Alright, so I really have to see this travel journal through before I forget everything, so I’ll force myself to focus and get my thoughts on paper. It’s incredible that it’s been almost two months, time has been on the run lately.
From sea cucumbers to Seven Sinful Pleasures
Friday morning we decided to take on another one of the mammoth-sized museums: The Natural History. I have a thing for Natural History Museums, because when I was a child my all time favourite museum in Hungary was the Natural History. It was a bit far from us, so we didn’t go there as often to the other museums, so it became a semi-magical place with a lot of cool stuff and I guess it passed this feeling on to all the other NH museums in the world.
You might be familiar with New York’s Natural History because the Ben Stiller film, Night in the Museum. I only remembered this when I saw the statue of Theodore Roosevelt and I have to say Robin Williams does look like him in the film!
After briefly reading about bacteria and microbes, I insisted on finding the planetarium (another Fanni-childhood-leftover love) then we read about marine animals and oceans. I just realised how much I love the seas and oceans even if I don’t like to swim in them (cold, wet, too salty and the jellyfish!) and flying above the Atlantic to get to New York was one of the scariest experiences in my life, seeing just the dark mass of water on the airplane screen, thinking that if we fall down, we fall into the middle of a big nothing. We also hurried through the part showing different human cultures and we had lunch in the gigantic and somewhat overpriced restaurant, but the whole morning is sort of a blur because of the amount of information my brain had to process.
In the afternoon we went to Brooklyn to do an escape game. We’re huge fans and whenever we go back to Hungary we do escape game marathons because there it’s so much cheaper and there are some amazing rooms. The one we did in New York was a bit saucy in its theme (Seven Sinful Pleasures), but when should one get saucy if not on one’s honeymoon. The story was that a policewoman has already infiltrated the Snow White themed brothel, but she disappeared so we needed to get her out. I don’t want to spoil anyone, so I’m not going into details, we had a lot of fun although there was one enigma which was a bit convoluted. (If you want to read a review of it you can do so on the blog of the Escape Authority. ) For some reason, the room doesn’t seem to be bookable anymore, but check out the other rooms by Komanta Quest if you want to try your escape skills.
We had dinner in a Thai restaurant and chanced upon some cheap book shops. I bought a nice copy of the Wrinkle in Time trilogy (also a childhood favourite although I never got around to read the last part) and some picture books to read with my younger private students.
Saturday – Brunch, a very New York meal
The weekend turned out a bit less hectic than the week, which was good news because giga blisters started to grow on both of my feet, yay! We had brunch with our oft mentioned New York friend, Elise and her charming boyfriend in a lovely restaurant called the Writing Room. Elise chose it with care, knowing that we, two writer souls would appreciate the atmosphere. The food was great. I don’t remember what I ate, but I know that we salvaged Elise’s pancakes and they were delicious. It’s a very nice place and the pricing is quite reasonable for this part of the city, so I’d recommend you check it if you want to treat yourself.
Brunch is a very New York thing apparently and I’m convinced that there is something about it I couldn’t quite grasp. Like why is it such a big deal to go out for “brunch”? Isn’t it the same as to go out for lunch (or for dinner)? I mean it’s a great meal I can whole-heartedly embrace especially since my husband is from the clan of the dormouse and often doesn’t emerge out of the bedroom before 11… but I sort of feel that I’m missing something of the enthousiasm of native New Yorkers. Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time there to grasp the true awesomeness of brunch.
We wanted to go to the Guggenheim, but there was such a long queue that we aborted the mission and decided to go back to the Museum of the American Indian where they hosted a Dia de Muertos celebration. There was an exhibition about the Native Americans who fought for the US in wars. There is a surprising high number of them who fought in different modern wars, many women as well!, and a lot of them earned rank and respect. It is I think natural that one would ask the question: But why did they decide to shed their blood for a country that had taken away their land and freedom and the answer the exhibition gives is what I’d thought as well: for Native Americans being a warrior and fighting for your people is a natural and honourable thing to do, so that’s what they did.
“People ask me: “Why did you go? Look at the mistreatment that has been done to your people.” Somebody’s got to go, somebody’s got to defend this country. Somebody got to defend freedom. This is the reason why I went.”
(Chester Nez (Diné (Navajo) World War II and Korean Veteran)
I learned about Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, the first Native Canadian registered nurse. She couldn’t learn in Canada because of her heritage, so she went to train in the US and became one of the 14 Native Canadian women who served during WWI; Ely S. Parker, the highest ranking Native American in the union army who was the secretary of Ulysses S Grant and many others.
