Friday, December 12, 2014

Mapping Manhattan: Thanksgiving Break

*This project was originally written for an NYU class and turned in as part of my personal schoolwork.* 

110 E 14th St
November 26, 2014: My Thanksgiving Break began on after a very long Wednesday afternoon in SF I and WRI I. I had been anticipating this day for about four months (ever since Tom, my boyfriend, left for college at Colorado School of Mines in the beginning of August). After I'd basically been having a long distance relationship with my computer consisting of emotional 3am conversations, pointless arguments, passionate phone calls and fights and loving exchanges through Skype and FaceTime, I would finally be seeing my other half: a real, breathing person with curly brown hair, dark brown eyes and a cute Welsh accent. When I learned that his flight would be delayed for 5 hours and that he'd be arriving at 9:30pm and not 4:30pm, my ecstatic excitement slowly turned to horrible dread. What if something happens? What if I never make it through the day to see him? What if after all this time of waiting and counting down days, I end up spending my Thanksgiving alone? My friends could see the worry plastered on my face and decided to distract me by taking me out to lunch and then to a 3 hour movie where I could take my mind off the pouring rain outside and the anticipation of Tom's landing. When I got home from the movie around 8pm, I forced myself not to constantly check the time on my phone. I took a hot shower and made sure my dorm room looked clean, or at least clean enough. I made sure that I smelled good, looked presentable and consistently reminded myself that all would be okay the next day. As Tom's N train arrived closer and closer to University Hall, Union Square, I grew closer and closer to losing my mind. Finally, at 10:55pm, he texted me saying that he had arrived! I immediately grabbed my NYU ID and almost ran outside in the cold, dreary rain to wait for him. I looked to the right, to the left; I did not see him yet. Then, I looked to my left again and could make out Tom's figure: he was wearing a red sweatshirt, blue jeans and Vans (of course he wasn't dressed for NYU's snowy weather). The first thing I did was run up to him and give him a hug. How amazing it felt to finally embrace my boyfriend, my real boyfriend who went from being 2,000 miles away to standing right in front of my eyes. We walked into my dorm on 110 E 14th St, holding hands like we always would back home. 

Washington Square Park
November 27, 2014: Today was Thanksgiving Day! After sleeping in until almost 12pm, I made some eggs for a late breakfast in. Almost immediately after, Tom began to feel sick and was struck with food poisoning, most likely due to the remnants of a Mcdonald's Egg McMuffin, the only food he ate  during the 5 hour delay and 4 hour plane ride. As I was thinking to myself how this Thanksgiving was not at all what I planned, Tom fell asleep on my bed. Before he arrived, I had made a list of places I wanted to take him: Central Park, Strand, WSP, Spot Dessert, Times Square, The High Line... all the tourist places one could think of. Now, I'd have to improvise on the spot, taking him to places that we had time for. Funny thing was, we ended up going to every single place on my list, save The High Line. When Tom eventually woke up from his nap, he was feeling much better and I decided to take him down Broadway to Spot Dessert. Tom loves sweet food, so I knew he would enjoy Spot's creative dessert choices. Along the way, I took him past all the buildings which I had classes in. We also went to the center of Washington Square Park, where he admired the arch took a picture on his phone. I'd walked along Washington Square Park maybe 100+ times this semester, yet I never thought a place bustling with so many NYU students, tourists and street performers could be so quiet and romantic. There were only two other people under the arch with us, and they were a couple as well. As we continued on our way, I started to notice how every store was closed and every street corner seemed to be devoid of life. The most people we saw in a group were a bunch of cops in front of a cop station on our way back to the dorm. Manhattan never felt so peaceful. 

Spot Dessert Bar
As we neared St. Marks, I was surprised to see that its' nightlife vibe was completely nonexistent. Some of the smoke shops and diners still had their lights on, but most of the restaurants were closed for Thanksgiving. Holding Tom's hand at my side, I prayed to myself that Spot Dessert would still be open. I really wanted him to try the "Golden Toast", toasted bread drizzled with honey, whipped cream and fruit on the side. To my surprise, Spot Dessert was the ONLY restaurant whose lights were on within a long city block seemingly full of darkness. The entire restaurant was filled with people and we had to wait a half hour in order to be seated. It was well worth it though, as I was able to order my typical dessert of "Golden Toast" while Tom tried the soft cheesecake served in a pot. As we ate our delicious Thanksgiving meal, we also caught up on each other's college lives. We discussed classes, people we'd met, clubs and activities we are a part of and places we planned to study abroad. Just talking about our individual lives in different states allowed me to feel as if I am a part of Tom's life again. I joked to him that this would be the perfect place for a first date. Ironically, that is exactly how I felt, like I was falling in love all over again. 

