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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Everything is Big in Texas, Part 1

Big as in big memories. Puwede na? Hahaha.

Texas was not really part of my US tour itinerary. It so happened that there’s a corporate event in Texas and we were invited. It was a two-day event held in a far, far, far away resort in Austin called Lakeway Spa and Resort (nice room, nice bed). It was a Thursday when we were asked to catch an early morning flight to the venue. That’s another big first for me: waking up at 4am then driving the freeway on pitch black.

On my way to Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, I kept myself awake through an FM radio program that was reminiscent of our Joe, the Mango segment. There was a contest with a concert VIP pass as a prize. All you had to do is to write any sentimental memoir that best fits the concert artist’s latest hit (I forgot the name of the band but it might sound like “Second Serenade”). The winner happened to be a young dad who wrote to his wife. Their relationship was on the rocks. They have three or four kids, I think. Before reading the letter, the DJ made sure that the wife was listening from the other end. I didn’t find anything special on the letter. It was an honest take on the current situation of their marriage. And, at that point, the letter served as their second wind. The show ended up with the girl sobbing and making promises to consider a new lease on love. By then, dawn was approaching and I can see some bits of sunshine trying to get in the picture. I was driving along the beautiful stretch of fenced horse ranches while fog was visible from afar. I almost pulled the car.

During lunchtime, Arnold, Allan and I were already having an eat-and-run in one of the halls in the Austin resort. It was so quick as we wished to catch up with the rest of the afternoon activities. After half an hour of getting-to-know-you with other peeps, we were asked to get a ride from one of their golf cars. No, we did not do golfing. We sailed, actually. As in lifestyle-of-the-rich-and-famous kind of boatsailing!

At 2pm, we were divided into nine different four or five-member teams then asked to proceed to the lake port. Each group was assigned with a captain. Ours happened to be a couple on their 60’s.

On the boat, there was a short Sailing 101. We were already in barefoot by then as this was the best way to roam around. We were speeding through an engine as we’re trying to get in the middle of the lake. Call me chicken but I asked for a life vest, as I am not a swimmer. For the whole group, I think there were only two of us who were wearing that loud reddish safety gear.

After a few minutes, we were assigned with a task. One should do the maneuvering; another one should manage the main jib plus two other on the side for the other jib. I volunteered to just pass the cranker in case there’s a shift on the side that manages the smaller jib.

The fun part of course happened when wind came in. From that team building activity alone, I learned to feel the wind and look for it on the lake by checking the darker shade. When a sailing has to be done (meaning there’s a wind), every jibbing and maneuvering should be done in proper order in a commando-like manner. The captain has to shout something and the other jibbers should respond accordingly. Since I was not really of importance that afternoon as cranker passer, I didn’t have to shout anything. Even if I had to, I don’t know if I can even utter a syllable as the boat tilted (don’t ask me the angle, thank you) from side to side (later on, I managed to master the trick by not looking at the water). For two enjoyable long hours, the whole group raced from one side to another. We ended up fourth on the first round and sixth or seventh on the second round.

By the way, the pictures that you can get from here were taken in between passing the cranker.

Everything is Big in Texas, Part 2

How about big as in big time?

The next day, at five in the afternoon, Allan and I were already comfortably seated in the Greyhound bus on our way to Houston. It took us 45 minutes to reach the station through a cab from the resort. The thing with Greyhound, we realized, is to always queue 30 minutes before the bus arrives. Even if you already have a ticket, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get a seat for the trip on that particular schedule. I got this info with my bus seatmate. Only five or six passengers behind us made it. The rest had to wait for the next bus that could or could not have a long stop somewhere.

We arrived in Houston at quarter before nine in the evening. Minutes later, I received a text message from Don-don (a “kababayan” and a former vice mayor’s youngest son). We were then met at the nearby Mc Donalds parking lot along with Don-don’s wife Ruby. After a few minutes, we’re already having a blast at a Thai restaurant that was about to close. The place happens to be my friend and his wife’s all-time trusted restaurant.

