Home > Boston...again., new york > I call it liberated.

I call it liberated.

Valentine’s Day weekend found me on a bus from Boston to New York.

After an already intense start to the weekend I decided yesterday morning to go to New York City. My friend in town had offered to take me to a jazz club, and I decided to take them up on that offer. Jazz is sort of a new love of mine.

I’d never been to South Station in Boston before, so it took me longer than I thought to make it out there and  ended up missing the bus I’d planned to catch. Luckily buses run between Boston and New York pretty much every hour so the bus company was completely cool about letting me catch the next one. I was one of the first persons who was able to board the bus at 11 and made sure I got a window seat. I have never driven through New England, so I was eager and excited to see the scenery. My row-mate was a man who rivaled Kevin James. Have you ever seen the TV show the King of Queens? He was completely identical to him. I kept almost calling him Doug.

Anyway. After I had boarded and gotten myself situated I noticed a guy get on. He seemed to be completely nondescript, until he walked past my row and I saw what he had in his hands: a huge handle of Jack Daniels whiskey, lid off, and a full cup. ‘Doug’ and I both whipped our necks around to stare after him, looked at each other as if to say, “Does he really have whiskey?” then burst out laughing. It was fantastic. Keep in mind, it was 10:45 in the morning. It seemed a little early to get started with the hard liquor, but I guess you do what you have to do. That’s one way to make it through a four-hour bus trip.

The ride to Manhattan was essentially uneventful. The scenery was beautiful: snow covered fields and ponds and lots and lots of trees. I’m from west Texas; we don’t have too many trees. My favorite sight that I caught was geese landing on a pond. Remember: I love geese. Adore them. I’ve never seem them land together, and just like they fly in coordination, they also land in coordination. It’s beautiful. Graceful. I think I also some people ice fishing, but I am not entirely sure.

After four hours of alternately staring out the window, dozing and reading, I finally glanced up and caught my first sight of the city. Manhattan. It had been two years since I’d been to New York and I had almost, almost forgotten how beautiful it is. How striking. How it rises out from the horizon and you can’t help but be amazed, because there it is: unapologetic and in your face. Manhattan pulses, throbs with life. And I love that about it.

The bus dropped us off in the middle of Chinatown. It took me a long time to get acclimated to Manhattan. The pace is much different from Boston. But that’s for another post. My friend met me and we wandered through Little Italy for an early dinner, where we faked the sophistication necessary to procure a bottle of wine in a Valentine’s Day decorated Italian restaurant. I have never felt more like a Texas in my life. It got even better when I swallowed a mouthful of water and it went down the wrong way. Then I had to run to the bathroom, wheezing past the wait staff, so I could cough and not disturb the rest of the patrons. Awkward. Unbelievably awkward.

After our dinner we met up with some more friends. I wish that I could tell you which part of the city we were walking through, but honestly, I can’t. That night we went to a jazz club to see Sweet Georgia Brown perform.

Hm. Sweet Georgia Brown? Isn’t so sweet. Although the music was amazing she was one of those divas who expects the audience to worship the ground she walks on. She also put my friend on the spot in the middle of the show, which was not a great part of the evening. But her backup musicians (a drummer, a guitar player and an organist) were absolutely incredible. I love when musicians play with so much fervor and passion. It’s beautiful and inspiring to watch. The drummer was the best. He POUNDED those drums. He was in the very back and flailed his arms so quickly that he almost looked like an octopus. There were a lot of arms. He was amazing. The audience could tell how into his music he was and that of course made us enjoy the show. We knew he wanted to be there. It was fantastic. I definitely need to find more events like these in Boston. It’s something I want to explore more. Something new.

One of the highlights of the evening was the “nut lady.” Who is she? She’s the woman in the bar who, although she most likely was drunk out of her mind, went around and around the bar shaking peanuts into the hands of patrons. Forcibly. As in if you said, “No, thanks. I’m really not a fan of peanuts,” she replied with, “No! Eat more nuts! Take the NUTS!” Major, major case of the giggles ensued. Heh.

After spending the night in Queens I woke up this morning prepared to take on the city by myself. I actually was really excited to see if I could do it, especially since I hadn’t even brought a map with me. I caught the subway from Queens and headed toward the Met. I was going to go to the museum, but when I saw Central Park I immediately changed my mind.

