New York State of Mind

I read somewhere that a travel story should have a ‘story’. Something that connects the whole thing. A comprehensive thing. A quest… things noted… things observed… things… well… that and a whole lot more.

The problem was, I went to NY with no goal in mind except to see the city. No clue how to do it. And the reasons for it was even not mine. Geo was having a milestone birthday and NYC was cheap at the time he had gone looking.

On the first night there, dinner needed to be secured. That was five long blocks from our hotel on 55th – the Carvi Hotel – to where these halal guys were (that’s what they were really called – The Halal Guys!). I was tired and hungry. I could have happily taken a bag of food back to our hotel from one of the eateries near the place. And then plopped down on the bed and slept. (The food was delicious! Worth the long line! And pretty cheap!!!!)

Then he asked what my list was in the things I wanted to see in NYC. The lady was out of the question as it requires reservations months and months ahead. However, I still wanted to see her. Even if it’s faraway. As long as a glimpse of the lady was seen.

So my list went like this: The lady, the bull, Wall street, Central Park (Alice, castle, Imagine), 30 Rock, Prometheus, ice skating in front of 30 Rock, Brooklyn Bridge, 911 memorial, Times Square, Grand Central Station. Jelle added that I ought to taste NYC pizza and hotdogs.

What did I know of any of them? Nothing. Not one darn thing. Did not read up on them except superficially. I had no time since I was too busy.

We walked to 30 Rock the night we landed, after the halal guys. And found Prometheus. In front of the skating rink we never set foot on. (Another day). We also went looking for Atlas on the other side of the Rockefeller building, in front of the church – St. Patrick’s. Since it was Sunday and I missed the service, I asked to go in to pray.

It was a bit difficult as Geo liked to talk and kept regaling me with the shallow history of the place as compared to even the churches in Italy. All I wanted was to be able to bow my head, feel the peace of the place, and let the prayer in my heart burst forth. I finally asked quietly if I could take a few seconds to pray. And finally left alone to my thoughts, I prayed. So, this was New York City.

Prayer done, we walked the length of 5th avenue, as he pointed out landmarks in case I got lost. It was a teeming city and probably very easy to get lost in. I suppose I could always turn on google maps and it would take me back to home base. But this author’s ears were like a channel. In one ear and out the other. Nothing was sticking to my tired brain.

The next day, he took me to see the lady. Our first stop was metro passes. He again wished we had gotten the unlimited option when we had gotten off the plane. I would so recommend it. Still, he filled our metro cards with $30 each.

We got off on Battery Park and walked up. So this was Battery Park. Huh. Not really much to look at. But there was a hotdog cart, Nathans. $7?!?! For a hotdog? Seriously? George laughed and said, “Should have just bought the $5.00 one from the airport. That one came with a drink.” I shook my head and sighed. No New York hotdog for me I guess if they cost that much!

We took the Staten Island ferry to see the lady, and took another ferry back right away. We weren’t the only ones rushing to the other ferry either! It seemed like we were part of a herd. Even one passenger had a self-deprecating laugh about it. “I thought I was the only one who knew about this,” he laughed as he kept pace with us. We got in just in the nick of time. The ferry employees were about to close the gates, much to their amusement, as they cut the herd in half.

Back on ground, we walked to the bull and touched its considerable masculinity. “This didn’t use to be such an attraction. Now, there are so many people here,” he reminisced.

“I thought he’d be in front of the NYSE,” I muttered. My tour guide laughed and told me that the artist dropped it off in the middle of Wall Street in the dead of night..

After some photos, we walked the length of Wall Street to see NYSE… as well as Federal Hall with Geo Washington guarding it. Apparently, New York City was the birthplace of the United States.

Dusk had fallen and the light show was starting. It’s usually when the city comes to life. Rivers of light spread before us, opening one section at a time. We took time to allow my feet some rest. And Geo to take pictures. Then we followed a well worn path towards the tavern where the Declaration was signed. And could not find it. And we walked towards another destination. The Stark white Oculus came into view (I told Geo it looked like a big female genitalia from my standpoint. He laughed.) and next to that, one Peace plaza. Then the two waterfalls…

And again I heard legends from my whispering tour guide. “You know, there’s a hole for each person that died,” he said. “So this memorial is supposed to represent their endless tears.”