The next day, at 9am-ish, we were already heading the first pit stop for the day: IHOP (which stands for International House of Pancakes). I enjoyed my breakfast sampler of pancakes, bacon, sausage and eggs. Since we only had one whole day to invade Houston, we spent most of the time in NASA’s Space Center.

It was one hot and humid Saturday and the center was already peppered with tourists, forming some three long lines for the tickets. I was glad that I didn’t have to queue since I already got my ticket online. We just waited for Don to buy two tickets for him and Ruby. The center isn’t that big. But I can say that it’s pretty much jampacked with everything about the outer space. Talking about something “spacious”. The displays range from old astronaut suits to Star Wars gadgets and mock spaceships. There was an activity center in the middle of the center (which doesn’t make much sense if we’re holding on the “space” theme) that keeps the kids busy.

At the other end of the center is another line dock for tram rides. Now you have two options: the blue tour that leads you to the control center (where “Houston, we have a problem” was first relayed perhaps) and the red tour that brings you to a junk shop-like of spacecraft. Both tours had a side trip at the gigantic Saturn V (a few feet longer than the Statue of Liberty) that is housed in a warehouse-like building. Forget the tour guide’s comment that it is optional. Saturn V is definitely a must-see.

Aside from the usual showcase, there’s another portion that serves as a museum. It’s called something like Starship Gallery. It has a wide range of display from toiletry that austronauts use to toy dinosaur and old-school camera. Don’t miss the chance to hold a real moon rock. It’s a must-do.

We left Space Center at 4pm and had a late, late lunch at a Chinese restaurant. It was a buffet-style dinner with a variety of the usual dishes and an overload of tiger shrimps. To spend the rest of the afternoon, we headed to Kemah Boardwalk that is like a marina area similar to Newport in Kentucky and perhaps the Bay Area in San Francisco. It was sunset time and people started to enjoy the last hurrah of tanning sunshine. A bunch of nice restaurants sits in the area. It was a bit crowded because it was a Saturday but I enjoyed the ambiance of the place. From the parking lot, you can see thousands of sailboats docked and being docked. The site is simply amazing. It actually minimizes the impression that Texas is just cowboys and boots. We left the place at roughly 10pm after having a mug of frap from Starbucks and purchasing a giant playing cards.

Sunday, the next day, was almost unforgettable if not from the shaky airplane touchdown in Lexington and the warm hospitality we got from Don-don and Ruby.

The rest of the pics here.

Limang Oras

Heto, naghihintay sa pagsapit
Ng pagsilang mong naninikip
Nanganganib sa delubyong
Sumasanib, pumipikit

Ilang hibas ang pinalipas
Sa pagkitil ng pagkatali
At pag-asang magmahal
Madapa at magwakas

Heto, naghihintay sa pagsapit
Ng pagdurusang nais bumangon
Mangarap sa panahong
Humahapit, tumataib

Limang oras ang paparating
Sa sulok na lumiliwanag
Pumapalag sa pagkakatong
Nahihimlay, nananalig

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Movie Digest # 046

AMC 30 Cinemas (Houston, Texas), Cinema 23, July 19, 11:25pm

Best superhero film I’ve seen so far. Perhaps on the same level with M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable”. I am particularly fascinated with the fact that it tries to please all the sectors of the moviegoing public. Popcorn movie crowd, check. Comic book fans, check. Critics, check. Acting is so good across all the actors. If others were mindblown by Heath Ledger’s Oscar-worthy swan song, I would always go for Gary Oldman’s quiet performance. On top of that, I am hooked to its comic book-like editing, particularly in the scenes that take place at the same time (like when Batman has to choose between Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes). As for the script, the plot twists do not disappoint. Not to mention the irony (the evolution of Harvey Dent and his presence pitted against another hero, Batman turning into an outlaw, etc.) and the wisdom (people in the two ferries, The Joker having no definite backstory, etc.) the film tries to partake.

Friends who might appreciate it: serious and not so serious alike.

