travelogue part two...
again, this is largely for my own benefit. it's taking me a lot longer to write this than i expected, though. i'm not sure why i'm resisting it so much. perhaps there's too much lost in translation between feelings and words for what was such a visceral experience. or that by forcing myself to record it i would feel like the adventure was over, done, and by procrastinating that end i keep it alive? but the details are already slipping, and i need to get it down, so by way of preserving it i must also end it. what high drama for such a silly thing!
so... new york. i believe i left off just after i hopped the greyhound from detroit. i had the option to fly (my parents even offered to purchase the tickets), but i had never taken the greyhound (or any other public long-distance bus) before and the arrival/departure times for the greyhound were more convenient than any flight, so i thought i'd be a little adventurous. little did i know it would be no small adventure. the ride to new york was largely forgettable aside from the enormously tall (fortunately only tall) young man next to me who cleverly (yet clumsily) set up his video gaming computer on the arm rests in such a way that he was able to manipulate the controls beneath the system from his lap. which didn't seem strange until just now. there was also the adorable eastern european couple on their way to nyc who were likewise first-time riders on the bus and whom i tried to help with hand gestures and mimes at our midnight layover in cleveland. mostly, though, i slept, or tried to.
the bus arrived in newark mid-morning on friday june 22. after navigating the mildly confusing newark penn station and purchasing my train pass (with some cellular guidance from my patient host), i finally met dan on the steps of a jersey city courthouse. it had been two years since i'd seen my good friend and the first thing i noticed was how frickin' skinny he was. that right there made me want to stay, if that was the effect the city had. i took a quick and necessary shower, then we went grocery shopping for lunch. chicken pesto with sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts with a light side salad and some sweet filipino bread from a bakery around the corner. then we went downtown.
i geeked out for a while. i admit, i was being a tourist. there were pretty people everywhere. and they knew how to dress! that was strangely one thing i didn't remember from my first visit to new york city in 2000(?) -- the people. weird, right? back then i was so focused on not wanting to look like a tourist and trying to blend in that i must have not looked around much. granted, at the time i was also a repressed little mormon boy who didn't want his parents to know his little secret, so ogling was out. poor dan was probably embarrassed by me making up for it. i also didn't remember how gay the city was, but pride may have had something to do with that. anyway, after getting dizzy being led so expertly through the subway systems we arrived at the mid-manhattan library where we attended a literary makeover event hosted by three drag queens who made participants up to resemble large characters in fiction. dan got to be the brutally desirable blanche dubois, but the real brutality was the number of trees that were murdered to get the makeup off his face. that in itself was an adventure. a fun one, though, and afterwards we stopped by a street vendor for felafel. yeah. it was slightly scary and romantic all at once. i mean, the guy pulled the felafel out of a mysterious drawer in his cart. it was the first time i prayed over my food in about five years. it was so good, though. probably came frozen from sysco, but it didn't matter. we ate on the nearest damp steps we could find, then boogied over to hell's kitchen for some experimental theater at ars nova (after looking at the map i realize it's only a couple blocks away from the holiday inn i stayed at my first time in the city). the show was interesting. i don't remember the guy's name. but he performed this little concept album to a synchronized film. i liked his voice (and he was kinda hot in a grungy chav way), but the lyrics were a tad high-school poetry. all the same it was kinda magical, like this was the sort of place ideas could be tossed around and formed and eventually set loose on the rest of the world.
we made a late start of it on saturday, wending our way from journal square to central park west where we hoped to snag a couple tickets to shakespeare in the park (as you like it). after standing in an impossibly long line where we were serenaded by a saxophonist, treated to a show by young men working out in the park, and entertained by our own (rather pathetic on my part -- i don't do well when put on the spot) games of 20 questions and categories, we finally made it up to the box office where we received the news that they were sold out. no worries, there are a million things to do in nyc. so we walked down to the bethesda fountain, which neither of us had seen in person before, then made our way out of the park to another subway that took us south to soho where an assist from yelp introduced us to mooncake foods, a yummy little asian restaurant. from there we walked to the leslie-lohman museum of gay and lesbian art, where we experienced a bit of the lgbt history at the hudson river piers, after which we walked to the piers themselves and strolled through the hudson river park, appreciating its many views. it was definitely owned by the gays. this is where i started getting a little depressed about all the physical beauty around me, but there was a moment, when standing at the end of pier 45 (the one the "hudson river park" map centers on -- when we were there you couldn't see much green, it was just wriggling with half-naked men) and looking out over the hudson to hoboken and jersey city across the river, the statue of liberty out in the bay, and the new world trade center rising above it all -- in that moment, listening to the river lapping at the pier, surrounded by "family" -- it felt, well... ok, don't laugh, but steven chbosky said it best... i felt infinite.
