Exotic Harlem

We started a 6 week vagabound with a trip to the USA. The entire trip was going to look like this. Dubai/Doha/NYC/LAX/Big Sur/LAX/NY/Doha/Dubai/Doha/Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh/Doha/Dubai. That is a lot of time in the air, but a lot of Frequent Flier miles also!

This trip started off with Mary Ann missing the flight. She was shopping in Dubai Duty free. I could not find her and a look at my watch told me to burn the rubber on my sandals to get to the gate. I honestly figured she was already there. She wasn’t. I was the last one on board.

After total of 17 hours en-route I arrived at JFK. Before I left Dubai, my ATM card did not work. I had zero dollars. I did not know my sister in-law’s address or phone number. Because I had no $$. I could not buy a sim card to call anyone to figure out where to go.

Because Mary Ann missed the flight, our luggage was taken off the plane. So there I was in JFK basically stranded and wearing stinky clothes.

After immigration and the easiest customs experience ever, I found an ATM machine. YES! My card worked. Then I found a machine that sold SIM cards…for US$30! $30, ouch, I have never paid more than $3 for one, and in Thailand they are free. But I had no choice. …Welcome to NYC.

But I still had no one to call. I found the travelers aide desk which was manned by a kindly old gentleman who made me feel young. I asked him for the phone number of the Miss Universe organization in Manhattan, where my sis-in-law works. He thought that was an exciting question and he came back a minute later with the number. Boo, (my sis-in-laws family nickname) had already gone home in anticipation of our arrival. The staff there was very accommodating and they gave me her cell and home phone numbers. But no answer. Then I decided to check my email and see if Mary Ann had written me. I asked the kindly octogenarian at the travelers aide desk if the airport had WIFI. His response was “Why What?” I finally found out how to pay US$10 for WIFI access in JFK (welcome to NYC) and my lovely wife had written me to give me Boo’s address in Harlem. I guess I could have taken the sky Train to the A train and hoped I got off at the right stop, but after the last 24 hours of craziness, I decided a cab was a better idea.

When the cabbie dropped the flag it immediately went to US$45. I choked and asked if that was the airport exit fee or what. He told me it was a flat rate to Harlem, but that he expected a tip. Welcome to NYC.

All is well that ends well. Mary Ann arrived the next day. She was not mad at me for leaving her in Dubai. I was relieved.

Harlem is in its own world. The difference between Harlem and lower Manhattan is the difference in definitions of laid back and uptight. Obviously I like Harlem better. The people in Boos’ neighborhood are stoopers. The stoops in front of the brownstones are the gathering places where the social life takes place. Every block has a fireplug blasting out water for the kids to play in. Every block has a perpetual dominos game and there is always someone keeping score. It is multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-fun. Within a 6 block walk of Boo’s apartment you can eat food from anywhere and buy anything from crack (I’m sure, but I did not) to an Ipad.

It all seems quite organized with a scorekeeper and people waiting to play the winner. I wonder if there is any betting (duh) and if there is a street champ.

I walked around, spoke Spanish with a bunch of people and basically felt like Crocodile Dundee. “Morning mate. How bout them Mets?”

This, The Church of the Presumptuous Assumption, is next door to Boo's apartment. It is quite the show on a Sunday with all the ladies in hats deserving of the Kentucky Derby and little boys in 3 piece suits better than I have ever owned

Everyone in NYC has their nose glued to their cell phones.

Even this toddler was checking his facebook page. No one in NY looks where they are going anymore. They all live in a 4" square world held in their hands and operated with opposing thumbs.

We went to a Mets game, or tried to. We took the A train to the D train to the whatever train, welcome to NYC, just to get to a rain-out.

After not seeing a MLB game for 18 months, the last thing you want to see is "the tarp"

I
Do I look bummed? I was bummed!

We were there for the wedding of Mary Ann’s niece Lara, to a Jersey cop named either Tommy or Jimmy. Or both. They did a very thorough job of planning a wonderful day, and we enjoyed it.

The wedding took place in New Jersey. No, they did not stamp my pasport nor did I need shots to get into the state. The affair went on all day. It was pleasant and well planned. I really like this couple and give them good ods for a long time together.

We also did some tourist stuff. Ellis Island and Wall Street.

Give me your tourists yearning for something free in NYC!

I made the Bull on Wall Street kiss my ass! A satisfying if not effective thing to do, and it cost me nothing! Welcome to NYC!

Then Mary Ann took off for Panama and I went to Big Sur. Next post from the most beautiful place I have ever been to on the planet. Thanks for reading, tell a friend, make a comment or just enjoy.

About forrestwalker

An expat living overseas, traveling with my wife extensively and sharing the experiences with you!.

Posted on September 11, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. You should tell everyone about the food – chinese in those cardboard cartoons and pizza delivered, diet Dr. Pepper and hot dogs.

  2. Very funny Forrest! You are a talented writer.

  3. I was back in Harlem last year for the first time in a looong time. When I lived on 122nd St. in 1978-79 I used to go down 125th St. pretty often for errands or just to stroll. Harlem wasn’t multicultural back then–it was the capital of African-American culture, 90% or so black, pretty much the same as it had been since the 20s, still not changed from the descriptions you find in Ralph Ellison or the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Going down 125th St. last year, it was odd to see that maybe half of the faces were black–if that–and that a lot of the weird and funky little churches and shops have been replaced by national chain stores. The economic development is nice, the transformation into a more generic multicultural neighborhood is kind of sad.

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