We’re back from The Big Apple! What an experience. Millions of people in a hurry, not looking at each other, and not talking to each other on the streets, but instead, talking to random people on cell phones 24/7 with taxis honking in the background and the loudest police sirens I’ve ever come into contact with.
Cali and I arrived in New York City on Tuesday evening. The first thing we noticed were the dirty, sticky airport floors; much different from the clean, shiny airport floors in Salt Lake City. My brother, Caleb picked us up in a shiny, maroon Cadillac type rental car (a dream for any grandmother!) and we sped off towards Lenny’s where I got the best-tasting breaded chicken sandwich smothered in mozzarella I’ve ever eaten. After consuming 3,000 calories, we walked through Hell’s Kitchen, an area of Manhattan close to his place, which has 100s of the best restaurants around. I had no idea how we’d get a chance to eat all the food I planned to consume in 3 days!
Wednesday morning, Caleb had to go to work, so Cali and I were on our own to explore! We did a fabulous job following a map that we’d ripped out of Caleb’s atlas. We made it to Times Square, Greenwich Village, SoHo, and then even to Chinatown, without getting completely lost.
Of all the shopping we did, Chinatown was the most eventful. Cali really wanted to buy a purse while we were there (she heard they had great deals on fabulous bags!). I taught her a teensy bit about bartering, and we headed into our first purse shop. Cali found a beautiful purse that she wanted. The Chinese man that owned the shop was thrilled when he saw 2 Utah suckers in his shop! He stood beside us, waiting to get all of our money. Little did he know . . .
“How much for this purse?” Cali inquired.
“I’ll give you ten!” Cali replied. I was very impressed with her big balls attitude.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” the shop owner chuckled for longer than was necessary. “Twenty!” he countered.
This man had no idea who he was messing with! “No. Ten!” Cali replied.
“Final offer! Fifteen!”
“I will only pay ten.” Cali held her ground.
I was very proud of Cali’s strong bartering skills, but unfortunately, I hadn’t told her that she might have to do a little giving on her side. Needless to say, because she wouldn’t budge on her price, we left without the purse!
Cali was really sad that she hadn’t purchased the purse for $15, especially, after we searched through 4 more shops, and found nothing that resembled the one she loved. I promised her we’d find something eventually. We marched into the next shop (they all started to look the same after a while) and started our search. This time, the shop owner that approached us spoke very little English. He kept saying, “You like? You like?” over and over again.
Cali kept saying, “I’m just looking, I’m just looking!” but he either didn’t know what she was saying or pretended not to. I started to get a little claustrophobic and wandered away from the shop owner and peaked around a little corner at the top of a ramp in the store. I heard the shop owner scurry up beside me and look very excited. “You like? You like?” he asked over and over again. All that I saw around the corner were more of the same purses that I’d already seen hanging in the rest of the shop. “You like? You like?” I didn’t want to disappoint the poor guy, so I finally nodded, “Yes!” He looked around the shop like there was a secret agent watching us and quickly inserted a key into the wall. A hidden door swung open. He steered Cali and I inside. He opened another locked door inside the wall and led us into a hidden room which was lined with purses. He shut and locked the door behind us. I would’ve been scared to death (perhaps we were going to be sent off on a boat to China to work in a sweatshop) but there were 3 other tourists standing in the room calmly shopping for purses, with a Chinese woman looking on. These purses had brand names on them. We had stumbled into a whole new world filled with illegal purses. It was a very stress-filled and sweaty experience for me. I felt like I was locked in a small attic with no ventilation. People that have problems with claustrophobia wouldn’t have liked it at all! I wondered how we were going to escape. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. It just took a simple phone call. The Chinese woman had to use her cell phone to call outside to make sure there was no law enforcement in the shop before she unlocked the doors again to let us out. Crazy stuff!!
The whole purse buying business threw me for a loop and we got turned around. Cali and I saw some NYPD ahead so we hid our newly purchased stolen merchandise and stopped to ask them how to get back to Caleb’s apartment. I smiled at the police officers and said, “Could you tell us how to get back to Manhattan?” We were in Chinatown after all!
The policemen laughed and one replied, “You are in Manhattan!” Well, I am just a country bumpkin after all. I didn’t know Chinatown was Manhattan!
I decided to be safe this time and gave them Caleb’s address: 43rd St. and 10th Ave. and asked, “How would I head towards this address?”
The policemen looked shocked. “You’re going to walk here? You’d better get started!” They told us to turn left on Allen St. and then to keep going for a looooooong time! I should’ve known better than to trust policemen who were still chuckling when we walked away. I’m sure it is pretty funny to play a trick on tourists. But aren’t policemen supposed to be trustworthy?! Cali and I walked for 45 minutes and never found Allen St.! We stopped and asked 4 more people for directions, but no one spoke English. We finally got headed in the right direction and made it back to Caleb’s house by 6 p.m. Cali and I calculated that we had actually walked 26 miles that day. We were both in tears by the end, but at least we were the proud new owners of some illegal Chinese purses!
Caleb took the next 2 days off of work and showed us the rest of the city! We ate the world’s best pizza, and the world’s best chocolate chip cookie (only $3.50 for 1 cookie) in the same day! We also took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, shopped at FAO Scharz where Cali played the big piano from the movie, Big, and walked through Grand Central Station where I used a restroom that had a sign posted which read, “No Public Bathing!” They should’ve allowed the bathing because the bathroom smelled like B.O.!
Dad’s plane flew in on Thursday night, and we had a blast seeing some of New York with him. I embarrassed everyone on the subway one night when I tried to talk to a complete stranger (you don’t do that in New York!) This guy walked onto the subway with the most amazing piece of pizza and sat across from us. I watched him eating for a minute, made eye contact with him and asked, “Is it good?!” My voice sounded really loud. I was probably shouting to be heard over the subway noises. The man did not answer. He didn’t even nod at me or anything. Caleb hid his head in his hands, Dad shook his head, and Cali and I just burst into peals of laughter. I guess no matter what city I’m in . . .
Dad treated us all to the world’s best and largest order of Spaghetti and Meatballs at Carmine’s before we went to see Mamma Mia on Broadway Friday night. The musical was wonderful . . . great music, great dancing, great acting, but it was also full of sexual innuendos. I kept looking over at Cali to see what her reaction would be to the chest grabbing and pelvic thrusts. I think there may have been some sex toys included in one scene, but I didn’t have my binoculars, so I can’t be sure. I think I was more embarrassed than she was!
Caleb and I had the best morning runs (we jogged through Central Park, by the Hudson River, and also down to see the World Trade Center site.) The weather was gorgeous and getting to see the sun rise over the Statue of Liberty was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my lifetime.
The trip was a huge hit! I want to visit New York City again soon (Don’t worry, Caleb. Our next visit will be at least a couple months away!) , but I do not wish to relocate. Visiting The Big Apple helped me realize that I have to live somewhere where I can talk to perfect strangers, and smile at people on the streets without feeling like a freak of nature. Until next time . . .