10th of July
At an unsettlingly early 5:00 o’clock in the morning, Nuriye woke me up. Forty minutes later we were in our car, heading to Brussels Airport. From there, we would fly to Geneva, and from Geneva we’d fly to the Big Apple.
Up until about my eighth birthday, me and pap suffered from an evil curse that made sure all our flights would be either delayed or canceled. But luckily, the curse seems to have worn out and when we entered the airplane on time. In fact, the only nuisance in and around the airport was my dad, who never seemed to stop complaining about the teenage smell coming from my armpits…
Hm. Although we were aboard our airplane on time, we still left almost an hour too late, and once we got off the plane at Geneva, we ran through the duty free to buy vodka and cigarettes for Susan–Papa’s friend in New York–and from there straight to the gate.
Our transcontinental flight seemed to take forever. At a certain moment, I fell asleep, resulting in a food cart bumping into my head due to the awkward way my head was bungling next to my chair. Also, I somehow managed to break the cable of the earphones the plane crew gave me during my beauty sleep.
Eight extremely boring and tiring hours later, we arrived at JFK at around 5:00 pm local time. Of course, I forgot my fleece in the airplane, so by the time we got going it was 5:30.
We bought and refilled our metro cards, took the subway–I know, we’re so unpredictable–to somewhere and from there we took a bus to somewhere else and three blocks later we arrived at Susan’s apartment, a teeny-weeny three-room apartment on Broadway. After twelve hours of traveling, papa and I sat down and relaxed.
To make sure I stayed awake so I could adjust to the New Yorkian time, we went for a walk. That was probably a good idea; as soon as we came home, I took a shower, tried to watch some Wimbledon semifinals and then fell asleep.
11th of July
I woke up around 9:00, aroused by the light from outside. Luckily, I was just in time to watch Serena Williams beat Muguruza in the Wimbledon final. While watching tennis, I ate my first two bagels. Papa, unsurprisingly, stole one of them but replaced it before I could become properly annoyed.
When we–me, papa and Susan– had all finished our breakfasts, we went outside to spend the rest of the day walking through Manhattan. We–mainly papa, of course–wasted some time by talking about the price of prescription glasses for my dad, wasted some more time by asking for a free replacement of his MacBook charger cable, I wasted some time at Niketown looking for shoes while trying to bear the incredibly terrifyingly loud music they play there.
Around 5pm we were all sort of hot and tired from walking in the hot sun all day, and so we dropped in at a place called Dylan’s candy bar. Here, we refreshed ourselves with milkshakes and mocktails, whatever they’re supposed to be.
Full of ice cream, we slowly walked to the west side of Manhattan through Central Park. There, we sat down pretty much at the first restaurant we saw because we were hungry and well, we were hungry. Big mistake.
In the restaurant, we met Olga, my dad’s sister. She was there to share the terrible meal with us.
As we were about to run away from the restaurant, a friend of Susan’s joined us while Olga left because she had some vague plans. Together with Erma, Susan’s friend, we went to the movie theater to enjoy Jurassic World, or Giraffic World, as papa says it.
When the movie was over, Erma went to her apartment and we went to Susan’s apartment, where we washed up and went to bed.
12th of July
I woke up just in time to watch the first half of the Wimbledon’s men’s final. When Djokovic had just won his second set and the rain break started, we decided to go out, because otherwise we would miss all the daylight outside. Because we did want to finish watching, we recorded it so we could watch it later.
As we got in the subway, headed for Brighton Beach, that wish was crushed by Olga, who texted us who won… It’s no fun to watch once you know how it ends.
We got out of the subway at the Brighton Beach station, which was actually quite far from the beach. Unlike all the other subway tracks I had seen so far, the tracks in Brooklyn were elevated above the ground several meters.
It was already almost 2pm, and our stomachs slowly started rumbling. The area of Brooklyn we were in was full of Russians, and so instead of asking for directions to a restaurant in English, papa started asking directions in Russian–he grew up in Russia–meaning Susan and me couldn’t understand why all the people he talked to started giggling. Maybe because of his monstrous beard.
We sat down in a good-looking, Russian restaurant and filled our stomachs with traditional, Russian lunch. Then, eager to reach the beach, we left the restaurant and headed towards the sea in the hot and humid weather.
