In Which The Sister Arrives

This blog comes to you from my desk at work, where I am currently scarfing down lunch and attempting to blog. Monday night blogging had been working fairly well for me, but this week I’ve a visitor and I doubt she’d be terribly stimulated by watching me tap away at a keyboard while we could be out exploring the city and eating amazing food. Yes, my sister is in town, which means among other things that both this blog and the next are likely to be full of far more interesting tourist adventures than usual. Don’t get too used to it.

Prior to the sister’s arrival on Saturday, my week was fairly standard fare. On Tuesday I was at the office late(-ish) for a meeting after which I hopped off to the Critical Data Studies group that I’ve started attending. It really is a terribly stimulating discussion even when you are utterly intimidated by being not only the only non-PhD but in fact the only non-Professor in the room. We were talking found data versus collected for purpose data but managed to wander down all manner of interesting tracks including tenure, productivity, funding structures, and how on earth we bring data science training into education. There were many questions left unanswered but we certainly gave them a good working over.

The following day I left work en route to a panel discussion about environmental activism under the current US administration. The MTA had another opinion.

I really hate to be late, but in this city of fickle trains that really like to get snuggly in tunnels and not move for 5 minutes at a time, well, sometimes you miss a good third of the talk you were hoping to attend. What I did manage to see was entirely alright but I think it would have been much better if I’d caught the beginning. I tell myself that I am learning and growing as a person. I also curse the MTA vociferously.

Come Thursday, which truth be told felt a heck of a lot more like Friday, I trucked home from work to file my Canadian taxes and finally bully myself into planning and buying tickets for my trip home this summer. There is just nothing like domestic flights in Canada to empty your bank account, so I think I shall employ the bus systems to cart me around the province from wedding to family to wedding. I shall bring many books and nearly as many motion sickness tablets. I pretend I will watch the scenery and reacquaint myself with my province. I expect I will actually just sleep.

And then, finally, it was actually Friday and I bounded out of work and off to Penn. Where I had forgotten that there would be delightful, delicious, delays a plenty. I was very grateful I’d grabbed a doughnut on the way as my train wended its way down into Jersey, making regular stops on sidings to let the clatter of an Amtrak train thunder by. You see, Penn station is well on its way to falling apart completely. Already in 2017 we have had two derailments (that mucked the whole system for days) and one delightful power outage which left a train wedged in a tunnel for multiple hours. So they’ve conceded they might need to do some track maintenance in a fairly serious way. Sadly for all us poor fools who like to ride trains, that means 15-30 min delays on EVERYTHING that touches Penn Station at any point on its route. Can you hear the thrill in my voice?

So we dawdled along until we hit New Brunswick where Chuck and I packed up the last of his things before joining his roommate at their local watering hole. It was late and I was tired, but they gave me a tasty drink in a panda bear shaped cup so I sipped as we chatted and eventually, around 2am, we wandered on home. Which is how waking up early the next morning went from ew to impossible in a very real way. That said we were still up by 9am and had soon bundled all of the roommate’s stuff into a U-Haul before I had to head into the city to meet my sister. Fortunately the trains decided that they would be all sorts of cooperative and give me time to get a coffee before they arrived. They also gave me time to pace and fret about how on earth I was going to make our rendezvous with a train that was 15 minutes late before it even got to me.

Fortunately, my sister is resourceful and we had set up international texting before she arrived so we were able to rearrange the meeting from Jackson Heights to Midtown where I waited on the platform until her train pulled in and then hopped in with her and headed down to the LES.

Once we’d dropped her luggage, we set off to walk into Washington Square so that I could pick up our Broadway tickets for Wednesday. While there I’d had great ambitions of eating at the delightful budget falafel joint, Mamoun’s, but it was not to be. We arrived to two whole tour groups trying to cram into what can best be described as a closet with a kitchen. We went to a nearby ramen joint instead and actually probably had a much more refreshing meal (of not ramen) far better suited to the sticky heat of the day.

Once fed, we headed to the Upper East Side to thrift shop. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t but your odds of getting something nice for a good price are greatly increased by going where the rich people live. Now we almost had a complete bust that day but, after over a month of searching, I would finally have some luck in my coat hunt.

My last light coat had been worn well and truly to death so, last fall, I made myself get rid of it, which has left me in nothing but sweaters ever since the weather turned to spring, so I’ve been hunting. I mean I’d had an eye out all winter but I hadn’t gotten into the real serious search until about a month ago and I was having absolutely no luck. I appeared to be continuing in that vein on Saturday until we found a gorgeous teal jacket, almost exactly the style that suits me. But it was a small. I was disappointed but ready to move on, but my sister said those magic words “well I mean, why don’t you try it anyway?” So I did. Fully expecting a deep wound to my ego and no success with the coat, I slipped one arm in, and then the other, and then my shoulders and, by god, it fit! It was then that I realized it had no tag. I braced myself for any price tag up to $50 only to get to the counter and find that, not only was it only $30, it was also on half-price so that 30 dropped precipitously down to $14.99. If that isn’t good luck, I don’t know what is.

