Monday, July 13, 2015
New York City, 7/2/15
Astute readers may have picked up on hints from a recent post that I was about to do a bit of traveling. Longtime readers may also be picking up at just this moment that the Internet is now in for another Nicsperiment Travelogue. Generally, a Nicsperiment travelogue is a giant non-sequitor fib weaved around my actual journeys to far off locales. This is usually because
A. For me, humor is way easier and lazier than attempting to elicit deeper emotions from readers, and
B. As much as I enjoy traveling, most other places seem just a little bit ridiculous to me, and I like to make fun of my trip destinations in equal amounts to the praise I give them for the good time they gave me. A strange thing happened in the middle of New York City, though: the tables were turned on this cynical traveler.
Despite a lifetime of struggling with my role as Pointe Coupee Parish's blackest sheep, at the end of my trips, I am always ready to return home-- I may be leaving people I love behind when I head back to the swamps, but it is them I care deeply about, and not the location that I am leaving.
This time was...different. As a result, I'm not sure what you, gentle reader, are about to be in for. Generally, I judge my travelogues by the amount of jokes I can get in per-paragraph (New Orleans, you win), but with this five-part travelogue, beginning today...I don't know what is going to happen.
EDITOR'S NOTE: There's a hot dog-eating contest that doesn't come until day three, and yet this first entry is still packed full of wiener jokes, so maybe ignore everything he just said.
* * *
I woke up...or awoke...or awakened--does anyone even know which one is correct? Does English even have rules anymore?--on Thursday morning, as if it was any other day. I helped get my kid ready for art camp, while my wife got ready for work. They left, and I told them goodbye, showered, grabbed my bag, and left for New York City.
Just kidding, I actually have crippling OCD, so I checked the faucet in the bathroom, checked the faucet in the kitchen, checked the faucet in my son's bathroom, checked to make sure the stovetop and oven were turned off, checked to make sure both the fridge and freezer were closed tightly, checked to make sure the backdoor was locked, checked the kitchen faucet again, checked to make sure my son's aquarium filter wasn't overrunning, checked the faucet in my son's bathroom, checked to make sure my cat had food, checked the faucet in my son's bathroom, checked the faucet in my bathroom, checked the fridge and freezer, checked the oven and stovetop, checked the kitchen faucet, grabbed my bag, checked the faucet in my son's bathroom, finally walked out the door, locked the door, checked the handle, walked to my car, realized I forgot my glass of water on the counter, went back inside, grabbed my glass of water, checked the kitchen faucet, went outside, locked the door, checked the door handle, got into my car, left.
I then called my cousin, as I was supposed to meet him at his New Orleans home so that I could ride with him to the airport, and I said "Hey, man, I'm sorry, I'm running 20-minutes later than I wanted to."
I used those exact words above so that I would not have to say, "I'm sorry, I'm running late because I am insane."
I then left the cane fields and nothing-country of Pointe Coupee Parish for I-10, the corridor to New Orleans, a place I have such a love-hate relationship with, I might as well marry it, though cityamy, though legalized by the supreme court, is still illegal in the Deep South of Louisiana.
I made it to New Orleans and Adrian's house without incident, though I guess actually placing your existence in the realm of New Orleans could be considered an "incident."
I should now introduce my cousin.
I circled him with the most high-tech Microsoft Paint software currently available to consumers, so you're welcome, peeps. Adrian is getting married this fall, so this trip served as his bachelor party, but also, he was set to compete, for the fifth time, in Nathan's Famous July 4th Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest. If you watched it on ESPN, you saw him, and you also saw me, but I'll get to that.
In addition to being my cousin, and perhaps also reflective of my misbelonging to the Parish of my birth, upbringing, and current residence, the Rabbit is also my best friend. I have no remaining friends from high school, though out of the two I was closest to, one is deceased, and the other moved to Kansas three days after graduation. My three best friends from college currently reside in Vancouver, God's Republic of Germany, and my bed, respectively. I have absolutely nothing in Pointe Coupee Parish, outside of all of my immediate family, who aren't a location, but people...well, I mean, they aren't a location for people, but they probably are a location for all those scary microscopic creatures scientists say ride around on our bodies, and also for their respective spouses, sometimes at the same time, but this whole thing is getting way too raunchy. Suffice it to say...you should get my point by now...if you're a crazy person who can follow an unhinged, disjointed narrative.