When we had finally reached the coast, we laid down our towel on the beach and put our feet in the cool water. Papa went for a swim–he magically managed to switch from shorts to swimming shorts while standing wrapped in a towel. He almost pulled me in the water with all my clothes still on, and if I hadn’t been threatening to throw his sandal into the ocean, he would have probably done so.
The Coney Island Fair was not far from where we were foot-bathing. If you have read my previous New York journal, you would know that papa took me there for my tenth–or eleventh, honestly, I don’t remember…–anniversary, through the subways, while I was blindfolded. So, having bathed, we decided to walk there.
On the way, I saw several people walking the opposite direction with what appeared to be an entire mango on a stick, cut like a flower. Since I looove mangos and I had never seen anything like it, I asked someone where he bought it and then bought one myself. I’m gonna remember this all-mango recipe!
At the Coney Island Fair, we bought tickets to the bumper carts. “Bumper carting”, that’s what I’ll call it for now, is one of my favorite fair attractions. That’s also partly because I don’t like roller coasters. Sorry.
After we bumper carted two times, we skee-balled. However, since it was already late, and we had a dinner appointment with someone, we couldn’t really stick around much longer and thus left the fair and walked back into the Russian part of Brooklyn. On my way out, I bought another mango.
Before we took a subway train back to Manhattan, we went shopping in a Russian supermarket. We miraculously ended up with over a hundred bucks worth of Russian food products.
In the subway, papa called a sushi place to make a reservation, but halfway the connection failed. So, when we arrived at the apparently very popular restaurant, we did not have a spot. However, papa pretended the mistake was made on their side and somehow got us a table.
A few minutes later, my relative–I keep on discovering new relatives–Dimitri came in. I didn’t know it was possible, but Dimitri and his beard were even bigger and huger than my dad and his beard. And, coincidentally, his last name is Plotko, whereas our last name is Plotkin. He might be my cousin, but he inherited his last name from his father, who was not originally from our family. Everything about them was the same. Except Dimitri made better jokes.
Together with a lot of sushi and sashimi, papa ordered something called Kaki Fry, purely because of its name. Kak means that brown stuff that you flush down the toilet or the act of producing it in a whole lot of languages. You’d be surprised. So, the rest of our evening was filled with disgusting jokes.
“Fried kaki? I usually have steamed kaki!”
“Wow! This is the best kaki of my life!”
I’ll spare you the rest–of the kaki. The kaki was indeed very good, and so was the rest of out dinner.
When we had all finished eating (our kaki), papa and me said goodbye to Dimitri and went home. There, I fell asleep instantly,
13th of July
I woke up late because I went to bed late the night before. Once I had showered, I had my breakfast which consisted of a bagel with newly-bought Russian caviar.
After breakfast, papa left to pick up Sabrina, a Sicilian friend of ours. As the airport is quite far from Manhattan, papa was basically gone for the greater part of the day, which was too bad, really. So, with papa out of town, Susan and I went out with the two of us.
Before going anywhere else, we quickly picked up Susan’s fancy, fashionable new prescription shades–for which she had paid a fairly fancy price. Then, with Susan armed with new sun-blocking armory, we went to a Barnes and Noble’s Bookstore.
The Barnes and Noble’s was enormous–for Dutch standards, anyways. We spent some time there looking through the many piles of books. Finally, we walked out with four books, including “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which Susan insisted I read.
Loaded with over a thousand pages of books, we ambled on, slowly moving down along Broadway, looking for new shoes for me. We entered a store called Harry’s Shoes–very creative name…–where I found a model that I really liked. I liked the shoes, but I thought black, the only color they had them in, was a little boring. I know, I’m sorry, but I’m really picky concerning shoes and clothes. So, instead of buying the shoes, I checked the name of the model and left the store, so I could look for the model in other colors somewhere else.
Before entering another store, we stopped at an ice cream place, where I bought a mango-banana smoothie.
Deprived of hope, my poor soul–I know, sniff! What a sad story it is!–entered another store, Modell’s, continuing its everlasting search for the right shoes. But, I actually got lucky for once, and they actually had the actual shoes I actually wanted!
