Monday, May 02, 2005

New York City - the Sixth Day

I originally wrote the following, longhand, while sitting in a coffeeshop in Chinatown, New York. It's getting to be a drag trying to piece together some of my terrible handwriting, and this should be the last post in this series. Phew...


Here's a brief recap of these last few days in NYC. After leaving the noodle shop in Chinatown on Wednesday, I found myself wandering into the Museum of Chinese in America. Interesting exhibits there - I learnt that the Chinese first came into the Americas as some kind of indentured labour. They weren't allowed to procreate - there were restrictions on the number of women who could come into the United States. They're very much like the Bangladeshis I see in Singapore now (History does repeat itself).

Playground in Chinatown

I also bought a bao and some kopi at the Mei Lai Wah coffeeshop (which is where I am right now). I liked the bao so much that I'm back here eating the same stuff again, 3 days later. There wasn't much else about Chinatown that I could explore, and later that afternoon, I headed to the Wall Street area of NYC.

The first stop was at the WTC site - there isn't really much to see, besides this big hole in the ground. There were plenty of tourists though, milling around just reading the boards put up which recall the events of 9/11. Makes me wonder what New York intends to do with that big piece of prime real estate - it is in a rather good location, and to leave it as a big hole in the ground as a reminder seems a kind of waste. Then again, there's really nothing one can build there which can truly honour the memory of that occasion. Hence... big hole in the ground.

Folks milling around the big hole.

What serves as a memorial of sorts.

I also saw Wall Street and the surrounding area. Suits fill the streets here, and tourists snap pictures of buildings which look, IMHO, rather dull. There was this bull though, which provided some level of touristy appeal to the place (Every city with a stock exchange should get a bull - I saw one in Chicago too, albeit smaller).

Red flag this.

Needing a breather, I later headed to Battery Park to get a view of the Statue of Liberty (again) from the, well, park. Broke my 67 polariser lens there and felt a twinge of pain at its demise. Sighs, the stupid lens fell out of my hands and broke apart on the park bench (it dropped no more than 50 cm). There goes pictures of blue skies for a long while until I can afford one again.

Wednesday and it's off to Central Park. I started out with buying some lunch to bring along - my head was filled with the romantic notion of lunching on some food while sitting in a lush green park, reading my recently acquired book (Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck - good read). Central Park is one big patch of greenery, a great place to see joggers, wierdos (this guy greeted me enthusiastically in the john), people walking dogs (they don't have jobs???), people sunning (amidst 15 deg Celsius, windchill), people busking (see pic) and photogs haunting the grounds.

Busker in Central Park.

Speaking of photogs, I spoke to this Filipino dude who claims New York is a GREAT place to be living in. He's obviously full of a lot more romantic notions than I am. Oh, and as for my romantic Central Park idea, I did do it for about an hour or so before I couldn't feel my nose nor my ears. Sitting inert in the grass munching and reading was a recipe for growing cold (in Spring). I gave up and decided to walk around instead, armed with my trusty Central Park map.

Man, I miss cycling.

Check out the following Central Park locales: The Mall, two rows of trees lined up and looking at attention; get lost in the Rambles, and look really stupid emerging from the same place you entered it in; see the ice skating rink featured in that movie Serendipity, which is not as serene as it was in the movie - the rap blasting out the speakers really kill, erm, romantic notions; the Bethesda fountains, where I caught a photo shoot happening. The model was bravely soldiering on in skimpy wear while the entire crew wrapped themselves real warm.

Caught this guy trying to blend in. Central Park.

So, after a while in Central Park (this being near 3pm already) I got bored and decided to watch another musical to kill time in the evening. Headed to the TKTS booth and bought myself tickets for Momma Mia. My day got better - I caught the naked singing cowboy of Times Square!

Okay, he isn't entirely naked, but hey, he's THE tourist attraction there. Gals taking pics with him get to touch his butt (flabby and round as it is). I don't know how he can stand being in the cold like this.

Tired at this point, I found myself a Starbucks to read Grapes for a while and relax. My knees were already hurting badly. I was practically limping into Starbucks, the knees shot from walking too much the last few days. Feeling it might feel better to lose the bag, I headed back to the hostel to dump the equipment and headed out for dinner and the musical. Dinner was at a viet restaurant called Saigon Grill, where I had my most expensive meal in NYC - costed all of USD14.00 with tips.

The service there was great, but the food was really just so-so. It didn't seem remotely viet or even near Indo-Chinese to me. Oh, to make things seem even cheesier, the oriental looking wait staff (to the untrained ang moh eye) spoke to each other in sparkling Cantonese. Ha, Saigon Grill my ass.

Momma Mia! ...was an entertaining show! Folks were literally dancing in the aisles at the end of the musical. The familiar songs were all there (Dancing Queen, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Thank you for the Music). The songs were worked in nicely with the plot and serve to play out the scenes. The only song that did not fit in was Waterloo (which the cast sang at the end, clad in spandex).

Thursday and I woke up late (pig) at 11am. Called my love to hear her sweet sweet voice, missing her even more than ever. I had my bagels for brunch at the Absolute Bagel place (Upper West Side, between 107th and 108th Street, Broadway). I can't say whether the bagels are good cos I have never had bagels prior to eating here. In any case, this place's bagels became my breakfast staple and I ate varieties of it most mornings. It took me a while to get to the East side to see the Metroplitan museum as the metro routes were different.

You see this scene in museums everywhere. I think this is how fakes are done.

Oh, the Met is worth it. I walked around soaking up the culture (haha), the favourite being an exhibition of Max Ernst's paintings. Really abstract stuff which are supposed to be thought provoking. Check out pictures such as "Celebes", "Flower, Woman, Man" and "Fireside Angel". Fireside Angel was meant to denigrate Fascism, reflecting Mr Ernst's distaste for their politics and growth.

This doorway reminds me of a painting. Kind of apt in a museum, doncha think?

Also, it was good taking the Museum Highlights Tour. The guide was informative, giving insights into particular paintings and sculture which were fascinating in their depth. My favourite was seeing this Rembrandt called "Aristotle with bust of Homer". Aristotle holds a gold chain in his left hand, and his right hand rests on the bust. In his left hand is all the wealth and power he has accumulated in his lifetime, spent in instruction of the great Alexander. In his right, his hand rests on knowledge (Homer) and poetry. He mulls over that universal complex - wealth and power, or knowledge and love of the art? Rembrandt probably thought the same things (he picked his art).

Mui Lai Wah is bustling with these old Chinese guys - damn I wish I understood more Cantonese. I should be off now - the Brooklyn Bridge awaits, ready to give my knees a brand new knocking, and my nose and ears a biting cold. Later!

Brooklyn Bridge, a cyclist there almost hit me while I was shooting pictures. Worst curse I ever had upon my soul.

Brooklyn Bridge. I like this shot for the lines in it.