Friday, July 29, 2011

New York, New York

The Big Apple. Wow. Well I made it safely last Monday to New York City (or rather just outside of it in Jersey). I was staying in Hoboken with one of my best friends and to be honest, before arriving I hadn't heard many positive things about New Jersey.  Afterall, MTV did a great job of giving Jersey Shore quite a reputation. Maybe the low expectations helped, because I was pleasantly surprised.  With local bars mixed in with stores and row houses alike, it was a young neighborhood with a lot of trendy charm. I was quickly hooked. 

Dave lives in the middle of Hoboken (which isn't difficult as it's a very small town across the Hudson from Manhattan) so I parked my car at his office and enjoyed getting around on public transport and my own two feet for the week.  I made arrangements to meet various friends for a few lunch dates and a happy hour.  Each time I went into Manhattan I either arrived early or stayed late to wander around the city and enjoy the energy that pulsed around me. It's definitely a people watching paradise.

Meeting with friends in NYC: Anne, Maurice, and Neha
Since I have visited New York before, I didn't feel like I needed to do the touristy things, which was good because it was ridiculously hot (over 100 degrees on Wednesday through Friday) and I wasn't really capable of doing much of anything more than wander aimlessly around the city.

Dave and I made it to the theater on Wednesday night for "Sleep No More" but it wasn't the traditional Broadway play that most tourists see in New York.  This "play" for lack of a better term, took place in an old hotel in the Chelsea/Meatpacking District and all of the audience members were encouraged to "watch" by wandering around the floors, peering in rooms, opening dressers and doors, and following after the actors. It was a bit of a mystery as you tried to figure out what part you were watching and who was involved.  At one point a murder occurs which adds to the suspense of it all.

The feeling I had when I left the play was the same as the one I regularly had in AP Literature back in high school...I knew I was supposed to be getting a much deeper meaning but it was definitely escaping me. I had a lot more fun taking it all for face value, being completely voyeuristic, and running after the actors.  And I had the help of someone who had been to the show before and could fill me in on some of the other things that we didn't see (each time you go back you see things differently as you wander around the building and see different scenes at different times).

On Friday I was on my own so I hit up a local Hoboken bar and quickly made friends. I spent the entire night talking to the bouncer, the bartender, and (as I found out later) the bar owner, and a revolving door of guys that sat down next to me.  It was highly entertaining and made for a fun night out, even if I didn't make it across the Hudson into Manhattan, it still felt like New York to me (although all the locals would definitely disagree).

Saturday was another hot day and after a late night I wasn't up for much. But it meant that I was well rested for a night in Manhattan.  I was not disappointed. Sushi in Manhattan at a bar that we pulled up on my phone after getting off the train, drinks at a bar in the Meatpacking District, back to Hoboken to meet some friends for dancing and more drinks, and then back to Manhattan before the bars closed, and finally some late night (or early morning) pizza before getting back into Hoboken as the sun was rising.  If I didn't care about my savings (from the paycheck I hope to have soon), I would move here in an instant!

At Coney Island on the boardwalk
After sleeping most of the day away on Sunday (I needed to catch up somehow), we headed out to Coney Island for a hot dog and a walk on the boardwalk.  It was a perfect way to end my week in New York, well that and a late-night date on Sunday with someone I met on the train ride out to Hoboken on Friday. This city sure moves fast.

Next stop...Boston, Cape Cod, and Rhode Island.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Midwest...

The St. Louis Arch
I may have left the Midwest, but it still feels like home whenever I go back.  I've accomplished a lot in the last 10 days. Let's see how well I can summarize it, since I've been a little delayed in updating my blog.  My time in St. Louis flew by as I met with friends (one of whom I hadn't seen in 10 years!), and enjoyed some rest and relaxation.  Even with the ridiculous heat (it was in the high 90s when I was leaving), I loved the time I was able to spend there.
Part of my motivation for staying in St. Louis a full week was so that I could see the last Harry Potter movie with a few of my friends there.  We went all out and saw it in 3D, although it wasn't my favorite movie of the series it was fun to end an era with my friends.

On Saturday I took off and headed north and east, with a stop at the arch (a must see when you visit St. Louis) and a stop in Indianapolis to visit a friend for lunch. I grabbed dinner in Columbus with another friend and his girlfriend before heading just outside of the city to visit one of my three cousins that live in the city.