Chakeres Franklin Cinema 6 (Frankfort, Kentucky), Cinema 5, July 20, 10:00pm

I am not surprised that the movie did not sweep me off my feet. It’s just OK for me (like Randy Jackson commenting on an American Idol wannabe’s audition piece). I can say that the stagey feel is there, optimizing the cinematic platform as a giant stage with beautiful blockings and danceable sequences but it doesn’t put much effort to a point that you’ll forget the Broadway version. The literal encore numbers in the film are corny which is the opposite when you see the musical stage equivalent. Meryl Streep did her best but, for sure, somebody could play the part better and groovier. The only thing she successfully did was to anchor the material into more of a cinematic piece than stagey. This is proven in the “The Winner Takes it All” number where she used all her might to come up with a scene that is dependent on her facial expression and dramatics. Well, you can never go wrong with Abba (and the breathtaking Greek isles). And that’s more of the material’s strength than of the film.

Friends who might appreciate it: those who haven’t seen the stage version.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Requiem for Canon S60

July 20, 6:28pm. I’m sitting here in one of the couches of Atlanta International Airport’s Gate A16 area waiting to board for the Delta flight back to Lexington, Kentucky. I’m facing a standard door-sized glass window, catching some two to three seconds of planes ascending. To my right is a Starbucks stall (but I had Dunkin Donuts’ large hot coffee and a vanilla kreme donut).


It was exactly a week ago when my beloved Canon S60 made a not-so-graceful exit from this cruel world. It’s been with me for roughly two years and six months. As far as I can remember, I got the idea of buying that model through Josh who had the same toy while we were assigned onsite for the Belfast project. I did not even check for its specs, I trusted Josh’s taste and eye for good stuff. I think I borrowed his camera over one London weekend and from there, I was hooked with the features (especially the C mode from its “creative zone”).

My Canon S60 is, a matter of fact, my very first digital camera. A friend from Singapore got it for me for P3,000 cheaper compared to having it purchased in Manila. With it are a cleaning kit and a sling camera bag. Just like a girlfriend (as if I’m credible enough to use this metaphor), my departed camera has been with me through thick and thin, through Cubao-X and Venice, through rain or shine, through lovelife and heartaches, through mini-lives and mini-deaths.

On my trip to New York (with Allan, Vianney and Waw), under the Brooklyn Bridge, my camera began showing signs of what’s about to unfold two weekends after. An error E18 was displayed (and still displaying until now). Google says it’s about the lens being stuck due to a fall or any incident similar to that. I remember that it had a major fall when I was on top of a jeepney on my way to Sagada from Banawe. I forgot to zip the sling bag and from about ten feet, it hit the rocky ground in front of a gigantic Marian monument. A group of Koreans then were all pointing to my poor camera while I was clueless of something that is unimaginable of me (knowing me being OC and stuff).

Nothing glaring about the fall’s impact to my cam. Just some scratches and, pretty much, that’s it. It was working fine. From that summer of 2007 down to the last July 4th weekend, my S60 braved through a lot of storms. And that meant a lot to me. My Canon S60 has always made me proud to say that my shots are “plainly point-and-shoot shots” (and made me not to clamor much for DSLR).

To my departed friend, my Canon S60, thanks to all the wonderful memories you’ve given me. As one of the poems said, “you’re always be my north”.


An artist is as good as his last performance, so to speak. Check out my Canon S60’s swan song from this link. Pictures were taken from my very first interstate long drive. From Kentucky’s Corbin (where Col. Sanders of KFC first concocted his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices) and Berea (awesome Craft Festival) up to Ohio’s Cincinnati (specifically to an amazing plaza called Fountain Square where three scoops of Graeter's Ice Cream were waiting), and again, from Kentucky’s Louisville (with that giant baseball bat at the Slugger Museum and Factory), Elizabethtown (remember that Orlando Bloom-Kirsten Dunst film?) and Hodgenville (the great Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace) down to Tennessee’s Nashville (home to US country music). The last pit stop was not documented as my Canon S60 was already six feet under before leaving Hodgenville.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Well, just make a wild guess about the title and you’ll have my extra Hairspray playbill. Yeah, the prize is too cheap to even make an effort.