Back at home, we met papa and Sabrina and went for a small walk. Afterwards, we just hung around at home and I read my book.
We didn’t do a lot of other things that night, and when night fell we simply went to bed and fell asleep.
14th of July
Papa unexpectedly woke me up around 9am because he had apparently agreed to meet Sabrina at the South Ferry at 10:15. So, I had breakfast, dressed, and we jumped on the subway train headed downtown.
Two stops before our stop, at 34th street, the train halted and stayed put due to “a police investigation at 14th street station”. After ten minutes, we were still not moving and papa tried to send Sabrina a text message to tell her we were late. However, the the connection wasn’t strong enough to send a message, so when another ten minutes had passed and the subway train still hadn’t moved an inch, we walked out of the subway and the subway station, sent the message above ground, and walked back into the same subway train. It took another fifteen before we started moving again.
At 10:45, we met Sabrina in front of the entrance of an enormous Staten Island Ferry. Apparently, everybody uses this ferry to look at the Statue of Liberty, because it passes the statue and it’s free. The ferries to the real thing cost a shitload of money and are absolutely overcrowded.
I liked the Aunt Liberty, but you sort of have to because it’s so famous. What I actually liked more than her, was the magnificent view New York’s skyline and everything around it.
Once we were back in Mànháaaton, as Sabrina says it, it started raining. Our original plan was to go to Chinatown to have dumplings, but because it was raining we didn’t feel like walking there. Instead, we dropped into some French cafe next to the Fed Building.
While I was eating my “salad césar”–come on, really? Couldn’t you just write Ceasar salad?–, I took out my reservation for the Federal Reserve Bank tour to check the time. Apparently, instead of two o’clock, I had to be there at 1:30pm because you have to come half an hour in advance for some reason. Not only did papa manage to arrange only one ticket instead of three–he only arranged a ticket for me, he somehow managed to not arrange a ticket for himself and Sabrina–, but if it weren’t for me, I would’ve missed the tour as well. Oh well. Nothing went wrong for me, so all is well.
The tour was very cool. To start off, a security guard led me through the first part of the building to the museum. After a little while, the tour guide showed up. The building was built around a vault that weighs over 2000 tons. Inside the vault, there is 7000 tons and $560 BILLION worth of gold. The entrance is secured by a 90-ton steel cylinder. The whole thing is so heavy, it had to be placed 25 meters under the surface because otherwise it would simply sink into the ground.
When the tour guide had told us all of the history, we went down into the vault. That was amazing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see all of the gold, but we saw some of it, which was still pretty cool. The lock itself was maybe even more fascinating than the gold. It’s just so big and complex. It took four different people with four different keys to open the vault.
For the rest of the day, we just walked around downtown New York, looking at buildings, Wall Street and dropping into shoe stores–I just like shoes…sorry.(Footlocker’s the best!)
Around 5pm, we dropped Sabrina off at her B&B and took the subway train to Susan’s apartment. Back there, we ate stuffed cabbages we bought at the Russian store and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
15th of July
Papa had let me sleep, for which I was very grateful. It did mean, however, that we were not in time to meet Sabrina at the Guggenheim. Instead, Sabrina walked around a little more on her own while we were on our way downtown.
We met up with Sabrina somewhere around the 14th street subway station. From there, we headed to Chinatown, for which I was actually pretty excited. A small Chinese neighborhood in the middle of an American city was just always a fascinating thought.
Chinatown totally lived up to my expectations, in every aspect. All the signs were in Chinese, small food stands everywhere–Chinese people everywhere. We sat down at some Chinese–didn’t see that coming, did ya?–tiny little indoor food stand, where we ate a reasonable and ridiculously cheap–Chinese–lunch.
Finished with our meals, we slowly walked uptown, towards the diamond district. After a few blocks, however, Sabrina went to her apartment because she was “tie-red”
Halfway to the diamond district, papa sat his big bum down on a chair in front of a beautiful old building. I didn’t catch its name, but it’s very tall, extremely narrow on one side, and reasonably wide on the other side, completely inspired by Roman architecture. Pretty cool.
The diamond district was crazy! There were just so incredibly many diamond and gold stores! Pure amazement as I walked from Fifth to Sixth Avenue, down Forty-seventh Street.
