USA: New York City, 2018 | Part II

my Oreos and Milo served their purpose again and I set out to Times Squares and Broadway for the day. half-priced tickets, I’m coming for ya. to the unpleasant subway I went. hey, wait, this… is not the entrance from yesterday, right? turned out that unfortunately, I took the long way the day before. man, all the panting wasn’t worth it.

it was almost the end of rush hour by the time I headed out. there were still some white collars getting to work, some other folks who I wasn’t sure what they do on a day-to-day basis, and of course, some tourists.

I got out of one of the many, many subways in the Times Square area and head to the TKTS booth. when I finally saw the huge LED screens that I’ve seen so many times on TV, I thought, a little unflattering, “oh, so this is the Times Square?” to be honest, it was… okay. it wasn’t anything outstanding or impressive. to me, it’s just a tourist trap. I remember watching a TV show and the host remarked, “no locals will come to Times Square.” sure enough, no one he interviewed came from New York City.

I asked a girl in a suit who’s promoting Chicago where the TKTS booth is. it was right in front of my eye and I’d just walked past it to ask her for the directions. haha. and so I went to the counter, armed and ready to pay five hours of my wages in exchange of three hours of an extraordinary experience. turned out there weren’t any $50 tickets left, only starting from $80.

“that’s the cheapest ticket?” I knew the answer but still asked anyway.

“yes, ma’am. $80, that’s the cheapest,” the man at the counter replied unapologetically. after working in the service line, I understood him. he must’ve had all sorts of weird requests every day, just like the receptionist last night.

“alright. no, thank you, then,” there might not be any hesitation in my voice, but inside, I was torn.

I walked back to the stairs at the center and sat down, watched the screens without processing the contents while I contemplated my options. $30 extra or look for something else to do? I texted two different people at that time and I got two very different replies.

the first was my sister, “huh so expensive?” it’s really demotivating, Er Jie.

the second was from my friend, it’s pretty straightforward, “$30 now or another RM3000 in the future?”

somewhere between waiting for them to reply me, I felt really, really, really bad my eyes started to well up and then my tear rolled down. I’m not kidding I even have a photo of it it’s just I can’t post it because well, um, I kinda walked around the entire morning with a little bit of Oreo still stuck at the corner of my mouth. but anyway, yeah, me, crying in Times freaking Square. no one else will do that other than a kid separated from its guardians.

after making my decision, I went up to the line again, hoping that fate doesn’t bring me to the same counter again. while queueing, the lady behind me asked, “what are you watching?”

Phantom of the Opera.” entry level. “and you?”

I forgot what she watched. sorry, lady. we had a small talk about the shows. though I hate small talks, it struck me… “so that’s how easy you can start a conversation with a stranger?” my skills are definitely lacking in that socializing department.

I didn’t want to stroll too far from the theatre, afraid that I wouldn’t arrive early enough to beat the queue. so I walked around the area, depending on Yelp to lead me to some good food at a decent price. I ended up at a cheese sandwich place which was okay for its price.

remember that friend that I said was supposed to come with me? while eating, I couldn’t help thinking again… what could’ve been? we probably would’ve skipped DC. I don’t think Broadway show would’ve ended up on the itinerary. even if it did, I would be convinced to change plans, as always, especially when the 50$ tickets were sold out. and I would say yes, as always. would I be led to an even more exciting adventure? or would I beat myself up every day after that for missing Phantom of the Opera?

by the time I got back to the theatre, the queue lined along the outside of the theatre building. if you’ve read enough of my ramblings, by now you’d know that, yes, it made me anxious. again.

I got in alright. got a seat with no one to my right or left. it’s McMiserable again. who the hell watches a play alone? it was better than last night though, because since a few years back I started going to the movies alone often. also, that means I wouldn’t have to come up with any opinions just to talk to the people around me. however, by intermission, I was already regretful for having this thought. because I couldn’t wait to share this experience with someone else.

the show was… how do I put it? “amazing” would be an understatement. the set was magnificent, the acting spectacular and the music breathtaking. I remember having to make sure to breathe slowly so that the sound of my sinus nose and beating heart didn’t distract me. there’s also something about listening to music you’ve known for over a decade being played right in front of you. although the story bothered me for some reason, I’m thankful I didn’t take my sister’s advice. it’s really a once-a-lifetime experience, so please watch it if you have the chance.

though I’ve watched Birdman before this, I didn’t realize the movie was set here.

when the show ended, people were directed out of the building but a small crowd formed at the front of the stage. ah, I knew it’s the orchestra, but I’ve never seen one myself before. curiosity brought me to the group. it’s quite funny in a way, sort of like looking down at animals in a zoo.

the musicians finished the score and started packing up. then, this… strange thing happened. my eyes met a brass player’s. and we both gave each other a faint smile. it’s not the stupid smile from the adrenaline after a show nor was it an awkward one you do to a passing stranger.

it’s more like some sort of… “I know”. “I know you get this twice a day, whenever the show ends. could be quite annoying yeah?” “I know you’ve never seen something like this before. welcome to Broadway.” I’ve never encountered anything like that anymore throughout the trip. or in fact, even until now.

and it was until now, months later, while writing this, that I realize why it’s strange. it’s because I didn’t look away immediately as always, being the shy person I am. that’s all the more reason why it’s important to write these things down to reflect on experiences, instead of mindlessly consuming them and for what, right?

anyway, another funny thing is, I can’t remember how that guy looked like anymore, yet I remember how strange the whole thing was. ain’t it like that with people? you never remember how they look or what’s their name, but you remember how they make you feel.

it’s already 5PM when I got out. museums were closed by now and I didn’t want to hit The Rock until I’ve made sure I have time to do the things that the New York City Pass includes. I should’ve gone there though.

so I made my way to Flatiron, confident that it would be easy to spot this landmark once I reached the area. “it’s flat, Ruo Ling, it’s flat. that’s why it’s called Flatiron.” lo and behold, I got out of the nearest subway station to street level and I didn’t see any flat building. I searched my phone while I walked along a corridor with scaffolding, thinking I shouldn’t’ve missed it unless… unless I’m right underneath it.

