March 24th, 2007

New York: Day 1

we arrived at ontario airport 2 hours early so we had tons of time to kill before heading off on our first (of three) flights to get to new york. i definitely feel more comfortable doing the whole airport process now, though security is still the crappiest part (shoes off, belt off, no liquids, my friend's deodorant was almost taken away). we boarded the plane on time and took off from ontario at about 11:30pm.

it was cool being in a plane again. delta airlines actually has space for your feet so that was pretty nice. i don't want to go into too much the whole airport and connection process, just know that it was long, arduous, going from ontario to atlanta to d.c. to new york and when we finally arrived at JFK, we were all tired as hell. the first thing we did was buy a map of manhattan, which soon became an invaluable resource to us over the next few days.

it was now around noon, saturday. after picking up our baggage, we went to find the airtrain, which is a train that goes around the whole of jfk airport and takes you to the new york subway. that in itself wasn't such a hard process, there are tons of signs are around that tell you where you have to go and the lady at the connection between the ny subway and the airtrain was very helpful in having us buy our metrocards ($24 unlimited for 7 days, this thing was so worth it), but after getting on the subway... things got a little difficult.

our first experience was on the A train to manhattan which takes you all the way through brooklyn underwater to the city. at first we were alright, we had all our stuff with us, things were going good, we watched a family get in a fight and that was entertaining... but then we missed the connection to the J train, which was supposed to take us right to the corner of our hotel so we decided to get off at the next possible connection, which led us into a spiral of oh my god where the hell do we go now? people at the subway are not very helpful and/or friendly, and we soon learned that you can't use your metrocard more than once in a 20 minute period so that left us waiting in front of a subway entrance for awhile watching longily at the people going in. by this time, we were sweaty and tired, but for some reason, after all that, we found ourselves on the F train which took us to grand st, right by our hotel.

we were right in the middle of chinatown and i soon realized how freakin gigantic this chinatown is compared to l.a.'s. l.a. has one or two big streets, ny's chinatown is a real ethnic enclave. the streets are pretty close together and there's traffic all the time but people drive anyway and people jaywalk all the time. for the first few times we found ourselves waiting for the light to turn into the little walking guy but after that it was just walk across and trust that you won't die (the one-way streets make this easier). there are tons of street graffiti everywhere too, posters and collages and spray paint and it's really interesting to see.

we finally found sohotel at exactly at check-in time, 3:00. we were lost in the subway system for a good three hours! luckily, nothing went wrong with the reservation process and we got our room right away. the room was decent-sized for a room with 2 double beds and a twin, and it had a private bathroom so that was good. outside of our window was a view of broome street. the bathroom was so tiny however, but they was a community bathroom in the hallway which helped. it was funny because the walls were so thin between the bathroom and the room we could actually hear each other pee... awkward.

after lounging about in the hotel for an hour unpacking and such, we set off to walk around chinatown in search for something to eat. ended up at the first sitdown place we found called XO house. XO house had a big menu, and also more menu items were displayed on the wall. we ended up ordering a mix of weird stuff. i ordered some salty fish fried rice but it came in a casserole bowl with cheese and tomato and it tasted better than i thought. my cousin ordered some soup which tasted almost alcoholic, i found out this was because of the use of chinese herbs which makes it taste bitter but it's supposed to be good for you? it also had goat in it, i soon learned. nonetheless, the food was pretty good even if the service was crappy (it was busy... good thing my roommate's boyfriend knew cantonese).

afterwards we just went walking all around the area. chinatown has all kinds of hair salons! i soon learned this was true of most of the city. chinatown bleeds into soho, which is completely different, it has a bohemian feel to it and tons of art galleries and stylish people walking around. the weather was cold and it even started raining a little. we took shelter in a dunkin' donuts where i had the sugariest hot chocolate ever (i was super jetlagged, but it helped). we met up with my cousin's friend here who is from the bronx and was in the city for the weekend, so he showed us around for a bit. we went to union square where we went to this bookstore called "the strand" which i immediately fell in love with... SO MANY DAMN BOOKS EVERYWHERE! the shelves were really high and there were so many of them, it was overwhelming. i ended up with "the barbarians are coming" by david wong louie (my creative writing professor!) and the new book by gabriel garcia marquez. afterwards, we went to this giant comic book store right next door. then we went to go eat at this bbq place called heartland brewery, the music being so loud we couldn't really understand each other when we spoke. it was interesting seeing my cousin's friend again, as i haven't seen him for 2 years or so. he's a funny guy and more talkative than i remember.

it was nice having someone figure out the subway thing for us, he took us back to canal street after we ate and i tried to find this japanese store i was at earlier that i thought had sake, but they didn't (sadness). we walked all the way down broome street (many many blocks) and encountered some really big accidents that had the firefighters and ambulances rushing and causing a big mess in the middle of the small streets. according to my cousin's friend, this was pretty normal for weeknights and saturdays. 2 blocks away from our hotel, we found a shady liquor store where we bought a six pack of smirnoff ice (didn't have the energy anymore for anything stronger). back at the hotel, we could hear music bumping from the club two doors down and i wondered if it was like this every night (i found out later it was just because it was saturday and wasn't a normal thing). everyone bonded through sleepiness and tiredness and my cousin's friend went a little crazy after one bottle of smirnoff than he should have. but it was good... we MADE IT TO NEW YORK! all by ourselves kind of! it was odd being there without any real adult presence but this trip was a practice in independence... the first day was the hardest in navigating our way around.

we went to sleep at around midnight to the sounds of pop music vibrating through the walls.