I <3 the Chinatown bus
I did the usual routine of betting on a crosstown bus and then walking to chinatown and buying a ticket to NYC. But when I got on the bus, it was a strange and new experience – apparently, my usual bus line had all shiny new buses! So new that the registration sticker was still taped to the window. And not just bought used – so new that the upholstery was clean and the floor not sticky. The air conditioning even worked!
I am carefully not mentioning that because of some delivery in the cargo area, we were dropped off three blocks away from the usual depot – luckily, this was not my first trip to the area, so I was not lost.
What is more, they capped the bus right before I had someone sit next to me, so I was able to shift my hiking pack (which I hadn’t checked because I might have gotten out in Tribeca, before they unload the luggage racks) over to the other seat. I got in some quality napping time, since I’d been up late procrastinating on the packing.
Fast… as in speedy
Yeah, so I am going to visit my grandmother, but I don’t want to spend Yom Kippur at religious services and then going over to relatives for a big, awkward meal… so I mention that I have weekend time to kill to a friend that I’ve been wanting to spend more time with. And it is agreed that this is a brilliant plan.
The plan: little coffee shop in Tribeca at 3pm
So my travel time all depends on how I hit the bus schedules and wait times and has taken up to 4 hours… and I might occasionally be a bit compulsive (I think this is because I haven’t worn a watch for years and so I have to work at making sure I am on time for things – the times I have worn a watch, I have checked it almost constantly just to see how my scheduling is going). So… leaving the house at 10:30. Of course, I hit everything perfectly and end up making a phone call around 12:30 saying, “The bus is at Jersey City now… and it’s raining… do you still want to hike over to Tribeca or should I come to you?”
The answer is, “Well I’m running errands in Chinatown right now. We can meet here. Only I’m in an area of Chinatown that is far from where you are.”
Okay, so that totally should not have been in quotes because it took two or three last-minute phone calls to re-work The Plan, but it went well. And then there were two or three additional phone calls going, “Okay, so I am walking either west or north on Canal Street… I think I’m headed toward Mulberry. Does that sound right?”
“I am at the intersection of Canal and Mulberry”
“So am I”
“Apparently there’s a street fair here today.”
“So where in the intersection are you?”
“I’m almost *in* the intersection. I’m standing at the point of the police line barriers.”
“Turn to the left. Turn some more. Hee! You’re the person turning in circles.” (my real conversation partner was much more polite, but this is a story)
So we meet, and we decide to eat lunch, even though my friend has already eaten, because I haven’t had food yet (because I didn’t have to kill time waiting for the bus). And, of course, neither of us is in the mood for Italian. We end up at a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant where I should have spent more time sampling goodies (their summer rolls looks very tempting, but I went for something quick and simple (chicken with lemon grass and stuff) and also quite tasty.
Then we decide that we shall still walk up to the coffee shop since my friend hasn’t tried it before, and I have given assurances that it isn’t as silly and frilly as its website suggests. At the coffee shop, we share a freshly made crepe filled with freshly purchased (really, we waited for it) Nutella. Good stuff!
My friend then suggested that we seek out an amazing New York department store full of bargains, which we did only to find out that it was closed for Yom Kippur. There were still plenty of people lined up and eager to sell us handbags, watches, and sunglasses, all out of briefcases.
The store was right across the street from the World Trade Center site, so I asked to walk on that side of the street to see whether there was a viewing platform or temporary memorial. I haven’t been to the site before because it always seemed creepy to go out of m way to visit. On the other hand, six years later, it’s now mostly like any other construction site except for a small area. I was expecting there to be a bit on the history as a memorial, but mostly it was the kind of architectural showcase you get for any flashy new construction, with diagrams of the bold new future. And then there were a few, clearly sketchy, people either trying to make money by selling postcards of the towers when they were standing, or asking for donations, or just pontificating on some incomprehensible religious point with a bible in one hand.
Yeah, so. To the subways! To the Bronx!
Beer, music, and conversation
I’ve never been to the Bronx before, but what I saw was nothing like I pictured – hills and trees and single story buildings (the stores more than the apartments, of course).
We went up a winding and tree-lined road, up steps with greenery all around, and past areas that looked cut into stone… not what I expected from New York at all.
As it got later, we changed into bar appropriate clothes, and headed out on a “ten minute walk” up hill and down and curvy a bit sideways to a small Irish pub, where we sat at the bar and ordered beer. I wasn’t too sure about a beer with as clearly local a name as Brooklyn Oktoberfest, but it was just the sort of beer I like: brown and with flavor. Their food is surprisingly good for such a limited menu. My burger was up there as possibly the best restaurant burger I have ever had, and the wings were rather tasty, too. If I ever go there again, though, I think I have been persuaded to try the chicken curry.
And there was live music. So background – my mother always winces at the prospect of live music, and I’ll admit that my experience has more often than not been that the music would have been halfway decent if only the volume had been more appropriate to a small room than an amphitheater. I was especially worried to see the 6 person band setting up 8-10 instruments, including a drum set and a small brass section. No, really, there was one guy playing the saxophone; one guy playing the trumpet; one guy playing drums; one guy playing the tuba; one guy playing the guitar, banjo, manjo, and singing; and one guy playing keyboard and french horn… sometimes simultaneously (okay, so that last part might have been an exaggeration). They were smushed up against the far wall, and I probably could have kicked them from my seat at the bar. Disaster, right?