The Rabbit and I headed to the airport and experienced the little-known experience of parking the car, going through security, entering the terminal, boarding the plane, and taking off, with no sitting or waiting in between any step. Marvelous. While the two of us intended on spending most of the trip together, departing on the same flight was happenstance. Marvelous. However, all that going without having to wait robbed me of an opportunity to reflect on my need for hydration. Not Marvelous. I capitalized that last "Marvelous" for continuity's sake because that's the important thing.
Anyway, there was this whole thing, and I had to get something to drink on the plane, and that's all boring, so I won't go into that part, which in all honesty won't be the only event I omit in the telling of this adventure. Anyway, I read A Wizard of Earthsea, which I found miraculously sitting in my backpack (thanks fate!), and I listened to music on my old-school Sansa MP3 player, and then, without warning, this appeared:
My heart filled with terror. I was arriving...to the place I had always feared: New York City. The 70's and 80's films and television shows I grew up on portrayed New York as an ungoverned hellscape. The 90's re-booted New York had shows like Letterman and Seinfeld and to a lesser extent, Friends, touting its weirdness. Then, 9/11 happened, and for a short while, New York became America, but then it just went back to being a weird, alien landscape, full of these things called "other people," who are all crammed together in a concrete sea of madness. I had never any desire to go there, outside of a time as a young child that I noticed an I♥NY magnet on my mawmaw's fridge and asked her what it meant. I mean, if she loved New York (SPOILER: She's never been there), it couldn't be half bad, but what did I know I WAS FOUR AND I COULDN'T EVEN TIE MY SHOES OR BEAT THE FIRST LEVEL ON DONKEY KONG JR.
Now here I was, hanging over a limitless chasm of steel, populated by nightmare characters who wouldn't give me any soup, or toilet paper, or anything nice, and who also would possibly mug me, which sounds much nicer than it really is, as mug's usually hold hot chocolate or coffee, but in New York, apparently held robbery and assault.
We got off the plane and tried to get on a bus, but you can't just get on a bus in New York City, you have to have a MetroCard. So we went back into the airport and bought our MetroCards.
We came back out and tried to get on a bus, but you can't just get on a bus in New York City with a MetroCard, you have to use your MetroCard to get a receipt, so we went back into the airport and used our MetroCard to get a receipt.
We came back out and tried to get on a bus, and this time, with only a flash of a receipt that could as well have been for a pack of mentos, and not the yummy fruit kind, but the abominable mint kind for all he knew, the surly bus driver allowed us access to New York's finest blue bus seats that I took a picture of for some reason.
Adrian and I had the brilliant idea of forgoing suitcases and packing minimally, with backpacks only. I'm not being sarcastic, it really was a brilliant idea, as we had no items to check at the airport, and nothing to lug around the streets of New York when we got off the bus...just packs...on our backs. Eventually, we reached Lombardi's Pizza, founded in 1905 as America's first pizzeria (long-time readers, that is actually a true fact!) As pizza is my favorite food in the history of food (discluding pseudo-history foods like Atlantean Horse Steak and Bigfoot Ribs, which I hear are quite tough, anyway...allegedly), this was a, maybe not holy, but, well think of some non-blasphemous way to describe eating your favorite food at the birthplace of your favorite food because nothing's coming to mind...The Bethlehem of...The Mecca of...I just realized the Eucharist is a non-blashphemous way of literally eating your Lord and Savior, and if you took the Eucharist in Bethlehem, it would be just like what I am saying, and thank God I am non-denominational because the Pope would never put up with a Nicsperiment Travelogue. Well, maybe New Pope, though I've heard a few people think he is too sweet, and want to switch back to the original formula.
