there was chicken, but there were not collard greens

I legitimately was in Hollis for a few minutes.
While I was waiting to get picked up, I *totally* did not see a drug deal go down.
I purposely took the LIRR to there on Christmas Eve so I could Facebook a photo of something with Hollis on it.

For the first time in about two years, I went to New York. I didn’t intend on not going to New York for nearly two years; it just happened. I visited at least once a year from 2003 to 2016, so not going north of the Mason-Dixon Line in 2017 was a bit disappointing, and although I saw it was no big deal, nearly not going for Christmas and my wife’s birthday was a big deal.

I almost didn’t go because of Missy. Our original lodging plans fell through, and driving to Hampton Roads to drop her off was about ridiculous because it would have added at least three hours to our trip and the tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (well, I probably would have rerouted us to the free side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the way back, but that’s neither here nor there, much like how the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are two wholly different things).

Renée found a dog-friendly hotel on Long Island, so the plan of me staying in Virginia to watch the dog was short lived. (For those of you just tuning in, Missy abhors any animals that aren’t humans, so figuring out what to do with her always is a challenge.)

We arrived on last Sunday, and Missy visited every borough that day (and the entire trip) except for the Bronx. Manhattan was thrown in that day because we got takeout from Renée’s favorite restaurant, Flor de Mayo.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of New York because I've reached the point that I'm not in awe of the city. I miss being in a heavily urbanized area, though.
We crossed the Queensboro Bridge on the way to the restaurant. I can’t traverse this bridge without thinking about Angela.
Taxi was one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid from the music alone. Thanks, Bob James!

On Christmas Eve, we got lunch before heading to Renée’s grandparent’s in Queens. I decided to tag along with her trip to midtown with Renée’s aunts because I had plans to meet my fraternity big brother near Penn Station.

The trip became an ordeal because some idiot pulled the emergency brake two trains ahead of ours.

I only had time to take a couple of pictures of Rockefeller Center before I needed to hop back on the train to get to Herald Square.

I've seen bigger.
I was not impressed by this tree.
I genuinely was excited about this because I watch entirely too much NBC.
Live from Rockefeller Center, …

Of course I was late to my meeting at Stout. The friggin’ F train was delayed again. I could live in New York, but I would have to position myself in a way that I could avoid the Subway most of the time. I was told to take the LIRR back because I could get deeper into Queens and one does not simply walk into Jamaica Center after dark. So I took the first of two hip-hop pilgrimages.

We mostly spent Christmas Day in Queens, alternating between celebrating the day with my extended in-laws and camping out in the basement with Missy. There was another dog in the house, so we had to keep them separated. For the most part, there was an entire floor between them the entire time. Dinner consisted of ham, chicken, shrimp, string beans, macaroni and cheese, yams and numerous desserts. Coincidentally, that was the menu at my mom’s house, with the addition of roast beef.

Although the following day was Renée’s birthday, it began with a treat for me: New York seltzer and pastrami. You have no idea how much I live for both. If we weren’t heading to Renée’s birthday dinner, I would have also gotten knishes and matzo ball soup. I went to the Pastrami King. I’ve been Team Katz, but I’ll probably think about Pastrami King for the rest of my life.

Living
I still need seltzer from out of a glass bottle with a siphon.
My
Food fit for a King
196 Merrick Road, Merrick, NY
Best Life
Behold the glory of the rye bred, deli mustard and pastrami.

After this food, it was time for more food. We dined at Chef Wang. I’m usually adventurous with food, but I played it safe this time. I regret not getting the braised frogs with picked peppers. I haven’t had frog since I went to Louisiana in 2010.

Thursday was our long slog home. Before we got stuck in traffic several times between Long Island and Maryland, we made a few stops. Among the first was another hip-hop pilgrimage.

