For the first time since I was a kid, I was able to check out the Chinese New Year celebration in New York City. It didn’t quite live up to my memory, but I have a feeling that we missed the best part of it. There was already confetti all over the ground. Next year we’ll have to go check things out earlier in the day. I must have gotten bad information about the start times of the events.
We wandered around Chinatown for a while but didn’t see much. At first, we only found one lonely dragon dancer.
Then, we passed through the Roosevelt Park area. There were some booths set up selling Chinese New Year decorations. There was also a stage where performers were singing traditional Chinese songs. I don’t understand Mandarin, so I have no idea what the songs meant, but it sounded pleasant.
We were about to leave Chinatown when we stumbled onto Mott Street. It seems as though that’s where all the fun was. The place was packed with crowds of people shooting off tubes of confetti and generally having a good time.
Like I said, I’m pretty sure we missed most of the festivities due to bad information, but it was still a lot of fun to go down to Chinatown and look around for a few hours. We managed to get in some shopping while we were there too!
After seeing the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular last Friday, my wife and I walked over to Rockefeller Center to take a look at the big Christmas tree. It’s one of those iconic sights that you have to see to say you had the full Christmas tourist experience in the city. We’re not tourists, but even still, it’s nice to get out and do the tourist thing. It helps me appreciate the city more and take advantage of what it has to offer, before I suddenly find myself moving somewhere else. That’s how it’s always been for me. I keep putting things off and then before I know it, the opportunity has passed and I’ve moved on. That’s how I wound up never seeing the Carlsbad Caverns, even though I lived in the area for two years.
Anyway, the tree was looking a little wilted, but we did wait until the it had been up for more than a month to came take a look at it. Next year, I want to take my wife around to see it when it’s still fresh. She was very amused to see the ice skating rink just below the tree and had a lot of questions about it. Maybe one of these days I can teach her how to ice skate, though I’m a bit rusty myself.
Rockefeller Center Skating Rink
The Christmas season is winding down. In just a few days it’ll be the New Year. Even worse (and better), classes start again on the 3rd. It’s just one class, for Winter Session, but it’s 4 hours a day, 4 days a week for three weeks. It should be interesting. I just hope we can squeeze in a few more sightseeing stops before we run out of time. We still have to make it back to the Met! Hopefully we can do that this Friday, when the museum stays open later than normal. I’d like to take her to the Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History too, if possible.
Last Friday my wife and I went to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, starring the Rockettes. It wound up being a really great experience and it was a great way to spend the Friday before Christmas weekend.
I saw the show once before, in 2006, and I was amazed by just how much the show has improved since then. The most memorable moment for me from the previous show was the toy soldiers. I was in the Army at the time and I remember being impressed by just how precise their marching movements were. I was sitting in the first mezzanine so I had the advantage of watching the turns and wheels from above. I’d marched in more than a few parades and military ceremonies so I had personal experience for comparison and the Rockettes were definitely better at it than anyone I knew. They work harder at perfecting parade marching too, though.
This year, the toy soldier segment was just as much fun to watch, but we were sitting in the Orchestra, so the precision of the marching wasn’t as readily apparent. I almost wish I’d picked mezzanine seats instead! We were able to see the finale to the toy soldier portion just fine though:
There were a lot of changes to the show. I think I remember seeing the dance with dozens of Santas in 2006, but this year there was a segment meant to imitate the Rockettes traveling through the city in a tour bus, a portion that simulated a video game and even some 3D stuff that was a lot of fun.
Overall, the show was a very fun and very memorable way for my wife to spend her first Christmas in New York City. We’re looking forward to going again in a few years.
For a full album of pictures (with descriptions) from the show, click here. The album is on Google+ and won’t require a sign in to view.
So, today is my 30th birthday. I guess that means I’m old now. It’s one thing to be in your twenties, but when you’re in your thirties, well, I remember thinking that was really, really old when I was a teenager. Somehow it doesn’t feel old now though, now that I’m the one pushing past 30. I think I’ll write a different post about what I’ve learned about life over 30 years. For now I just want to talk about the day.
This is the first time in years that my birthday hasn’t been on a weekday, so I didn’t have to go to any job or classes. Instead, I went with my mom to Chinatown to buy lobster and shrimp for my birthday dinner. Walking through Chinatown always brings back memories of Singapore, especially when I walk past the small restaurants and they have the ducks and chickens hanging in the windows, and I see people ordering cuts of meat over rice, like the “chicken rice” and “duck rice” in Singapore’s hawker centers. The sounds, the sights, the smells, all very Chinese, obviously, and I couldn’t help but think of my wife, who isn’t here with me to celebrate my birthday this year. We had a lot of good times together in Singapore, and I’m looking forward to when she’ll join me here so we can make more happy memories together. Her absence damped my spirits.