after the visit to the piers we made our way to hell's kitchen again to visit a vodka infusion bar called vlada. it was tasty. i had ginger pear and dan had something with kiwi. it didn't taste very strong, but both of us were feeling it a lil' as we left and made our way to flaming saddles. it was the first time i'd done it, but i believe the kids call it bar-hopping. saddles was a fun one, where the hot bartenders dance on the bar a la coyote not-so-ugly. there we split a frito-pie right out of the frito bag. by then we'd had a few drinks, so of course we wanted ice cream, too. there was a place we wanted to try, called holey cream (naturally), so we walked a ways down the block only to discover it was directly across the street from the bar we were just in. then we thought it was a good idea to have something called a donut ice-cream sandwich. yum. from there we made our way to a comedy club and i have no idea where it was or what it was called. somewhere in midtown, i think. and on our way there we noticed that they were making it rain over a shop so we stopped and were told by a nearby cop that it was heidi klum shooting some hair commercial. so yeah, we got to see heidi klum, which was cool. anyway, we made it to the club and saw a sketch/improv show that had some funny moments.
sunday in the park with dan. well, i'm getting a bit ahead of myself. it was another later start. dan had some work to do sunday morning so i occupied myself chatting with some locals. eventually we made our way to a nice little street corner where the 2012 pride parade would end (i say nice, but i'm rather partial to my own personal street corner about a half mile east). the subway ride there was packed, but in a fun way. cute guys and rainbows everywhere. it was hot and we were dehydrated and i ended up with a crazy burn (and now some crazy tan lines), but it was the perfect climax to the trip. it wasn't much more than a parade, i suppose, but it was my first pride and i couldn't have picked a better place or better company. it was all extremely uplifting and we screamed ourselves hoarse and clapped our hands raw. and as if we didn't get enough sun at the parade, afterwards we made our way north to chelsea one last time for a stroll on the high line, a former elevated rail turned into a city park that afforded beautiful views of the city and came complete with its own zoo. we walked the whole thing, from 16th to 30th, then climbed down and made our way back to the subway station.
it was a war of emotions on that last, quiet train ride from manhattan back to journal square. on one hand it was all the energy and excitement of the weekend coursing through me, on the other it was the weighty realization that it was over, that in a very short time i would be making my way back to north carolina. granted, part of me was ready. i was tired. it had been a long trip. i missed hermes and central air conditioning and not living out of a suitcase. i used these to convince myself that i was ok with leaving, but i couldn't deny that something was changing. yes, defying gravity was running through my head. while on that train i distinctly remember feeling like i was being given a choice -- with all that had happened, with all the energy i was feeling, i could either explode or implode. i knew i would do one or the other. i could take the energy and run with it, let it change me, let it turn me into the person i felt like during that weekend -- a person i desperately want to be. or i could go back to the old ways, sitting in my apartment and folding in upon myself, dimming into nothingness. it was both an exciting and scary thought, but mostly it was scary because i had a feeling i knew which one i'd end up doing.
back in jersey city we ate at a little filipino restaurant (can't remember which) that i knew would keep me in the back of the bus all night. fortunately it didn't. it was scary, but tasty. or at least what bits i ate were. the walk back to dan's was beautiful -- it was just a really pretty day. i tried to focus on getting my stuff together, making sure i wasn't forgetting anything. it was a way of not thinking about leaving. dan walked me back to journal square, where my train to newark was just arriving. we said a quick goodbye and i jumped on. i hate goodbyes. i get that from my mother. when we talk on the phone she has never once said goodbye, always just "i love you." i always end up rushing them and then i regret it later, which of course i did. the ride from jersey city to newark seemed impossibly long, but before i knew it i was there. i almost got lost in newark penn station again, and it was by happy chance that i was stopped by a woman who asked where the path trains were who gave me directions to the greyhound station in return. the bus was 30 minutes late, which freaked me out when i had only a 30 minute window at my connection in norfolk (they ended up holding the next bus for a little while). it was also already fairly full. i sat in the first open seat i came to, which happened to be right next to a really cute puerto rican guy. now i generally hate it when strangers strike up conversations, but i was still feeling the energy of the weekend and i was determined not to implode, so when he checked his watch as we were pulling out of the station, i commented on it. a couple hours later we were making out.