Lullaby of Chinatown

Within the perimeters of Canal & Bowery, exists a country within a city. In the shadow of neon signs flashing Cantonese and Mandarin, are many treasured wonders.

Exotic fruit, which have the appearance of quirky, avant-garde art, delights all senses. The sweet scent of miniature pancakes infuses with escaped fish from the sea. Chinese fans, ceramic dragons and Buddha’s, provide a much-needed kitsch.

In the midst of Chinatown’s charm, four New Yorkers embarked on an odyssey. Firstly, I must take the flying DeLorean to last year (hello, Back to the Future reference). Fasten your seat belts, folks. Please be aware of the exit row. Here we go, its lift off time.

It happened last year on the rooftop of a quaint building, in close proximity to Washington Square Park. Yours truly and some of my people waited in anticipation for one magnificent sight. That glorious Kodak moment was in the form of fireworks. Hello, Fourth of July, said I. As the darkness embedded Greenwich Village, the anticipation built.

Boom, boom, boom went the fireworks. With great dramatic momentum, our eyes searched the night sky for those beloved-flashing lights over the nearby Hudson. The sound effects persisted, but the fire works were nowhere to be seen. I looked at my friends in puzzlement. “Where are the fireworks? They’re supposed to be visible from this vantage point, aren’t they? asked I.

We waited a bit longer. Still the imposing apartment buildings of the West Village shielded us from that most Fourth of July tradition. Instead of feeling disappointed, we watched the fireworks on television. It was quite lovely, but not the same sensation (as seeing them in person).

A few weeks later, I strolled the Upper West Side. While walking toward the 72nd Street subway, I heard a familiar, boom sound. I peered into the night sky over Broadway. Fireworks dominated the ornate Upper West Side sky. This was in celebration of Bastille Day (French independence day). The sight was quite magnificent. I declared, “vive la France.” My desire to see fireworks on the Fourth of July only intensified.

Let’s take the DeLorean back to this year. While my gal pals and I didn’t see the candy hued lights over Manhattan, last year, we made it a mission to actually see them this year.

In the depth of an empty Chinatown, we set out on foot to see the glorious show. Even as experienced New York walkers, we were baffled on where to see the show, which was on the East River (this year). We took a side street down and as the Manhattan Bridge appeared, our mission had been accomplished.

At last, we found the perfect vantage once we reached the East River’s Edge. “This is it, we’ll finally see the show,” I declared. Hoping that nobody extraordinarily tall would hover in front of me, I waited in anticipation. Then that familiar boom was heard. The fireworks commenced. They lit up the sky from the near-by Brooklyn Bridge. “Oh, aw, wow,” said the onlookers.

I too was in awe of the sparkly sky. At that moment, I appreciated seeing the show in living flesh. It would become one of my all time favorite New York memories. I was so very impressed with the pomp and pageantry of great American tradition.

Afterwards, we topped off the night, Lower East Side style. As wine was sipped, we thanked our lucky stars for a most memorable Fourth of July.

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The Californian

 

“I am not a beach guy,” said I, at age, sixteen. The sand, surf, and blazing California sun, didn’t quite tickle my fancy. One summer, my dad talked me into a road trip to Malibu.

In the midst of a-list celebrities, glitzy trailer parks, and rugged hills, was the piercing blue ocean. The most popular spot was Zuma beach, a grand surfer’s spot with an eclectic beach going crowd.

After recovering from extreme motion sickness, my father and I walked into the piping hot sand. It contrasted a very mellow California sun.

The waves crashed against the sun. It’s ferocious roar sounded like a lion. “Why don’t you get in the water, Anthony?” asked my father. I don’t wanna go into too deep, I forgot how to swim, said I, drenched in sunscreen.

“Oh give me a break, enjoy the water,” said my father, who was basking in the Malibu grandeur. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a gaggle of attractive, shirtless guys dash toward the Pacific Ocean. “Fuck drowning, I am going in,” said I.

The relatively cold Pacific Ocean was refreshing for me. It was a treat for me feet, which were roasting in the sand. I went in a bit deeper. “ Oh this isn’t so bad,” said I.