It was nearing 5:00 o’clock, and many shops would be closing soon. And, papa was looking for a familiar face, but he didn’t remember where that familiar face had his precious, diamond-filled stand. Luckily, we only had to pass fifty-three kazilion shops filled with many more kazilions worth of diamonds, in both in kilos and in dollars, before we found our big old Sovjet-Russian Alex and his stand.
Two hours of talking and Russian-tongued negotiations later, we were on the bus uptown. We had some pizza a few blocks from the apartment, washed up when we came home, and went to bed.
16th of July
We woke up early, with a busy day ahead. When I had finished my breakfast, we immediately left for Brooklyn.
We had agreed to meet Sabrina at 10:15, so, naturally, we were there at 10:30. We met in front of a little-known discount broadway show ticket reseller. So instead of a ludicrous $180 per ticket, it was only an outrageous $90 per ticket. We bought tickets to Kinky Boots, not knowing what we were in for.
Once we had all bought our tickets, we walked through the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights and back. Well, papa and me and Susan were. Sabrina is sooo, sooo, soooo slow! Every two minutes we’d have to wait for Sabrina to crawl back in sight.
Anyways, we were done in Brooklyn Heights and decided to walk to a good Barbeque place. Thirty minutes later, however, we were still nowhere near it. The heat was unbearable and the wind nonexistent, and since we still had a long way to go, we jumped in the first cab we saw.
Even by cab it took us another fifteen minutes, but it was worth it. The meat was delicious. Especially the funny-looking beef rib I ordered tasted amazing.
Finished eating, we took a cab to the Brooklyn Bridge. Just before the bridge, we got out, because we wanted to walk over the bridge. Just like five thousand other people. The view of Manhattan was beautiful! Although the crowd was enormous, it was definitely worth it. Along the path, people were trying to sell us “ice-code watah” for “one dallah” with a ‘Brooklynian’ accent.
Once we had made to the other, Manhattan side of the bridge, we took a subway back to Susan’s place to rest.
A few hours later, around 7:00pm, we took a subway downtown to watch the Broadway Show we had bought tickets for, “Kinky Boots”. It was fantastic! In short, it’s a musical about a young man and a transvestite man–or woman, I guess…–that try to save their shoes factory by producing something new things, which turned out to be “kinky” boots. And, their ending line goes like this: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and those who have yet to make up their minds!”
We got out of the theater and found bike taxis waiting for all the spectators. But I am afraid that SEVEN DOLLARS A MINUTE is just a little tiny bit above our price range.
We somehow managed to come home without getting overrun by one of the incredulously many seven-dollars-a-minute-charging bike taxis, and instantly fell asleep.
17th of July
We woke up around 9am, had a slow start and performed all our regular morning rituals. When when we had done those, we headed uptown to Columbia University.
At Columbia, we had a very interesting information session and a fun tour through the gorgeous Columbia complex. Also, we had an extensive lab tour that took a full fourteen seconds!
Finished at Columbia University–get it?–, we went all the way to the Bronx to visit my Russian grandparents. It was fun to see them again. Their age–They’re both already 85–made them slow, physically and mentally, but to me they still seemed pretty engaged in life and although I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying, it was, like I said, good to see them.
After three portions of homemade borscht and two homemade meatballs with potatoes, I laid down on Vitaly’s–my grandpa–to read my book. Instead, I fell asleep and did not wake up until papa woke me almost three hours later, at 6pm.
We said pakka–goodbye in Russian–to my dad’s parents, and walked up the stairs to the elevated subway station. We heard the train downtown coming, and we rushed up the stairs in order to catch our train. Then I slipped on the stairs…hrmpf. I didn’t fall or anything, but it was still annoying. Stop laughing, pap. It happens to everyone. Remember when I accidentally ripped your pants in Scotland? Now that was funny.
Anyways, I had stumbled my way up the stairs and then I swiped my metro card. Insufficient fare. On the other side of the turnstile, I could hear my dad yelling my name. Luckily, a helpful man swiped his card for me, and I was able to pass. So, I turned a corner and saw that papa was actually still holding the doors open, and I managed to squeeze in.
Before we went home, I insisted that we stopped by the bookstore. I had already finished one of my books and wanted to buy some more. With three more books than I had co