Like I said, being 30 now means I’m old. I got a card from my dad and the text says: [Front] “You’re 30! You’re Mature! You’re Responsible!” [Inside] “And To Teenagers Everywhere, You’re Old!” So, in the spirit of that oldness, my mom gave me a booklet called “1981, Remember When…, A Nostalgic Look Back In Time”. A lot of cool and interesting stuff happened in 1981. There was an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, a civil war started in El Salvador with many human rights abuses being committed by the US-backed government, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer got married, and the US Department of Agriculture decided that ketchup counts as a vegetable (WTF?). One of the best parts of the booklet, though, are the advertisements from 1981 that it includes. I scanned some to share here:
1981 Meow Mix Print Ad
1981 PreSun Sunscreen Lotion Print Ad
1981 Sears Stereo-TV Sale Print Ad
This one is a little crazy, isn’t it? In 1981, it cost 400 dollars to get a 19 inch color CRT TV. Nowadays, when you can find a good sale, you can get a 32 inch 1080p flatscreen TV for 350 dollars. With inflation, the difference is even higher! And check out that slammin’ stereo. That bad boy even played 8 track tapes!
1981 Sinclair ZX80 Print Ad.
Personal computers were just starting to become affordable. This Sinclair ZX80 even ran BASIC, and according to the ad you could be writing complex programs in a week. With confidence even! The first computer I ever used was a Commodore 64. I remember it loaded up in DOS, and through trial and error I figured out how to start the computer games we had for it, which ran on 5 inch floppies. One was a Superman game that really pissed me off. Anyway, the Nintendo was a lot better for gaming.
Anyway, my day was enjoyable, overall, but now the day is mostly over and I have some Anthropology homework that’s due by midnight!
On the way home from class tonight, I passed a flower shop that still had quite a few nice bouquets of roses and other flowers set out. Instead of making me smile, I frowned and kept on walking by. It’s not that I have a problem with Valentine’s Day, since I love having an excuse to get my wife a gift, but this is another holiday I’m spending apart from her. It’s not that I want to focus on the negative, but it’s hard to see these opportunities go by, knowing that it’s a holiday lost, that I didn’t get to spend with her. There’ll be another Valentine’s Day next year; we’re both still young, but this one is passing us by without us being able to share it, together.
It’s strange how we become accustomed to certain things. We get comfortable and assume that someone will always be there. We begin to take things for granted. It’s only when that person is absent that we realize just how big a part of our life they really are. I love my wife, I always have, but now that we’re separated, especially today of all days, I realize just how much I rely on her and enjoy her company. My wife is my inspiration, my motivation, and my joy in life. Everything loses its luster when she’s not with me to share the experience.
Next year, we’ll be together for Valentine’s Day, and I’m looking forward to doing something extra cheesy, a walk through Central Park perhaps, or maybe we’ll do the touristy thing and ride in a horse drawn carriage. Or maybe we’ll go exploring in the main New York Public Library. Whatever it is we do, we’ll do it together, and being together will be the best gift of all. That and a nice dinner.
Ok, so maybe it’s not all that bad. In fact, it could be a lot worse. The fact remains, however, that I spent this Christmas apart from my wife, and that seriously put a dent in my holiday spirit. This year just feels different. The ‘spirit’ of the holiday seems to have gone around me without touching me. The lights are up. The tree is there. The gifts are under it. The food was good. I had family around me. And yet, without my wife it seems pale. All I can do is look forward to next year, when we can do things right. Next Christmas will be extra special.
Some of my photos came out fairly decent, so I thought I’d share a few.
Traditionally, my mom’s side of the family does Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, so last night we had a simple meal of roast pork, black beans with rice and yuca. It looks simple, but trust me, it tasted great! We also had cake and homemade oatmeal cookies.
This morning we followed up the dinner with a really good, traditional breakfast of bacon, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes and eggs.
Christmas isn’t completely without joy this year, but like I said, it’s just not the same. My wife and I spent every day together for almost 2 and a half years until we had to temporarily part ways. It really puts a damper on my holiday spirit, and instead of really enjoying this Christmas, it feels more like another step on a path to something more fulfilling, when my wife and I will be together again. I’m looking forward to it.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope your day was as enjoyable as mine! I’m still stuffed, though I managed to not give in to the turkey coma earlier. My eyes were really, really heavy for a while! This is the first time I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with family in years, so it was a nice change. I’m going to enjoy celebrating US holidays again, that’s for sure! The only thing that would have made it better is if a certain special someone were here with me, but business is business, and there’s always next year.