My Malibu buzz was quickly killed. A flying football narrowly missed my precious face. It also nearly knocked me into the water. “Oh who’s the fucking asshole, who threw that ball?” said I, internally (of course).

”I am sorry about the ball,” said the voice with a distinct California accent. Unexpectedly, a handsome young man appeared. He smiled with his big brown eyes illuminating perfect white teeth, which contrasted my mouth full of metal (I had braces, forever).

“You’re not a beach guy, are you?” he asked with a giggle. I smirked, “no, I am from landlocked Riverside. He went back to playing football with his buddies.

“Shit, times like this, I should’ve fake drowning, I would had some mouth to mouth madness,” said I. I admired the Malibu charmer from a distance as the football was tossed from one well tone and muscular guy to the other.

I walked toward the sand, with the following thoughts in my head, “gee, I wish more guys at my age were out of the closet or that I could ask a guy out and not be disappointed that’s he not gay or not into me.” Disappointingly, I left the shores of Zuma, lacking romance.

The old song, “why must I be a teenager in love” played in my head. “Oh well, I thought, at least dad and I will go for ice cream. The world tastes better sprinkled with hot fudge and a cherry on top.

Sing along with Radiohead

“Fake Plastic trees by Radiohead, isn’t exactly a staple on Christmas Eve. After the campy holiday songs ware off, nothing says happy holidays like mellow 90’s Brit Pop.

This past Christmas Eve, I woke up excitedly. I blasted the quintessential Radiohead jam and did the happy dance. “Yeah, I am on vacation, this is thrilling,” said I. That morning I gleefully read my Facebook feed. It was a collage of photographs with  luxurious images of New York airports from JFK’s Delta airlines terminal to planes waiting take off at Newark.

Then I realized, “oh yes, it’s Christmas Eve,” everyone is going home for the holidays. I too was headed out west for Christmas, but didn’t leave until the next day. A part of me, just wanted to be home in California with my father, enjoying the back patio and grilling steaks. Tear, tear, I had to find a way to comfort my poor self, while I waited for time to pass by. Oh and I did avoid boredom, the New Yorker way.

On my day off, I headed for my happy medium, Brooklyn Bagel in Chelsea. “That’s right nobody is in town, except tourists and they’re all in Midtown. No lines for me,” said I. Those were the cliché famous last words, since Brooklyn Bagel was packed. Although, the streets were a bit emptier, everyone had the same idea.

Fortunately, I found a seat and indulged in a most delectable bagel. “I must keep myself occupied and not get homesick, how do I do that?” I took a long walk from Chelsea to the East Village. While fastening my pea coat, I peered into the pavements of gritty yet charming, First Avenue. “Wow, it’s oh so quiet, just like the Bjork song,” said I.

“There won’t be any lines at the Bean (coffee shop) or at the Strand (bookshop). Wow, fuck loneliness, the East Village feels like my own personal playground and it’s fantastic,” said I. It was marvelous walking around without people traffic (my previous New York years, I was in California for Christmas eve). Then I realized, “oh I still don’t have someone to spend Christmas Eve with.

Like any proper urbanite away from family on Christmas Eve, I had found my alternative and it wasn’t on Grindr.Rocco was a single guy, but very cold blooded. I am not being harsh here. He was a charming turtle (which falls in the reptile family, not be obvious). My friend Krista had me feed him a holiday supper, since she was in Chicago for the holidays.

That’s right; turtle sitting wore off the loneliness of being away from family. Watching the turtle munch on vegetable sticks gave me purpose in the midst of jingle bell rocks.

After an adventure in turtle sitting, I took the 3 train, home to Harlem. An elderly woman hopped on the train and proclaimed “Merry Christmas to everyone.” Surprisingly, everyone was equally jolly in the tough nosed subway. The holiday cheer actually made my night.

I came home and packed my bags. For my holiday dinner, I ate a chicken pot pie. I traded Radiohead for a Charlie Brown’s Christmas tunes. It was a splendid end to a day, which could have been lonely. With eyelids fully closed, I eagerly awaited the early morning flight to California and quality time with my father.