From York to New York

Published on the York University blog Dec 23, 2008

     After studying the origins of Hip Hop and the Black Arts Movement I had luckily planned a trip to NYC where both movements started. The weekend before last I hopped on the night bus with my trusty sidekick Lauren to Manhattan. We hobbled off of the bus early Saturday morning and I had already started to feel the rush that comes with travelling to a new city. This rush of excitement is what has made me a travel addict, bug, junkie whatever you want to call it.

     When I am in a foreign land I am some how at peace, when I come home I am always planning the next time I can take off to some distant land. New York is not that distant but different enough to feed my habit.

     The streets were deserted as the city that never sleeps was in fact sleeping. We made our way to the metro as my take charge organized somewhat obsessive compulsive friend led the way. She whipped out the map to get her bearings. I tried to absorb the various subway lines that ran the length of the island like scattered veins.

     We were headed for Chinatown to a hotel on the famous Canal St. A hotel is always a complete indulgence for me as I always stay at an economical hostel when I travel. A hotel means that I don’t have to put down my own sheet on the bed incase of a possible germ/bug infestation. A hotel also means that I don’t have to sleep with all of my worldly goods in my grasp as I worry that someone will mug me in my sleep.

     Chinatown looks a little post apocalyptic in the early morning as all of the stores are protected with steel garage doors that prevent break ins. In a couple of hours Canal St. would be buzzing with sellers calling out various brand names on the street corner. Some sellers would try to lead us to opened suitcases full of Coach and Louis Vuitton bags, others would try to entice us to look at their variety of goods displayed in cramped stalls. The frantic flurry of activity is overwhelming and yet comforting to me at the same time.

     After a quick nap we set off for the music/coffee shop/hipster mecca of Manhattan, Greenwich village. Greenwich always reminds me of Montreal with its quant canopied stores and its small hidden basement cafes and live music venues. We had a strict plan to sit idly in various cafes and to see as much jazz as possible in the 4 days that we would be in the city.

     So our first stop was the Esperanto café at 114 MacDougal Street. The café was filled with New Yorkers and their laptops and others out for a lazy Saturday afternoon. The tables were made of unfinished wood and the menus were displayed on large chalk boards over the main counter. Despite the din the atmosphere was relaxing. They also had Turkish coffee on the menu which always makes my day.

“A regular coffee please,”My friend asked the handsome tall waiter. 

     “ What does regular mean. Do you mean espresso regular, cappuccino Americano…” He said with a bit of cheek and arrogance. Obviously we had encountered a man that was particular about his coffee.

     “An Americano..,” my usually talkative friend was taken aback. After sitting at the café for awhile we began to discover another beautiful part of travelling. We began to talk to strangers which is a type of extracurricular activity for the both of us. The girl beside us was going to pose for an elderly artist’s sketch. But his attention was drawn away from her when his younger and pretty companion wandered in. Later we met our waiter outside during his smoke break and he told us about his journey from Cuba to San Francisco and finally to New York City.

     “San Francisco became too small for me. New York was the one place that reminded me of Havana.” He said as he took drags from his cigarette.

     Finally we bid him goodbye and made our way to our next café. It was actually more like a restaurant bar called the Groove bar at 125 MacDougal St. The café had a dark exterior and had just begun to fill up for happy hour. All drinks and bar snacks were four dollars until 8 pm. A funk band called Just A LilBit was just about to climb on the stage…

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