Tag Archives: New York

New York Day 2 : Finding Queens

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August 3, 2012

10ish AM

Union Square

New York City

~

I had just dropped off Nat at Sephora Union Square and went my way to buy myself an American SIM card at Best Buy Mobile for my old Nokia phone. I am to be in the United States for two months and It would be impractical if I would be using my Filipino mobile service.

I had to trace my way back to Starbucks where Nat and I grabbed coffee earlier to use the WIFI to activate my mobile number before heading to Queens.

~

The night before, my ATM card was  not allowing me to withdraw money. I was a little bit worried because, I was down to my last $50. I initially thought that it was an ATM machine glitch because I had a similar problem when I was transiting through Tokyo two days prior.

“There’s something wrong with my ATM card Nat.” I said. “I am not able to withdraw money. I need to contact my bank.”

“What’s your bank?” asked Nat.

BPI.”

“There’s a BPI in Queens! Why don’t you go there tomorrow to have it checked out. I think it’s along 72nd av.”

~

After going around in circles looking for the Union Square subway station and consulting the subway map application called NYC Mate on my Iphone, I hoped on the E train after changing at Lexington Av / 51st – 53rd St and headed for Queens.

~

Nat said that my stop would be at 71st Av and it would be easy to find my way around.

The train ride was very interesting and so was the view. I was looking at the buildings emblazoned with graffiti when my attention was diverted back to the carriage. The people riding on the train at that time was quite diverse.

There’s the Chinese couple beside me speaking in their native tongue, reminding me of my childhood studying in a Chinese – Jesuit school.

I hear Spanish drifting across the carriage intertwined with laughter. I am reminded of my days listening to Thalia hours on end playing on my walkman.

The two Italian men in front of me are speaking 100 miles per hour with fingers in the air trying to prove a point about the weather. While the tall Russian boys beside them are sitting silently zoning out to space.

And I exchange a smile with a black woman. I think she noticed the sly look of observation on my face.

The two Filipino women who were speaking in Tagalog were now standing up and heading to the doors as the train slowed down.

“This must be my stop.” I said to myself.

It wasn’t so hard finding Queens.

~

Image

A typical Phil – Am store

From the corner of 71st Av, I was amazed to see that there were lots of Filipino stores and restaurants. I saw familiar brands of canned good being displayed through the window. A pack of instant noodles I had a week prior to my arrival, is being lifted off the shelf and placed unto the shopping bag. At that moment, I wonder why such little stores exist when all I hear from returning Filipino workers is how great things are in New York. Then I realized, these stores and these restaurants are the closest thing they have in remembrance of home.

I stared walking towards 72nd Av and made a mental note of eating lunch at Krystal’s Cafe once I’ve sorted my ATM card issues.

I found 72nd Av. No banks.

I walked further.

I must have reached, what appeared to me, a Little India of sorts. I decided to retrace my steps all the way to the corner where I first stood. I might have just passed it by.

I saw a Metrobank across and a PNB behind me.

Still no BPI.

Will kill Nat later. *Laughs*

~

I was getting a bit hungry because it was already past 1pm. I decided to attempt to withdraw one last time. I saw an ATM machine by the entrance of a Chinese convenience store manned by a old Tai Tai. I was hoping that her Feng Shui would usher the qi of my money out of the machine.

Alas it did not.

~

I made my way to Krystal’s Cafe and was instantly relieved when I saw the sign board that said “Credit Card Accepted. Minimum of $10.”

Adobo and Rice

Adobo and Rice

I lined up and was greeted by a friendly Filipina at the counter. In rapid fire English, she told me about the specials of the house today, the buffet on the second floor and the array of desserts to choose from. In rapid fire Tagalog, I told her I wanted some Adobo, a big plate of rice and some Sprite.

The look on her face was priceless.

“Are you Filipino?” she asks.

“Syiempre! Bat ako mag ta-Tagalog sa iyo kung hindi.” I replied. Translation : “Of course! Why would I speak to you in Tagalog if I wasn’t.”

“For real?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yes, for real.”

I do look Caucasian. Being half Filipino (with diluted Italian blood) and half English, countless of times I have been mistaken to be Latino, Italian, Moroccan, Arabic, and even half Black. It always delights me when I travel and meet Filipinos. Its quite a shock for them to hear me speak fluent Tagalog, most especially when they find out ImageI’m Cebuano.

I signed my receipt. Replaced my card on my wallet and took my tray of food and sat down in one corner.

I enjoyed my lunch while watching Eat Bulaga‘s Pinoy Henyo on TV.

~

I am now back in Union Square standing in front of Barnes & Noble. Nat informed me earlier that if ever i was in dire need of WiFi, it was free on every nook and cranny of any Barns & Noble bookstore.

I had to call my bank.

It would be very impractical for me to use my newly activated American mobile service and  my Philippine mobile service to place an international call. God knows how much the call would have cost me while waiting for the service agent to pick up the phone. It’s a good thing I bought £10 worth of Skype credits before I left for New York, just in case of emergencies.

Once I secured a WiFi connection, I quickly opened my Skype on my Iphone and dialed my bank’s international access number.

It turned out that BPI or Bank Of The Philippine Islands had a new ruling. Before a client would travel out of the Philippines, that client should first inform the bank. A safety precaution against fraud.

Now that my ATM card issue has been settled, all I had to do was to wait for the international withdrawal capability to be approved. Which was to be activated by 9 am Philippine Standard Time.

