Monday, April 11, 2011

NYC Installment 4: Chinatowntown & Little Italy

When last we met, I had met up with my friends from online and the whole group of five of us were headed off on the next grand adventure... the subway. I had never been on the subway before, at any location. I was on a train once, when I was much younger. I don't remember much about it except getting asked to leave the dining car. Honestly, my memories are so fuzzy I can't remember the exact context of said train ride either.

Subways are different, in any case. I explained to Tea and Jess and the group at large that my previous experience with subways has been seeing them in the movies, such as when the bad guy gets his head cut off in the movie Speed. I was assured that those types of things only very rarely happen in real life.

I may have been told 'never', but you know, somewhere in the world there's probably a bad guy who got his head cut off in the subway, so I suppose it's very rare, instead.

This photo is off one of the little metal birds sculptured on to a railing. The subway in NYC is full of these little touches; fun or pretty things, meant to lighten up the reality of how harshly lit the florescents are and the fact that one is underground, away from the sun. It's great to be walking and have something catch your eye and realize there's a beautiful mosaic just to your left or those little birds to your right.

We took the subway to a whole different part of New York City, and that in and of itself was pretty cool. We spent a lot of time in the eight or so blocks surrounding our hotel, and it's easy to let that sort of let you start believing New York is not as big as it really is. The subway teaches you a lesson about that, as you look at your little tourist map and realize how far you've gone.

We came up right near the site where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. The first photo above is of the little church right across the street, a teeny old thing with an old graveyard out front. The WTC site, of course, is full of cranes and rubble and construction materials as they work on building the memorial. There was a little museum for 9/11 and the memorial across the street, and we stepped in to have a look.

After that, it was a walk of a few blocks to get to Chinatown! We passed a Maserati dealership, with those shiny sports cars lovingly tended inside two huge glass windows. We may have stared a little bit. To be honest, I don't know that I've ever actually seen anyone driving a Maserati. They seem like the kind of cars you keep in your garage, wax three times a week, and whisper sweet nothings to. I mean, for the amount you pay for 'em, you sure wouldn't want to get a scratch.

Wait. I got off topic. Masterati sports cars do that to you, I suppose.

The clouds came and went, but for the most part Saturday was a beautiful day. Chinatown was full of stores, little stalls pushed slightly out into the sidewalks. People called to you constantly to try and get you to purchase this or that. One lady tried to get Monica to buy a cheap knockoff Coach purse, which was kind of hilarious since Monica was actually carrying a real Coach purse at the time.

There was a constant glut of languages, accents, and regional diction going on around us. It was pretty fantastic. Tea pointed out how easy it was to tell when you've reached Chinatown, because it's almost instant; cross one street and suddenly all the signs are bilingual. There were fishmarkets, late in the day their smell was a little bit overpowering but some of the products looked pretty good!

We wandered, staring idly at this thing or that.

Eventually, we hit the end of Chinatown and ran smack dab into Little Italy. I hadn't known they were so close together, but Little Italy makes itself very distinctly obvious.

See what I mean?

There was a display in a window about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, one of the more tragic events in American labor history, in which a huge fire broke out in the factory and 146 workers, many of them first-generation immigrant women, were killed. Many of the deaths could have been prevented if the doors to exits had not been locked to prevent the women from leaving.

One of the women killed in the fire.

On the other hand, Little Italy had this:

Which I was informed I had to take a photo of for Jason, since he was definitely appreciate it. Frankly, I think we can all appreciate a happy dinosaur talking to a cloud.

It brings us together.

I'm going to go ahead and agree with this sign, right here. That should be everyone's life goal.

Little Italy was just as full of wonder and excitement. There were the stalls, still, the little stores. There were roadside cannoli carts now, a restaurant everywhere I looked. Pizzerias, trattorias, fancy or casual, you name a kind of Italian restaurant or food and Little Italy will strive to make sure you get to enjoy it.

Tea had a place in mind for us to eat, and we walked until we got there. It looks like a little hole-in-the-wall place from the outside, a little pizzeria doing the same thing they've been doing forever, with excellence and with style.

A little place called Lombardi's.

At Lombardi's, I explained to Tea that much of my knowledge of culinary must-sees in the country and really the world came entirely from watching the Food Network or the Travel Channel. I had heard of Carnegie Deli and Lombardi's from a Travel Channel special on New York City. The Food Network has done various little travel-based shows in NYC.

This was probably a little strange.

But I was optimistic! Sure, I'm from Illinois, but I'm not from Chicago, which means pizza doesn't have to be deep-dish to feel like the "real thing" for me. Our pizzas were delicious, too: the crust had just the slightest char on the bottom, the sauce was perfect. We ate in a room tucked away through the kitchen and up some stairs. We tried not to stuff ourselves, because dessert awaited us, and not just any dessert: there is a place down in Little Italy called From Rice to Riches, a itsy little place that did one thing, and it did that one thing very well; rice pudding.

