After being back in Florida just over a month I took a two week trip to check out some sites in the North East. Originally I was going to fly to New York, meet a friend and we were going to drive together back down south. Unfortunately he ended bailing last minute due to family issues. I already had my plane ticket, so why not go ahead and do this solo.
I flew up to New York on the morning of Black Friday. Actually, before I start I want to say I had an awesome Thanksgiving. We had family and friends over and so much food. I regret having to leave all those leftovers behind. Although my mom did make me a turkey sandwich for the flight up.
Arriving at JFK, I was picked up but my aunt and cousin and taken back to their place in the Bronx. I had a great time catching up with the family, playing monopoly and checking out the Bronx bar scene. I hadn’t been up there in a long time, so it was nice seeing all the familiar sites.
The next day I went to a friend’s place in Manhattan. He happened to be a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Togo too. A great thing about having been in Peace Corps is that when you’re done, your part of this network of friends who live all over the country. We spent the day walking through China Town and down Canal Street. Asian ladies would walk past saying things like “Rolex, Rolex”. I bought myself a cheap pair of gloves.
I was also freezing cold because my time in Florida and then in Togo had not prepared me for weather under 60 degrees.
That night was there was a small Peace Corps Togo reunion. I met up with a few people who had been in Togo but had left a year before me. We ate at a restaurant near NYU called Bareburger. They specialize in organic burgers. The food and beer was great, but there were way too many choices on this menu. With each burger you choose what kind of free range animal you want, followed by which organic cheese, and then which organic bread. I’m glad I don’t do this hippie organic thing too often because they make it overly complicated.
That night I went out to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater to watch some improv. This has become a tradition of mine to check out a show every time I’m in New York. Although it can be hit or miss with the acts, I suggest it for anyone making the trip up there.
The next day I took a somewhat sketchy bus from New York to Wilmington, Delaware. It was with a company called Xinnix. When I went to the station the lady behind the counter asked for my ticket. I showed her the electronic one on my phone, but she said that wouldn’t do. So she decided to print me one there, but the printer wasn’t working. I ended up getting a piece of paper with my destination, driver’s license number, my name and the date written on it. The trip itself down wasn’t bad and it only cost me $25. I spent most the time playing Words With Friends and practicing my French (I love having a smartphone!).
In Delaware I met up with some more friends from Togo. We stopped off at a restaurant/brewery called Iron Mill for delicious burgers and a beer sampler. At the end of the meal I made my first growler purchase. On the way back to my friend’s place we decided to drive by Joe Biden’s house, because he lives near him. We came up to the place and slowly inched by trying to see if Joe was chilling on his property. The driveway was full of white mini vans blocking the entrance and the view. As we made our way by we noticed the closest minivan had a secret service agent in the driver seat staring right at us. First reaction was to drive away fast, but would that be suspicious? Was it already suspicious that we were creeping past Joe Biden’s house? We decided the best course of action was to maintain our speed and slowly drive away while this secret service agent was probably writing down my friend’s license plate info to put him on some sort of watch list.
That night we went out to watch Lincoln, Spielberg’s newest movie. It was alright, but I don’t think it is worth the money to see it in theaters. And some things in it were a little ridiculous. Like when the House was taking in the votes. Why make it so dramatic, did nobody in Congress know how to count? The Amendment passed by a landslide, yet the representatives only reacted in the cheesiest ways possible when the final results were spoken.
Next day I was on a Greyhound to DC. And since that ride I have decided Greyhound is terrible. I bought my ticket a week before and chose the will call option so I wouldn’t have to worry about carrying a ticket around with me. I showed up at the bus station and went to the booth to pick up my ticket. When it was my turn I asked the lady behind the window, with my id and credit card ready, for my ticket. She responded with I was suppose to print it up before getting to the station. I responded back with that I purchased it on will call and didn’t receive an online ticket. I asked if she can print it up here and she responded no because this is not a kiosk. I don’t know what that means. I then asked how am I suppose to get a ticket if I was never emailed one and the only thing Greyhound emailed me was a confirmation to pick it up at this station. She responded she didn’t know. I thought I had moved back to a country that had customer service, but I was beginning to doubt that.