For some reason, the video to this iconic song is not on YouTube.
Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden ...
If you’re familiar with the video to Check the Rhime (and a couple other songs), you’re familiar with Nu-Clear Cleaners.
You on point, Phife? All the time, Tip.
Linden Boulevard represent, represent

On our way to meet Renée’s friend Chris in Hoboken, we were trending toward going through the Bronx so Missy could be in all five boroughs. Traffic and GPS (and two missed turns) had other plans, so we wound up on the Brooklyn Bridge

I took a ton of photos as we crossed, and this was the only one I liked
I’m usually the driver, so despite this being my third crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge, this is my first photo.

and through the Holland Tunnel.

I'm a fan of typography and design, but the original decoration placement didn't bother me.
No longer the HOLLAAD TONNEL.

This trip wasn’t the first time I spent an extended period of time in New York City with people who live in New York City, but this trip more than any other made it feel like any other city in America. I honestly don’t think there’s anything in the city I desperately need to see. Like Hampton Roads, it’s a place where family members live. Like Hampton Roads, it has places with food I love to eat. Like Hampton Roads, it’s a place in which I don’t need to do anything special. I just need to be in those port towns along the Atlantic, breathe in the salt air and see seagulls.

Although I love the mountains, have no intention to at the very least not move out of this apartment anytime soon and am afraid of the rising sea, I must return to the coast at some point.

And I hope many, many, many years pass before I have another without New York.

the bridge

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?

Feelin’ groovy

Since 2003, I’ve said a year without New York is a year wasted. But after Boston or Bust, I managed to refrain from crossing the Mason-Dixon Line until this past August.

We made up for it in grand fashion.

On Aug. 22, our voyage unexpectedly began in Richmond. I have two projects I’m working on there (both of which I can’t disclose at this juncture). After that informal business meeting, we crawled up U.S. 301, finally getting to Ravel Hotel after dark. I wanted to avoid driving across Manhattan and save some money on tolls, so I cut across Staten Island and went up the BQE to get there.

The hotel was one of the precious few in Long Island City with a parking lot, but it was unavailable during the hotel’s renovations. I don’t leave my car any old place, but I’ve cone to trust leaving my car unattended in New York. Newark’s a different story.

The hotel was pretty great, despite the work being done. We didn’t hear much noise, and the biggest inconvenience was the lack of a proper front door while the work was being done. I’d totally stay there again.

What’s more, it had a rooftop restaurant, which is where I shot the photo above. I brought a real camera with me and intended on having a day where I wandered around a took pictures, but instead, I took four shots worth sharing, three of which were of the Queensboro Bridge.

But I digress.

After getting settled in, we headed to Cafeteria, which apparently is becoming our thing. Our thing used to be Spice, but this was one of the few times I was in New York and didn’t eat there. If Richmond’s Third Street diner had a younger sibling who stayed out of trouble, it would be Cafeteria.

On Sunday, we had brunch on the roof and then went on a grand driving tour of Queens, the one borough of which I’d seen the least. Yes, I’d seen more of Staten Island. And the Bronx. The drive culminated in visiting Renée’s old neighborhood along the Queens-Nassau border.

After that, I went to the Virginia alumni chapter meeting for my fraternity at a brother’s house in Park Slope. I haven’t talked about him in a while, so I’ll spare the introduction beyond saying he’s the type of person who would move to Park Slope and would be in the midst of moving back to Crown Heights when I arrived.

Pfft. Hipster.

Never mind that I was wearing cuffed jeans. And I have prescription Wayfarers. And almost all of the music I’ve shared on these entries. And the weekly typewriter posts.

I got delayed trying to get to Manhattan — like a 45-minute ride turned into nearly 90, partially because I was directed to not walk all the way to the station at the tip of Prospect Park like Google Maps suggested — and I forgot to charge my phone while driving around Queens. I wound up being mad at the world and walked across the bridge to get back to the hotel instead of taking the subway.

On Monday, we traversed Queens again, ending up at Roosevelt Field mall. Beyond that, the only thing of note we did was have dinner at Chef Yu. It might seem a little lame, but I’m glad we didn’t jam-pack the trip with stuff. We were outside the hotel mostly until after dark most days, and it made the trip seem longer, especially compared to last week. I had all intentions of writing this entry last week, but I blinked and it was Friday.

