Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Friday, September 21, 2012

differentiate.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting New York City. The last time I hit the big apple pavement was back in '07. The World Trade center site was still a disaster, with minimal progress on the memorial. At that time the city was fun as always, but still scary and a "big deal" to maneuver my way through the subway system. My recent visit was a much different experience.

Thank God for girlfriends who let you crash at their crib. My friend J loaned her couch and a set of keys to me for the week in the city. She lives in Queens, which is a neighborhood of New York I had never visited and never knew where it was located in relation to Brooklyn. Aside from my experience of Jamaica Queens in Coming to America, this burrow might as well be on the moon. In my mind it was a far distant land, like Staten Island. But something in me has changed since living over seas. Nothing excites me anymore. It's not that I don't find anything exciting, I just did not view New York City as the same frightful place. Give me a map, a transit pass, and some cab fare, go. That's really all you need, well maybe a little more money and a fearless attitude. I've been a tourist and an expat lost in foreign lands for so long, nothing phases me. I've seen some crazy ish, stuck in the middle of nowhere-Cambodia/Philippines/Malaysia with oxen mooing at me, and lost in Bangkok ghettos, so why would the dirty streets of NY cause a stir? New York felt foreign just like the other cities I traveled to (Macau, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok), and just like I maneuvered through the concrete jungles of SE Asia, I did the same in NYC, feeling like I was conquering new territory.

Of course I still got lost. Even with my handy NYC Mate app, I realized the cray cray of MTA. Why is there no train connecting Queens to Brooklyn? They say use the G line, but according to one native New Yorker, it is the bastard child of Mass Transit. New York on the weekend is relaxed, and apparently so are the trains. They don't run as frequently, and some completely shut down after a certain time. I realized I do not like the subway system in New York. I actually prefer Chicago's elevated trains. At least I can see sunshine, breathe fresh air, and jump if a terrorist attacks. I also realized New Yorkers are very nice, helpful people. . . except when you ask for directions, because I also realized NOBODY really knows where they are going. It's like an unwritten rule that if you want to look like a New Yorker, you don't carry a map. Good thing I don't care. If I relied on people's false sense of "I know where I'm going" I would have never got home. Funny thing is, everything you need to know about the trains is written plain as day inside the subway on the Helvetica-printed signs. Good thing I can read.

Vietnamese New Year Celebration and Dragon Show


I didn't see fire breathers or men hanging water buckets from their eye lids in NYC, but I did see my fair share of street performers and skateboard acrobatics :-)