September 06, 2009

Calming down a bit. (Originally from 9/6/09)

After a whirwind tour of the city, I've finally started to settle down a bit. I've spent a few nights staying in, and am starting to get more sleep. (Although it's nearly two in the morning as I write this. So perhaps I'm not doing so well on that front.)

Training is going well, and I've managed to make some good friends. The girls in the following pictures live five blocks away, and are both serving in Harlem this year. We tend to commute together, and meet up a lot outside of work. Stella and I walked the Brooklyn bridge a few weeks ago. It was crowded, and the weather was less than perfect, but still a neat experience. The night before I watched a documentary on the building of the bridge, so I was excited to see it all first hand.

Renee and I have hung out a lot, too. Here were are in Times Square (her first time at night) a few weeks ago.

My camera is currently out of commission, but I am hoping to get it fixed soon. Despite the craziness of the city, I've managed to escape to a few green spaces. Here's a shot from one of my favorite spots: The Conservatory Garden in Central Park
My title says that I've calmed down a bit. Let me explain what that means- I've finally spent a few nights in my room, not wearing myself out. It seems that in my short time here, I have conquered the city; I've been to almost every borough, and have experienced a little bit of everything: Shakespeare in the park, free comedy shows, concerts, street musicians, Central Park, street festivals, etc.

There was one particularly fantastic night that required much recovery. I met a friend of a friend in the city a few weeks ago, Brad (Arkansas), and we seemed to get a long pretty well, so we decided to hang out again. We were to see another free comedy show at UCB, so I headed to 26th street after walking the bridge with Stella. I waited in line and ended up behind two "lovely" gentleman- they were swigging whiskey on the sidewalk while snorting cocaine off of their keys. Rats were playing in the garden behind me as children skipped down the street. Most crowds at these shows are low key and chill, but these guys were definitely not. I made some small chat, though, and tried to read my tattered copy of "The Awakening" to escape. Arkansas and company finally show up, but we realize that there was no chance we would get in. (To explain- you must wait in line to get a free ticket to the 9:30 Sunday show. They hand them out at 8, meaning you should be in line by 6:30 to get a good seat. Depending on the weather or weekend, you may have to get there earlier. This was Labor Day weekend. We needed to get there earlier.) After realizing we had no chance, we decided to head to a festival in the East Village. We met another one of Arkansas' friends at 34th street, and headed to Alphabet City.

I had a suspicion that the festival was over, as all material I had seen said it ended at 9. Arkansas is not one to give up, though, so we kept on going. We arrived to Tompkins Square Park to find it empty. The streets in the Village are always alive, so it wasn't a completely barren scene. We were trying to figure out our next move- I'm younger than all of them, so bars were out of the question. We could head uptown and try to figure something out, but that would be a hassle, too. So we decided to hang out in the park a bit. The park has a cluster of chess boards at one corner. Wanting to play checkers, but being without pieces, we pulled out some changed and played a game of copper vs. silver. My team lost.

I mentioned rats once before, but the rats were once again alive and well in Tompkins Square Park. I would look over thinking there was a squirrel running the grass, only to find it was a giant, NYC rat. I am still amazed every time I see one- they are HUGE. Luckily, they're not very common in my part of town. They seem to be everywhere downtown, probably due to the abundance of restaurants and trash.

After finishing up our game, we finally came up with a plan. On the walk to the park we had passed a Hookah Bar. Being 19, I could legally get in, and the boys could enjoy a beer. So we gave it a go. We got a "cozy" table in the front, and ordered a Mango-flavored Hookah. Hitting the hookah bar in KC was one of my favorite activities, but I hadn't been since I moved back home. It was a lot of fun, and definitely very relaxing. I should have probably added that I actually didn't want to go out this night. I was feeling a bit down, and kind of just wanted to sleep and watch chick flicks.

After finishing our Hookah, we decide to go to the Upper West Side. I'm walking up the street with three Columbia Grad students: one from Arkansas, one from Massachusetts, and the other from China. The entire way, Arkansas is trying to brush up on his French. The Chinese exchange student actually moved here from France, so he is owning Arkansas. It was just a funny experience, and something uniquely New York: a native Mandarin-speaker teaching us French while speaking English. Of course.

We decided to watch "I am Legend" at one of the boys' apartment. Despite all of the action, I couldn't help but try to identify where in the city Will Smith was. It seems that everything set in the city has this effect on me; while watching Gossip Girl tonight I audibly said "Hey, I've been there!" and then muttered the intersection.

Once the movie finished, it was far into Labor Day morning. Knowing it was too late to safely head home, I start weighing my options. We talk a little, and I jokingly say "If we stay up a bit longer, the sun will be up, and I can safely head home." None of us took it seriously, and we decided to forge on with our goodbyes. Moments later the sun starts breaking the horizon, and we decide to go to breakfast. It's around 6:45 when we stumble upon this adorable French restaurant, Cafe du Soleil. We try to go in, but they don't open until 7, so we wait outside. Once inside, we start on the buffet and go to town. I tried everything- fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice, eggs, sausage, bacon, pastries- the list could go on. (If you ever come to visit me in NYC, remind me that we must go there.) By the time we finish our feast, it is past 9 in the AM. I decide it is safe for me to go home, so I start walking to the subway. Unfortunately I head towards the 1 train (I need the 2 or 3.) Faced with the option of catching a bus and most likely falling asleep, I take Arkansas up on his offer of an air mattress on his floor, and head to his apartment. Once there I sleep until 4. We get up, ascend to his roof, and take in the city. Then I head home. Being a holiday, my block was covered with bbqs and family gatherings. I passed Marvin Gaye tunes on the way in, and once settled, my back yard was filled with melodies of laughter and Opera. It was the perfect night, and it could only happen in New York.

Ever since then, I've settled down. My health and sanity need the break. I also figure that if I keep this up, soon there will be no city left for me to explore. So now I'll take it easy, and focus on City Year. Once I get into more of a routine, I'm sure these nights will be back. Until then, however, I sleep.

Sweet dreams,