled sharply, prompting an exasperated Nick -- a longtime Yankees fan -- to yell out, "Jesus Christ, he's 50!" Without exaggeration, he brought down our entire section with that one.
10:15 PM -- Nick's Yankees lose, 4-2. As we head back towards the train, word begins filtering in to those of us who were segregated from the real world for the past three hours: New York had legalized same-sex marriages. I'd say this calls for a celebration.
Saturday, June 25
3:00 AM -- Nick and I lift ourselves out of a cab and spill into the lobby of our hotel. Somehow, through a nonsensical pattern of long walks and short cab rides, we'd ended up on Broadway and drank our last six light beers in the same location. Kept the tab open. $66 to settle up. My turn to buy. New York trip = still worth it.
3:30 AM -- I can't convince Nick to come back out for one more cheesesteak from Carl's. He had to head back to Connecticut early on Saturday and since he had spent his fifth wedding anniversary with me instead of with his beautiful wife and daughter, I gave him a pass. The streets seem more alive now than 12 hours ago. And, with a clear head and full spirit, I wanted to hold its essence. Turns out its essence is warm -- with extra Whiz and grilled onions.
Good night, New York.
Postscript -- My sincere thanks to everyone who made this trip so memorable and took some time to hang out with me. And, thanks to the "anonymous e-mailer" who inspired me to let a small handful of New Yorkers how much they mean to me. We'll have to do this again, New York. Soon.