Friday, March 6, 2009

New York: taxis, toilets, Trader Joe's (8/20-8/21)

Ashley went back to work the day after Kim left and we three ladies were left wondering what to do. Well, I hadn't stayed idle. I bought three bus tickets to New York, and the next morning we boarded a Megabus at 8:30. About four hours later, we reached our destination: Manhattan!

I can't tell you how unsettling it is to think about the sun setting in a direction opposite that of the nearest ocean.
manhattan sunset by lily(by Lily)


We went from Penn Station to Bryant Park to meet my sister's friend (and first love, aww) Carlos, who works nearby and generously offered to house us.
bryant park by lily(by Lily)

But first things first.
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That is some mozzarella panino thing from Tom Colicchio's 'Wich Craft. Lily got what she calls the best tuna sandwich she's ever had, and Lauren got something similarly delicious.

Later we went to Carlos's imposing building and took a cab with him to his apartment. This is part of his fancy lobby.
carlos lobby by lily(by Lily)

His apartment was pretty high up.
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The view:
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View of the viewers:
new york by lauren(by Lauren)

And just around the corner, the East River.
east river by lily(by Lily)

Teeny New York kitchen. (s^ @ u, Smitten Kitchen) The refrigerator was broken.
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The bathroom. I'm only showing you this because that bathroom plays a part later.
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And because we hadn't done enough sitting that day, we immediately sat down and watched TV. Ah, New York.
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See, Carlos works some big important-person job. He popped out to take us to his apartment, give me a key and a quick tour, then left to go back to work. We chatted on the way over, and he told me about how he'd been frazzled that day: he woke up late, then somehow managed to break the curtain rod in the shower and have the toilet overflow at the same time. "Don't worry, though," he promised. "Someone from the building came and fixed the toilet."

Reassured, we sat down and made ourselves comfortable. I pulled out some maps I found there and started studying the subway system. I had a few destinations I wanted to hit, and I didn't want to spend my time on the street unfolding big maps. I familiarized myself as well as I could with our route and we prepared to head out.

"Oh, hold on," Lauren said. "I should pee."

So we grabbed our jackets and sat in the living room. Then we heard a scream.

"THE TOILET!" Lauren shrieked. "It's overflowing!"

Lily and I rushed to the bathroom. It wasn't pretty. Remember in "Look Who's Talking Too" when Mr. Toilet Man, voiced by Mel Brooks, wants Mikey to gimme all your pee-pee and he's spitting all over the place?


It was kind of like that.

Did I also mention Carlos had said, "I need to go grocery shopping. I'm all out of paper towels"? 'Cause he did.

So there we are, panicking, as the water steadily approaches the lip of the doorway. I ran to the kitchen, found a plastic serving spoon and thrust it in Lauren's hand. It was like a triage. "Stop the hemorrhaging!" I yelled. "Stick the spoon under the float!" She waded across, so to speak, and jammed the utensil into the toilet tank as I pointed and shouted instructions. Sirens blared, babies were crying. The water stopped running.

We called Carlos, who called the lobby, who arranged for someone to go repair the toilet again. It turns out that person didn't show up and Carlos ended up mopping everything up when he came home from work that night! What a sweetheart. He didn't even mention it until I asked.

The only thing we could do after that was go shoe shopping.

We took the subway and ended up in Union Square, where Lily bought some shoes. After that we stumbled upon Max Brenner's, a restaurant devoted to chocolate. Need I say more?

Lily's white chocolate shake. The glasses had a cute Alice in Wonderland tag design.
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The restaurant was really dark, so we had to rely on taste and feel for most of the meal. That's OK. Under those sprinkles is molten gold. The edible kind. Served with chocolate-covered crunchy things and caramel sauce, also edible.
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Dessert waffles! Swoon. With toffeed bananas, vanilla ice cream and a freaking beaker of warm milk chocolate. That crap was so thick we could barely pour it. We clearly needed the extra chocolate, though.
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So demolished.
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Later we took the subway to Washington Square Park in search of falafel. We found it at Mamoun's: a teeny cash-only affair teeming with hungry locals. The standard is a falafel-filled pita with fresh tomatoes and hummus. It was fabulous. I got the spinach pie.
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We finally went back down to lower Manhattan and stumbled into Carlos's apartment near midnight. He came out to ask us how our day had gone, then went into his room to continue working. To continue working! The three of us unfolded the couch and I made them watch "Thirteen Ghosts" (sorry, I meant "Thir13en"). I'm not going to lie, I don't hate that movie. The lawyer gets cut in half, for pete's sake! (Hot dog, not hamburger.) Like in that Tales From the Crypt, only back/front and not left/right. Anyone?

The next day we went in search of some form of food and found it near the apartment, a place called Imperial Pizza. I got some pesto tomato thing.
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Look at that grease! That's how you know it's good.
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And of course, this wouldn't have been complete without a trip to Trader Joe's. This time I have justification! Two reasons: Lauren's former boss had recently transferred there, so she wanted to go visit him, and Carlos had said he needed groceries, so I wanted to pick some up as a thank-you for letting us stay with him.

When we went there Lauren saw her old boss Jason right away and introduced us. We also met some other full-timers, including a guy who knew some of my coworkers because they all came from a San Francisco store.

The Manhattan store was crazy, needless to say. Some crew members' only tasks were to mark where the lines started for the registers. The store has won Store of the Year for about 3 years now, but the only reason is sales--kind of unfair. They should offer a Nicest Store of the Year Award, at least.

When I asked Tony, the SF full-timer, where the bathroom was he led us inside to the crew members' bathroom. We walked in on three girls gossiping, who stopped dead when they saw three normally-dressed strangers standing there. A quick explanation sufficed, and after we left the bathroom Tony gave us a tour of the back room. Everything is upstairs--meaning milk boxes and all floor pulls need to be brought down a level, every time! What a nightmare. They have to break down pallets right on 14th St., because there isn't enough space anywhere else!

So I waited in that line with supplies I'd noted Carlos needed (including plenty of paper towels) and then we popped in to the wine store to buy him a bottle, which by law in New York has to be separate from the groceries, I guess. The beer was in the main store, and we noticed it was really expensive. Jason explained that it was due to the high alcohol taxes in the state, which really limited the selection NY Trader Joe's offer.

The Manhattan store also delivers! For a fee, of course, and only within a certain radius. We carried our groceries back to Carlos's, left them on the coffee table with a thank you card and his apartment key, and took our things to Penn Station.

Later that night we arrived back in Boston, much to the relief of Lily and Lauren. Throughout the trip they compared New York to Boston pretty unfavorably, but I really enjoyed the city and wanted to spend more time there. The two are so different: New York is just so busy. Boston is more communal. Also there were no toilet incidents in Boston. That may have played a part.

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