500 Broome St
That night, we had plans to meet up with a mutual and close friend from high school, Sophia, who lived on Broome St. Her boyfriend, Erich (who also attended our high school) was visiting for Thanksgiving as well, so we decided it would be nice to have our own little double-date/Friendsgiving playing "Cards Against Humanity" while filling our stomachs with even more dessert, some pumpkin pie. This would be my first Thanksgiving away from family, but having the chance to spend it with some of my closest friends made up for the lack of usual turkey, squash and drunk Chinese relatives. 

Walter Kerr Theater
November 28, 2014: The next morning, my alarm went off at 8:30am. I reached across my table and clicked snooze maybe four or five times before Tom finally nudged me a said, "Erin, we need to get up if we want to get the rush tickets!!" We took the N train up to 49th St. and fast-walked across Times Square to get to the Eugene O'Neill Theater to get student rush tickets for "Book of Mormon". I quickly attempted to point things out in Times Square, like the New Year's ball, the M&M Store and other unique aspects of the busiest place in NYC. When we finally got to the Eugene O'Neill Theater and waited in line for a bit, I overheard a couple next to us who were talking about putting their names in the lottery for "Book of Mormon". It then occurred to me that it I didn't even check to see if "Book of Mormon" sold lottery tickets or student rush tickets. (They only sold lottery.) Since box offices open at 10am and it was already 10:15am, we ran to the next closest theater, the Walter Kerr Theater, which was playing "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder". We managed to get $60 tickets for two 5th row seats in the orchestra section for a show we were not planning on seeing. I immensely enjoyed it nonetheless, as it was possibly the funniest musical I have ever seen. 

Crate and Barrel
In between the time we snagged tickets and the actual show, Tom and I went downtown so I could show him one of my favorite areas in NYC, Soho. We got off at Spring St. and walked even further down. I pointed out places I liked to shop at: LF, Evolution (to get creepy souvenirs for my little brothers), Georgetown Cupcakes and more. I also found myself talking about the cobblestone roads that are so famously found in Soho, something someone else pointed out to me when I first arrived in the city. As we made our way back uptown on Broadway, it had been a few hours since we'd been indoors and I could feel my face getting closer and closer to being frozen. I spotted  a Crate and Barrel across the street and pulled Tom alongside me into the furniture store to take a nice, warm break from the chilly weather. I figured we'd just go upstairs and lounge on one of the side chairs for a few minutes, but we got a little more than sidetracked: "Honey, what do you think of this chair?" "Hmm... no this is too rough on your back. Not the type of couch you'd want to watch TV on." "What about this round glass table for the dining area?" "I mean, it's not bad... if you want to feel like you're sitting in a Socratic Seminar 24/7..." Tom and I ended up spending over an hour in Crate and Barrel pretending to be looking and purchasing furniture for our pretend home. The workers kept giving us strange looks as we went in circles admiring and discussing every single piece of furniture. When we finally managed to sit on every couch, chair or stool in the store, we made our way back downstairs and went outside to the cold where we would continue our journey uptown back to Union Square. 

We'd finally left Crate and Barrel and continued on our way uptown on Broadway. With only an hour left before the show, I wanted to take Tom to the Union Square Holiday Market before taking the train to Times Square. As we passed Strand Bookstore, I realized that I just HAD to take him there. Tom loves reading just as much as I do, and I knew he would absolutely love walking around Strand, getting lost in the shelves just as I did the first time I went inside. We decided to start exploring from the top floor all the way to the basement; the top floor is where all the rare books are held. Instead of spending an equal amount of time on each floor, we ended up spending all our time in just the Rare Book section. Tom was amazed by Strand's collection of rare books and we walked around the room looking at each and every cover. "I could spend all day in here," he said. We were able to look for a few minutes in the young adult/fantasy section of Strand, but had to leave quickly in a rush to catch a train back to Times Square. Watching Tom admire all the books around him, in awe of the entirety of Strand, I realized how lucky I was to find someone who loves books just as much as I do. 