I'll be here all night.
At Lombardi's, we met five of the seven other bachelor party party members. I don't enjoy reading things where a bunch of characters are introduced that you can't keep track of, so from here on out, at least til near the end, and because my life is an RPG, we'll just refer to them as "the party."
The party met at Lombardi's and we got a table upstairs. At this point, I was still terrified and confused about New York City, so I crowded into our tiny seven-man table so that no angry New Yorker could pick me off with their pawn-store bought sniper-rifle. It was at Lombardi's that I discovered what would become one of only two gripes I would have with the great city of New York: the pizzas cost five-hundred dollars. Not all the pizzas, mind you, just the pizzas at Lombardi's. Thankfully, as there were seven of us, we were able to split the cost, though we did order three pizzas, a couple of meatballs, and breadsticks, taking the total up to somewhere around $7000. This was my most expensive meal in New York City, but it was almost worth it.
The bottom of the crust was a little over-cooked, but otherwise...
Lombardi's pizza sauce tasted like the tomatoes were picked and sauced an hour before we ate the pizzas. Spellcheck says "sauced" is a real word. The cheese on Lombardi's pizza tasted like it was picked and cheesed an hour before we ate the pizzas. Spellcheck also recognizes "cheesed." Lombardi's meatballs tasted like the meatballs were just balled an hour before we ate the pizzas. Spellcheck even says "balled" is a real word. The other guys had already been drinking and were a little sauced, and I was a little cheesed off when their drinks appeared on the bill we were going to split, and since we already owed seven grand, I definitely didn't want to pay more than my fair share, but before I balled my eyes out, one of the party members noticed and cut the beer price out of my pay share, and this is a good segue to...
As Adrian is my best friend, it sort of kind of maybe probably means his other friends would be people I liked. Before this trip, I had met most of the guys in the party at least once, and I had hung out with a few of them way back in the day. I say "way back in the day" because it turns out all of Adrian's friends are his teammates from his high school baseball team, which is pretty cool, though as I said, Adrian is my best friend, so it figures that I think it is pretty cool, so maybe it's not.
A couple of the party members were younger brothers of other party members, and I hadn't met them until the trip, but I enjoyed my time with everyone. Those pictures up above are making me so hungry.
Also, you had to follow the yellow arrows to get everywhere at Lombardi's, and in several places they lead through the kitchen, creating a strange awkwardness akin to walking in on your parents during your own conception, if indeed one can compare the cooking of a pizza to seeing your parents do it. Also, it turns out that pizza is some type of strange sexual, religious, incestuous idol that I hold up on a pedestal, and I need professional help, and also, I think I am a pizza.
Somebody call Maury.
After the pizza, we hit the street for a ride on the Subway. I prepared for a fight, taping the glass of broken bottles to my fists a la Van Damme, sure these would be my final minutes. However, after we swiped our Metrocards and boarded our train...(so many ellipses, so little time) I noticed that everyone on the Subway was doing their own thing just as much as I was: reading actual real books with pages and everything, listening to music, playing games on their phones, holding quiet, private, civil conversations. Though the subway bar I had to hold on to to not fall over while the car was moving grossed me out a little, I felt a strange kinship with the mass of humanity tumbling along with me beneath untold tons of steel and concrete. And then the ride was over, we went up a flight of steps, and I was really in New York City.
A few short blocks walking, and we made it to the hotel.
The main difference between me and the other guys is a catch phrase I'll use in the next entry. They had already filled their mini-fridge with Bud-Light, and commenced to drink, while Adrian and I rested our legs. The Major League Eating association had provided Adrian a free hotel room for Friday and Saturday night, and we were going to share that one, but it was only Thursday, so we had to cram ourselves into the other guys' suite.
After a couple hours rest, we decided to go to Times Square. There was one place I didn't enjoy during my time in New York City, and that place was Times Square.
Do you like seeing a grown man wearing nothing but a terrifying baby mask and a diaper that reads TIMES SQUARE BABY?
