REVIEW AND RATING OF WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 4-7, 2016
*Hastily and tiredly written by Michael Ethan Negrin on February 8, 2016
I took Thursday and Friday off work last weekend to go to New York City to see a show. Initially, my plan was to stay the weekend in New York with my brother, see my grandparents, and then go back home, but my brother ended up being out of town, so my plans changed. I ended up doing a lot more than I had planned. So, here is a review of the weekend I had.
**Note: All the numbers in parentheses have a corresponding footnote at the bottom of the page.
Driving to Jersey City
I left Washington, DC at around 11 AM on Thursday. First, I had to walk with my bags to my car which was parked about 20 minutes away in some unzoned parking, which is the only place I can park my car because of DC’s stupid parking laws. Anyway, I started driving, and it was going fine. I listened to some music, a bunch of Blood Orange and Lightspeed Champion albums, M. Ward, Laura Stevenson. I had to get to the Upper West Side of NYC to see the show I was going to, but I figured it would be just impossibly difficult/expensive to park my car there. (1) So, I had gotten a tip from someone to park my car in Jersey City and then take the train into New York, to avoid all the tolls and stuff. I parked my car on a neighborhood street, and after closely examining the signs and asking the only friendly looking person in the area if it would be okay to park there (2), and, clinging to a box of pineapple juice (3), I began a 20 minute walk to the “Journal Square” PATH station into New York City.
Along the way, what I experienced felt to me as something like “not being in the United States.” (4) Most of the people I encountered looked to be Hispanic, black, and African – not that this is “un-American,” because America is very much made up of different cultures which in turn create their own, but it felt unsettlingly “foreign” to me. I would describe Jersey City as very poor. Most of the shops that lined the streets were barber/weave shops, Hispanic markets, and cheap clothing stores. It was dirty and ugly. Looking at the New York City skyline from there, I felt like the skyscrapers were sticking up like middle fingers to the people of Jersey City. I got to the train station, bought a PATH card (which is almost identical to an NYC subway card, yet totally different) and got on the train to NYC.
DRIVING NORTH/JERSEY CITY – 7/10. C.
New York City
I took the PATH train to the World Trade Center, then I went up to the Upper West Side. I always get confused navigating the NYC subway, but I made it well enough. The train rides totaled about an hour. I got off the subway at 103 Street, and some crazy guy was yelling/muttering things like “son of a bitch” and “goddamn bastards” and stuff like that.
I carried my bags to this hostel I was going to stay in and I checked in. I paid $30 for one night. This building had a bunch of stairways, I had to walk through one hallway to get to one stairway then another hallway to get to this other stairway to my room on floor 5. The room was a shared room and there was another guy’s stuff in there, but he was gone. I never saw this guy, but I made a few trips to and from the room and his stuff was moved around though. Anyway, I left my stuff there, and got on the subway to the Beacon Theater, to the show I was going to.
The show was the Rabbit Fur Coat 10th Anniversary Tour, which I think is the band of Jenny Lewis. I knew some of her stuff but I wasn’t really into her. I went because this guy M. Ward was playing and I like him a lot. He played first, and his set was about 30 minutes long. Played a couple songs I knew, pretty good – nothing special, a little disappointing considering it’s the reason I went up to New York.
After his set, the girl next to me started talking to me. She was Jen, 31 year old from Long Island who had “lived around the world” and just became a mother. She was there with her 18 year old sister Ashley. Jen was drinking a lot and was very friendly, asked me who I came to see, and how she loved M. Ward when she lived in New Zealand, but didn’t even know he was playing at the show. She offered me a drink but I told her I don’t drink, and she said that her sister doesn’t either. Then her sister and I bonded over how we both have anxiety. They were very nice, and I’m thankful I met them.
Anyway, during one of the intermissions at the show, I decided to check the weather. I had decided earlier that I would drive up to Boston the next morning and stay with a friend, but I saw that it was going to snow in Boston starting around 3 AM. I had a big dilemma, because I was unsure of what was a smart choice to make and what “seemed insane.” It would have been impossible to drive during five hours into the heart of a snowstorm, but it was also a crazy idea to leave at 1 AM and drive five hours when I was already dead tired. So it was at this point that I made the game-time decision to leave NYC that night, and drive to Boston before the snow hit.
After the show, I checked out of the hostel, took the trains back to Jersey City, got a taxi (5) because I was tired and scared of walking back through that place, and departed.
NEW YORK CITY – 7.5/10 – C+.
Driving to Boston
I was already tired as I started the drive to Boston, and I really didn’t think I was going to make it. By “didn’t think I was going to make it,” I mean I thought I was either going to A) pass out at the wheel and die, B) lose control in the snow and die, or C) get so tired that I pull over and sleep/wake up in the middle of a snowstorm/be too afraid to drive/die from the cold. I was so on edge that I didn’t listen to music at all the whole time, even though that usually calms me down or something. I think I was afraid that music would be too familiar and would cause me to doze off. So I did the whole thing in complete silence, aside from the voice on my phone GPS telling me where to go. Thank God for that thing. About an hour into the drive, it started snowing, and this continued on and off for basically four hours.
Highlights of the drive included:
– Driving over the George Washington Bridge (6)
– Being passed on the right by multiple semi trucks
– Long stretches of unlit highway with snow blowing into my windshield
– Almost dying a bunch of times
I really can’t believe that I made it. I was very proud of myself for doing so – one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. When I got into Boston proper, I remember driving over the Tobin bridge (7), and then into the Dorchester neighborhood where I found a spot to park, asked a friendly Vietnamese neighbor who was up at the crack of dawn if the street was okay to park on, and carried my bags into my friend’s house.