They were good! It was never too loud. The sounds all blended, and the guy writing the songs had worked them to really suit the sound of his voice. The sound was like a cross between 40s brass bands and early blues. The Woes (warning: link plays music at you)
We ended up chatting with some of the newer members of the band, and it turns out that most (all?) of them have graduated from music programs and are pretty serious about the career. And then we spent a bit talking about Missouri, funny tales from being an ER, and mocking Newark, NJ. I did most of the mocking, but I’ve spent much of my life getting indoctrinated in New Jersey jokes, and he kept setting them up perfectly.
At 2am, we packed it in and went home and promptly turned into pumpkins.
walking and shopping
I thought I was doing pretty well waking up at 7ish (maybe 8ish), but my host had already been out and had a run!
After breakfast, we went for a quick “ten minute walk” to the grocery store. It was a lovely market that cleverly had a wonderful selection of cheeses cut up for tasting, so I had something with which to pass the time. I almost bought some heavenly gorgonzola, but then I thought about walking all over warm New York with it getting slowly riper and riper. Just a sandwich for me.
“Hi, Grandma. I’m totally just leaving my house for New York as we speak.”
After lunch, I called my grandmother and told her I was about to get on the Chinatown bus. :) Then I packed up and headed off for the subway.
I ended up back in Tribeca too early, so I popped into a cute little quaint restaurant full of characters and gayity for a scone and lemonade in a jam jar.
Not much happened on Sunday other than catching up and asking after all the great grandchildren.
Movie: Monsoon Wedding
I can see why everyone raved about this movie when it came out: it touches on a lot of issues, and yet it treats them all with respect and tenderness. I liked that not every single word was in english was subtitles… and that some of the english words were. All in all, it was pleasing, but didn’t need too much thought on my part.
Yeah, I am cutting from this tale the long and involved details of spending time with my grandmother. You’re welcome.
Movie: Eastern Promises
If I have not mentioned to you that I have finally found an OTP for the LOTRPS fandom, you are probably lucky. Still, let me exclaim: Viggo Mortensen/David Cronenburg = OTP! OMG!
So with that in mind, Eastern Promises is David Cronenberg’s love song to Viggo Mortensen. I mean, History of Violence was great and fit Viggo wonderfully, but it didn’t feel as though it had been specifically crafted to show off Viggo’s assets. Eastern Promises, however, took everything that is awesome about Viggo, and packaged it all together (well, maybe he missed the random artistic side, but still).
Check out the IMDB trivia page for Viggo being a crazy intense method actor. And this role just needed that kind of thing. The movie is just full of violent subtle tensions, with Viggo’s character sliding into and through them.
Naomi Watts’ character was also lovely, but once I was already comparing this movie to History of Violence it was almost impossible to distinguish her character from the one played in that movie by Maria Bello.
Then I met up with my cousin and relocated to her house in Brooklyn because I was going to see a play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
An hour ahead of the play, so I started to find my way to the theater.
Touristing by means of coffee houses
I cut up to Atlantic Avenue and walked along there, killing time. I popped into a promising looking coffee shop and ended up not getting coffee at all. I had a pineapple & ginger drink and orange cake.
Then, I thought I had spent too much time there, so I hurried to the theater… only to be plenty early and have to sit around there talking to some random woman from the suburbs of New York who insisted that I really should go to the theater and the opera more often since it was just wonderful. Thanks.
Play: King Lear
So up in the nosebleed section of the Brooklyn Academy of Music‘s Harvey Theater the seats are more uncomfortable that medieval torture. I checked with the line of trim gay boys behind me, and they found the seats agonizing as well, so it wasn’t just my ass. Luckily, however, I was on the end of an aisle and there was a little niche made by the curve of the steps so that I could stand up during the performance without blocking the stairs or anyone’s view. But it wasn’t possible to stand for the whole three hours. (which means that if I am seduced by Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, it would only be if a better tier of seats happened my way. No way in hell am I ever sitting in that section of that theater again)
King Lear, however, was rather impressive. Apparently they decided to do the whole play uncut, and then they decided it wasn’t long enough, so they had this dramatic prologue where the King and his court processed onto the stage to dramatic music, and then everyone knelt to him, and then everyone left. It was very pretty – and dramatic.
This production was afflicted by a syndrome common to productions of Shakespeare – in which the lines become far more important than the message and all of the wittiness gets driven out with the goal of presenting this *lofty work*. Even the jester (played by Sylvester McCoy) had trouble being comedic.
I’d say there were three impressive performances:
(1) Sir Ian McKellen (of course!). He really went for it all with vigour. When he dropped trou, it was completely called for in the script, and it was very impressive. When he had to weep, it was convincing. And then after 3 intensive hours, he carried in the female lead – carried! – and held her aloft for at least a minute while he talked.
(2)Frances Barber, playing Goneril, was a wonderfully keen and plotting woman
(3)Philip Winchester – Oh my god! He really stole the show. He was quick and wicked and just having fun with being malicious, and the actor really played up the role perfectly. He was exciting enough that I would be willing to seek out movies just because they starred him.