Two of my college roommates Doug and Ryan
At the Harry Potter movie

Watching the Polar Bear at the Columbus Zoo
We enjoyed some evening cocktails on Buckeye Lake that night (and s'mores because it's summer time and why not?).  On Sunday I was treated to a full tour of the city.  As it was my first visit to the area I didn't have a lot of expectations. After such a great day with some awesome guides, I may not be able to match it again.  We visited the zoo (one of the best in the country) and the recently opened polar bear exhibit was a highlight.  I watched from under a glass ceiling as the bear jumped in just after we arrived and swam and played above us (it was awesome).  But the day wasn't over yet because I was then treated to a VIP table at Buca di Beppo (we sat at the special table in the kitchen, just by chance) and enjoyed a tour of Columbus including a campus tour and a private showing of the Ohio State Football Stadium (It helps to know the right people.  With just the three of us in the entire stadium I got to run out on the field.  Even though I'm not an OSU fan I was impressed).

On the Ohio State Football field
With the Family at Buca di Beppo

Monday morning I headed off to New York City for another week of catching up with friends and enjoying the sites... that week deserves it's own blog entry entirely.  More to come...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Bit of Southern Hospitality

The Mighty Mississippi River
This past weekend I drove to Portageville, Missouri for the wedding of one of my best friends from college. I met one of my college roommates in St. Louis and the two of us drove 3 hours south for the weekend of events.

We were immediately welcomed to Malena's family's home (and their pool) for a relaxing Friday afternoon.  Then we hit up the local bar where we made friends with everyone there within 20 minutes of sitting down. It was a typical small town pub and I was lovin' it. Around 8pm a few other people that were clearly visiting for the wedding came wandering in (which was evident by the big eyes and tentative steps they were taking into the bar). We quickly welcomed them and soon they were just as comfortable as everyone else.  And then the wedding party showed up with the rest of the family and the socializing really got started. It was a great way to start the wedding weekend.

Beth and I with the Bride
We got in some pool time again on Saturday morning (and for a little while we were joined in the pool by the Father of the Bride, much to the dismay of the Mother of the Bride). It was looking to be a beautiful day with just enough clouds and no more heat and humidity than was necessary to remind us that we were in the South. After cleaning up at the hotel we took a shuttle to the church (which was actually a couple limos - Awesome!). It was going to be a packed church so we were happy the A/C was cranked up. Another friend and I went behind the scenes to wish the bride a bit of luck before the ceremony (she looked gorgeous of course and despite our matching dress color we weren't actually in the wedding party).

It was a neat ceremony. Performed by the groom's uncle in a Catholic church that seats 270, it was stuffed to the gills. Andrew's family is Ukranian so the ceremony was Ukranian Orthodox and 90% was sung by the priest and his assistant. There were traditional crowns placed on heads of the bride and groom and the congregation participated in much of the ceremony with responses. I'm sure it was the most unique ceremony that they've had in Portageville for awhile (maybe ever) and I'm glad that I was there to witness it.

The reception started immediately following the ceremony (and we were treated to another ride in the limo to the reception hall). Although the exhibition hall, where the reception was held, was outside of town surrounded by fields of corn and cotton, once you entered it was hard to remember where you were.  The hall was decorated with tables, food displays, and flowers everywhere. It was set up for 500 guests so it had to be big, but with curtains separating the space it never felt overwhelming.

Andrew and Malena at the head table
That night we danced, sang, and enjoyed meeting new people. It was an eclectic group. Andrew's family is from the Ukraine and Pennsylvania. But the couple has been living in Montreal for the last several years.  Malena has lived in LA and DC too. People came from around the world and weren't disappointed with the hospitality of all of the wonderful people in Portageville. There were still a few Ukrainian traditions at the reception but it was clear that more of the small town flavor was felt in the dancing and drinking.

Dancing as husband and wife
We ended the weekend with a brunch back at Malena's parent's house. It included a farm tour for those that hadn't been there before, swimming, BBQ, and later some skeet shooting in the field out back. It was a sweltering day and you could drink the air it was so humid.  We took off just after lunch for our drive back north. It was a great wedding, a wonderful weekend, and an awesome way for the couple to kick off their new lives together.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Wedding Equation

An incredible bride and groom with a lot of great friends and family +
475 Outgoing People from Southern Missouri and Around the World +
Country Music +
Margaritas, Liquor, and kegs of beer +
No fear of humiliation

= An Awesome Weekend in Southern Missouri