New York City: US Open 2014

I was jealous of Felicity when I first saw her. She was the girl who ditched being a pre-med student in California and moved to New York City in order to follow a crush and ended up majoring in art much to her parents’ chagrin. I thought she was so brave. But unlike Felicity, I would have chosen Noel instead of Ben. In youth, brooding hot guy working at a coffee shop, wearing a leather jacket sounds dreamy. However, with age all you really want is a nice, cute guy who says he likes your paintings. (“Felicity” being the late 90’s-00’s television show starring Keri Russell.) I, too, once had thoughts of New York. I envisioned attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, but practicality dismissed such ideas. New York City was first city that I wanted to travel to and yet it is the last great U.S. city to cross off my list. I’m not sure what has taken me this long; however, since I won two airlines tickets during the office Halloween contest (dressing up as Johnny Manziel), I am now able to cross of taking my mom to the US Open tennis tournament off my list. Show me New York City!

I didn’t think I would like New York City. I don’t like being in crowds all the time. I don’t like rude people. I don’t like traffic. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn near Central Park often described in reviews as quiet and family friendly, which it was. Only a five block walk to the park, we ate breakfast there Monday morning before journeying to the Open. It’s a nice oasis far away enough from the horns and hammer jack soundtrack of the streets. Maybe it was the area we were in or because my mom can make friends with almost anyone, but the people in New York are friendly. Sure there are strange things and people asking for money. Dallas has its share of that as well attested by the pregnant lady at CVS carrying a note asking for milk money who I saw at the same CVS the year earlier at the same stage in pregnancy with the same note. Traffic is avoidable using the subway system. It’s crowded and it’s hot underground, but worth it.

(Look, I created my very first picture .gif of Venus serving.)

I don’t play tennis. I watch tennis. Since I was a kid, I would get up, fix some waffles and have breakfast during Wimbledon. I tried playing once this year whiffing at balls left and right and getting dizzy 30 minutes later because of the heat – a reminder why I only played inside sports. Speaking of hot… It was sunny and humid at the US Open. We ended up watching Venus Williams in the shade of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday and Sloan Stephens there on Wednesday. My mom and I both avoided tans the whole summer in Texas and yet managed to turn two shades darker in New York. It’s a great event. The announcer on ESPN kept referring to the crowd during the broadcast as New Yorkers, but there are a fair share of domestic and international travelers who managed to make their way to Flushing Meadows. My mom got her picture taken with the Bryan Brothers. She is the only person I know who keeps up with doubles tennis.

My mom is afraid of heights. So much so that I offered to go to the top of the GE Building by myself, and she almost didn’t ride on the top of the open air water taxi. I in severe contrast love heights. In fact on our way to New York while flying amongst the clouds, I thought the sky must be the most peaceful place on Earth. There’s something about expansive views. They are so serene and majestic. I think I like staring off in the distance and having my thoughts cover miles of territory. I chose the Top of the Rock because I would rather see the view of Empire State Building than see the view from it, so I missed my “Affair to Remember”/”Sleepless in Seattle”/”Mindy Project” moment. Also, you have a clear view of Central Park. My mom ended up enjoying the water taxi. She was even proud of herself for walking to the bottom cabin from the top while the boat was moving. I would recommend that as well as $30 will take you around the harbor and Brooklyn and you can get on and off at the different spots.

The Verdict (now mentally think of Law & Order audio): I was left with a favorable impression of New York City. As we rode the number 7 train, I saw an empty warehouse, which reminded me of this awesome New York City Ballet program I saw once on TV. How neat it must be to be surrounded by so many different artistic and cultural things all the time. Eventually, I think I'll go back and explore a different side of the city. Maybe take an art photography class. Maybe meet someone on the top of a tall building. Maybe have drinks with three girlfriends wearing the craziest outfit you've ever seen. Maybe produce my on television show with the help of my mentor, a Republican businessman. (Okay, that one is really a stretch). Whatever it will be, I'll be back.

US Open Tips

1. Take the number 7 train to Flushing Meadows. It only costs $5 round trip.
2. If you buy tickets in advance, you can upgrade your tickets on site. I bought regular ground admission seats not knowing that Venus Williams would be playing at Arthur Ashe until the day before. I was able to exchange those tickets at the event for seats in the stadium.
3. Sitting at the top of Arthur Ashe Stadium is actually nice. We sat behind the baseline, which is awesome for not moving your head from side to side during play. We were able to see the play from a good distance and sit in the shade. We sat in section 340.
4. It is hot, at least when we went. On Wednesday, it was 90 degrees about 100 degrees on the court. We were worried about the rain not the sun. Drink water. Find shade. All those good things.
5. In the entrance for Louis Armstrong Stadium are concessions with hardly any lines and cover to walk underneath with fans. Use that for a break from the heat.

