I flew to JKF and was picked up by a Jamaican driver named Fitzroy. True to form, he was hard to understand over the loud radio, traffic, his quiet voice and accent mon. The old school paper GPS wasn’t entirely up to scratch and Fitzroy ended up asking for directions. We were upstate of the city in a pleasant forest clad area dotted with deer and lovely lavish homes. I arrived at my friend G’s house (who also is another old colleague from Hong Kong) and got to meet her adorable daughter for the first time.
New York was fuelled with anticipation and adventure, as both G and I discovered the city. On Independence Day we took the train to Coney Island and arrived just in time to witness Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest. The heat and crowd cheering lead Joey Chestnut to devour 68 dogs in 10 minutes, just short of his record. Lucky that, my slice of Two Boots pizza and the amazing Magnolia Bakery Bavarian cupcake didn’t put me off my all-American July 4th barbeque dinner cooked by G’s husband; complete with mouth-watering pterodactyl-sized ribs, cornbread and salad.
G had taken the Thursday off work and took me on a walking tour of Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown. We filled up on the best pho I’ve had since ‘Nam and sauntered our way down to the Brooklyn Bridge where the heat smacked us in the face with a ‘This is NYC in the summer, b****es’. The only way to cool down was to duck into boutiques and you know, buy a dress or two.
On Friday G and I popped into town and went to the top of the Rockerfeller Centre, which I recommend instead of going to the top of the Empire State building. Not only did we not have to queue for hours (just straight up), but we got an amazing view of the city and our pictures had the Empire beauty in the background. Good plan, aye. After visiting the cutest Chelsea Markets it was time to meet G’s friend for a margarita in the Meatpacking District. As grossly crass as this name sounds, it’s the part of town you need to be in; especially for a blueberry margi and fresh guacamole with homemade chips.
A quick dress change into something fabulous and a pair of heels, followed by a make-up session in Sephora and you know, getting hit up for a casting call (who me??? Why yes!), we made our way to our reservation at Pastis (made famous by Sex and the City). It was overrun with children, so the call was made to go somewhere more fantastic as we’d just had our make-up done (which by this time, I am completely embracing the whole New York experience). We ended up roof top sipping amazingness and bathed in the sunset at STK. The night was brought to me by lobster, wine, cocktails and champagne. I taught Central American businessmen to say ‘saaaav’ for Marlborough Sauvingnon Blanc, learnt how to Samba (and we accidentally whacked into a girl who looked like she wanted sue us), and skoll back a tequila and espresso shot which I apparently should have sipped. Oh well, it was met with a gasp and thereafter a surprised cheer. 99c pizza at midnight near Grand Central Station is truly a blessing…. especially when you roll it up and let the fat drip into your mouth and not on your dress.
Saturday was Mr T’s day; the day I had become a widow 3 years ago. It doesn’t get easier, but you just learn to accept that there goes another year. This milestone day was filled with greatness. G and I arrived in Union Square around 3pm and I bought some extravagant heels in an overwhelming shoe store. Then we queued at the famous Shake Shack in the Flatiron district for burgers and walked that off on our way to the pier. The skies were grey like my mood for the cruise, but I knew that I would receive an amazing sunset. The bleak curtain lifted as we sipped cocktails and sailed passed Miss Liberty. Brilliant orange splashed across the evening sky as it waved goodnight. I cried under the Brooklyn Bridge, as it was time. Then me and G hugged and cried. It’s hard to let yourself go in the company of strangers. The evening lightened when we purchased frozen margaritas at a cheesy bar and cheersed to Mr T, came across a random salsa dance party, then had Anthony Bourdain’s favourite hotdogs from Gray’s Papaya.
The weekend ended with a family trip to the city and brunch at The Odeon. Warm donuts and a mimosa made a lovely little place in my soul. Dylan’s Candy Bar high-fived my inner child, Central Park was a refreshing reprieve from the masses of tooting yellow taxis and the big piano in FAO Schwartz was a nice surprise. I was tired, but I still felt like I was dreamily walking around in a movie. That night, I made my first batch of homemade linguine with G.
I had two more days in New York and I was left to my own devices. I spent Monday in the Soho area shopping and spending on items of clothing that I must have (Anthropologie has a lot to answer for). The day of decadence began with a classic NJ faux pas; accidentally walking into a movie set café for brunch and apologising with an ‘Oh shit, sorry…’in an overly Kiwi-fied accent. I did have my first taste of blintzes around the corner (they should be worshipped). After having my skirt admired several times (thank God, because I was beginning to feel fat with the excessive food consumption), I met with my old principal from Hong Kong (yes, this is a pattern), and her friend as well as G for cheeseburger spring rolls and fancy fries coated in truffle oil and parmesan from Delicatessen. I need some salvation from my salivation!
I had planned my final fling with the Big Apple to be amazing as I didn’t want to get the last day blues. So after a peanut butter and chocolate cupcake for breakfast, I headed off to do mega-touristy things like be overwhelmed by neon signs in Times Square and Broadway. I rewarded myself for making it through the gauntlet with a bit of 5th Avenue eye candy. My favourite picture from the whole trip is a Polaroid of me and a topless gift from God in Abercrombie & Fitch. When he gave it to me and whispered “Call me…” and so did all of his delicious counterparts behind the counter.
After that I floated through the MoMa, up close and personal with American greats and then honed my newly acquired subway skills back to Soho. I had a wee break in Washington Square Park, where I met the guy doing The Strangers Project. A quick dress change and G, her husband and I had a wonderful meal and cocktails followed by an evening of live jazz across the bridge in Brooklyn. It was nothing shy of a spectacular send off, in my early morning exit stage right back to San Francisco.