Huh? Oh. Each hole where the water gushes out of represents one person that died in the 911 attack. I see.

It was the 2nd day that had me swearing to find more comfortable shoes to pack next time. Shoes to walk in 24 hours of the day because that’s what it seemed like we were doing. Early in the morning, we walked. We walked fast. Like the business people weaving their way around tourists and others too slow. We stopped to pick up a bagel and coffee from a cart vendor.

“They’re only here around this time. 5AM until maybe 10. After that, you’ll see the lunch carts,” he said. The bagels were still a buck fifty, like he remembered from years ago. And the coffee? $1. Cheap breakfast in a city that thrives on making things expensive. Except… I’m used to getting my bagel toasted.

We got in line for standby tickets at 30 Rock. For Seth Meyers. (Yes, we did get in to see the show. But that’s another tale entirely.) And once we secured our tickets for tickets, we went on our way. To Grand Central Station.

“There’s a place here where if you talk to the corner, the person in the other corner will hear you,” my guide said.

“Really?” I said. “And you know where this corner is?”

“It was during the prohibition,” he continued his story. “The wine harkers would have a lookout for the police and that was how they used that to warn the others when police was coming. I still haven’t found it though.”

In my mind, it would probably have to be somewhere near the food court then. But what do I know? I’m not the guide and more than once, I can attest that I know nothing and he can definitely prove it. So I let him lead me to where he thought it would be. Although it seemed a little strange to me since it was by ateliers and boutiques more than food. At just that moment, two guide workers came by and laughed.

“You can’t do that here,” the man said.

The woman came and said, “Oi, you don’t wanna do that here! People be thinking some crazy woman is talking to the corner!”

“You know what we’re trying to do?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah, but it’s not there,” the man said.

“Would you know where it is?” I asked.

“Down by the food court. You go straight this way and turn left,” the lady instructed.

I thanked them profusely for their care of my reputation and for the information.

I laughed at George and we walked down towards the direction they said. And lo and behold, there it was. A four cornered marble arched way before the food court. And we’re not the only one who knew of it. There were others there, testing this phenomenon. Of course, we too, tried it. We faced two opposite corners and spoke to each other, marveling how clear we both sounded and that the other opposite corners could not hear our conversation as well, nor could we hear theirs. Though for something so remarkable, I’m surprised not too many people were lined up trying this. A smattering at the most.

From there, we went to the NYC library. And didn’t stay. My guide knew nothing of the library and didn’t really want to know, I suppose. So we went looking for a subway.

“Look for a structure with green balls,” he instructed.

I saw it, the balls.

“Balls,” I said, pointing to a wall.

Plastered to what seemed like the wall of the NYC’s library’s right side. Either he didn’t hear me or he dismissed those balls. They were green and white. He continued looking all around the area of the four corner crossing. I saw people entering the wall. And getting out of it.

“Hey,” I finally said, louder. “Is it that one?”

“Where?”

“Behind us. People were going in and getting out of it,” I said.

He looked up and saw the green and white balls from the ornate fencing posts.

“That’s it! I told you, didn’t I? Green balls? Sometimes its green and white,” he said, marching off to the subway. “Sometimes, it’s red also.”

Uh-huh. So subway entrances are built into the buildings and they look like they’re part of the building. They’re signaled by balls. Hmmm… This is NYC.

We got off at the Brooklyn Bridge. What did I know of the bridge? Only that it is one of the most sold read “scammed” bridges in the US.

“It was completed by a woman,” my tour guide told me. “They got the name caisson’s disease from diving deep down and they didn’t understand the bends at that time. The architect died of the bends, then his son died for the same reasons, and I think the original architect’s wife was the one that completed the bridge. This was before they understood that a person needs to decompress slowly.” (He was wrong. It was the son’s wife that completed the bridge.)