It was like the Baskin Robbins of rice pudding, with a pile of flavors to choose from as well as toppings for an extra fee. We all purchased the smallest size of our particular flavors, and even so, it was hard to finish after having eaten dinner! Valiantly, we did our best.

I had cheesecake rice pudding with chocolate crumbles and strawberries. Oh it was so good. Oh... so very, very good. I have now decided to create rice pudding for any conceivable occasion I can come up with, because it made me want to either have huge vats of it at my disposal or open up a store like this here. I feel like a rice pudding place would go over pretty well here in Greenville, bastion of sweet tea, sun porches, and red dirt.

Oh how I love the red dirt.

But I'm distracting myself again. We'll get back to that sort of thing later.

Tea and Monica both had cheesecake rice pudding, too. Monica started off with no toppings and Tea got graham cracker crumbles, at which point we all sampled each other's (Hunter had... chocolate, as i recall, and at the moment I can't remember what Gena had. I'm sure it will come to me in the middle of the night). Monica realized how good the graham cracker crumbles were, walked back into the line and had some put on hers. And all was well.

So, stuffed full to waddling (are you noticing a pattern here? I could spend whole vacations in New York just learning about the food available there) we were back out on the street in Little Italy. We were able to get ahold of Kelsey and find out her school group was eating in a nearby restaurant, and Gena, Monica, and Hunter ducked in to speak with her while Tea, Jess and I hung around outside talking. I know I was somewhat of an excited puppy dog the whole day... they are patient, patient ladies.

Tea and Jess had to get back to Queens, so we four ladies were left to navigate the subway on our own. I am proud to state that we managed quite well. We also met a group of four locals on the subway who were deeply fascinated by the southern accents of Gena, Monica, and Hunter and who were willing to show off their own Staten Island accents to us. By the end of that particular subway ride, I definitely think we had new friends. At least Gena did, heh.

We found ourselves right next to a huge Macy's, the huge Macy's, with forty-five minutes 'til close and my party's shoppin' fingers gettin' itchy.

We went inside and managed to get through to see a few of the different floors and experience the wonder and magic that is the old-timey escalator they have there, sort of wooden and creaking. A tie was bought. Fun was had by all.

The Empire State Building was actually very nearby, and going up was debated by the other three. I assured them I would deeply enjoy sitting in the lobby on the ground floor should they choose to do so; only my mother can talk me up that many stories.

After realizing the amount it would cost, the ladies decided against it and I was able to bid the Empire State Building adieu without having to face the prospect of its elevators or, heaven forbid, its view.

When I get over my fear of heights, though? Me and tall buildings, we're going to see a lot more of each other.

If I get over my fear of heights.

In any case, what happens after this is a little bit of deciding whether or not it's unacceptable to go to a city like NYC and get tired before 11 P.M. Because we were tired, indeed we were, and it was definitely not even 11 yet.

Some wandering ensues, which I have no photos of. And back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, I'll put Sunday... Central Park! Hunter running! Some more of Hunter running, this time with Monica! Water! Carnegie Hall! No photos of Kelsey singing because Carnegie Hall gets very angry if you take photos while the performance is underway! A description of Kelsey singing!

Look at all those exclamation points. You can tell I'm excited.

I'll finish up the trip tomorrow, too, and that'll be it for New York City. And there will be much rejoicing. In any case, I've got some southern spring photos I'm aching to put up sometime soon... and it's only a couple of weeks until my sister and my niece will be in Georgia visiting my brother-in-law (who has been living there for his job) and Jason and I will get to visit them, too! It'll be the first time Jason has seen Delainey since July, and I haven't seen any of my family since Christmas, so I am going to hug my sister hard enough that breathing may become a problem.

In any case, that's it for tonight. This is all the words and enthusiasm I've got for you.

Have a good night, everyone!


  1. Hooray! Encore! Encore!

    And you DID go all the way up to the top of the CN Building in Toronto, in a glass elevator on the outside of the building!!! Remember that nauseating experience??? I get sick just thinking about that little elevator ride...but it was worth it for the awesome view once we were at the top...remember??? Oh, wait, you don't because you couldn't get anywhere close to looking out a window...

    I'm loving all your stories about your NY trip! Sounds like such an awesome time!

  2. Yes, and I only did it because Emily talked me into it! And in Chicago that was all you.

    And there was one time Emily got me to go over to the edge and stay there for something like thirty seconds. I am very proud of that thirty seconds.

    I hated that elevator.

  3. If a happy dinosaur talking to a cloud can't help with your fears - what can?

  4. Looks so fun! I'd like to read up on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, so interesting.

    I'm going to have to try the Tom Yum Soup...I've never had it! Thanks for the suggestion.


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