Do you like watching that same grown man dance and gyrate in a horrifying fashion, while enticing passersby to take photos with him for cash for picture prostitution? If so, never mind, then you'll love Times Square.
It has everything.
Cracked Out Cookie-Monster, who is being asked by one of our party-members whether or not he has ever asked Siri "Siri, what is zero divided by three?"
This old zombie dude, shambling around in slack-jawed disinterest.
Adrian "The Rabbit" Morgan.
I mean, everything.
But the real reason I didn't like Times Square is this: it is exactly like a theme park. It is nothing but a tourist trap where people try to take your money in return for pointless objects that mean nothing, kind of like how my travelogues take your time in return for an intellectual void you may never be able to fill. Sorry.
Two girls, dressed only in barely-there thongs, and red, white, and blue body-paint, grabbed one of our party-members and tried to charge him twenty dollars for a picture. Some dude named Black Gemz got five bucks from another party member for an album full of Black Gemz rap hits. The four-story Toys R Us tried to charge me $4 for a red Powerade. I mean, at least offer me orange or purple, you money-hungry, long-necked savages.
Sorry, that was giraffe-ist.
We also went to Grand Central Station before Times Square, but I couldn't think of a better segue to that, so here are a bunch of pictures of Grand Central station, and its soothing, sea-green ceiling, which features the paintings of constellations of astronomical signs, like the lobster, the horse guy, the hippo, and the penis.
Speaking of penises, word got out that Grand Central Station contains a whispering corridor where one can whisper something at the wall, and a listener at the diagonal wall can hear it clear as a ginger on a sunny day. I say "speaking of penises" because we found that wall, and we were seven dudes, and the wall worked, and the words that it magically transferred from one location to another were mostly just synonyms for penises.
We then boarded a windowed phallus and traveled at high speeds through a dark, steamy tunnel. When we got off...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.,.
When we got off, I snapped this selfie, or as we used to call them back in my day, a "picture." Actually, I guess it's not even cool to just say "selfie" anymore, you have to combine it with whatever place you're selfieing in, so let's start over.
When we got off, I snapped this...subfie.
That "ugh" is both directed to the devolution of the English language, as well as to my haggard appearance in the photo below...
I was exhausted, but "Let's have some beers," said the rabble, and we went to some bar instead of some bed. In a desperate bid to stay hydrated and stave off a migraine, I had been downing water all day like a Kennedy downs...water when they are drowning. Speaking of drunk Kennedys, which is an awful stereotype my Irish forefathers wouldn't understand because the 19th century had considerably less Kennedys in positions of power than the 20th and 21st, we went to an Irish bar, and I had 17 shots...of high quality H20. I thought New York's water would taste like what happens when you strain ten years-worth of dirty sock sweat through a Sunday night dumpster, but turns out it tastes better than Baton Rouge's "water." It doesn't taste better than New Orleans' tap water, though, because New Orleans doesn't have tap water. The stuff that comes out of the faucets there is actually legally classified as a sports drink, due to its high mineral and electrolyte content.
We then walked back to the San Carlos Hotel through a strange wonderland of lights and darkness.
By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were more tired after our day of traveling than that guy who had to edit Pulp Fiction for ABC family.
ABC Family: A Different Kind of Family/Gimp-Friendly Community.
We were seven total, and the suite had two beds in the bedroom, a foldout sofa in the living area...and a floor. Despite being the man of the hour, Adrian humbly declined bed and comfort for a couch-cushion Frankenstein-mat of his own creation. He seemed to be happy there.
As for me, it was bedding down on the sofa with a complete stranger I had only met six hours before--a basic New York sleep arrangement. My bed-mate was actually not that bag of peanut M & M's you see in the picture below, or the Black Gemz CD, but this dude Chase, who was already passed out when I got into bed, and who managed to not make skin contact with me throughout the night--also, a basic New York sleep arrangement.
Then it was off to dreamland, with a lovely four days ahead.