I had my first glimpse of New York upclose from the United 688’s window. The date is July 3, 2008. It was close to eight in the evening and the sunset wasn’t grand. It was cloudy and gray and rainy. The plane was circling Manhattan and Queens like a dog waiting for a nice pee spot. View on top was not honestly overwhelming. What’s with the tall buildings? There’s no goosebumps whatsoever. Maybe I had too much films on the Big Apple (Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”, with Topeng’s help).

Arriving in La Guardia didn’t help my anticipation of the whole trip. The airport is, err, too simple and not chic enough. Nothing much to do in the area aside from picking up some flyers on Broadway shows and what-have-you’s. For an hour, I was trying to figure out where to meet Vistan only to realize that we’re hitting New York in two different terminals. Since I arrived early, I took a certain Bus B that brings passengers from terminal to terminal. It’s free, by the way. Few minutes after, Vistan arrived. He mentioned that he already saw Ground Zero and Central Park from his American Airlines.

From La Guardia’s transportation front desk, we availed the “shared van” which is pretty much a version of our very own FX. It has to be filled with passengers first before hitting the city center, depending on your destination. We paid $16 each for that, cheaper by some bucks if we took a cab.

We didn’t reach Comfort Inn – Convention Center smoothly. There was a mistake in the registration part (the reason could be Comfort Inns are everywhere). After passing at Bronx (yes, the Bronx where neighborhood was busy with “tambays” doing their business), we were pulled off at the “Manhattan” branch. Afraid of being charged for another dollar and for the sake of hailing the signature yellow cab and a chance to get a cash cab, we took a taxi that cost us $4.50 (plus $2 tip). The real Comfort Inn is just streets away from the decoy but we didn’t mind. We must reserve the energy for three fun-filled days of invading the city that never sleeps.

True to the form, we didn’t sleep just yet. At close to midnight, Vistan and I were hunting for food and we landed at Sbarro after walking two or three blocks (near Madison Square Garden).

At 1am, Vianney and Waw arrived at the hotel, trying to sneak in past a dozen of security cameras. A minute later, the phone rang asking how many were we in the room. Sorry, I can’t lie so I told the front desk officer in duty that we’re four (the room is relatively small but manageable). That time I had to deal the situation by going down to the lobby. It so happened that “manong”, an African-American, bought my “kawawa” aura and allowed us to sleep on the floor (inside the room, of course). He said that we can just transfer to a bigger room the next day (which we didn’t do not because we’re at home with the carpeted floor).

Welcome to New York, New York.

NYMP: Day 1

Complete set of pics here.

Our first day was a combination of something patriotic and glam. We can’t afford to sleep more to recuperate from last night’s flight so off we went to the following pit stops:

GRAY’S PAPAYA – Don’t be misled, this is a hotdog corner. And what a way to start that thing called New York walk by having a nice hotdog sandwich for breakfast. It’s cheap and yummy and very much celebrated. Just check out its Wikipedia entry for more info. This itinerary was Vistan’s suggestion footnoting “Fools Rush In” for the eagerness. Perhaps the most monumental part in this hotdog experience was that we had our very first Pinoy sighting in the form of one of the stall’s staffs.

STATUE OF LIBERTY – Of course, what’s New York without this touristy choice. To go there, we took subway Line E, down to the South Ferry Station. We were not aware that we were already in the train stop. A Salma Hayek-ish girl approached us and prompted us that it was time to alight. For that particular trip, we were informed that we should stay in the train’s first coach to get out. Well, the idea of coach-hopping was very cinematic (as in you have to really experience pulling the sliding door while trying not to trip off).

First thing to do to see the famous green statue is to head to Battery Park’s Castle Clinton which looks like a round citadel reminiscent of walls of Intramuros. The ticket booth for the ferry is right in the middle of the “castle”. For both Liberty and Ellis Islands, the ticket costs $16. That doesn’t include access to dear Liberty’s crown.

