Running on Empty — 25 Hours of I Love New York

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I had never been to New York City before and when the chance was offered to me — all expenses paid — I jumped at the chance! My great friend Greg has moved to Chelsea and invited me to come help him set up his new digs.

Lying in the heart of Manhattan, Chelsea is a hubbub of shopping, eating, and diversity. It is also a short walk away from such iconic sites as Times Square, The Empire State Building, and Central Park. I would make my way to Greg’s by way of a hired cab driven by an enthusiastic Korean man who regaled me with tales of the taxi. The sites and sounds are both cacophonous and harmonious and my heart lifts a little at my first sighting of Lady Liberty as we approach the Holland Tunnel that connects New Jersey to New York.

Greg buzzes me in and I head up to his new home — awash in boxes and papers, the apartment is much like Greg is right at that moment, beautiful and beleaguered. Without missing a beat we set about emptying boxes and unpacking. Gradually we can see the floor but we are still barricaded in by the armada of boxes and sundry castaways that bar the exit. If someone were to cry “Fire” at that moment we were goners.

Once we had reclaimed the kitchen and cleared off the sofa for me to sleep on we head into West Village to dine at The Little Owl. It should be noted that despite Greg’s generosity the onus is not on me to put-out; indeed I’m quite certain I’d be handed extra money to sign an oath of chastity and to keep a respectable non-restraining order distance of 50 metres or in the case of his small studio, 3 metres.

Tony, unpretentious, its charm exceeded only by its culinary prowess, The Little Owl is a recommendation from a friend of Greg’s whom Greg is prompt to thank in writing in the guest book that houses the cheque at the end of our meal and has been signed by its many grateful guests since its inception in 2010.

Sated we stroll neighbouring areas and experience New York at dusk. Washington Square is alive with buskers and revelers as is the comedy club district.

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The air is tinged with warmth but lacking in the oppressive humidity that I had been expecting. Lacking too is the ominous foreboding of crime that non New Yorkers often see portrayed in pop culture. On the contrary NYC is quite safe, it’s chaos however threatening to those who aspire to rest and relaxation on their getaways.

We return to Greg’s and set back to work but when our hammering is answered by his neighbour’s annoyance, we pack it in shortly after midnight and once again take to the streets at night this time to take in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Radio City, and Madison Square Gardens.

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I purchase a red Yankees baseball cap from a vendor in Times Square still open at 2 in the morning and we head home. Bed at 2:51 far exceeds my normal maximum of 9 p.m. and I hit the sheets readily.

5:43 a.m. Less than 3 hours later and I’m ready to go. Call it the intoxication of the Big Apple. I see movement from Greg’s bed and call out to him. He either doesn’t hear me or chooses not to. Either way I decide that going back to sleep may be a safer option than waking Greg.

7:29 a.m.

Rod: What time do you wanna get up?

Greg: Are you one of those annoying people who doesn’t need sleep?

Rod: Think of it as I’m one of those amazing people who can get up early, go for a run, eat breakfast, and help you fix up your apartment and still have the rest of the day ahead.

Greg mutters something incomprehensible. I think it’s some sort of Bulgarian hex. A low level book case partially obscures my view of Greg but I’m certain that his incantation is accompanied by some form of hand movement, whether to intensify the curse or merely to flip me the bird I’m not certain. Regardless, in another hour we are on the streets for a captivating 10k that encompasses The High Line, the Hudson River, and Central Park.

New York runners are FAST. As if desperate to qualify for their own marathon, the toughest of all to qualify for, runners here run not so much to relax as much as to flex their Type A personalities all the more. Central Park resembles a highway of speeding pedestrians and we wisely choose to stay in the slow lane.

By the end of the 10K Greg’s curse has taken its effect. The stench coming off my Toronto Marathon shirt is potent enough to be deemed a biological hazard if discovered by customs on my way home.  In need of a shower my own odour is a threat to the nation’s security. Another brown skinned man deemed a terrorist — this time by way of perspiration’s counterpart of mustard gas.

His hunger stronger than his olfactory senses, Greg craves breakfast before we get home. I’m not one to argue as I too am starving. My muscles needing to be replenished. Gratefully, the rumours of the unfriendly American are unfounded as we are welcomed to tbsp to dine in it’s airy interior of reclaimed barn wood and distressed finishes. The gastronomical pleasures that their waffle and mascarpone engender ensure its success but all the same, if tbsp meets its unlikely demise, I’m on the wait list for the contents sale — a dining table and chairs and the bookshelf/pantry high on my list of wanted items.

Back at Greg’s, Greg posts ads on Craigslist to rid himself of items he no longer has space for. As an example,  Greg, not a baker, has 2 mixers. I’ve convinced him to relinquish one that eventually finds its new home with a large black man who is overjoyed that after all these years he finally has his very own mixer. Meanwhile the paper towel I’ve used to scrawl a multitude of mathematical diagrams and equations to aesthetically centre all of Greg’s wall art I’m convinced will one day be confused with calculations used to solve the Fröberg conjecture.

Lunch is at Pounds & Ounces. The Edmontonian waitress explains the liquid “ounces” portion of the menu — the bevy of cocktails in various incarnations, but we opt for the burgers instead. Done to perfection and topped for me by caramelized onions, I have quite possibly never had a better burger. Have fun & be yourself! cries the restaurant home page and its lively but tasteful interior encourages its patrons to do just that. It is New York after all.

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By now my time here is done. Greg’s apartment, short of a few items yet to be claimed on Craigslist and a dining table that was broken by the movers, is ready to go. And 25 hours after my arrival, my cab arrives. By day’s end I would be with my partner, in quiet suburbia, sharing stories and blowing bubbles in his backyard.

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