Manhattan Update, Part II

So this is the third time my U key has cracked on my MacBook. My theory is that when I put it in my bag to travel, I put a lot of pressure on the middle of the laptop so it pushes right against the U key. I went to the Apple Store in Carendon because Pentagon City had no more appointments until Thursday. I got a free replacement, and should remember to carry the laptop with a book against it or something! Or get a better bag!

The next day was freezing! The tornado must have brought in the horrible weather because cold wind was blowing through the Manhattan streets and it either drenched rain or drizzled all day. And, of course, I’d brought summer clothes so I was wearing a tee and shorts. Anyway, my mom and I walked over to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum on the upper east side. Unfortunately, most of the museum was closed to swap out some exhibits, but they were still charging full price! There was an IDEO exhibit that concentrated on designs showing practical improvements to everyday objects. I liked the international dictionary of symbols and an atlas that used colorful icons in its charts — inspiring to me as a web designer to create some sort of statistical page that looks like that, since it immediately engages the reader to internalize the statistics presented to him in an easy-to-understand format.

They also had a slideshow of things like tennis balls on chair legs, Chinese practicing calligraphy on the dusty sidewalk using brushes and water, and real objects like a cane with a pullout map of Boston, and a glass iron produced during the metal shortages of the world wars.

Outside in the garden was the “Design for the Other 90%” exhibit which turned out to be right up my alley. It had pre-fab huts (no tools needed) set up for different areas of interest in international development design like water, power, shelter, agriculture, and so on. The exhibit had low-cost, easy-to-deploy technological solutions to major problems in developing nations: wifi bikes, solar power lights, UV water cleansers, a clean water straw). The point being that technology, if integrated effectively with design principles in mind, can be extremely useful to even the most poor, untrained communities. I took some photos and was inspired — I bought a book on the exhibit and will refer to it during my studies! What a great find by my mom! (she wasn’t as impressed with the museum)

Afterwards we went to a place called Jackson Hole and had diner food. I had hot chocolate and a bleu burger to warm up.

Then we went to the Whitney Museum to check out the “Summer of Love” exhibit. My mom pointed out some things that she remembered from her experiences and I found it all interesting.

After that, we walked back to the room, stopping into a diner for some shakes.

I went off to Greenwich Village then to see a friend I’d known since like second grade. She went to Barnard and studied architecture and has been living in Manhattan ever since. I stopped by Magnolia Bakery first to grab some of their famous cupcakes. It’s famous for being in Sex and the City and more notably, the holy site within the Saturday Night Live digital short, “Lazy Sunday”. Two! No, six! No, twelve! BAKER’S DOZEN! I told you that I’m crazy for these cupcakes, cousin!

I met up with my friend at her place, which has an awesome view of the island from the roof! I saw her place, which she considers very small but is your typical NYC apartment. Then we went over to brgr and met up with her boyfriend. I had a shake, gruyere burger, and onion hay. Delicious, perfectly-cooked and proportioned burgers although kind of pricey and we waited a while. But I still love that joint. After that we walked over to Dusk for some beers and catching up on the last eleven years. The bartender was super friendly which almost seems rare these days. I instantly had a great feeling about the place because of such a small act of generosity from the barman. The bar was small and cozy but they do play the music loud despite it being mostly empty. I hate loud places because it keeps people from conversing. It’s not a concert — why are people there to go hoarse?

It was great to see my friend because she’s doing so well and turned out a lot different than most of the other asians we took classes with. Also she enjoys a burger which would seem odd for an asian chick in Manhattan.

Finally we went up to her boyfriend’s place. He’s a hedge fund guy and owns an amazing condo on the west side. They’re just moving in and figuring out what to do with the furniture so I watched them debate for a little bit. We talked some while he listened in on a work conference call (at 9:30PM!) and then I left to enjoy some cupcakes (snack attack, motha fucka!) in the room.

The next day was Friday, my last chance to go get tickets for Conan O’Brien. I didn’t get up in time. Oh well. My dad and I went to the United Nations on the east bank and did the public tour, where we were whisked through the general assembly room, the security council room, and the economic council room by an Israeli who’d also lived in Paraguay. Obviously the information was biased at the UN but I really got a more positive sense of the UN’s role in the world and what it has accomplished since its inception. The UN’s activities are not very well-known in the US and the UN has an unbelievably horrible rap among Americans as a result. Probably mainly because the UN doesn’t roll over when the US wants war but has no proof for declaration of war.

I enjoyed my time there but found it amusing that all the furniture was donated by Scandinavian countries for the big rooms. It was like being in some weird Bauhaus/IKEA/70’s chic bizarro world. The people rushing to work there were obviously young and well-educated and well-dressed professionals — the sorts that my program will probably be producing quite soon.

After that, my dad went off to meet a friend and I hustled back to the room to take a call about my internship — turns out I didn’t get the original internship, but they’ve pitched a new contract to their bosses just to hire me! Rock on! I’ll go visit them later this week.

That evening, my parents and I went to eat at Trattoria Dell’Arte quickly before they rushed off to a show and I went to pick up Julie at La Guardia. I ate the rabbit with polenta, favoring the polenta more than the rabbit which was doused in too much tomato-onion sauce.