It was 3pm EDT in New York. It meant I had to wait for 6 more hours before I could get some money.

I sighed my frustration and relief away. Armed with my Lonely Planet New York City guide,  I decided to head for the Flatiron District.

Arriving in New York : Day 1.5

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August 2, 2012

8 pm-ish

Nat’s Apartment

Hell’s Kitchen , Manhattan

New York City

~

“Pssssssssst!”

“Pssssssssst!”

Was all I heard, as I started to peel my eyes open.

“Halloooo! Welcome to New York!” exclaims Nat!

I gave him a huge hug while still laying on my back.

He had just awakened a few minutes earlier. He decided to doze off for a bit after Kyrk left the apartment because he couldn’t rouse me. *laughs*.

I dunno what time Nat made it to the apartment from work. I think he came in just as I was about to fall asleep because I do have a vague memory of seeing him come in through the door and talking to Kyrk in kitchen. If my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, I think Nat was wearing a dark blue cardigan of sorts.

He told me to get up because it was already 8 pm and if I sleep any longer, I might not be able to sleep later that night. It was also time to grab some late dinner. So I stretched by jet lagged ass awake. Put on some shorts, brushed my teeth and off we went in search for dinner.

Earlier that afternoon, after dropping by my school, I begged Kyrk that we head back for Nat’s apartment. I was getting quite tired already. Having been awake for almost 24 hours was making me cross-eyed as the afternoon continued on.

Not five minutes into getting into the apartment, I told Kyrk that I was about to pass out.

Indeed I did.

~

Nat and I headed out, crossed 9th avenue and started walking down. He was busy pointing me to various restaurants, various bars, the laundromat, the way to the subway, and the café he frequents.

“Let’s have dinner here in Vynl*. This is where we usually have dinner.” says Nat as he gently opens the glass door of the restaurant. I was surprised that we only walked 2 blocks down to the restaurant.

IMG_4003 As I sat down on the table we chose, I was amazed by the decor on the wall.

I see dolls.

No, not Barbie. But dolls made to the likeness of Cher and Elton John. There were other dolls displayed around the restaurant but I couldn’t remember who they were. I think the rock band KISS had their own dolls on display too.

So we had a hearty meal mixed with stories of life. I can not remember what I had, but I distinctively remember how friendly the staff were. Nothing beats a restaurant with friendly staff members.

We were about to finish dinner when I excused myself to go to the toilet.

“You’ll enjoy the toilet. You’ll see why when you open the doors.” said Nat as he pointed me to the right direction.

IMG_4002I got a bit confused when there were three doors to choose from. I couldn’t remember which door I opened first, but I was quite surprised to see a mosaic of Cher in front of me. After getting over my initial shock, I heard Cher’s song “If I Could Turn Back Time” playing through the speakers. Now I understood what Nat meant.

I went to the next two bathrooms. One belonged to Elvis and one belonged to Dolly Parton.

I pissed in Dolly’s bathroom.

~

“Let go have some “Welcome to New York” drinks at the bar near the apartment!” said Nat.

“Yes, I need one!” was my enthusiastic reply.

So we started walking up 9th avenue. Much to my surprise and to Nat’s amusement I had just realized the bar is located right at the corner of  9th avenue and 53rd street. Which is like, a stone’s throw away from the apartment.

We were now lining up at the entrance of the bar called “Flaming Saddles“**. What apt a name for a gay bar right? As we neared the door, Nat told me to prepare some I.D.to prove that I am over the age of 21 to be allowed to enter.  This has been a common thing for me to do every time I entered a bar or a club for my entire stay in New York. And I always pity the man by the door trying to locate my birth date on my Philippine drivers license. Took one guy more or less 5 minutes to find it.

IMG_0265Country music was playing from the jukebox as we entered and the bar tenders were dancing on the bar. With their skin-tight jeans tucked into their cowboy boots, it’s no wonder the clientle were cheering them on and making cat calls towards the bar.

I have never been exposed to anything Country prior to entering Flaming Saddles. Well, maybe except for a few songs from Dolly Parton and Shania Twain plus the occasional western film I’ve seen made during the 50’s I’d see on TCM. But never like this.

A Western film was showing on the two big plasma TV’s. I dunno what the title of the film was, but I sure do know Doris Day when I see her.

There were boys talking to each other with a southern twang. Boys in trucker hats. Boys who look like lumberjacks. Men in suit and tie.

And then, there’s the occasional tourist, me.

IMG_0260Nat and I found our way to the bar as the dancing bartenders were making their way down from the bar. We ordered some Vodka Redbull ($10 each plus $1 tip quite cheap for around this part of town I’ve been told.) , found a nice little spot while we enjoyed our drinks, enjoyed boy watching and cheered to a fabulous 2 months ahead in New York!

*Vynl

754 9th ave @ 51st, NYC
212 974 2003

www.vynl-nyc.com

**Flaming Saddles Saloon

793 Ninth Ave
between 52nd/53rd Streets
New York, NY 10019
1-212-713-0481

www.flamingsaddles.com

Arriving in New York : Day 1

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Image

August 2, 2012

12ish PM

On a Yellow Cab from JFK to Manhattan

New York

~

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.

Toink.

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.

~

ImageStanding in the middle of Time Square is like being in a New York movie. Everything is a blur as the camera turns in a full circle.

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.