I found a printer and printed up the confirmation email Greyhound had sent me. It clearly stated that I had to pick up my ticket at the station. I brought it back to the station to show the lady, and she responded with that’s not how things work there. I ended up having to buy another ticket there and now have to send in a refund request which I feel is going to get little to no attention. The bus companies I’ve dealt with in developing countries were way more customer friendly and reasonable than Greyhound.
DC was awesome! Again, I stayed with friends from Togo. I ate such good food. The food trucks that show up by the parks at lunch time are so good! They have everything from Ethiopian food to gourmet mac & cheese. I also spent a lot of time checking out the museums, monuments and memorials. I went on runs around the Washington Monument and up the stairs to visit Lincoln sitting in his memorial. The natural history museum had a funny section on Africa and even had a cut out of a marche mama selling her yams. I checked out art at the Smithsonian to catch up on my 1800s Dutch works and learned all I needed to know about Roy Lichtenstein.
I was in DC for about a week and even had a job interview. So now I’ll be starting up with Management Sciences for Health once all the HR stuff goes through.
My next stop was Atlanta, Georgia. I took an Amtrak train down. I didn’t get very much sleep, but I did talk to this guy sitting next to me about his career as a truck driver. Those guys can make a decent salary, but you have to be pretty committed to your work, meaning staying on the road months on end. I don’t know if I could do that.
Stayed with a friend from Togo yet again. We grilled that afternoon, enjoyed some Sweet Waters and then headed to the town next door called Decatur to meet up with friends. There we went out to a place called Leon’s Full Service. If you’re a cocktail connoisseur, this is your place. They also have a bocce ball court out back that offers a good break from sitting inside.
The trip ended the next day with a Greyhound down to Orlando. I made sure to buy an online ticket and print it up this time. The trip down wasn’t too eventful. So I’ll finish this with some excerpts of dialogue that occurred at the Orlando Greyhound Station.
Asian Gangster: Hey, you look like you’re in a gang.
Me (in jeans and a Calvin Klein sweater): Oh yeah, that’s cool.
Asian Gangster: I was in a gang once. Did some crazy sh**. Just got done doing seven years in prison. It was some f***ed up sh**.
He then pulled out his wallet to show me his inmate card that had a picture of him looking much younger.
Asian Gangster: Now I’m out so I’m down here visiting friends. I pretty much just f***ing move up and down finding sh** to do. You know, I don’t f*** around.
Me (trying not to seem freaked out): Wow, yeah… that’s crazy man. Hey isn’t your bus leaving soon? I see the line is moving.
Asian Gangster: Yeah, I’m heading south.
Guy who missed his bus, but is probably a hobo out scamming: Man! I had a train to Alabama yesterday but I didn’t make it!
He held up to my face a crumpled up ticket as proof.
Guy: Now the station is charging me 15 dollars just so I can get home. I have no money, no phone… I don’t even have a place to stay!
Me: Yeah, that sucks. The same thing happened to me on my way down from Georgia. I had to pay 30 dollars.
I made up that story hoping it would somehow get him to leave me alone… it didn’t.
Guy: 30 dollars! So you know what I mean! I’m just looking for help. If anyone here could give me a couple dollars I can start making it back home. I ain’t got nothing here!
Me: Wish I could help but I don’t have any cash on me.
Guy: Oh come on, I just want to go home.
Me (I didn’t want to be a guy yelling at a probable hobo at a bus station so…): I have some change, but that’s all I got.
Guy: Man, I really need dollars if I wanna get back.
Me: This is all I got.
Guy: Oh thanks, this is almost a dollar!
I’m getting in the car about to head home to Clearwater having just refused buying a hobo Oreos.
Angry Hobo: Hey! Thanks for nothing a**hole!
Me: No problem!