Rockefeller Center
After the show ended, Tom and I planned on meeting Sophia and Erich again for dinner. As we made our way through the multi-colored holiday lights and festivities of Times Square and Rockefeller Center, I attempted to google map the location we were supposed to meet them. Seeing that I was having trouble navigating our way through the large groups of tourists and shoppers, Tom offered to help me find the location (Free People, Rockefeller Center). Stubbornly, I told him that I'd been to this place over four times; I knew where I was going. We walked past the ice skating rink in Rockefeller Center, through crowds and crowds of people. There were so many people that one of the roads was entirely closed off and we had to walk around it. After aimlessly walking for another 20 minutes, I finally gave up on trying to locate the place and handed my phone over to Tom. With a triumphant look on his face, he replied, "Oh I know where we're going. We were supposed to go THAT way" and pointed in the direction we had just walked from. Knowing he had a keen sense of direction, especially compared to my horrible sense of direction, I let him guide me. As we neared the store, I pointed and said, "Look! I think that's where it is!" He looked down at google maps on my phone and said, "No, we're supposed to turn left, not right." I knew that he was probably right... after all, he was reading the map whereas I was relying on my obviously horrible memory. Nevertheless, I stubbornly told him that I knew it was on the right, and dragged him along behind me across the ice skating rink and back where we had started almost 30 minutes ago. Of course, I was wrong and he was right. Surprisingly, I was still in a good mood considering it took us about 40 minutes to finally locate the Free People store. Walking around Rockefeller Center made me realize that I'm usually in a rush to get somewhere in the city. I was so determined to find this location that I didn't stop to admire the holiday scenes around me. Letting Tom figure it out and just walking by his side made me feel safe and completely at ease.

Central Park S
November 29, 2014: Today was Tom's last full day in the city. One of our best friends from high school, Cal, was visiting us, so I decided it would be the perfect time to take Tom to Central Park, one of the places every tourist must visit when they visit NYC. After Cal arrived at my dorm, we walked outside to look around at the Union Square Holiday Market and Farmer's Market before going to The City Cafe on 5th Ave for some of Manhattan's most delicious hot chocolate. Afterwards, we made our way uptown to Central Park, where we walked around and took pictures of each other for two hours. As we explored the park, we were able to catch up on each other's college lives. Tom hadn't seen Cal since the summer and I hadn't seen Cal in over two months. Walking with my boyfriend and one of my closet guy friends reminded me of all the wonderful experiences I made in high school. Around 7pm, all three of us were absolutely freezing and we decided to take a train back to my dorm where we'd order in pizza and watch movies. While walking back from the subway station to my dorm, I noticed Joe's Pizza, a place that I'd been meaning to check out, but hadn't yet. Both Tom and Cal both wanted pizza, so we decided to stop at Joe's and try the pizza that so famously appeared in Spiderman. After two slices of cheese, two slices of pepperoni and one slice of pizza with pineapple and basil, we were absolutely stuffed. The three of us decided to watch two movies and stay up talking/gossiping about our high school friends before falling asleep around 3am. 

November 30, 2014: It was the day I had hoped would never come; Thanksgiving Break went by so quickly. For breakfast, we decided to go to a familiar place, IHOP. Over the summer, whenever we'd all sleep over a friend's house, we'd always go out to IHOP, Millie's Kitchen or Denny's for breakfast the next day. Throughout the meal, I got more and more anxious knowing that Tom's flight would be leaving in just a few hours. Regardless of the delicious Belgian Waffle with blueberries and yummy Vanilla Latte in front of me, I couldn't stop thinking about how I'd have to wait another three weeks before finally seeing him back home, in Lafayette. As we walked back to my dorm after breakfast, I tried to savor the feeling of holding onto my boyfriend's hand while walking in NYC for as long as I could. Inside my dorm room, Cal helped deflate the air mattress that he slept on the night before while Tom packed his things. When it was finally time for them to go, I walked the boys to the nearest subway station. Although I had imagined this scene many times before, it wasn't a very romantic farewell. I gave Tom a quick hug before he begin walking down the stairs into the station, looking behind his shoulder one last time before he disappeared into the darkness. After they left, I walked into the Walgreens right next door and got some cough medicine. My throat was sore and I could feel a cold coming upon me. For the next few hours, I sat in denial continually telling myself, "You'll see him in three weeks. That's nothing compared to the months you waited to see him for Thanksgiving Break." Around 8pm, I went into my room and fully let the fact that he was gone, sink in. It felt like my energy had gone from 100% to about 10% in just a few hours. I scrolled through the pictures we took in Central Park on my camera and finally let myself cry; crying is necessary. When I was done, I looked over at the empty spot next to my pillow and removed the sheets off my bed; any remnants of Tom's stay disappeared in the washing machine. The next day, I went to class as if it were just another day of first semester freshman year at NYU.