Tuesday was an accident.

After going to Westchester County to see White Plains, we were going to go to Rye Playland. This time, GPS was wrong, and we wound up in Connecticut. So we made a day of it in Stamford then drove around the Bronx. We then met up with my fraternity big brother, Ron, near his home in Bayside, Queens. This time, we had Italian at Papazzio.

On Wednesday, we had our first day sans car and our most jam-packed day. We met one the former courts reporter for my paper at her new job in Union Square. We ate at Clarke’s Standard, which, for some reason, is on Broadway and doesn’t have an active website. Here’s a site on its design. It was great.

After that, we wandered around downtown a bit, I got fancy tea from Palais des Thés then visited some museums. We began with El Museo del Barrio, which has a mission, according to its website “to present and preserve the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States.” One of the exhibits was about the Young Lords and their actions.

Afterward, we went where I’ve wanted to go ever since I found out about it by accident: The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This is my favorite place in the entire world. I want to go here every time I spend more than two days in New York. I’m seriously considering becoming a patron in January.

After that, we met with some of Renée’s friends and, afterward, got dinner at Dallas BBQ. It was big, gross, cheap and absolutely delicious. There are a lot of things on that menu I want to try, and I want to come completely starving.

The following day was our last full day. We were pretty lazy at the beginning. After getting up way late, I wandered around with the suit I was wearing to a wedding that Saturday to find a cleaners. It was entirely too late to get it done in time. I meant to do that as soon as we got to New York. Instead, I got an obscenely large Cuban sandwich from a deli/Indian restaurant. I should have gotten Indian but 1) I really wanted a sandwich and 2) we were getting Indian for dinner.

We got dinner with more of Renée’s friends at Bhatti Indian Grill and then I bought a blazer before doing another one of our things.

I wanted to get closer, but I probably was trespassing.

From Roosevelt Island. I really regret not keeping the camera on me.

Since before we began dating again, Renée and I have had Roosevelt Island. We’ll always have Roosevelt Island. We even have a semi-secret nickname for it. There’s just something about that silent, (relatively) bucolic island in the middle of the East River between Midtown and Long Island City. From there, we reluctantly headed to the hotel. It was time to bid adieu to New York.

BUT WAIT!

We had to return to Roosevelt Island before we left to make a quick pit stop. I got to take one last photo while we were there.

Until next time, New York. And 59th Street Bridge.

Until next time, New York. And 59th Street Bridge.

Once again, I was going to take a better shot, but I needed to feed the meter and Renée was more or less ready.

Although that was the end of our New York trip, vacation wasn’t over quite yet.

After being directed off the Bridge by Mentoria Hutchinson, and scowled at a few blocks later by another officer, we arrived at the wedding venue in Norfolk.

I'm from Hampton Roads, and I've stayed at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott more times than I can remember.

I’m from Hampton Roads, and I’ve stayed at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott more times than I can remember.

That night, we had dinner at Luce, because I’m noting every meal of note.

Afterward was the wedding. It was joyous. It was boisterous. I took silly pictures in the photo booth that was set up.

It was … over.

Sunday was the drive back to Charlottesville. I had a route planned across Virginia’s midsection. I took U.S. 460 through my haunts of Petersburg and Dinwiddie. I’d forgotten how large the county was and how I knew every inch in the era before GPS.

We returned exhausted, but it was all worth it.I think it was why last week at work flew by.

Speaking of last week, I drove down on Friday to see No BS! and then stumbled into Shaunelle’s birthday party. Afterward, I did the second leg of my mostly business trip from two weeks before. I’ll be able to tell you about all of it soon. I need to write something by the end of the week and then return to RVA either on the 14th, which really isn’t what I want to do, or the 23rd, which I really, really don’t want to do because it will be during the Richmond 2015 UCI Road World Championships.