I was right. at the end of the corridor, I saw tourists at the opposite of the street. the youngsters striking their basic Instagram poses while the elder ones did their usual family photo thing.

I lingered at the area just marvelling at this (flat) feat while searching a good spot to take a photo. but damn these traffic lights! corner buildings always hold my fascination and I have a lot of questions for this one. who would build a triangle building like this? this flat??? how does the inside look like? (answers, fellas)

for a while, I watched this couple that seemed ordinary at first. but later when they started doing these “influencers” poses and switching positions with each other and it went on for about five minutes, I started to roll my eyes. I wanted their help to take a photo for me initially, but you know what, forget it, let them live in their bubble, as most other millennials do.

I headed to DUMBO after that. after seeing so many photos of it, mom, I finally made it here!

unsurprisingly, it’s another spot that’s filled with these… I don’t know, influencers-wannabes, or are they already influencers? this spot was actually much worse than Flatiron, because they just stood right smack in the middle of the road, a four-junction crossroad at that. in terms of vehicular traffic, I would say it’s somewhere above moderate. there’s always someone who didn’t notice a car is coming. or someone who wouldn’t bulge immediately even after a honk. are you guys idiot or what? don’t bother answering. it’s a rhetoric question. you guys are idiots. if I were one of those drivers, I would’ve driven any of them to death just as they’ve driven me into road rage.

the sun was almost gone so I hung around a little longer. might as well see the night view. it’s not worth it. it’s so dark all you can see of Manhattan bridge is the outline. disheartened, I picked any one of the four streets and walked. never learnt my lesson, eh?

this was only possible thanks to RAW imaging.

I’m not sure what brought me to what should be Brooklyn Bridge Park. it’s drizzling and I didn’t want to stroll. so instead, I just walked towards the rail and took in the view right in front of me. ah, New York City. who doesn’t want to live here? there are more than enough movies, books, TV shows out there to make you dream of it. there’s the hidden bowling alley from the book Where She Went. there’s Gretta riding her bike across Manhattan in Begin Again. there’s Superman saving people in Queens. it’s unbelievable.

I took turns taking touristy photos with this family of four. the dad said he’s pretty good with photography, can even talk to me about the lights there. though it’s a point-and-shoot iPhone, the photo turned out… let’s just say he’s joking about all that camera stuffs he said earlier.

then, of course, it’s the usual, “what brought you here?” and “where are you from?”

he said something utterly true. “you’ve never been to the Twin Towers and you say you’re from Malaysia? and now you’re looking at Brooklyn Bridge in New York.”

I gave an embarrassing “yes”. I’ve been meaning to cross that bridge for a long time. ever since I read about how unique it is from my trip to Taipei 101... about five years ago. I told myself I’m gonna do it when I’m back home, but half a year had passed and I still… haven’t.

anyway, I didn’t want to stand in the rain anymore so I left. I think it was Shake Shack that led me to this park because I ended up knowing that I wanted to have Shake Shack. before I had arrived at the park, I passed two restaurants with long queues. it must be good, I don’t know. you let me know if you somehow end up in one of those restaurants someday. it’s Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (4.1 stars from 4192 Google Reviews. okay after a search through Google, it even has its own Wikipedia page.) and Juliana’s (4.6 Stars from 2651 Google Reviews. alright this has its own Wikipedia page too). I’m not gonna queue though. not alone. not in this cold.

it’s McMiserable all over again. although this time it’s not emotionally, more on the logistics part. how am I gonna order and make sure I have one seat in this crowded New-York-City famed restaurant? everyone seemed to have someone to chop seats for them. urgh.

I ended up at a table for 4 - 5 with a couple that’s about to leave. then, a family with a stroller joined the table. I thought, “why would people bring their kids and toddlers to travel? why? just why? it’s such a hassle.” then I remember that this may be their only time in a year that they could spend this much time together in a foreign place. alright, I approve.

I tried to look friendly, smile and soften my resting bitch face. but it’s undeniably getting more uncomfortable so I just focused on my burger and finished it as quickly as possible. speaking of burgers, I honestly found Shake Shack just alright.

and then, and then… I can’t remember what exactly happened after that. I only vaguely remember walking past a car park. I guess I got back, talked to my mom on the phone and settled down for the night.

HAH! so I managed to summon some memories from the previous night before I went to bed. I got back to my dorm and my lower bunk-mate was already in bed, like, his entire body was in the comforter except for his head.

seeing that he’s not asleep yet, we acknowledged each other and he proceeded to continue talking to me that way. it’s the usual “oh what have you done today?” turned out he’s French and he went to support his friend’s comedy. naturally, it’s awkward to be looking down at him this way so I excused myself.

I think I talked to my mom after that (mom, I’m sharing a room with three other guys!). I booked about ten accommodations for the entire trip so I wasn’t sure what I’d actually booked for each night. and no matter how my dorm mates rotated, they were always males. :\

while I was working away on my upper bunk, the four of us agreed to have the lights shut. but I forgot I’d left my contact lens solution in the locker. so I had to climb my way down, open it, feel my hands through my bags to find that damn solution, all while cursing myself for being loud. was I not embarrassed enough with my giant luggage? hmph.