Dreaming In The City That Never Sleeps

It seems as though any city I visit these days turns out to be a city that doesn’t sleep-at least when I’m there. This entire summer has been full of responsibilities, hours of socializing and self-care lost dedicated instead to monetary gain, honing my creativity and skill sets, and applying to colleges (although I’m still not quite sure how it all works???). However, I managed to be offered the phenomenal opportunity to join my best friend in her journey to the real city that never sleeps: The Big Apple. Why it’s named after a fruit, I don’t know. Someone please enlighten me. All I know is that on the way there, we were a company of three-Maija, her father, me-and on the way back, I had a severe homesickness that seemed to be attached to a person rather than a place.

That, however, is a negative emotion to be dwelt upon later. The trip itself was incredible, and the only way to showcase the adventure of it all is to explain it in excruciating detail that will fill one’s head with unnecessary detail depending on your value of drawn-out stories like these. In other words, Lord of The Rings fans, have your fill.

Our journey began around two o’clock pm, August 27, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ETD had been postponed due to our heroine’s father’s work schedule, but it allowed for time spent with those closest to her. Empty cardboard boxes that had been hoarded from our place of employment were loaded to the breaking point with her nearest and dearest items: prayer flags, psychology books, a zen garden, an air plant named Sid, two film posters-Moulin Rouge and Pulp Fiction; the variety is impressive, and clothing fit for the hippy trash she is (her words first, not mine). These were then hefted into the back of the family van, and after a fill-up at the Speedway we had frequented the past year after sweat sessions in the fitness center, we were off-show tunes blaring from the stereo and blankets prepped for the power naps on the way there.

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We hit Ohio about four hours into our trip. Ohio is a lot of nothing for a lot of land. I am a decent driver when it comes to keeping an automobile steady on a single, 187-mile stretch of road, and our leading lady’s father was in major want of rest, so I took up the drive for a few hours so we didn’t end up dying before we even made it halfway. I promptly took the wrong exit. This caused a ten-minute detour. Everything that followed was fine and dandy.

After my shift in the driver’s seat, Maija and I huddled up together and valiantly attempted to slumber in the moving vehicle, but we discovered that semi trucks are mighty abundant and ferociously loud on Ohio expressways, and I would be generous if I was to say we got a solid six hours of sleep.

When we woke up we had stopped. You may be excited-OH! New York City! How exciting! But no-we had parked in a small field and had all fallen asleep somewhere in Pennsylvania. This was also to avoid an untimely death. How often we nearly evaded our ultimate demise would scare my mother. Don’t read this, mom. I love you. Shhh, it’s all okay.

Pennsylvania sure was a sight for sore eyes.

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The mountains appeared like swells in an ocean, and when the sun rose…

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It was like waking up just as the Earth itself was.

We stopped at Restaurant for breakfast. Not ‘a’ restaurant, mind you. Restaurant. A cutesy little diner-esque nook in a building that housed a Subway and General Store with kitschy little things your grandma would probably adore. Our waitress immediately pegged us as travelers, although I can’t imagine why. Was it Maija’s unkempt hair? The dark circles under my eyes where my eyeliner had smudged during the rough night’s sleep? Our inability to communicate save for zombie-like grumbles and 5-word sentences?

The food itself wasn’t awful, though the woman who waited on us seemed to be the only chipper human being in the building. I think she likes what she gets paid to do. That’s important.

Following our breakfast fit for Queens it’s a part of NY get it get it we puttered into New Jersey. Let me tell you, that accent is for real. Those people do not mess around with their pronunciation. I felt intimidated even at the Plaza we made a rest stop at.

That’s about it for Jersey, though. Not much is there, either, except the shore. We don’t talk about that anymore.

Then, lo and behold, a few cat naps

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and seventeen hours after we had left G-Rap later…

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My overzealousness prevented a more professional shot of the city. It will do.

