It was goddamn hot when I woke up and the hangover just wasn’t helping.
“What happened last night?”
I knew I must have taken a detour before getting back to Brooklyn. I scrolled through the pictures in my camera. Abstract images of Times Square. Blurry cabs and swirls of neon and nearly getting hit by cabs and busses. Times Square is one of those amazing places you have to see at least once, but never really have to return to after. The enormity of the buildings and the chaotic rabble of tourists and Manhattanite yuppies can be a bit of a culture shock for those who’ve never experienced it. I know I couldn’t stop looking up when my 18 year old eyes first walked out of the Times Square subway stop. I had a similar reaction the first time I saw mountains (being from Florida, land of flat lands and more flat lands, I’m very easily impressed by even the slightest bump in the road, so you can imagine!)
But on my… what is this.. 6th? 7th time to New York? I’ve somehow always wound up in Times Square for at least a little while and while I appreciate the buildings and the warmth of those neon lights on a cold night (if you’re ever without a coat in NYC in Winter, I suggest standing underneath the lights of the McDonalds on 42nd Street as i’ve done in previous visits. Guaranteed heater!), I’m no longer awe-struck when I get in the thick of it. Add to that the barrage of street vendors trying to hock everything from knock off purses and NYC “artwork” to used bottles of perfume and “Tickets to Tonight’s Comedy Show (It’s Gonna Be A Great One!)” and you quickly begin to realize why the majority of New Yorkers steer clear of this area unless they have a reason. Overwhelming and unnecessary, especially when NY has so much more to offer in just about every other corner!
Another good reason to stop in Times Square, however, is if you’re already intoxicated and don’t want to go home juuuust yet. And so, a detour. A detour, alright. I’d spent a few hours in the company of one, Tyler Edwards. Tyler was a boy I’d met my last night in Philadelphia the previous year, a night that would prove to practically cause me to get kicked out of the house I was staying in, and it would’ve totally been my fault (but that’s a story for another day). He was tall and handsome and doing fairly well for himself – a young professional with a gym membership and a heavy interest in social media, though he himself doesn’t use it all that much (something I have yet to understand). I would be staying with him soon enough though, but you know, sometimes it’s late and you’ve had a few and you just can’t really wait.
Back in my stuffy Bushwick basement, I reached around the floor for my metal water bottle, unscrewed the top and drank the last bit of room temperature water. Where the fuck is the ibuprofen? I could hear CJ’s roommate upstairs, clacking away at her computer, on a work-related phone call, but still blasting some sort of indie Brooklynite music (possibly this?).
And then there it was again. Another wave of unrelenting heat. That suffocating heat. The only word I can think of that properly describes it is a Spanish word: desesperante. WordReference.com describes it as exasperating or distressing, but I feel like it’s not quite either of those.
I grabbed my iPod, scrolled through, found some Ramones, and remembered seeing the sign for Rockaway Beach on the MTA map. The mission for the day was clear: To get the hell out of the heat and on to the Ramones’ very own Rockaway beach!
For those who are unaware, Rockaway Beach is quite a hike from Bushwick:
See? The L to the A to the S.. and then, a walk either North or South to the beach (alright, so the quality of the image sucks. I never said I was a graphic designer). After over an hour of train time, I grabbed a quick grilled cheese from the Last Stop Shop and headed towards the boardwalk. It dawned on me then that I hadn’t actually brought a towel, so I tried haggling the asian man selling beach towels on the street. Obviously my haggling skills aren’t so great because he wouldn’t budge. I wound up settling on this tiny, pink hand towel for $1.25 which I suspect may have already been used. But it was fine. I could smell the ocean. Rock-rock-rockaway time!
Being from Miami, my visiting friends constantly remark about how beautiful our beaches are. This is something I know I take for granted. Walking on to the sand of Rockaway Beach, I really knew it. Bits of styrofoam cup here and bottle cap there and itty bitty bits of plastic and decomposing paper, a mine field of debris in need of much recycling (which does happen on occasion back home, but certainly not to this extent). Still, the beach was alive with dozens of locals sprawled out on bellies and backs; girlfriends in pale sundresses reapplying sunblock; portly guys with farmers tans looking self conscious without their shirts on; squealing 4-year olds running after each other without any particular reason; guys with gel in their hair, tossing a football around; a pair of older ladies sitting in their beach chairs looking on. I sat by a group of Muslim girls drying off but still fully dressed from head to toe. Even from the sand, you could see it was chock full of seaweed. Except you couldn’t really see in to the water, since it was kind of a dark grey color with dark green hues. Yup. Definitely not Miami. But then, wasn’t the point to get the hell out of there for a while anyway? I dove in.
