Bitching Brew

Friday, June 02, 2006

Remembrance of a summer past.

Earlier this evening, whilst rooting through a stack of papers and second-hand books, I came across the notebook from my American adventure. I'd always meant to write those notes up into proper prose, but never got around to it. Besides, I gave up on the journal half-way through; I had fallen several days behind due to the sheer volume of stories.

I hadn't so much as glanced at the notebook in several months. I was surprised at how leaden the writing was, even by my exemplary standards. In fairness, there was a discernable improvement in style and sentence construction over the few weeks' entries. The first dozen pages or so are woeful.

However, leaving aside the clumsy rhythms, the notebook is chock-full of observations. The littlest and the strangest things seemed to have taken on significance for me. I shouldn't be surprised; the tendency was commented on while I was over there! Memories are flooding back, and yet it seems so distant. No disputing that it was one of my formative experiences. I'd changed and grown quite a bit by the end, but the impact was still being absorbed for months after.

A few cards and receipts fell out when I opened the small, emerald, hardcovered notebook. Some of them had addresses and emails on them. Now, I belatedly recall failing to respond to a German who sent a friendly email back in January. Oops. I had genuinely meant to respond and attach some photos from the trip, but life got in the way.

Beside me I have a card from the Cuba Libre rum bar in Philadelphia. Apparently they have a sister bar in Atlantic City. Interesting. I also discovered the card from what we referred to as "The Chinatown Bus". That's not the actual name, but it's largely in Chinese, so I can't read it. The Chinatown Bus is a loose term for a group of private coaches plying the trade between the various Chinatowns along the northeastern seaboard. I heard about it through the hostel grapevine, and took it from Philly up to New York. It was a real community-type operation; I was the only non-Asian on that (packed) bus. 'Twas cool though - far more comfortable than Greyhound.

The East Coast was in the grip of a 100 degree heatwave while I was there. So intercity travel with a 25kg backpack was quite the spiritual experience. Never mind that New York was my least favourite stop; I remember my arrival vividly. The notebook helps too.

I parked myself in a window seat on the left-hand side of the bus. Though my backpack was nestled in the hold, I was still overloaded; a paper carrier bag was wedged between my feet, with the small travel bag on my lap. That made a comfortable platform for writing! A mother and baby were seated next to me for the entire bus ride. They seemed friendly, though neither spoke English. This didn't impede their status as the loudest couple on the coach. Hmph. A lot of the notebook was written on that bus, perhaps explaining the poor standard of my Philly diary.

I'd never before been on an American highway, nor indeed witnessed the marvel that is a spaghetti junction. Both flowers were disposed of en route. We cruised across the state of New Jersey on I-95; there wasn't much to see apart from some heavy industry and a monstrous electrical grid. Interstates are incredibly straight, and designed specifically to hide any feature of interest from the driver's view. This does little for the goggle-eyed passenger, but in a region where half the vehicles have sole occupancy, that wasn't unexpected.

I was sad to be leaving Philly behind. I'd had a great few days there, and had made some fun acquaintances in a bar the previous night. One Costa Rican girl in particular was distinctly hot and interested, and I was quite tempted to stick around for a little longer. Yet as I sat collecting my thoughts for the notebook, any regrets were diluted by the anticipation coursing through my veins. After about 90 minutes, we drew close to Jersey City, across the Hudson from Manhattan. The highway was gently steepening, until at the crest of the hill an unforgettable vista unfolded. No more than 30 miles away, framed by the alice-blue sky and the cobalt bay, the famous Manhattan skyline soared above the horizon. It was a magical moment. I was giddy. New York. New York! Wow! WOW! To my fellow passengers, this was humdrum. I wanted to share the gushing thrill, to bounce it off others and drink in their excitement to reinforce and inflate my own even further. But no. I resorted to firing off a couple of text messages in a useless attempt to convey the magic.

Hmm. This post is growing far too lengthy. For my next instalment, I'll reveal what happened on my arrival in Manhattan. Prepare yourselves. :P

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  • How was the Cuba Libre? I've been meaning to check it out.

    By Blogger C the Maven, at Sat Jun 03, 06:53:00 p.m.  

  • The funny thing is that I don't remember it at all! Since there's an email address scribbled on the card, it's quite possible I didn't visit and was given the card. Or just forgot. South Second St was close to my hostel though... Hmm. Hell, give it a try anyway! :D

    By Blogger Martin, at Sat Jun 03, 09:39:00 p.m.  

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