I happened to be up by Bloomingdales today and they were literally rolling out the red carpet.
They also had red curtains covering the windows.
I remembered hearing something on the news about Christmas displays being revealed at another store and they made it come across as a big deal. I’m surprised that in a city like New York, something as trivial as the unveiling of Christmas window displays is newsworthy. Of course, since it is such a big deal, I’m curious to know what’s behind those curtains myself. I suppose I’ll see the next time I pass through.
Some people aren’t quite as patient as I am though. There was some guy walking back and forth. I thought he was talking to himself at first but then I realized he was holding what looked like one of those Flip video cameras. Maybe he was using UStream or something, or just recording. I don’t know. Anyway, he tried to get in behind the curtain and got shooed away. He was laughing about it into the camera, saying he got busted trying to peek in. Later, I swear I saw the same guy on the TMZ segment on Fox 5. The guy I saw on the street looked just like the chubby white guy on the show. Could be coincidence. Who knows?
Veterans Day is a day for honoring veterans of the armed forces in the US. This morning, there was a parade to honor the federal holiday. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it or I’d have been there taking photos. I guess I’ll have to make sure to go there next year to check it out.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m a veteran myself. I served in the US Army for 8 years, and I’ll take this opportunity to brag about some of my achievements. I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. I was part of the initial force that moved into Iraq, right after the Iraqi Republican Guard was bombed on the border. I was deployed again in 2007 for an Air Defense Artillery operation. While I was in, I racked up a stack of certificates of appreciation and certificates of achievement, as well as more notable awards like 3 Army Achievement Medals and a Good Conduct Medal. I also had the opportunity to participate in a German weapons qualification range and scored a Silver. I missed Gold by 1 round from a 9mm. There’s plenty more that I did, including community service projects like assisting kindergarten teachers with classes in El Paso, but you get the point. I did service to the country, and today was a day to celebrate that service, and get some free food!
Quite a few food chains had specials today, offering free or discounted meals to veterans, and I took the opportunity to meet up with a guy I served with in Kuwait at Applebee’s on 50th Street, near Times Square. It was the first time we’d seen each other since we left Kuwait in early 2008. We were greeted warmly, treated well, and the food was good. I had to pay for my drink, but with the dish being free, I couldn’t complain. It was interesting seeing veterans and active duty members of various branches of the service in the Applebee’s. Some showed up in uniform, some didn’t, but you could almost always tell who was military or a veteran at a glance. I guess something of the culture stays with you.
After my friend and I left Applebee’s we decided to avail ourselves of another offer we’d seen posted around the Internet: the free six inch sub from Subway. So, I pulled out my phone, looked up Subway on Google Maps, and away we went. We walked into the Subway at 136 W 44th Street and asked about the offer. We were told that Subway didn’t have any offer like that, and they couldn’t do anything for us. So, we walked out and we decided we’d try a different location. First, I looked up Subway again on Google Maps and then decided to call ahead, before we wasted a bunch of time walking all over the city. I decided to call the 126 West 41st Street location, since it was the next closest, and the woman that answered said she’d never heard of what I was talking about either. However, she said she would make an exception and honor the deal we told her was posted all over the Internet, but we’d have to buy a drink along with the free sandwiches. It was better than nothing, so we went ahead and took her up on it. While we were there, other veterans came through the door asking about the deal. According to them, they’d tried to avail of the offer earlier at a Subway near Port Authority but had been turned down there as well.
Later, when I got home, I looked up the offer online and saw that it was marked specifically as being at only certain locations, but based on my experience and hearing from those other vets, I get the feeling that none of the Subways in New York City were honoring the Veterans Day deal, except the one where I talked the girl into partially fulfilling it. Maybe we’d all just had bad luck in which locations we’d walked into though.
I think it’s a shame that any Subway wouldn’t fully honor the agreement as advertised. It is Veterans Day after all! One day a year to say thank you to the people who make sure that places like Subway can remain operating in a free country. One day a year to give out a sandwich to say thanks. Oh well. I’ll just remember that for next year.
Overall, it was a great evening, catching up with an old buddy, getting a free meal, and walking around Times Square. I’m looking forward to doing the same again next year. Maybe more people I used to serve with will be in the area and we can arrange to meet up!