Let me just say, there are few things that are better for a hangover than jumping into a large body of cold water. It basically shocks you back into sobriety whether you like it or not (although this feeling doesn’t necessarily last once you walk out of the ocean. For that, I recommend Gatorade, preferably the orange flavor). When the afternoon began coming to a close, I did my best to dry off and change clothes and walked to the opposite end of the main road to a small 9-11 memorial park. It never occurred to me how many memorials there would be around the city, not just in Manhattan. Some boys were throwing rocks in the water. I watched the sun set (did I mention this would be a recurring theme in my trip? Probably.) and took the train back in to the main land.
Getting closer to Brooklyn, I called up my friend Ezra to meet me for a drink. He’d moved to the city just a few months ago and was still exploring, so we wandered around for a bit and wound up at Greenlight Bookstore and sat in (well, stood) on an open mic. Good poetry, great crowd, and this was the first of many moments on this trip that I would realize just how badly I need to get over my public speaking phobias (this should go under my next Things I’ve Learned On This Trip post).
Moving on… After a series of failed attempts at finding a bar that would take plastic, we settled on Canal Bar. It was $1 Cream Ale night, so I don’t have to go into specifics about what happened next. Our bartender, Jeremy (?) was the hipster with a heart of gold (skinny jeans and a flannel, easy on the eyes, but also genuinely friendly, warm smile and all – or maybe it was the beer keeping me warm… Damn.) We joined some of the regulars for a bit on the back patio, but the conversation got a little uncomfortable when this bald lummox of a man started getting a little too personal questioning Ezra about his Jewish heritage and debating the rights and wrongs of the state of affairs in the Middle East (or I might have just been drunk and heard wrong… I should add the “Drunk Disclaimer” to a good portion of my stories I think. Either way, he was dropping borderline racist sounding jokes here and there and I couldn’t be sure how much truth was behind them.) Suffice to say, we left a little after that – besides, we’d already had at least a $15 tab between the two of us with those $1 beers, and the occasional shot of Whiskey. Speaking of which, I had my first taste of Bushmill’s Black Bush while at this bad and I approve! Let’s hear it for discovering yet another bottle you don’t mind drinking from!
Oh! It’s also (very) worth mentioning (more worth mentioning than the bald lummox and possibly more worth mentioning than the Bushmill’s) that I had some of the BEST Mexican food I’ve had on my trip so far while at this bar. No, it wasn’t bar food and this was actually before i’d imbibed more than one can of Genesee Cream Ale, so I think it’s a pretty legitimate claim. The great thing about Canal Bar is that they have an absurd amount of local restaurant menus to get food delivered from. We opted for Oaxaca where Ezra got a few tacos and I happily devoured some enchiladas*. The other great thing about Canal Bar is they’ve got free popcorn, which we happily noshed on once our Mexi-goodness was all gone. All in all, a lovely night! I’m pretty sure I got rained on again on the way home, but the buzz of the beer and of the day were good enough to keep me toasty.
New York is like that. Some days and nights go without a hitch, but more often than not, they’re either remarkable or devastating. I’ve had my fair share of amazing NYC moments, which is what’s always kept me coming back to her, what’s always made me want to move there. This trip to NY was different though, rougher than before, for sure. It’s not that she was a total bitch, although there were moments. But something was just different. I keep wondering if maybe it’s just me, growing up, being an adult in the city rather than a starry eyed girl of 18 or 21, with notions of excitement and romance keeping me heavily intoxicated. Either way, more on the “remarkable” and “devastating” nights coming up. Much sooner than you realize!
Note: It’s become apparent to me that there was something I completely forgot to mention about my 2nd day in NY – my visit to Ground Zero. I don’t know if that’s a very telling statement about how much 9-11 directly affected me. I don’t want to pretend that it completely changed my life, nor that it had no effect on me. Either way, I’ll considering saving that for a separate post.
* = It’s probably also worth mentioning that because I am a vegetarian, I can only ever comment on how good the vegetarian options are at any given restaurant.