In the middle of the room stood an ofrenda decorated with bright orange flowers where people could leave messages for lost loved ones. My grandmother passed away this July and with such a hectic summer (wedding and all) I didn’t really have the occasion to mourn. Or rather I’d been mourning her over a longer period of time even before her actual passing. I knew that she’d been giving up since the death of my granddad 1.5 years before (no wonder they were married for more than 60 years, it must be very difficult to exist alone after that), so I was letting go of her gradually. My poor mum was in shambles though, in such a short time she lost both of her parents and sadly our relatives are not that great in sticking together so with that our extended family was basically over. I had all these emotions bottled up, but I let them out as I wrote my message to my grandparents.
One thing I regret is that I didn’t ask my grandparents to tell me more stories from their lives while they were alive and healthy. I remember a few stories about their meeting and how my grandmother didn’t really have a lot of things to eat during WWII and how she worked in a crane in a factory which ruined her knee but… there are probably so much more I could have learnt. We got a little family book for our wedding which prompts the owner to dwell a bit into family history and ask older relatives for names and stories and I will try to “interview” my husband’s grandma, maybe at Christmas. If you have older relatives or friends be kind to them and enjoy the time you can spend in their company 🙂
There was a dance performance to mark the day performed by dancers who arrived from all over the country, young and old who danced together in the honour of the ancestors. They were wearing the most wonderful clothes, headdresses and outfits, I wish I had taken photos, but although it was allowed, I felt it would be disrespectful and somehow disrespectful. I was astonished by the sheer force and power of the dance for a moment I felt myself in ancient South America with the temples and jungles and I thought that if I looked at this dance as an enemy I would be scared of its prowess. Luckily, I was far from being an enemy, so much so that I was seriously considering joining the “Friendship Dance” in the end. I really wanted to, but I also knew that I was too shy and would probably end up not going in and then regretting. When they called the audience to join in, the woman next to me looked at me and, as though reading my mind, she said:
“You know, you should really join, it’s very simple.” I felt like this was a sign so I went.
I learnt that she was a member of the group, she just couldn’t make it to the beginning because of her work. It was a really nice and special experience and I think I needed it. I don’t remember much of the dancing itself because I got lost in the moment.
Our wedding present from Elise was a pair of tickets to a Broadway show, we’d chosen Chicago because G. heard good things about it and I really liked the film. We had great seats, I honestly doubt that I’d ever had such nice place in theatre, we were the first row of the Dress Circle. Cuba Gooding Jr. played one of the main roles, so I also saw an internationally famous actor from up close which, let’s admit it, is quite cool.
Sadly, I didn’t like the play as much as I’d wanted to. I think part of the reason was that they had zero scenery and very few props so it was a bit difficult to imagine we were in a women’s prison or a court room or anywhere else than the theatre stage. I also think that I’m starting to realise that I actually don’t like musicals 😀 It’s been a growing suspicion of mine, but alongside cliché YA books this is one of the things I have to accept now that I’ve grown older.
We had a small lunch in a street market right next to the theatre. I had a Chinese pork bun (it was small and delicious), we had a nice little thing made with polenta and cheese, I completely forgot its name and I had a Thai ice coffee, but it wasn’t too good and there weren’t even any tapioca pearls at the bottom. What a bummer!
Sunday was our chill day, we walked a bit, then headed for Brooklyn to a geek bar called The Way Station to a screening of the newest Dr. Who episode. Originally we wanted to go to a Dr. Who themed restaurant called The Pandorica and I was really looking forward to it, but I found out that it was not in New York City, but in the state of New York. Rookie mistake… I hoped I’d find something roughly similar, that’s how I chanced upon The Way Station.
Before heading to the bar, we had a very tasty Mexican dinner in the restaurant right next door, if you’re around Brooklyn I suggest you visit them.
The Way Station is also a very nice place, they have geek themed cocktails, I wanted to try them, but they had a pumpkin flavoured beer on offer and I couldn’t resist. After the big glass of beer I also had a chance to discover their bathroom that looked like the Tardis! It was also somewhat bigger on the inside 😀
We saw “Arachnids in the UK” which would have been a good episode had it not been interrupted by a block of commercials every bloody 10 minutes. I swear there were at least 6 breaks in the one hour show, it’s unbearable! But yeah I guess that’s what the paradise of capitalism gets you. No wonder they invented Netflix because I’d become a raging lunatic if I had to watch series like that…Also there was a slightly drunk screaming girl who laughed at everything whether it was funny or not. I’d have found her hilarious had she not been this annoying.
It made me very happy that besides the usual and semi-compulsory NYC visits we found time to do things which were really us, like the escape room or the Dr.Who evening. I think the mixture of these two makes up a truly great holiday.
In the next installment I’m going to tell you about the Guggenheim and a very interesting artist I discovered there. We’re going to see skyscrapers and parks above the city, we’ll talk about literature and music, so brace yourselves, the best is yet to come!