Monday, April 25, 2005

New York City - the Third Day

I originally wrote the outline for the following on Tuesday, 12 April while sitting somewhere in a shop somewhere in Chinatown, NYC.


It's been 3 days into my NYC sojourn. Here's a recap of the activites of the last 3 days.

Sunday, the very first day I was in NYC. (Actually I arrived on Saturday, but I did not go anywhere as it was already late when I got there). The big highlight of Sunday was watching the musical Rent. It was fabulous! The story concerning memorable characters such as Mark, Roger, Mimi and Angel touched me as it was very raw. For pop musicals (aren't they all?), Rent is the way to go. It had a live band on stage, a lot of fun, laughter and tears. It was touching when Angel passed away, and the ensemble's rendition of 'Seasons of Love' was very moving. Also, Frenchie Davis (that American idol contestant, remember? Probably not) had a small role in this musical, though her presence on stage was huge. Can't miss her - she's the fat lady with the small head.

The other major thing I did on Sunday was to board the Circle Line ferry and toured Manhattan by boat. If you ever go, do take the 3 hour tour that takes you round the island - viewing Manhattan from the sea affords you a different view of the city. For one thing, the buildings don't seem to overshadow you. I snapped away on my Nikon like a Japanese tourist on drugs. It was sights galore - Gawd, I was so enamoured with the bridges that I took so many of bridges like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and I'm sure I'll be able to name the other bridges if I had listened more carefully to the commentary (did I mention there's one?).

Miss Liberty herself

The Brooklyn Bridge

Some nondescript foot bridge or other, me going all National Geographic as you can see

I needed to get a picture of myself, and used this guy's sunglasses to help

Monday's highlight has to be standing on the top of the Empire State Building (ESB) freezing my butt off. It did not help that my lips were quite badly chapped when I went up. Made it worse with the wind blowing into my face - sometimes, I felt like the my ears had fallen off coz I couldn't feel them.

The sights from the top of the ESB were spectacular, especially when sunset came about. Seeing the sun setting in the horizon was magnificent - the setting sun cast a pale yellow light on the city, which slowly becomes orange, then shades of green, purple and blue can be made out. Finally, it all fades to black, and the city lights come alive. The city literally glows at night.

Sunset at the ESB. Gawd, I can't get the exposure right.

I must say that, though the sights are good, the ESB experience was not quite the Sleepless in Seattle scene I pictured (then again, I did not go up at midnight, which you can if you're really sleepless). The folks there had this really stupid queueing system. When you enter the area where you buy tickets, they have ropes which mark out how the queue is meant to form. I had to zigzag four, five times along the queueing route before getting to the counter to buy my tickets. Then, there is another queue to enter the lift - another zigzagging experience across a much larger room. This queue leads past a particular advertisment in another room before zigzagging back into the main larger room - ESB staff explained that they are contractually bound to show all visitors that particular advertisment (not going to name the advertiser, stupid as it is).

Then, you enter the lift, and exit at a floor that is 4-5 stories below the actual observation deck. Here, you're obliged to take a picture. I stood in front of some mock-up of the ESB and had my picture snapped. Then I was hassled to buy a commentary set (one of those running commentary stuff you stick in your ear and it says stuff at certain locations). All these, I had to endure, before being let up to the actual observation deck. Well, if you do go, try to have a patient attitude to all this - you're a tourist after all, and tourist traps are like that.

Tourist at the ESB.

I couldn't really understand that compulsory picture though - it happened at the Circle Line too. It just smacks of so much tourism to me to have my picture snapped next to something which is not even the real thing (same with the Circle Line - who wants their picture to be taken with the Circle Line sign at the entrance??).

In other Monday experiences, I visited the American Museum of Natural History. If you go there, skip all the other floors and head directly to the 3rd floor where the dinosaur bones are. One doesn't really need to see exhibits of ape men doing ape things, and so much stuffed animals. The dinosaur bones rule! Check out some of those I've taken in my Flickr album.

There were bones of mammoths...


the T-rex...

pteryldactyls, stegosaurus, velociraptors etc. Went goggled eyed just seeing the bones and finding out what experts deduce from just studying bone structures alone. Also worth having a look in the natural museum are the Big Bang exhibits (very educational in terms of giving us perspective on how small we are), and the huge fake whale in the oceanography section of the museum.

Then, there is Today, Tuesday. I'm now in a dinghy noodle place in Chinatown, having eaten my wanton mee. Seriously, there should really be somebody who starts a noodle place franchise. The noodles in this shop are fantastic - I can see how a noodle place franchise can become something like the next Ya Kun (ok, it's a stretch). Why not brand noodles? Make it fun to eat noodles? A lifestyle option, like Starbucks? (Me now: typing this now, I suddenly recall that its not a new idea anymore - recall Nooch).

Whacking a ball with your hand against a wall. I'm told this was a sport in the Olympics yonks ago.

The most interesting part of Chinatown thus far - Sedgewick Park. It's like a veritable community centre, except that the place is open air and has trees. There were old couples dancing to some music (no, they aren't into line dancing, its more of the cha cha variety). There were teenagers playing a form of game which I can only describe as handball crossed with squash. Also, there were old geezers playing chess and gambling, loudly yabbering away with each other. Funny how the Chinese community in NYC seem to retain so much of their Chineseness there. It seems that the further a community is from its cultural roots, the more likely its origins play an important role in life.

Dancing in Sedgewick Park. Nice.

I have had a lot of fun thus far, but I'm worried for Grace. I miss her very much - talking to her on the phone today just reminds me how much I miss her voice and her comforting tone. It'll be another few days before I head home though... I'm starting to feel some homesickness setting in.