New York City in 6 hours

It was raining cats and dogs in New York City last Monday. Traffic was crazy, and it took us 4.5 hours in total to get from JFK – Penn Station – JFK by bus. We were there because we wanted to meet up with friends and so took the opportunity to do a stopover on our flight back home. Why didn’t we take the train? Well, the Airtran from the terminals to Jamaica Station broke down. Though there was a way to connect to get on the LIRR to Penn Station, we thought it would be easiest to take the direct bus. We have never been so wrong.

But I always learn a few things when I pass NYC – stopover, transit or visiting.  Good or not so good, the experience was always worth the trip.

1. Home via JFK. We expected to collect our bags when we landed in JFK like before – even in transit because security was so tight. Everything needed to be taken out, checked and rechecked. I do appreciate the effort but it was very painful for all involved. Extremely time consuming too. With winter coats. Arrgghh. But not this time. Our large luggage bags were arranged to be sent all the way through to Singapore – we were lucky to meet a very nice JetBlue check-in counter lady who helped us do that, and we are still very thankful for that.

2. Guy at the Luggage Store. We didn’t have our large bags but we still had our cabin ones. There was no way we were going to lug them out into the busy city in the pouring raining because, other than the 10kg and stuffed roller bag, we had delicate stuff (Pepperidge Farm BBQ chips. Crush them and I’d have eat them with a spoon. No way!). It cost just USD10 to store them so we did. The guy in charge asked for a passport to verify and register the bags, and asked us to vote for whose it should be. SJ voted for himself. And the guy said with a smile, “Just so you know, you can’t do that if you are running for President. For future reference.” LoL!

3. No unpleasant encounters at JFK customs. That is because we didn’t have to get through one coming out from a domestic flight. There is one particular lady there who has the ability to give fainthearted travellers nightmares. I see her whenever I am there (and it is not even often). She has the disposition of a school discipline mistress with lungs of steel, and mouth of an extremely irate customer not going to get her money back on a faulty buy. If you don’t move along fast enough, you will get yelled at. If she has to tell you twice to go to an available window, you are deadmeat.

4. You just have to wait it out. When we got our bus tickets to the city, we had to get in line for the bus that should come by at noon. We had 15mins till noon, so we walked to the lines at leisure and joined the queue. We waited. And waited. And Waited. 40mins past noon, and still there was no bus in sight. People went up to ask, and were asked to wait some more. So we did. Sullenly.

5. Washroom in Old Navy. Nature called when we arrived at Penn Station 2 hours later.  The pitter and patter of the rain against the bus windows really didn’t help one bit!!! Old Navy along 32nd street (if I m not wrong) was my saviour. But there was a lady in the queue ahead of me. The person in the one washroom was taking her time, even when the lady in front of me knocked on the door to tell inside to hurry up. Guess knocking lady couldn’t wait and went to the Gents next door down. And Inside lady decided to come out then, and glared at me thinking I was the one who chased her out. I didn’t do it but I felt guilty all the same…what if she had an emergency she had to attend to in there? I know I have had to. But if she didn’t come out then, I would have one right there.

6. Penn Station. Busy, busy place. Commuters mostly, but also a few regulars who hang around the station. One of them strolled over in front of us at the top of the escalator going down, and asked me to buy him a meal. I have never been asked for one before, and I didn’t know how to react. Partway between my surprise and unintelligible mutter, the escalator reached its destination and he walked away. I didn’t know if I felt bad or a little taken aback that something worse might have happened. Both maybe. But I am thankful that it was a non-event.

7. Grace Street in Koreatown. SJ’s friends brought us here. Wow. Nice cafe. Their Ho-Dduk, a Korean doughnut filled with a warm gooey mixture of cinnamon, walnut and brown sugar, is even nicer. I have never seen that the times I visited Korea. The cafe was very conducive for meet-ups and we spent the hour or so chatting with really fun, warm and sincere friends. Pity it went by so quick. We ought to do that again sometime!



The Green Witch vs. The Phantom

Gershwin Theatre, Broadway, New York

This is one musical that should not be missed. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth played witches, Elphaba and Glinda, and belted out Defying Gravity that instantly became my new favourite song. Hummed it the whole trip and in the hotel shower, much to the chagrin of my hubby. Incidentally, Chris Colfer’s character in Glee did  a rendition of it not long after I discovered the song. I quite liked his version too.

Adelphi Theatre, West End, London

This one, erm, didn’t think it was so good. I think it PaLeD in comparison to its prequel, and for some reason, I cannot remember what happened to Raoul, Christine, and their son Gustave at the end. There were no music pieces that I remember either. But the set was nice, though not impressive. Plus, the theatre was really musty. From the reviews I read after, it seemed that the general response to this Andrew Lloyd Webber production was lukewarm. He is brilliant, but somehow this one didn’t quite cut it.



[First published: 26 Mar 2011]