This fact is still pretty surreal for me. Half the time I feel a bit like I did those first few days in Brazil: that constant need to remind myself that “Here. I live here, now.” This is home, but while each day has me lapsing back more and more into my “real life” (as if those two months were a dream; sometimes they feel like they were), it doesn’t feel quite like home, not yet.
To be honest, it’s a little bit of a head-rush. Now I know what they mean when they say travel changes you; I don’t feel like the same girl who hopped on a plane at 7:40AM (Philippine Standard Time) on March 25, 2013 (March 24, 8:40PM Brazil Time).
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’d planned to do a couple of blogs from New York and Washington D.C. and New Jersey (including one on all the stuff I ended up buying; Ciarán’s idea), but it turns out that life starts speeding up again once you cross the Brazilian border, so I’ve only just got time to record my adventures now, beginning, of course, with my sojourn to the city where I sometimes think I should have been born: New York, New York.
While my Brazilian family was partying on the Copacabana (for more on on that, check out Ciarán’s record of their (mis)adventures) I was…standing in line at Immigration. I’d actually landed at JFK at half-five on Saturday morning (May 18), which was about an hour earlier than scheduled, but that hour (and more) was quickly eaten up by the insane queue. My wait was a full half-hour longer than the one I had to endure for “The King” at Expoingá, and nowhere near as fun without my grumpy German Dad to laugh at and my annoying British brother to banter with.
Got out of JFK at around 9-ish, which gave my Mama Gigi (my mum’s best friend, who, due to a scary similarity in personalities, Mum’s declared my “actual” mother) and I just enough time to make it to New York City for the Gossip Girl Tour at 10AM. Thankfully, the infamous New York traffic hadn’t yet totally kicked in.
I had to cobble together an acceptable enough ensemble en route (no way was I going to walk in the footsteps of my beloved B and S wearing a sweatshirt), but I managed to pull together something from my luggage that, while definitely not “Queen B” material, at least managed to cop a bit of Serena’s style. Changed in the restroom of the New York Palace Hotel (that’s right, the Palace Hotel), where the tour would meet. The hotel’s facade was sadly covered in scaffolding as they are currently renovating, but it still managed to look magical to my GG-adoring eyes.
Our last stop was supposed to be Grand Central, but by then I had come down with some sort of fever/flu so we left the tour, got some food (Mexican, Chipotle), and Mama Gigi let me sleep in the car while she ran some errands before we had to pick up Maman at JFK. After getting pumped full of meds (courtesy of Mum’s ever-present first aid kit), I managed to look alive enough for us to end the day with a bit of shopping at the Jersey Gardens outlet mall and late dinner at some Korean place, before I crawled into bed at my A-ee Irene’s house in Jamesburg.
The next day was my cousin Kristine’s graduation from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, so we made the (blessedly long; I could sleep off the last of my sickness in the car) inter-state trip by car to the venue, which was, common to American tradition, outdoors in an open field on campus.
My efforts paid off, and I managed to be on my feet on Monday morning (May 20), when we left for our one night, two day stay in New York. We checked into the Times Square Hilton at nearly half-twelve, then proceeded to throw ourselves into the New York life: eating at Grand Central Station, walking the Manhattan streets, catching those famous yellow cabs, and shopping at vintage stores in The Village. My favorite finds of the day were a pair of teal Prada wedges at Second Time Around along Thompson Street, and two genuine vintage scarves from What Goes Around Comes Around along West Broadway.
Speaking of Broadway, we had to rush back to the hotel to change for my first ever Broadway show: Chicago, at the Ambassador Theater. The production was a bit less “razzle dazzle” than the movie, but Adam Pascal (a.k.a. the first Roger in RENT, a.k.a. the first love of my Broadway life) as Billy Flynn more than made up the difference. I nearly lost it when I met him at the stage door! Got a bunch of pictures with him, and took a video for my dairy product, Cheeze.
Considering I was rendered totally starstruck (I was unable to do anything but squeal incoherently for a good fifteen minutes.), it’s a bit of a miracle that I managed to make it to Frankie and Johnnie’s for dinner. The name was no coincidence–I picked the place because its name bore resemblance to the Terence McNally play (and 1991 movie) where my nickname comes from–but it turned out that the restaurant had no relation to the production at all. The actual backstory’s a bit more interesting: turns out that the tiny steakhouse is one of the last New York speakeasies left in existence, having been founded during the roaring 20’s (my favorite decade), right smack in the middle of the Prohibition. “Frankie and Johnnie” refers to the password to get into the club: the porter would whisper “Frankie,” and anyone hoping to score some forbidden liquor had to respond with “Johnnie,” otherwise no dice. Regardless of whether or not I knew the password though, there was no drinking for me, since I’m under twenty-one, but I did have an amazing Angus burger patty, served by a witty and sassy Romanian waitstaff who could speak pitch-perfect Filipino, having worked for a foundation in the Philippines a few years back.
I was so stuffed I almost didn’t manage to walk to the Empire State Building in time to catch the last elevators up. Closed the night with a visit to both observation decks (the indoor one at the very top and the more popular one on the eighty-sixth floor), where I drank in the New York skyline, got a few shots, and filmed what will hopefully become part of my videoblogs (if Philippine WiFi ever lets me upload them). I also raided the gift shop for an authentic I Heart NY shirt (at least, that’s what the label on the back says).
The next day was just as busy as the first, owing in no small part to a bit of confusion as to when we would have to head back to New Jersey–Wesley had a National Honor Society event, and A-ee Irene was unsure whether or not she would have to attend. In the end, she didn’t have to, but for about two or three hours I was in a panic, worrying if we could make all the stops I’d planned for the day or not. After a bottle of Snapple and a New York pretzel, my nerves were pacified, and we managed a (somewhat) leisurely visit to the Met–visited the exhibits on ‘Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity;’ and ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture,’ as well as the gift shop–and a walk through Central Park to the Shakespeare Garden. We ate lunch (my first taco) at the High Line, a park built on what used to be an elevated railroad and, after dropping off A-ee Irene and Kristine at the hotel, Mum and I closed the day with a Circle Line cruise on the Hudson River, where I got to see the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower (the new World Trade Center), and all three of the major NYC bridges. I also got to see the UN Headquarters and Ellis Island, though the latter (as well as Lady Liberty) was closed due to Hurricane Sandy.
My Brazilian tan definitely got significantly darker due to the blazing sun.
I was completely knackered by the end, but I guess that’s to be expected when you cram a week’s worth of activities into two days. Given a choice, I would have probably spent the entire week in NYC (except maybe that one day I spent patrolling the outlet malls of Jersey; New York is so expensive!), because there were definitely more sights to see but I consoled myself with the fact that I will definitely be back.
(Stay tuned for LonelyGirl on Broadway, coming…soon?)