I pointed out that a plaque by Tiffany had a grammatical error.

We walked across the bridge and at the end, turned around. We marveled at the webbing effect the wires made when we photograph the bridge at a certain angle.

I marveled at the people. I marveled at the fact that I was walking across wooden planks right on top of the car traffic below as they zoomed on by. He spoke of DUMBO. And that we could probably walk to there. (We left that for another day. It was lunch time, I was hungry and we still needed to get back to 30 rock before 3:30 – I thought.)

On our way out of the bridge, we met a couple (both male), dressed to the nines, holding hands, with boutonnieres on their black suit jackets. I smiled and called out, “Congratulations!” The groom closest to me answered with a smile, “Thanks!”

George sidled close to me and asked, “What did you say to them?”

“I said congratulations,” I replied.

“Why?”

“They just got married,” I said.

“How do you know that?” he asked.

Was it not obvious to him? Two men in suits with white dress shirts, holding hands, a red rose boutonniere on both of their lapels… obvious! They just got hitched. But I think it was just obvious to me.

We went to Times square and walked the length of it, just as the sun was about to go down. And it was a lively venue. We ate dirty water hotdogs and pretzels. We walked around Broadway and found the venues for the musicals. So that was Times Square.

“Why do you think they call it Times Square?” he asked.

“I’m thinking because once upon a time, one of the buildings was owned by the NY Times?”

“Good guess!” he said. “That was the New York Times headquarters.” He pointed to a building standing on the tip of a triangular strip of land.

He went on to tell me about the New Year’s ball dropping and just how big this ball happens to be from the ground. It wasn’t big at all. And glory of all glories! It was there! High up on the tower! Just not lit up.

Times Square was full of people. People in costumes. Pikachu, Iron Man, Mickey… etc. Characters anyone would know. There was also a man dressed like the Statue of Liberty. They expected payment for a picture with them. There were shoppers there as well, since up and down the street were shops of every kind. Up above the shops were adverts in neon and LED TVs. Marquees and street signs. And I didn’t even realize I was chomping down on a dirty water hotdog ($4 for a fingerling thin tube of meat wrapped in a regulation sized bun- no soda) right under the Hard Rock café’s guitar neon sign.

There were street cleaners complete with dustpan and broom. It was like a carnival.

“It wasn’t like this before,” he said. “There were lots of shops of the baser nature kind. Hookers on every turn. It’s like the red light district in San Francisco. And many vagrants. It smelled of urine and human waste.”

“Looks pretty nice now,” I said.

“Guiliani cleaned it up,” he said.

The New York Metropolitan Museum was another adventure. Feet aching, all day venturing edventure. We took advantage of the many free guided tours to learn about the many offerings that it has. The one that truly captured his attention was the European painters. Gaugin, Van Gogh to name the two I knew. There was a sculpture of a girl in a tutu on the cover of something and he pointed to it. “Who did that?” I answered ,”Degas.” And I was correct. Well, then. I guess I knew something about some art.

I treated him to lunch at the museum cafeteria. Salmon for him. Pasta for me. Not quite what I would have given the birthday boy, but my feet were hurting and I didn’t care. There should have been noodles for long life and a cake for a sweet life. Ah, perhaps another year.

Then we went to check out the last tour we could go on. The Egyptian tombs. I would rather wait until a Luxor Cruise came around or something. He and I followed behind the guide, him taking pictures and I listening with half an ear and I was watching for a place to sit. No matter where we were, I was looking to relieve my feet. They ached.

I had stupidly told him about Alice which was in Central Park. That and the Imagine mosaic in the strawberry fields. And a castle. So, we walked. To find Alice in twilight. At the very least, he had a good camera that will capture me and the Mad Hatter even in twilight.

He smoked until someone told him he is not allowed to smoke in the park. Huh. Apparently, you can be cited for it. Hmmm.

We walked on and found Alice. Yes, my feet hurt. We’re not the only one looking for Alice it seemed. There was another couple there. I took their pictures for them.

