Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Standup Layover: New York

So here's me this morning.

This is me after a Salt Lake-Denver flight, a Denver-Boston red-eye flight, and several hours of waiting for a Boston-New York flight. I actually slept a reasonable amount, for a three-flight night, and arrived in New York (somewhat) rarin' to go.

So after doing several loops around the (extremely large) airport, I managed to find the Bagbysitter, where I left my backpack and suitcase for the afternoon. And for the Zero of you out there who are interested, here's a shot of said bags:

I post this because I am absurdly, unreasonably proud of my ability to pack for trips. And there's nothing more satisfying than winning a game that nobody else knows they're playing.

"HA! I only checked ONE bag, and it only weighed 35.5 pounds! Beat that, losers!"

"I swear I put my boarding pass right here, in this pocket . . ."

"Bet you can't beat that. Bet you couldn't in a million years."

"Um, yeah . . . where is it? . . . Sorry, RoseE, did you see me put down my boarding pass anywhere?"

"You could find it if you'd packed better, like me."

"Did I leave it at the ticket counter?"

"It's super easy to pick up, too. Look. Easy to carry."

"No, I already checked under your suitcase, it wasn't there . . ."

It's all about life's simple joys.

So anyway, bereft of my bags, I took a stroll through the parking lot of the airport and over a creepy viaduct where Serena and I once had a near-death experience in the middle of the night.

I wouldn't call it non-creepy by day, but nothing, living or dead, tried to do me any harm as I hopped on the subway and headed for the Lower East Side.

Riding the subway in New York is always an adventure for me. It's so . . . real. So dirty. So old. Salt Lake has a public transportation network, of course, but it's all very shiny. It's very much like a network of Disneyland rides. MTA has the battered, retro, "bite-me" appearance of a real workhorse of a transit system, one that doesn't care if you're having fun on the ride or not, because people gotta get to work, so shut up and hang on.

It may be a bit creepy, and quite possibly haunted, but it's sure as heck easy to navigate. I made it to my destination and back again without any trouble at all. And what was my destination, you ask?

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

This turned out to be a pretty cool place. This one particular building just got blocked up and abandoned when it was no longer up to fire code, leaving the old, fragile building pretty much untouched after about 1930. The museum folks have left some rooms as they were, crumbling and peeling and full of creepy, and restored others to what they might have looked like when being lived in by various families. I toured the apartment of an 1890s Irish family, the Moores. In addition to the re-creation, the tour also had reproductions of the Moore family's relevant documents: their census records, immigration records, and the death certificate of their littlest girl. I loved how very specific everything was, and how neatly all that specificity was documented.

While I was waiting for my tour to start (it was a few hours; New York's kinda packed today. I don't know if they've got something going on later tonight, or what), I had a very nice stroll around the honest-to-goodness Chinese parts of Chinatown. I grabbed a panini for my lunch from a random grungy grocery-deli, thought about getting some squid at the fish market but decided not this time, and waved to the Empire State Building, which popped up to say hello whenever I crossed the street.

New York is so odd to me. It's kind of like living on an aircraft carrier. Everything's so tiny, so wedged and crammed and jostled in amongst everything else. Things that my brain just knows are supposed to  be free-standing, like grocery stores and museums, are suddenly in narrow slices of 1910-era row houses, because that's the space there is and so darn it, that's the space we'll use. I always flinch at how dirty New York is, and then I remember the sheer volume of the people here . . . to say nothing of their dogs and their cars and the semi-trucks bringing in their food along tiny one-way streets made even tinier by the cars parked all up and down both sides . . . and think to myself, "Yeah, there are some bits of litter lying around, but it's a miracle this city even functions, and another miracle that it functions so magnificently. What a crazy, fascinating place to live. Maybe someday."

But today is not that day, because right now I need to pack up this computer and get on yet another airplane. So here's one last shot of Chinatown on a biting gray New Year's Eve Afternoon.

You may have to print it out, tape it into a circle, and wrap it around your head to achieve the full effect.

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