August 2, 2012
On a Yellow Cab from JFK to Manhattan
The cab was now zooming on what appears to be a freeway.
I am holding on for life.
“This cab driver must be Italian.” I said to myself. I subtly stole a look of him through the rear view.
He had bushy eyebrows and dark eyes.
He was multitasking.
He was busy talking with someone on his phone via a headset while he snaked our way through cars down the thoroughfare. A morbid thought came to my mind, I just came off a 14-hour plane ride and I might die of a car crash. I silently rolled my eyes and decided to enjoy the view. After all a meteor can strike Manhattan in the next 5 minutes.
We crossed over a bridge and I expected to see The Statue Of Liberty. Thanks to my lack of geographical knowledge, I was disappointed. I just saw rows and rows of decrepit warehouses.
“Where was the address again?” he asked in a heavy accent, which I could not place.
“West 53rd between 9 and 10.” I replied in a casual voice, feigning to sound like a native New Yorker.
We must have been in Manhattan already because I saw that the streets were already numbered and red brownstone townhouses were around me.
We passed E10th Street.
Through E25th street.
And finally he turned left unto E53rd Street.
“We must be close.”, I assured myself.
I continued looking outside the window throwing my worries to the wind.
Skyscrapers towered before me, its reflected white light bearing down on the street.
I see people. Lots of people and lots of pigeons.
I see a vendor peddling his goods on the pavement.
A tourist buying an NY cap.
A man in a suit gobbling up a hotdog on a bun.
A dog pissing on the “No Parking” sign while the owner waits for it to finish.
To my surprise we passed by the MOMA. I made a mental note that it was just along the street where I will be living for the next two months.
After a block or two. Or three.
“Where here?” asked the cab driver, snapping me out of my reverie.
As instructed by Nat, my best friend, I gave him the instructions in verbatim.
“By the green awning at the right. Beside the construction.”
My cab driver helped me unload my luggage and makeup kit. I handed him 60 bucks (the standard rate plus a hefty tip) and, out of curiosity, asked him “Where are you from?”
“Russia.” Was his only reply.
I gave him my thanks and bid him goodbye.
I stood on the spot for a minute and looked around my surroundings. It’s exactly how it looked like on Google maps. *I laugh*
I slowly made my way to the door of the apartment building and pressed on the button that marked Nat’s apartment.
“Yes?” came a voice.
“It’s Mon!” was my reply.
I’m finally here after 12 long years of waiting.
Friends I have known below Fourth Year High School know me by my childhood nickname, which is Mon. And Nat knows me by that. Hence everyone I’ve met through him in New York knows me as Mon.
Kyrk, one of Nat’s New York friends, met me at the bottom of the stairs. I’ve only seen him in pictures. Nat was right. He looked like a supermodel version of Rhianna. Svelte, amazing skin tone and legs from here to eternity.
Nat was at work and he couldn’t meet me when I got to the city, so he asked Kyrk to hang around his apartment until I arrived. He also asked Kyrk to bring me to school for I needed to “show” myself to complete my international registration. Standard operating procedure as stated on the letter entitled “arrival procedures”.
After settling down for what seemed like five minutes, Kyrk and I went to lunch. Following his lead, we walked down 9th avenue.
I was giddy with excitement. I felt like a young child with eyes wide open, trying to let everything soak in. We passed a number of restaurants, cafes, and a variety of shops. We just kept on walking and walking and walking. After what seemed like an eternity to my jet lagging body (looking back I just realized we walked 8 blocks), we arrived at a restaurant named Southern Hospitality (645 9th Avenue between W45th and W46th streets).
“Justin Timberlake owns this restaurant!” said Kyrk as he opened the heavy wooden door. Well I’m not really a fan of Mr. Timebrlake, but I don’t mind sampling some of his barbeque.
We got to know each other over a HUGE serving of grilled chicken burger (which was left half eaten), fries and a TALL glass of Coke. I needed my carbs. The meal cost $50 for the both of us. A relatively expensive restaurant, but hell it’s my first day in New York! Might as well splurge.
Before heading to school, Kyrk suggested that we pass by Time Square as my first touristic landmark. Since he used to work for the Official Tourism Bureau of New York City, I was in good hands.
The lights from the huge screens are flashing and changing colors by the second.
The huge number of people concentrated at such a space sound like bees buzzing in a hive.
A horn from a yellow cab blasts through the air and I swear in shock.
The “hop on hop off “ tourist bus passes through and you can hear “oohs” and “aahs” coming from the top of the bus.
“I should do that. Must be a different view from up there.” I said to myself while making a mental note of taking the bus tour of New York City within the next few days.
Kyrk then points me to Sephora. Apparently that was one of the stores that Nat frequents for work.
Nat, at that time, worked as a Retail Executive for Miracle Skin Transformer and Hydroxytone. These skincare products are carried in stores like Sephora or Bloomingdales for retail purposes.
“Would you like to go inside? Nat might be there.”
“Sure!” was my reply.
Nat wasn’t there. He must have gone on to a different Sephora.
We started walking to what seemed to be the general direction of the subway. We were now heading to my school, Makeup Designory, in Soho. To this very day I couldn’t remember which station we went to. My mind was in a haze because of a combination of jet lag, excitement and sensory overload.
Kyrk brought me to the ticketing machine for the subway ride. I bought a 7 day ticket. Which cost me around $29. It was a relatively easy purchase. I intended to buy a 30 day unlimited ticket but I was short on cash.
We then went through a maze of stairs, through a rush of people, waited on a platform and got on a train.
I was silently holding on to the handrails when Kyrk said, “You don’t look like a tourist at all.”
I turn to him and said “I try not to look like a tourist. I prefer to blend in.”
Actually, I was spacing out trying my best to keep myself awake while the subway car rocked on its tracks all the way to Soho and Kyrk’s statement got me thinking. Does this mean that native New Yorkers have this “spaced out / trying to stay awake look”?
Will find out soon enough.