We met the city-Maija for a second time, and I for the first. I smiled and it smiled back,

We parked about three blocks away from our hotel, and once the grossness of discovering our room had been given away had been worked out and we had experienced the sturdiness of Central Park benches (ah yes did I mention we were on the Park?), WE GOT READY TO TAKE THE CITY BY SIMG_9466IMG_9473TORM.

Our itinerary
consisted of absolutely nothing until later that night, so we hustled our bustles onto the subway and made it all the way down to Greenwich Village, where people laid comfortably out on towels as if they were at the beach and a man was completely covered in pigeons from head to toe. That man is a hero.IMG_9485

We zoomed around in some shops, a few of which tickled my fancy, like Bleeker Street Records, which sold nothing I ended up buying, yet I still ended up toting some vinyl from a couple other businesses home to start my own collection, following in the footsteps of my parents, their parents, and Maija, who generously gave me a long-term loan of her turntable back in MI.

Our heroine would get her fair share of eccentric shops later on, beginning when we hit up BookBook, a-you guessed it-bookstore with a glorious clearance section that enabled us to pick up some literature we otherwise wouldn’t, had we not been so eager.

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As the time for our scheduled event drew nearer, we meandered closer and closer to Times Square. Over the many blocks we conquered, copious amounts of beautiful architecture and recklessly-yet artfully-rendered graffiti abounded. 

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Rudolph himself even decided to show up.

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I would love to say that he lit our way, but there are a few problems with that scenario.

A) It was broad daylight on this initial journey of ours

B) This Rudolph is clearly made of plastic

and

C) Jk kids might be reading this there is no reason C why would there be another reason don’t bother with letter C.

Miraculously, without our trusty guide with the red nose, we found ourselves in the heart of the big city.

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Times Square itself doesn’t seem nearly as euphoric in person as it does on the telly, but I attribute that to my lack of delayed gratification in this situation. I was undoubtedly still in awe of the size of my surroundings and the life that was around me. Of course, a few people in Mickey Mouse costumes helped snap me back to reality-gee whiz those guys are terrifying-and after we passed an insanely talented street artist and stopped at a shop that sold figurines that probably cost more than the average Joe’s computer amongst any type of comic you could possibly imagine all within the confines of an itsy bitsy New York shop…

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I do not understand the art form but goodness gracious do I wish I could.
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Shoutout to Val-you’d love this place.

We reached our destination.

Another big city within the big city.

IMG_9571Chicago.

We had the ability to experience a Broadway show. And we did. Ohhhh, yes we did. It turns out that the organization of the show; the presentation, was a tad too minimalist for all three of our tastes, but that’s the way theatre seems to be turning as it progresses, and our criticism lies only with the art department. The lack of decoration and what seems to come off as effort just makes the audience think harder to connect the plot points and setting, and I, for one, had a difficult time piecing together what exactly what happening because I had, up to that point, never even watched the film adaptation of the show.

The talent within the cast was outstanding, and I have no criticism for the performers. Their lines on stage, their voices, the projection and enunciation… I just, I have no words. There are some splendidly talented people out in this world, and I feel honored to have experienced the cohesion of a small fraction of them even once.

That wrapped up day one.

Day two was met at noon after a well-deserved crash the past night the second we entered our room. We immediately started out.

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Our heroine picked up some grapes at a fresh market, and I picked up something from Starbucks, thus defining how there are two kinds of breakfast people in the world.

Maija wanted to show me an express look at her college before the next day was met with the organized chaos that was to be move-in day, so we hightailed it over to Barnard, where she gave me a small tour of their gorgeously urban campus.

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The college is affiliated with Columbia University, so I had the pleasure of setting my eyes on the Godlike building Maija gets to call her library over the next four years.

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Oh, sorryONE of the buildings she gets to call her library over the next four years. There’s about three. They’re all five times the size of my house. #Shelfiegoals

My jealousy satisfyingly increased, we left campus to explore wherever the streets took us.