We walked on inside the Park. And found Hans Christian Andersen. I needed a photo op with him, of course. He was my hero once upon a time.

The boat house is where we stopped. And we shared a Snickers bar and water.

And we contemplated the evening. Then he consulted his phone and looked for the subway. In my infantile mind I asked, ‘Couldn’t we go back where we came from?’

“We can walk across Central Park and there’s one right there,” he said.

So we did. And we walked. And we walked. Did I not complain of aching feet?

The lights started to flicker on across the city.

When we had crossed to where the street was on Central Park West, we kept walking until we reached 72ndavenue.

“John Lennon lived here in one of these buildings,” he said.

We stopped at a park bench along the street.

“Your Imagine is down there, wanna go see it?”

I looked at him and said, “No. Another time. In fact, I’ll just imagine it. My feet hurts too much.”

We had pizza. Nothing to write home about.

We went to see a Broadway play. Chicago. He was disappointed. I enjoyed it. But I think Cats would have been better.

New York wasn’t really about the tourist things we did. It was of George reminiscing about how the city has changed.

“Central Park wasn’t lit up before. It was so dark there once upon a time. There were no path lights like you saw,” he said.

We decided to go and drink at the lounge at 30 Rock. And there we were, Top of the Rock, with that one of a kind view.

“You can’t see Central Park from the Chrysler or the Empire State Building,” he said. “30 Rock blocks it.”

We paid the price of the drink. Not the $35.00 per person it was going to be charging us if all we wanted was to see the view. A little alcohol in you some wind, and a place to kind of sit a bit, it helps.

Upon arriving at our hotel, the concierge was talking to a couple.

“Is it safe here, though?” the man was asking.

“Well, yes. Relatively,” the concierge prevaricated.

I wanted to laugh. New York is a safe city. It’s as safe as San Francisco, or Sacramento. Or Davis for that matter. It’s as safe as Beijing. The thing is, anywhere is pretty safe. It can also be dangerous. I’m sure there was a pickpocket eyeing me somewhere. I just was with George all the time.

“I still haven’t seen the flat iron building,” he said. “And I’ve been here a lot.”

We haven’t seen DUMBO either, nor did we get to Joe’s Pizza or Katz for their $20 sandwiches. Nor did we go to the top of the Chrysler building, the Met Life building, or One Peace Plaza (the tower). The Statue may have to wait a few more years. And Ellis Island as well. The Museum of Natural History, too. And MOMA, although George said he doesn’t really care for it. Even though his Starry Night is housed in MOMA. Van Gogh if anyone was interested. The library would have been nice to explore, I think. It has a treasure trove of art.

As in many things… we will leave it for another day. Another trip. One of these days, those will be the first priority on our list. This trip… we had other items on the agenda. I really needed to touch some bronze bull balls and walk my feet off. The last part was Geo’s agenda. I was hoping for more leisurely walks, not the marathon we seem to do during vacations. Perhaps next time.

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Halloween Costumes – KPop and Me

I’ve always liked dressing up for Halloween. The more elaborate the better. The most recent times, I’ve been obsessed with top hats. Last year, I was the Mad Hatter. This year…well… I’ll tell you later.

The thing is, at the end of Halloween last year, I wanted to recreate VIXX’s Voodoo Doll concept. 

And try something like this…

Yes, Including Microphone skull thingy. 

So, I go to thinking what else I could try. VIXX being one of my faves has so many!

Cyborgs.

Voodoo Doll as mentioned above.

Dark angel concept.

Their recent one… 

Dark gods concept…

I suppose others could easily pinpoint other groups. And other people. 

Perfect! LOL! 

Or…

The thing is, VIXX has also done wolves…

And a Chinese thingy concept.

I really liked that!

However, back to this year’s Halloween costume. Ugh, I was hoping for something like this…

But instead I have to go in something like this…

Life just isn’t fair!!!!

However, I guess it’s better than these…

Maybe one day, I can pull off this…

I don’t think so. But I sorta pulled this one off.

Too bad it wasn’t Halloween!