Next thing is to queue which will either take a few minutes or an hour, depending on what time you arrive to the area. At 9:30am, it was pretty long. And it was raining that day. Thanks to my P55-raincoat and the boyscout in me (hey, Vistan got my blue jacket and red “guwapo” hat while Vianney and Waw had my mini-umbrella). Ferries to the islands arrive every 15 minutes but the security check is something that should be considered. Imagine how your carry-on bag is checked in the airport, it’s close to something like that.

Well, the ferry ride itself was worth the price. We had a nice view of lower Manhattan and some parts of New Jersey. After another 15 minutes, we arrived in Liberty Island. Not all passengers had alighted for the ferry then headed to Ellis Island. It’s just a small island but too big for photo opportunity. For 45 minutes, we strolled around the statue which was more gigantic than I expected (and far bigger than its Paris counterpart). Liberty’s green texture is, by the way, caused by oxidation, according to one of the signposts in the area. The copper, which is dark brownish in nature, reacts to air, making it green. This fact is supported by the roof of some of the buildings in Manhattan.

ELLIS ISLAND – On personal note, this is one of my favorites among the “attractions” in New York. In the island is one building that once served as immigration center for all the migrants from all over the world. Very historical and rich in stories to tell. If only the walls could talk, it must be telling about how New York became multi-cultural and multi-lingual. When we visited the center, there was an ongoing play (it’s free) about Bela Lugosi’s entry to the US. We skipped that one since we still need to accomplish other items in the itinerary.

FIFTH AVENUE – After visiting the haven for photography buffs called B&H, off we went to Fifth Avenue through Line A. First spot was a church that we mistook for St. Patrick. We were walking south-bound then, passing a Zara store which was a flytrap for the girls (later on, Vianney, got a new gray hoody from the shop). After locating the real St. Patrick, we just crossed the street and was tempted with the first “I Heart NY” classic tee store. We all purchased a shirt for $6 each only to realize that Chinatown sells it six for $10. Fifth Avenue, by the way, is our Ayala Avenue.

ROCKEFELLER CENTER – The area is a pleaser. It has shops, office space and the NBC studio. In front of GE Building, you can find the landmark bronze Greek god statue. In winter, the area is transformed into an skating rink overlooking a huge Christmas tree. We didn’t spend much time in the area as we were looking for café to recharge and have some caffeine fix. That time, I wanted to avail the NBC Studio Tour but time was limited and rest, a luxury.

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY – I have to admit that what fascinated me to include this in the itinerary (aside, of course, that it’s along Fifth Avenue) was the fact that the film franchise of “Sex and the City” had some scenes shot in the classic Beaux art building. I am talking about Carrie’s wedding with Mr. Big (which was called off and Sarah Jessica Parker had to deliver a nice breakdown scene in one of the stairways). After having a photo taken on that particular corner where Carrie did not say a word and just dropped her celfone, we hung out at the façade’s stairs (a la Guerrero Hall). There was an ongoing street performance and the mood was very much like a Sunday afternoon.

GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL – From the public library, we turned right to 42nd St. and headed to one of New York’s defininite familiar sights, a train station that is so grand and definitely the cleanest I’ve seen. Though the place was a bit busy for a July 4, I didn’t feel exhausted at all. The interior has a cozy ambiance as intensified by some zodiac constellations on the ceiling (Virgo is definitely missing). Soft lighting helps a lot to add texture and drama to what’s already dramatic vibes in the area. Toilets are clean and easy to locate (and no gritty cinematic feel of hookers sauntering around).

CHRYSLER BUILDING – Still along 42nd St., we passed by another iconic building which is called Chrysler Building (another proof that I ‘m not really into cars as I incorrectly pronounce this as “crees-ler” not “crys-ler”). It’s most of the time shown in a scene that is supposed to be in New York City.

UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS - For few more blocks, we were in front of the United Nations Headquarters which is not that impressive from the outside but it’s good to see that very important building. That’s also where the queue’s starting point for the fireworks. Before we lined up, an NYPD officer’s attention was caught by my little travel book called “Top 10 New York - Eyewitness Travel Guide from DK” (I’m a fan of the series but I got the idea from Leah for she has most of the titles). Mr. Policeman did some scribbles on the book as he suggested for a must-visit list. He also mentioned that he always makes it a point to accomplish the top ten spots everytime he visits a city. The conversation ended by pointing us to another officer named “Richard” who, as the officer said, happens to be a Filipino. We didn’t bother approaching the other guy.

MACY’S JULY 4th FIREWORKS – Along Franklin D. Roosevelt (simply FDR) Drive and right behind the UN building, we secured a nice spot to wait for the sky to be lighted up with fireworks. If the whole NY trip is a leg for “Amazing Race”, then the waiting game was probably the Yield segment. We did hang around for more than three hours while being soaked with occasional drizzle and talking to some accidental “kababayan”. Fireworks display started at 9:30pm which was a sensual experience and comparable to what I’ve seen in Pyro Olympics back home. The whole show lasted for 40 minutes. We ended up both satisfied and hungry. And the accident along 2nd Avenue leaving a man lying on the slippery street didn’t help. We’re clueless if he’s still alive. What we’re sure of is that we’re immortals as we managed to reach the hotel on foot (2nd Avenue corner 42nd St. down to 9th Avenue corner 36th St.). Tip of the day: always bring Alaxan FR.

NYMP: Day 2

Complete set of pics here.

The second day was more walks and less sunshine. We’ve got a mixture of a TV show, seaport, a bridge and Broadway lights. Here’s how the second day went:

NBC’S TODAY SHOW – This itinerary was not included in the original draft. We just put this out of the blue, something that is worthy of adrenaline rush for our tired feet and muscle pains. From the hotel, we took Line A again going to Fifth Avenue then walk straight to Rockefeller Center. In front of the NBC Studio is a makeshift TV set for Today Show where daypassers were lined up in the area waiting for those fifteen minutes of fame. At 8:30am, there we were, waving and jumping and trying to be recognized on national television. During the commercial break, I managed to catch Lenna Wolfe’s (one of the hosts) autograph and some photo opportunity. I have yet to get a copy fromVistan. Breakfast followed at Dean and Deluca. Their Chai Latte is a must-try.

SOUTH STREET SEAPORT – After strolling along Fifth Avenue for quicky shopping and taking pictures of the Philippine Embassy, we headed to South Street Seaport to locate the less busy tkts branch (where half-the-price Broadway shows are being sold). From the subway station, we walked along John St. trying to find Front St. that is located near the pier area where ferries and water taxis are docked. We queued for roughly 30 minutes for “Hairspray” tickets ($60 each). The choice for the musical to watch didn’t come easy. We singled out “Chicago”, “Grease” and “Hairspray” based on Vistan’s preference. We crossed out “Chicago” for the material was found to be too heavy. As for the remaining two, we cannot decide and we ended up tossing a coin that gave us head for “Hairspray”.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE – After having a nice lunch at the seaport and after a thorough discussion on the thesis that the foot of Brooklyn Bridge is walkable from where we were eating, we ended up walking. The other option was to take subway from Wall St. Anyway, while on foot, we cannot figure out the spiral staircase along Gold St. that was suggested by an NYPD officer. That is where we’re supposed to get into the bridge. In between takes, my camera conked out creating a particular "Error 018" (and a mental nosebleed) but later on became friendly again by shifting back to OK mode. Since the trek to the bridge’s first tower will consume the remaining energy, Vianney and Waw decided to wait at City Hall Park (which is just in front of another Beaux art City Hall building). Reaching the first tower was like a walk in the park. If not for the energy-zapping morning walk and the sun, the trek could be easier. Right side of the path is designated for walking while left part is for bikers. Just be vigilant of your designated path as some bikers are riding really fast. After acquiring a thousand more pictures, we went back to the City Hall Park.