Julie’s flight was running late so I waited for a bit after taking the public bus out to see her. Eventually she arrived, her flight not on the announcement boards, and we bused back to Manhattan late enough that my parents had already gone to sleep. Julie and I found a diner around the corner and we had a burger and fries and shake (sense a trend?) and onion hay before going to sleep, since Julie hadn’t eaten anything since lunch!

The next day, we all packed because my parents were checking out to fly back home and Julie and I had to go check in at Jazz on the City, a hostel up on West 95th St. But first we left our stuff with the bellhops and went to eat brunch at Le Pain Quotidien a block away from Central Park. I’m pissed off because Jason Kottke just went there and snapped a photo of the bread loaves being used as menu holders and now his photo got onto Boing Boing when it could’ve been mine! I had a summer crumble full of sugary strawberry and fruity goodness while everyone else got bread, butter, light salads with ham/prosciutto, and café au lait. A nice meal with nice tables to sit at.

After that, we split ways, Julie and I heading into Central Park to enjoy it (the weather ended up being perfect this day) and also to see how long the line was for Shakespeare in the Park (it ended up wrapping all the way around the hill, so we had no chance of getting tickets). Eventually we sat near the baseball fields and watched some old guys play softball for a bit, before we got up and walked down the east side of the park. Lots of cops were out, some wielding M4A1s with sights and extra bad-boy gear. I learned later that the reason was because of an unsubstantiated Internet rumor of a nuclear-radioactive attack on NYC. One guy probably posted on an Internet forum about it and all of NYC is up in arms!

Julie bought one of those Russian doll-within-doll-within-doll doohickeys which was cool — I was almost convinced to get this old Asian lady to do Julie’s portrait. Her artwork was very good.

We stopped into the Apple Store, an amazing piece of real estate at the southeast corner of Central Park, and the Met (we balked at the admission price). After that, we went back uptown to check in to the hostel. It was your typical hostel run by young people for young people, lots of international visitors and a very low-frills feeling to the place. However Julie and I had a private room reserved (it even had a bathroom…but no soap) so it worked out well. We dropped our stuff off and went out to get something to eat at a diner nearby. We ordered two appetizers and two meals, and when we saw the size of the appetizers, Julie cancelled her meal! I should’ve done the same! Gigantic portions of sloppy food. Pretty funny!

We then went back downtown to meet up with my high school friend again at her boyfriend’s place, where we talked briefly before heading out to a place called Planet Thailand, which we arrived at after traversing a construction site where four or five rats crossed the path in less than a minute. Julie was amazed at seeing her first NYC rats!

We sat at the bar and had drinks — the green lemonade and mango prosecco were the hits for me. Another friend I knew from high school was also in town for a wedding, and she showed up and we said hello and I met her husband and we all had a good time catching up.

After that, we walked over to Dusk again, where Julie suggested we play pool on the empty table. She and I teamed up against the others and kicked some serious butt. We’re two pool sharks indeed.

Everyone was tired at that point so we all split. Julie and I went back uptown and were exhausted!

The next day Julie and I checked out, leaving our stuff by the front desk as is customary in a hostel, and went to a diner near Times Square where the waitstaff took turns singing (the highlight was the super-flaming guy who got pissy about his music cutting off early) and MOMA. The museum had a lot of really dumb art including a plain white canvas, as well as a huge room filled with swirly 30 foot-high sculptures that served no purpose whatsoever. But of course the museum has a whole floor of heavyweight artists including Van Gogh, Picasso, and Cezanne, so most people were there. Our favorite part was Dan Perjovschi‘s “What Happened to Us?” exhibit, a bunch of simple cartoons based on current events displayed on the large white wall in the second floor lobby. The signature cartoon has a man peeking through the stripes on the US flag as if they were blinds.

Later we sat outside and chilled as we were both tired. I got a NY hotdog which didn’t make me sick. We saw the huge Dominican parade on 6th Street next to us. It seemed to last forever…until exactly when we needed to take the subway uptown! Then the trains were full of people blowing on whistles and slapping the roof and shouting proudly about Dominica.

We made our way up to the hostel, got our bags, then hopped on the public bus over to La Guardia. We ended up at the wrong terminal for check-in, and then we got on the wrong shuttle which wouldn’t take me to the marine terminal, so then Julie and I had to split up and check-in separately. I thought we’d have time to sit down and have dinner together but I ended up rushing back to the central terminal just in time to kiss Julie off for her boarding plane! Whew!

Then I got on my plane, flew to DC, and had to walk home since the Georgetown shuttles don’t run on Sundays.

It was a great week, with lots of time spent with my parents, since we don’t travel together much. I had a fun time. Also it was spectacular to see Julie. We both agreed that it was fun to just spend time together, with not much planned, but stopping into stores here and there, walking and talking, doing things that normal couples take for granted. It was quality time and priceless time. We cleared up some miscommunications as well and are stronger as a result. I appreciated every moment of it. Thank you for spending the weekend with me, Julie. =) I love you.