From Insomnia Cookies (Open until 3am for ravenous college students),

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Look at your boyfriend.
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Now back at me.

to what I interpreted as an angel smiting a demon,

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to the LGBT center with all-gender bathrooms and a fair-trade coffee shop inside,

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Chai tea latte. Prime.

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 to a refreshingly quaint yoga studio and some small businesses selling some of the most beautiful and spiritually inspiring trinkets from India, Tibet, and other Eastern countries, we milked every block for what it was worth.
IMG_9704Of course, just as the day before, we encountered endless amounts of beauty within the illegal art on the streets, buildings with their fire escapes and climbing vines, and, for once, some sardonically sarcastic adverts on the walls of a storage business.

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 If someone were to ask what my favorite thing about the city was-and trust me, I’ve been expecting said question since I jumped in their van in our heroine’s driveway-it’s the character. The city has a personality and soul just as you or I do. We are its collective soul, but it has a soul of its own nonetheless.

Back to shallower topics, we came across a number of cafes on the streets, and of course, I couldn’t tear myself away. Well, I could tear myself away from one; of course it’s the one I regret not entering. I mean, look at this sign:

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How did I resist that? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Ignorance is bliss.

We did enter Roasting Plant Coffee, which was an experience in itself. I ordered the Sumatra Badger Supreme, just a black coffee with no razzle dazzle in it, but the razzle dazzle came through anyway when the clear pipes that were laced around the ceiling sucked the beans for my beverage through them and into the grinder so my drink could be poured. Experience rating? 4 beans out of 5. Coffee rating? 3.5 beans out of 5.

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Oh, and there was this eatery nearby with a pretty rad name that Maija pointed out:

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When the day had come to a close and we found our way back home, Maija and I set out our loot from the day. She delved into reading about the Zen Tarot deck she acquired while I laid out the albums I purchased. We tied friendship bracelets around each other’s ankles (our matching tattoos idea was abruptly shot down by a certain someone’s parents), and then climbed out onto the fire escape to experience the skyline from where we had stayed.
IMG_9854 IMG_9847While exploring the escape, we discovered a friend who we named Rooftop Cat, due to the fact that he was indeed a cat and we found him on the rooftop near our room.

He didn’t really enjoy being photographed very much.

IMG_9849He didn’t enjoy our presence much, either. The claw mark he made in Maija’s thigh is clear proof of that.

Our final day together began at 8:30 in the morning. With our clothes on our backs, our belongings in the van, and our heroine’s future only a few blocks away, we set off for Barnard College. It was 9:59 am.

Arrival was anticlimactic, our presence being met with the presence of other collegiate females who had appeared in line a half hour before us, never mind that the brochure advertised that no one was allowed earlier than ten o’clock. An approximately 45-minute wait in sweltering heat later, we brought Maija’s boxes to her dorm and met with her two roommates-a Berkley girl from California, and a Massachusetts girl who had just packed her things up in containers, parted with boarding school, and went straight to NYC. Their interests lie in Human Right and Political Science, respectively, while our heroine’s lie in Psychology. Having three ladies packed into a dorm only fifteen square feet larger than a regular double will prove an interesting study for her, if my prediction is correct.

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In the hour Maija spent at a required meeting that signified the beginning of the end, her dad and I spent our sweet old time writing notes to her and hiding them in the most inconspicuous places we could muster. She’s found about a dozen of them, including those we buried under the sand of her zen garden. Just wait until the seasons change.

When she returned, we had about a half hour left with her before we parted ways. I think I was the only one who shed any type of tear, but my denial is so strong that the fact she’s a thousand miles away will probably hit me a few months from now.  The car ride home was filled with positivity towards her from the moment we started driving. The pride I feel when I think about what she’s accomplished even in the past year and a half fills me with such a light. As she said a few months ago, “If we grow apart when I go to college, like some people go from best friends to acquaintances, we’re going to go from sisters to best friends.”

What began as a brochure to a college hundreds of miles away a couple years ago has turned into the brick beneath her feet. And that is an incredible feat. We’re all proud of you ❤

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Much love,

Quinn

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