The park was covered, absolutely covered, in snow. It was beautiful. I decided in lieu of going to the museum my plan for the day was to wander from the middle of Central Park (86th street) back down to Chinatown to catch my bus. I decided I would take my time, look at what I wanted to look at and take things as they came. That? Was the best plan I could have come up with. It was perfect.

Like I said, I started in Central park. I started walking through and then fell. And fell again and again. The paths were so icy from the recent snow that everyone was falling all over. After making it to a semi-dry path I immediately stopped short when I saw people sledding. Sledding! My heart filled with glee. I almost (seriously, I considered it. I’m awful) stole a sled from a child so I could sled down those beautiful white hills. I wanted to be the one on the flimsy piece of plastic, throwing myself down, getting a running start and shrieking as the cold wind whipped past my face on my way down the hill. I can’t remember the last time I went sledding, and I wanted to do it SO badly today. But since it didn’t happen, I WILL be going sledding in Jamaica Plain next time it snows in Boston. I already made my friend promise to take me. (I’m sorry, guys. I just have a thing for snow sports.)

My favorite thing about Central Park is what is called the Mall: a long, tree-covered path that goes straight down the center. It’s picturesque. It makes me feel, for a just a moment, that I’m in old New York. I don’t know why, but it does. Especially when the saxophone player is playing. Which he was, today.

The mall is lined by dark-green benches, most of which have dedications on them from people. I had noticed it last time I went to the city, but today, decided to read them more carefully. And I am so glad I did. Most of the sentiments were sweet and loving, and since it was Valentine’s Day, I had to take pictures of all the lovey-dovey ones.

After Central Park I walked down 5th Avenue, not really stopping, just looking around and taking in the sights. I wanted to make it to Rockefeller Center and Times Square. I know. I’m a tourist.

Both of those places are some of my favorites in the city. They’re beautiful and bright and exciting and just kind of emulate the boldness and boastfulness that New York is all about. I had my lunch in one of those hole-in-the-wall pizza joints New York is famous for. I bought roasted cashews from a street vendor.

By the way. That is my favorite smell, those roasted nuts. Ohmygosh. It makes me want to stand there all day and soak up the deliciousness emanating from that tiny cart.

Enough about nuts. (Heh. Remember the nut lady at the jazz club? Yes. I thought you didn’t.)

After Times Square I kept walking. And walking. And walking. I may have possibly overdone the walking, but you can’t say I didn’t see the entire city in one day. I even managed to catch a glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge! Although to be fair it was only because I hopped on the wrong train and that’s where it spit me out. Luckily, it was only one stop past where I needed to be, so it could have been worse, right?

So I made it back to Chinatown successfully. All by myself. I didn’t get lost. I did have to buy a map, but I did it. When I got there I realized, too late, that today was the Chinese New Year. And I was smack in the middle of all the craziness. It started right when I got there, I Think. I was walking and suddenly there’s marching bands. There’s fireworks. Small children are running around in dragon costumes. People are shouting. There were parades. People were dancing in the streets, shooting off these guns that produced an explosion of confetti that was quite beautiful when it floated down the ground. And I was the lone white girl. But since everyone else was dancing and cheering and jostling and bumping I decided, “What the heck?” and started dancing around myself. It was amazing. For just a moment I actually felt as though I was in China. If you could capture a moment, a feeling, an emotion, that is one I want to remember forever: celebrating with these people, just for a few moments, and feeling so exhilarated even though I barely knew what it was about. It was infectious. I loved it. Absolutely.

So then, after racing around for a solid hour to find black and white cookies (those are my crack) I got back on a bus to Boston. This time I sat next a man who answered his phone about five million times like this: “Bue-e-e-e-n-a.” All strung out like that. It made me smile. The little things. They are priceless.

What a perfect Valentine’s Day. Even though I was by myself. And even though I am decidedly single. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I just enjoyed myself and I smiled at the couples holding hands and being mushy. Because good for them. I’m happy for them. I’m glad they have someone on this special day. I feel that this year is completely just about me concentrating on myself and figuring out my life. Call it selfish. Call it self-centered.

Call it what you want. But?

I call it liberated.

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