On that note…

Happy Halloween!

A Quest

Since the years have been advancing, I have this thing about nostalgic things. And so, I have been searching for, of all things, a clay pot. Nope, not just any clay pot, but one made of black clay within which you can cook delicious foods. 

One that looks like this. 

The proper term from the internet is “palayok” from the tagalogs. I just knew it as “banga.”

Of course, the companion stove that SHOULD come with it would be nice, too. But it’s heavy as @#$%&, but beautiful nonetheless. Would make a great outdoor kitchen for such as I am. And this one I knew is called “dalikan.”

Obviously, the pictures aren’t mine. They look like photos from some museum. Considering the many many places where terracotta wares are coming from, I don’t understand why these particular ones are just lost in the good old’ US of A!

Even in Filipino infested California, there is nothing! A dearth of these beautiful black clay pots exists here! It’s making me crazy!

Really! Why can we have Italian pottery for our gardens and nothing about the “burnay” that I had scooped cold water from in my childhood? Or where the “bagoong” (fermented fish sauce) was stored?

I bet these have fish sauce fermenting in them now. If not basi vinegar. 

I want these things! Where can I find them? You really think I’m gonna ferment fish sauce in those things? Hah! But they’d be great at catching water during rainy season for watering the yard!

If we get stuff from China and Japan, and Balinese pottery makes it here to the US, why can’t I find these three?  Maybe someone can point me in the right direction as to where I can get my hands on a few pots. 

KPOP & me – Kdrama “The Entertainer”

In the drama, the band is called “Ddandarra Band.” Literally, the Entertainer Band. And I have not stopped laughing and crying. The romance is minimal, but Man!!!!!!! The bromance is overflowing!!!!

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Kang Minhyuk was the reason I looked up the drama. And in the second episode, I remembered why I fell in love with the little boy. No longer a boy, but still…. His voice is still soooo honest… clear…. beautiful. And he shines as Jo Ha Neul.
However, his band mates are just as precious!!!
You will fall in love with each of their individual stories. Generally a story of a life gone wrong and the corrective steps taken to right a series of wrongs. A great fairytale in short… Still, do not watch without a box of tissues. You will cry each time one of them cries.
You will also wish you could adopt all of them. Including the wayward president of Mango Entertainment.

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You will definitely fall in love with these four dorks. Really!!!

The thing I love about these actors are that they make me forget who they are and allow me to watch them as the characters they portray. And that’s why I loved watching this.
The next pictures are more of the four! None of these are mine. Credits to those that took them!!!! Go watch!!!! Dramafever has it!

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KPOP and me – CNBLUE MinHyuk

My forays into KPop has a few notables. And it started with CNBLUE.

Arguably, I’ve always liked Kang Minhyuk. His acting is pretty good as well. Loved the song he did in Heartstrings – Byeol.  Ah… Star. It was, at that time, quite innocent and the song reflected that. But in CNBLUE, the most notable of the four members is dynamically voiced leader and lead singer Jung Yonghwa.
Then this drama came out called “Entertainer.”

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Second episode in…and you hear Kang Minhyuk’s clear vocals.

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I’ve always liked guys with those upturned eyes. And one reason why Kang Minhyuk was just too cute not to notice even if he was drumming in the back. 

One of CNBLUE’s songs I have in my playlist is called “Teardrops in the Rain.” Minhyuk and their other lead vocalist, Lee Jonghyun (another guy with a voice suited for ballads), sang this song. The one I have is of Kang Minhyuk. It’s entirely in English.

Lee Jonghyun’s version has the hard ESS sound as if his tongue cannot curve through the English words properly. Minhyuk’s voice though… It curves through the words just fine, giving the song what it needs… The right amount of longing, of soft echoey whispered flow that evokes the thoughts of rain and longing.

And here again, Minhyuk’s vocals shine. I cannot wait to see the next episodes of the drama.

I should note that in this particular scene when he sings, he reminded me of another KPop singer I’m currently watching. Jung Leo of VIXX. Must be those upturned eyes.