BROADWAY – I notice that most US towns have their own Broadway St. I am not sure if it literally has something to do with the street broad or something. Anyway, New York’s Broadway is different cause the city is very much synonimous to this overwhelming platform of musical theaters and the like. Almost every corner has a marquee of the ongoing show. “Hairspray” is currently being staged at Neil Simon Theater that is pretty much easy to find from the 50th St. subway station. Though I was tired and sleepy the whole staging time, I enjoyed the production. Of course, what’s a play experience without autograph signing? I only got two, which was not bad.

TIMES SQUARE – As in New York Times Square. The newspaper office used to rent a place in the area hence the name. Now it’s magically transformed into an engulfing sights and city sounds of titanic neon light billboards and yellow cabs and NYPD on duty. There’s no need to absorb everything or digest what’s the place really all about. Just take more and more pictures and enjoy cinema verite at its finest. Now I can say that this is the New York I know and this is the spot where I can call the city as the “city that never sleeps”. I can almost hear the intro of Sinatra’s “New York, New York” (which I later on realized to be more politically correct as New York City of the State of New York).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NYMP: Day 3

Complete set of pics here.

The last day was planned to be another hectic day as we tried to jampack it with some highlights and lowlights. Sunday was well spent with the following pit stops:

GROUND ZERO – As much as the Americans are very vocal that “they will never forget”, the area is now being transformed into something else. The photos and some exhibit that used to line up the space where World Trade Center used to stand tall were nowhere to be found. We just had a peak on what’s being done in the excavation and proceeded to the next stop.

WALL STREET – From Trinity Church, Wall St. can easily be found which is just right across. The first building in the alley is the New York Stock Exchange where the world economy is being dictated. Again, the building is another Beaux art (close to Manila Post Office and the like). Near it is the Federal Hall where a giant George Washington monument is erected. That’s the spot where the first US President did his oath taking.

CENTRAL PARK – The huge park serves as Manhattan’s oxymoron to its tall buildings and dirty avenues. What you expect from a recreational center are here: boating in a lake, street performances, great lawn, jogging lanes, trees, fountains, long benches, performing arts, monuments, fresh air and everything green. Consider Central Park as the park of all parks. I can even spend a year’s Sundays here, relaxing in one corner to another (I don’t know about winter though). In between park walks, we also grabbed the chance to quickly visit the American Natural History Musuem. Remember "Night at the Museum"? There.

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART – The building is adjacent to one part of Central Park, facing the upperclass neighborhood of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Vistan and I entered the museum at 4pm (while Vianney and Waw had their own agenda) and we went directly to the Balcony Café at the section originally reserved for the American Wing. As planned, we will just meet up in front of the museum. I first visited the American Wing trying to catch some Edward Hoppers but I was disappointed with their temporary display. They’re mostly copycats of its European contemporaries (pre-Edward Hopper, I presumed). But maybe I was wrong and just pretentious (hahaha). In a real quick phase, I had the chance to pass through the Egyption collection, some Van Goghs and other popular pieces, the Greek sculptures and a very contemporary section of Giorgio Armani’s interpretations of superhero costumes. Too bad, Met had to close at 5:30pm (that was Sunday). That’s probably the shortest walkthrough I had in a museum.

EMPIRE STATE BUILDING – And finally, saving the best for last, the Empire State Building. At 6:30pm, it was surprising to discover that no long queues were in sight. There was an announcement that there’s a 50-50 chance to be cloudy and the visibility could be poor. We just ignored the warning and proceeded to the booth (a ticket costs $19). The only thing that slowed us down was the elevator queue from the 80th floor to the 86th. By the way, at the building’s entrance, Rico, a former officemate in my first company met us. I was about to send him an SMS when he suddenly popped up out of nowhere. He brought with him two pairs of shoes for another friend who is now based in Australia. Anyway, truth to be told, the view from the deck is one for the books. It was the perfect time for photo session as the late afternoon sun provided a camera-friendly natural light. I wish I could have stayed longer to see Manhattan transform into Gotham City.
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