Tuesday, 27 April 2010

City that never sleeps

The semester is over! Goodbye, semester, and good riddance.

It was another busy one - busy TAship, intense class with lots of reading and writing, thesis proposal, and so on.

But! Let us leave such depressing thoughts, because I just returned from N.Y.C.!

The trip was originally "planned" (and I use that word very loosely) as a spur-of-the-moment Saturday-through-Monday road trip before Reggie left town. However, by 2pm on Saturday someone thought to check the drive time, and the idea was abandoned when we realized that we would be driving about 24 hours in return for 48 hours total in New York City.

So, we postponed it till this weekend instead. As promised it was about 12 hours to get down there (although that included duty-free, stops, and two detours somewhere in upstate New York through various little two-bit towns) (where for some reason almost every house seemed to have a single metal star fixed to the wall somewhere...) but we arrived in Brooklyn by about 8pm. Had an excellent hostel party with two Kiwis, an Aspergers-style American and an Irish guy who had just finished cycling around the world when he got stuck in NY due to ashfall. Oh, and a bottle of tequila thanks to the duty-free. The Irishman was impressed by our stamina and the rate at which the bottle disappeared.

Saturday we were up with the lark and very excited to get into town. The subway was close by and easy enough to manage, so on the advice of the hostel desk-person we went to Union Square and made our way up 5th Ave all the way to Central Park. It was bizarre. In my head, New York was fictional. You constantly hear about all these places, but much like Narnia I suppose I never really expected them to actually exist. However, every block it seemed there was another oddly familiar landmark. Saw Broadway and thought of Hildegarde Dolson hanging out her window by her heels to see the lights; saw Times Square and thought of the cricket; saw Mott street and thought of "sweet pushcarts gently gli-ding by." We went to the Empire State Building but didn't want to cough up the $30 to go up it. We bought cheesy souvenirs and ate pizza cones and got bustled around in Times Square and spent most of the afternoon in Central Park. It was a glorious sunny day.

I was pretty exhausted after that but got dragged out anyway that night, to what turned out to be an awesome little dive bar. Got home late again and didn't get up so early the next morning, which was sad as it was my turn to choose an activity and I picked the Metropolitan Museum. We walked along Park Avenue to get there (no princesses in view, though) and got in for very cheap, due to a combination of a free ticket donated by a random Albertan guy in the hostel (who had been to Rocky and knew Shawna Ritchie; small world!) and student discounts.

It was amazing, of course. I loved every minute. I took a "highlights" tour to get an idea of the layout, and then just wandered around staring at everything for a few hours. The best part wasn't discovered until the very end, when my companions were champing at the bit to leave: a whole exhibit on illuminated manuscripts! There were the usual Bibles and books of hours, but the best part was a whole book about the life of St. Jerome, beautifully illustrated with minute, impeccable drawings. They were gorgeous - and totally hilarious. According to the illustrations, St. Jerome was a monk who took a thorn out of a lion's paw, and from then on the lion hung out with him at the monastery. Then one day the lion was in a field with the monastery donkey, and someone came along and stole the donkey. The monks blamed the lion and made him take over the donkey's old job, leading to an awesome picture of a lion carrying around bundles of sticks, complete with flourishes of gold leaf everywhere. But luckily the lion saw the donkey and rescued it, and from then on never had to carry sticks again. Or something.

The best St. Jerome story, though, involved the saint being woken by the bells after a heavy night's sleep. One of his colleagues (so said the explanation below) had nicked his usual monk's robe and replaced it with a blue woman's dress. Jerome, being half asleep, grabbed what he thought was his robe and donned it before hurrying to mass. Cue the illustration of the saint, running into mass, complete with halo and lovely blue dress. The look on the other monks' faces was priceless.

Anyway, sadly I didn't get to see the whole exhibit, and I think it was a temporary one. Boo - I don't suppose I'll be back before it finishes.

I was totally drained after the museum, meaning that when the neighbour suddenly decided to run for the subway as the doors were closing, I didn't quite make it aboard. All I knew was that they were planning to go to Soho to find dinner. However, I did have a map and after the shock of abandonment had subsided, went to Soho myself and found myself outside a gorgeous stationery shop called Kate's Paperie. Heaven! I was perfectly content there until the others turned up (I made them come to me for abandoning me in the big city!)

We had a lovely dinner at a wee place with a live band, where conveniently for me (if not for Andrea) the waitress totally forgot about one of the entrees. Cue free drinks for the whole table. The food was delicious, the service couldn't be friendlier, and that one guy in the band was totally getting into shouting the song lyrics in Italian.

After that the evening went downhill, as we went to look at a building site (formerly the World Trade Centre) in the pouring rain, and then to another dive bar where they managed to scrounge me a tea from somewhere (but served it in a tall glass such that it was impossible to drink without burning oneself before it got cold). I gave up early, being all old and whatnot, and went back to the hostel to chill while the others partied it up.

Monday was our last day. Sadly it was marred by a parking ticket (we were promised free parking outside the hostel, darn it!) and even more rain. However, on the way out of town we made one more stop, at the Staten Island ferry terminal. We went across to Staten Island, saw that Statue everyone keeps talking about, and then turned around and went back the other way. Got out of town by about 1pm, drove another 12 hours... and, back in sucky old Guelph. However, it did mean that for the first time all weekend I got a decent cup of tea...