I love the boys of CNBLUE, but this one. God, sometimes, I wish this one was my son.

KPOP And Me – Kim Jaejoong’s album

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Kim Jaejoong’s released his album! While in the army no less!
Truthfully, I’m not here to critique the album. In fact,  I’ve fallen in love with Run Away.  It’s sad, melancholy.  Supposedly, saying goodbye.  So why does his voice sound so… regretful…  I like most of the songs on this album.  Jaejoong’s voice does not forgive, give quarter, or release you from your chains.  It abuses your senses.  It permeates the very marrow of your grey matter and you wonder where in heaven’s name have you heard this!  For a while in Run Away, I thought I may have been listening to Adele.  Don’t ask me why!

There is also Love you to Death.  And that’s interesting.  Supposed to be sad, but it’s more… sing songy.  Of course, I don’t know the translations yet.  It’s just a lot of things about it is catchy.  Don’t ask.  I’m in a weird mood.

And All that Glitters…

I think I like the simplicity of Breathing a lot though.  The guitar strums in the beginning is a great touch.  This song showcases Jae’s voice so well.   Maybe because I really like acoustic guitars, thinking of the islands a lot. 

I really really really like a lot of these songs.  I do.  Then again, I’ve always loved Kim Jaejoong’s expressiveness. 

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BUT!!!!!!

I’m really really interested in why NoX.  This is Kim Jaejoong’s 2nd album and yet, we’ve got NoX.  This can’t refer to their 10 years as JYJ, or his 10 years as a singer.  Can’t be that he’s counting since his debut because that’s two years ago, right? I mean the 10 year anniversary.

Does he mean.  ‘No.  X.’  Or is it really number 10?  Or is X a place holder? 

No as in N-O! Hell no! And X. Like no exes.

The puzzle within a puzzle is just that.  Even his album cover is a puzzle.  A maze.  A giant X with NO incorporated into the top v of the x.  Can it mean. X No.? 

But the tiny bar at the bottom says No. X. 

And I’m back down the rabbit hole that Kim Jaejoong somehow threw me into.

The album has 12 songs.  Song 10 is “Meeting again… we will meet again… but…” Unless we’re supposed to count from the bottom up, then Song 10 will be “Love You More”, coincidentally the title song.

Nox can also mean Nitrogen oxide.  A noxious gas. 

Of course, truly, the whole thing is a puzzle.  A puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle.  X definitely marks the spot.  Just what kind of spot is it?  And why No?

Coincidentally, NOX in Latin means “night”.

Does he mean it’s the 10th night?  Like Shakespeare’s Twelfth night?  Where disguise, subterfuge and love triangles abound?  Come to think of it, the puzzle that is the cover has many triangles.  The circles for the O, three of them are completely closed.  There is no way to get into the middle of those circles.  All the triangles, you can trace your way into the middle of them.  While artistically rendered, it is indeed a puzzle. 

So, Jaejoong’s voice leaves me liking the songs (didn’t look at translations yet), and has me puzzled at the title.
 
If only I could get an answer to the puzzle that is Kim Jaejoong and his cryptic albums, I may just be able to stop scrunching my forehead.  🙂

On another note… They said that Do you know? #11 on the list is supposed to be something a man would sing to his boyfriend… er… Girlfriend!!! Yes. Another puzzle…

Either way, enjoy the songs.

Citrus Experiments

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This is what happens when you leave RhB with time on her hands and episodes of 2days1night under her belt.
This was the yuzu farm episode.
I saw how DefCon and Junho made Yujacha and wanted to try. Unfortunately, a dearth of yuzu is over my little town….Oh, what to do?
Someone brought a great deal of sour huge kumquats to the church and voila! Kumquat cha!!!! Why not, right? I’m just hoping that I put enough sugar to the mixture. It is currently… Fermenting…
I would love to try this with calamondin. So, friends and family with a tree…. Can I get like a tub full? Just a small tub will do….
I will let you know on Saturday how it tastes like.☺

Update: the “tea” or cha actually tastes like warm lemonade. Very delicious!