Well, if the latter happens, at least that could be another story to tell.

boston or bust, part two

Twenty-eight hours and 45 minutes

One thousand, three hundred and fifty-one miles

An average of 46.9  mph

An average of 28.2 miles per gallon

PART TWO

OR

I’m not quite sure if Dec. 27 should count as a day. We woke up incredibly late after how long it took to get up north. We took the train down to Manhattan to meet up with another one of Renée’s sorority sisters and had … “blinner” at my favorite Thai restaurant (which, surprisingly, is also Renée’s favorite), Spice.

Making it a long night was not happening. Renée and I headed back to Stamford fairly early with an idea of seeing some of that city but that wasn’t to be.

On the bright side, I woke up Saturday to an interesting thing: I didn’t have massive bags under my eyes anymore.

After some deliberation, we packed up the car and headed to our quasi-impromptu destination: Boston. I had talked to my very first friend, Dan, a few days prior and he threw out heading to Massachusetts to see him for the first time in 15 years or so. We kept the second half of our trip open-ended so Boston it was. We had some time to kill so I drove through the Central Artery and over the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge to say that I did it. A few minutes later, I was on Storrow Drive and getting ready to experience Boston.

boston or bust

Twenty-eight hours and 45 minutes

One thousand, three hundred and fifty-one miles

An average of 46.9  mph

An average of 28.2 miles per gallon

PART ONE

BUST

This trip started out with a bust. Ever since I had my car, the tire pressure sensor has been off, as in it will come on and off at random at times. If I do have a flat tire, I only know when the tire is actually flat.

It went flat a week before my scheduled service. I lucked out on an unseasonably warm day to change my tire. When I had my service done Christmas Eve, I learned that I needed a new serpentine belt. I also learned that I needed a new tire because of where my six-month-old tire was punctured. The dealership is constructing a new building, so my tire wasn’t in stock. We were planning to leave Dec. 26.

Fantastic.

I ordered a tire online from Sears because it was after 5 p.m. Christmas Eve, I was told it was in stock and could be on my tire early Dec. 26 and I was desperate. It’s not the best tire, but I needed to get out of town.

I woke up early Dec. 26, also known as Renée’s birthday, and called Sears to be absolutely certain they could take care of me.

I hate getting tires from Sears, but it’s my tire place of last resort. I miss my dealership and tire stores in Hampton and Richmond sometimes.

I was told that they did not have my order, despite already taking the money out of my bank account but, if I head on down, they could take care of it.

Long story short (as if this is going to be a short story), I had to talk to a call center at the garage, cancel my online order and make a new order in the store because of a “technical problem” on their end. Nearly three hours later, my oil change turned into spending $200 just to be able to get out of Albemarle County.

Then I couldn’t get into Maryland.

When I plotted out our course, I decided to take U.S. 29 to Interstate 66 to I-495, back to U.S. 29 to I-70 to I-695 and so on and so forth to shunpike New Jersey and avoid the traffic between Washington and Baltimore.

I forgot about Tysons Corner.

I got stuck in the wrong lane while trying to get on 495, gave up, and cut across Falls Church and Arlington, thence through D.C. to pick up 29 again.

Two hours later, I was enraged and on Interstate 70. It was smooth sailing from then on.

That is, until I was still in New Jersey at nearly 10 p.m., when I expected to already be at our home for the first two nights of our trip, Stamford, Conn.

We had to adjust our plans to meet one of Renée’s sorority sisters because we were so outrageously behind schedule. We had to go to New York City first, go to Connecticut before midnight to check into the hotel and then go back to New York. At this point, I was sleepy, hungry and a little stabbity. I felt better when I was able to drive around New York. I don’t know why, but driving in that city is one of my favorite things to do.

In HDR through a dirty windshield

Midtown Manhattan

The three of us attempted to get food in Connecticut, but the terrible diner we were in had terrible service and nothing we wanted to eat. We were supposed to have a proper birthday dinner for Renée anyway, so we headed back into the city and to this surprisingly delightful place, Cafeteria.

Seriously, the food is good here.

Our candlelit supper

After eating finally, I was running on fumes. We dropped Renée’s sorority sister off (and I finally go to drive on the Grand Boulevard and Concourse) before heading back up to Connecticut. We slept till about 3 p.m. Dec. 27. We were busted.