DAY 2 – Queens, Mets, Mizzou and … THE CONDOR
On day two of my New York adventure, Gary — who’s now connected with all the VIPs at his place of employment — benevolently took us to Citifield where we broed out and watched the Atlanta Braves shellack the New York Mets.
We took the 7, I believe, from Manhattan to Queens. The subway in New York City, for the most part, stays submerged — hence the name. But every once in a while the tracks ascend from the bowels of the big city and snake through the seemingly endless rows of skyscrapers. As the train sped above the apartment buildings and industrial warehouses in Queens, one vacant factory covered in pink, yellow and green graffiti brightened the brown, grey and black grid of relatively petite-sized skyscrapers in Queens.
We enjoyed the game, but before the Mets could embarrass themselves in an end-of-game slaughter, a rapid wind rose and blew dark clouds above us within just a few seconds. Drops trickled from the sky, a cue that the three of us should bolt to seek shelter pronto.
From Queens we headed to Blackstone’s in Manhattan, where the New York City chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association meets for watch parties. I ran into former Vox editors and someone from my high school, who now lives near Central Park. I’m glad someone from Dundee-Crown is putting that place on the map.
After watching Mizzou get its ass kicked, we left the bar and headed toward Times Square for food. On the way, a middle-aged man approached the us as we slowed our pace and gazed in awe at the beautiful sports cars in the Ferrari store.
At first, I wasn’t sure what this guy wanted. It turned out he was just a friendly, affluent man who had been at a watch party and was slowing his trip back to the hotel to spend less to time with his nagging wife.
The conversation between us and this fellow evolved from expensive cars to his work. He said he worked for a beverage distributor, and judging by the hotel he walked into after we bid one another adieu, he obviously makes plenty of moola doing whatever he does.
Friendly and garrulous, the man asked us where we were from and what we did.
For the first time ever, I could say, “I’m from Washington, DC.” The reaction, however, wasn’t as exciting as whenever I say I’m from Sleepy Hollow. To my answer, the man, who had yet to provide us his name, revealed he had a connection at New Belgium Brewing in DC, which produces one of my favorite ales, Fat Tire.
“If you’re ever looking for work, tell (insert name I won’t reveal) that I sent you.”
“Thanks. But even if I find him, he won’t believe that some random guy in New York City sent me to him. What’s your name?”
“Just say the Condor sent you.”
The Condor and the three bros then parted ways. Without even trying, I had networked with somebody in the beverage distribution industry. I’d made a rapport with the Condor, and since, I’ve been tempted to enter the New Belgium Brewery offices in DC and exclaim, “I’ve been sent by the Condor. Now what can you do for me?”
DAY 3 – SARAH, CHEESECAKE AND SERENA WILLIAMS
Gary, Evan and I rode the PATH and parted ways … for the time being. Gary had work, Evan had a date with the Guggenheim and I was going to see Sarah, whom I hadn’t seen in two months.
But before I could rendezvous with Sarah, my second favorite thing in the world, I took a detour in Brooklyn to indulge in my first favorite thing, for which, over the many years of pastry-related guidance from my sweets-loving Great Aunt Mary Lou, I’ve developed a love, appreciation and obsession. This favorite thing? Cheesecake.
So, I stopped at Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake, per a suggestion from Gary.
And there, only separated from me by a thin pane of glass, lay a site that made Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and Versailles pale in comparison to its beauty and perfection.
Rows and rows and rows of CHEESECAKE were temptingly displayed. Saliva streamed from my agape mouth and rained onto the glass divider that so cruelly prevented me from sticking my fat face into one of the assorted varieties of Käsekuchen.
“ICH MUSS KÄSEKUCHEN ESSEN JETZT!“ I shouted inside my head.
“I’ll take the medium strawberry cheesecake,” I said to the cashier.
“That’ll be $35.”
I’ll give you $50 and a kiss on the lips, I thought, just as long as I can devour multiple slices of strawberry-and-high-fructose-corn-syrup-covered cake.
When I had forked over the $35, I grabbed the bag from the cashier and darted toward the subway.
Had it not been for the fact that I was about to see Sarah, I would have stayed on the subway until the Coney Island stop so that I could eat the entire thing. But two months is a long time to be away from someone about whom you care dearly, and even though she’s second to cheesecake, I decided to get off at the station near Sam and Nill’s place.
Sarah greeted me at the door. Instantly the excitement of gorging on cheesecake was overtaken by the fact that for the first time in two months that I could interact with Sarah without France’s crappy Internet disrupting our conversations. I lunged for her, but I made sure not to attack too aggressively, as I still held the cheesecake box in my hands. I didn’t want to damage my $35 in sugary bliss.
After some cold cuts, cheese and bread, as well as generous pouring of wine courteous of Brooklyn’s finest hostesses, Sam and Nill, I finally chomped down on a slice of cheesecake. The only word that comes to mind is “orgasmic.”
I became intoxicated with every bite. Time seemed to crash to a halt, perhaps a side effect of my arteries being clogged with cheesecake and wine. And then, for the first time since masking the East Coast move, I realized how insane all of this was.
I’m in New York City.
I’m eating the best cheesecake in the world.
I’m freakin’ finally with Sarah, whose friends now live in Brooklyn.
Holy crap. This is surreal.
But it only gets surrealer. Yeah, that’s not a word, but whatever.
After goodbyes, Sarah, I and her two months of luggage departed for the train back to Manhattan. We checked into the hotel and then met up with Gary, Evan, Ashley and her friend Victoria at a karaoke bar in Korea Town, conveniently not too far from the hotel. Downing martinis to warm up my vocal cords, I sat down toward the back of the room while everyone sifted through the volumes of karaoke music books. The bar was made up of little and large rooms where people could croon, belt, serenade or screech with ear-drum-popping, dissonant intonation. I embarrassed myself singing Bohemian Rhapsody, which showcased my utter lack of range.
Gary left the room for a few minutes to fetch another beverage. But within just a minute, he returned to announce that someone of athletic repute had entered the bar.
“SERENA WILLIAMS IS IN THE LOBBY.”
We all flew off of our chairs and dived for the door. But before I could get a glance of Serena, who had won the U.S. Open earlier that day, she had already hurried into her private room.
The star tennis player’s personal assistant also blockaded the door to prevent us from busting down the door. We sulked, trudged back to our private room and took liberties with our karaoke lyrics to express our disappointment with Serena.
After more martinis and singing was had, Sarah and I said goodbye to Gary, Evan, Ashley and Victoria.
This was one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever taken … and I’m only on day three. My New York friends couldn’t have planned a better vacation for me and, once I get my finances in order, I will make as many trips to the Big Apple as my pocketbook allows in any given year.
To end the night, Sarah and I watched the Today Show morning crew prepare the set and show for another day of ratings drops, walked around Rockefeller Plaza and strolled through Times Square.
The next day, we were off to Boston.