New York City Playlist on Spotify


Tokyo in the Springtime

Vacations vs. Trips

There is a difference between a vacation and a trip. This was a trip. Challenge myself and see something I’ve never seen before, those were the things that I accomplished. Certainly not rest and relaxation. Even the simple everyday things, I had to relearn again. How to turn on the shower. How to read a cash register. Walk on the left-hand side of the stairs instead of the right. I was a child all over again. Did I have fun? I’m not really sure how to answer that question. There was an article in The Atlantic saying happiness isn’t the most important thing in life. That having a purpose or meeting a goal deserved to have equal or more importance. So maybe the thing I’ll most take away from this trip is that I made a promise to myself to see the world, and I’m gradually making it happen. 

Stop It’s Hamani Time

Hamani is the Japanese word for going to see the sakura. Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms. The air is so sweet smelling. Not like the overbearing scent when someone has too much perfume on in the elevator. It’s much lighter than that. The blossoms come in light pink, pink pink and hot pink. The best is when the wind blows and the petals fall from the tree creating flurries in the air. You see a little boy and his mom trying to catch them in the breeze, and everything is perfect.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

I can’t quite remember the last time I felt this out of place. I would think I would be used it by now always being tall, taking honors classes, liking rock bands and dressing the way I want. But the staring. The first days I was so uncomfortable. Over time it phased me less. The second day I was sitting in the window of my hotel room, and I saw a jogger below wearing a #51 shirt. Was he a fan of Ichiro? I’m a fan of Ichiro. We could talk and be friends. It made me appreciate the United States more. In the U.S., the majority of us are outsiders, yet we still believe we belong.

A Friend in Need

Nobby saved me. Nobby was my volunteer guide I had signed up for on the Internet. It’s just like me to travel over 10,000 miles from home to meet someone from over the Internet when I’ve never done that in my life. He turned out to be extremely nice. My first 24 hours in Tokyo, I kept asking myself what had I exactly gotten myself into. But by the end of our day, I thought I can do this. He took me to the Meiji shrine, Yoyogi park and vintage shopping in Koenji. Koenji, a part of Tokyo (like Oak Cliff would be to Dallas) seemed to be my type of place – laid back, not over running with people and smiles instead of long glances. Nobby said the next time in I'm in Tokyo I can meet his parents. My new motto – Michelle, wining one Japanese person over one trip at a time. My gift to him was a Yu Darvish t-shirt. He said he would be his treasure.

Electric Avenues

I would hate to get the light bill for Tokyo. In Dallas, most of the buildings have lights. In Tokyo, the signs light up the building. Both the hotels I stayed at had views of the Tokyo Tower. On Saturday, it’s was lit up in blue. For the rest of the days, it was in its customary yellow and red-orange. Such a lovely sight.

The Maze That is the Subway System

I’m beginning to think the secret to Japanese longevity isn’t green tea or living in zen. It’s walking or walking to the public transport. The amount of stairs is endless. When you see an escalator, it almost seems like a mirage, but don’t celebrate yet, there’s guaranteed to be another set of stairs right around the corner. I did pretty well with the purchasing of tickets. Maneuvering the stations was the hardest part. At one point I was in Tokyo Station, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out there for the life of me. Then once you’re out, you have to figure out how to get back in. In Asakusa Station, there’s entrance for the Tobu line, across the street there’s an entrance for the Ginza line and then somewhere 200m across the intersection by a police box is the Asakusa line, which I gave up finding. It’s not horrible, however, it does require some patience. My legs where in dire need of a soak each day. Is there an onsen where I can just take off my pants? I mean a hot spring where I can dip my calves in without having to expose myself. I did try taking a bath one night, which was the equivalent of me taking a bath because of my height.

Japanese Grannies

While on my Mt.Fuji tour, a group of little old Japanese grannies got off a bus. They saw me, said something in Japanese and started giggling. Ah, little ladies you’re so cute. But know this, I can crush you.

Stone Temple - Gardens

Going to the temples reminds me of the scene in Lost In Translation when ScarJo is crying on the phone to her friend saying, "I heard some Buddhist monks chanting, and I didn't feel anything." The larger temples are wonderful to look at, but they're surrounded by people. If you are looking for peacefulness and serenity, the gardens are the way to go. The park near the Imperial Palace was so vast and it had tons of places to sit and listen to the birds or flowing water. The flowers were beautiful. The leaves so fully defined. You may not find yourself, but for a few seconds you lose yourself to beauty.

Food, Fashion and Favorites

You may be disappointed I didn’t try a lot of foods. I am not. Food for me has never been a priority while traveling. I much rather see a sight or go shopping and then pick up something to eat in my hotel room. I did discover the greatness of the rice ball wrapped in nori (seaweed) with a little salmon in the middle. I stocked up on that. Kokeshi dolls are my newest addiction. There’s something about fashionably decorated woodcrafts that I find irresistible. And by my clothes selections at a vintage shop in Koenji, I too am now obsessed with the cherry blossom. I bought two kimonos that may eventually turn into dresses. At times I felt overdressed in my bright colors as I was staying in more business like areas of the city. The dress code was most noticeably black; however, towards the shopping district things lightened up a bit more. The two most useful things during my time there: the shared ride/solo ride from Narita airport to my hotel saved me from being tired and lost on the first day and the pocket WiFi I rented saved me from being less tired and less lost for the rest of the week. Also, you can call the U.S. for free using Google Talk. Sake party at my place!


Tokyo Playlist on Spotify