Around about the time we found the coat, my jetlagged sister was beginning to wilt a bit so we stopped in for a coffee where I learned that a cortado made with soy is a recipe for curdling, and Taya got enough caffeination to stay in motion for at least a little longer. So we headed to the park.

Walking across Central Park we saw the whole gamut of humanity out sunning themselves and playing on the lawns. It’s a sort of magical thing about New York that, when the sun’s out, so are all the people, unashamedly doing what they do mere feet away from strangers in a public park. China has a similar dynamic, but Canada? Never. We’re entirely too shy for that sort of crowded leisure.

From the west side of the Park we caught a train back down to the LES so that Taya could transfer her things to her Air BnB and we could acquire some of the famous North Dumplings. Taya’s moderately eccentric host thought we were insane to take our lives into our hands with such dirty, disreputable, little Chinese restaurants, but I prefer to think of it as budget-savvy and exercise for the immune system. They were, as always, delicious and perfectly situated next to the local sports ground/park/social space. Following the dumplings, we grabbed doughnuts from my beloved Doughnut Plant–I got red velvet, Taya pistachio–and then headed back to mine for tea and gossip. It is a magical thing when, after a tumultuous sibling childhood, you eventually become sufficiently adult to put all that behind you and actually have a good relationship with the one person who probably understands you better than anyone else in the world and certainly shares more genetic material.

Some time after Taya had gone back to her Air BnB, a certain very tired physicist made his way to mine having packed away most of his things into storage and the rest into his car for the transition into Upper Manhattan. In no time at all, we were out like a light, but not before I, in my infinite wisdom got up to turn out the not-so-metaphorical light and apparently decided that I could just start on the journey to sleep before I even reached the bed. I have a modest goose egg for my troubles, but at least the wall I crashed into is alright.

Sunday dawned bright-ish and chilly but that did not stop us having brunch on the sidewalk at my neighbourhood everything restaurant. It serves from breakfast through late night drinks and everything in between and if the breakfast is anything to go by, it’s fantastic! We had two types of eggs benedict and a shakshuka, all three of which were absolutely eggy and delicious. Fuelled by our savoury breakfast, we then headed up Orchard to get some sweets, namely, the inimitable rugelach from Russ and Daughters and a black and white cookie.

You can scoff all you like at trying the famous dishes in a new place, but I’m here to tell you that, in New York, there’s a reason they’re famous. Yes, the delicate sweet softness of the black and white cookie with it’s crisp upper crust of perfectly tempered chocolate and frosting and the gooey spirals of a good rugelach, really, it’s worth it. We ate ours sitting in Thomson Square Park in the East Village listening to buskers and watching some very middle aged roadies slowly setting up a stage.

When we started to get cold from sitting, we headed back to the LES to pick up coats and to send off Chuck who had more moving chores to do before Taya and I set off to see the Met. I would try to explain to you how much I love the Met, but I suspect I’d just come off sounding even crazier than you all already think I am so suffice to say, we stayed until closing time buoyed on a wave of rugelach and fascination.

After they kicked us out we toddled along down the side of the park towards Midtown with a brief pause at the art installation before the south entrance to sit on the deliciously ridiculous antique styled chairs cast (very recently) in concrete. Having rested our feet for a moment, we then turned down 7th and scooted down past Carnegie Hall to Times Square where New York was at its weirdest. First a random tourist asked Taya if he could take a picture with her. I mean, that used to happen when I was in China, but in New York? People are strange. And to compound that even more firmly, moments later we were graced with a flesh and blood F train trundling around the Square. Yes, when I say flesh and blood, I mean made out of people. They seemed to have been inspired by dragon or lion dances, but rather than a glittering colourful animal, the cloth contraption covering their heads was dumpy grey F train proudly brandishing its big orange circle in the front window. And then after a quick loping circle around the area, they vanished as quickly as they’d come. I only wish I knew why.

When the noise and the lights got to be too much, we carried on further south to a small Italian coffee shop where we found caffeine and cannoli and watch a crowd of fans frantically photographing what I can only assume was a cast member from Hamilton. They were terribly excited.

And then once we had caffeine on board we headed down to a barbeque joint just south of Penn where a group of the local dancers had decided to “westie bomb”. It’s like photo bombing but we don’t go away after the photo is taken. No, instead we take over a venue for an evening of dancing and drinking and occasionally even eating. When it works out, it’s a lot of fun and this time it definitely worked out.

After a few dances and lots of socializing we headed back to my apartment for some more tea and conversation before Taya made her way back to her Air BnB and I passed out face first in bed. Turns out exhaustion is real, folks!


Ever onwards!

The Salsa Girl


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