DRIVING TO BOSTON – 5/10 – D – Would not recommend. The only redeeming quality was how good I felt about myself afterwards.
I went to sleep pretty soon after arrival and awoke a few hours later to find the city covered in about six inches of snow. Woke up, did a little reading because I hadn’t had much time to rest/be alone in a while and then went to meet my friend for lunch downtown. I embarked on the “T” train, which I hadn’t ridden since I was last in Boston about 11 years prior, and went to South Station where we had lunch. The city was prepared for the snow, which continued to fall, with shovel men, construction vehicles, and snow plows going HAM on the streets of the Massachusetts capital. Me, being totally unprepared for this storm and in a pair of pink sweatpants and Nike Air Force Ones, got a little wet and cold.
I walked around to a few bookstores and looked for some David Foster Wallace (8) stuff and didn’t find anything, but I did find an old copy of Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
The next day my friend took me around and she basically indulged me in any stupid thing I wanted to do, which was pretty much photobombing people taking cell phone pictures of Boston in the snow, going to a seafood restaurant that I remember going to when I was young (9), and looking at some bridges (10).
This was a really nice visit for me, mostly because I got to spend time with an old friend. I won’t go into details here, but I’ve explored a lot of cities, and this time I actually had someone to do it with and it was very enjoyable.
BOSTON – 9.3/10 – A.
Driving to New Jersey
I knew I was going to have to split up the drive back home for a few reasons, so on Saturday night, I left Boston at around 10 PM and headed for Mantoloking, New Jersey, in Brick Township, where I have a friend who would let me stay the night. I hadn’t touched my car in the whole time I was in Boston, so when I went back to it, I had to clean it off. Snow had frozen all over my car, so this was difficult. I spent about 15 minutes scraping ice off all the windows before leaving. After driving for about ten minutes, I realized that I didn’t scrape the ice of my headlights, and they weren’t illuminating the road at all, so I pulled over right away into a parking lot (where there were two cop cars waiting) and scraped it off so they worked.
There wasn’t any snow on this drive, but I was very tired, having spent a long day in Boston, and having been ready to sleep after watching an episode of The Wonder Years. I certainly didn’t feel like driving. For about 45 minutes in some stretch of Connecticut, I came closer to dozing off than I would have liked and I kept saying to myself “there is no way I can do this, there is no way I can make it.” So I pulled over into a gas station on I-95 and bought a 5 Hour Energy and a Nos Energy Drink. I drank the 5 Hour Energy which was disgusting, but surprisingly it kicked in and lasted about three hours. I’d never taken one of those before. I got a little tired when I was around New York City, about 90 minutes from Mantoloking, but I ate some potato chips that I had from the drive up and drank some of the Nos thing and it kept me awake just fine. This drive may have been more difficult than going up to Boston, just because I wasn’t alert for the whole thing, and just had an overwhelming feeling of dread for part of it, knowing that I had to stomach four more hours of something that I could barely even handle at that moment.
I did listen to music this time though. I listened to probably three straight hours of John Prine.
DRIVING TO NEW JERSEY – 4.5/10 – F+.
The Jersey Shore
My friend lives on some outset peninsula thing on the Jersey Shore, in an area that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy a few years ago. I think his house flooded, but it is fine now, I guess. I got there around 4 AM, and he gave me some homemade macaroni and cheese that he wanted me to rate (11). I stayed in a guest bedroom and woke up around 11 the next morning.
At that point me, him, and his girlfriend watched an episode of Law and Order: SVU, which I think his girlfriend likes or was “marathonning” or something. It was an episode that struck my interest (12) because it involved going undercover in a prison, and I am a sucker for any prison show/movie/book (as noted earlier by my purchase of The Count of Monte Cristo).
Then they started playing Grand Theft Auto 5, and I watched them blow up some cop cars and helicopters, and I played for a little, and then I left.
JERSEY SHORE – 7.7/10 – B-.
Driving Back to the DMV
I left New Jersey on Super Bowl Sunday, and every year I watch the Super Bowl with my parents, who live in northern Virginia, not far from DC. So, before I could head home, I had to head there to watch the Super Bowl.
This drive was refreshing, because it was during the G-D daytime, which felt like a godsend to me after all this driving in the middle of the night. Paid a bunch of tolls and at one point had to pull over to use an ATM because I was out of cash to pay tolls with. I listened to Wolf Parade, Test Icicles, and The Streets, amongst other things.
This drive took about three and a half hours – pretty short considering all I had been doing this weekend. I actually stopped by my house in DC for a few minutes and took a shower and grabbed my lease and my friend’s copy of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. I then drove to the local police station, where I presented the lease and my ID, and obtained a two week parking pass, which would let me park on the street after coming back from the Super Bowl, where it would be guaranteed that there wouldn’t be any unzoned parking spaces. So I got that, left DC, drove to Fairfax, where I stopped off at Potbelly Sandwich Shop where my friend works, and left her copy of Ocarina of Time 3D there, which she had asked me to go. At this point it was 6:15 PM, about 20 minutes before the start of the Super Bowl.
NEW JERSEY TO DC – 7/10. C.
Super Bowl 50
The first Super Bowl where the NFL moved away from Roman Numerals to actual numbers, because “Super Bowl L” would look weird. Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers. I wanted Denver, because I like Peyton Manning, and I think it’s stupid how there is this inexplicable hatred for him all of a sudden because he played poorly this year. Cam Newton on the Panthers is much less likeable in my opinion, even though I like to root for “heels” and “villains.”
My parents had set up the usual smorgasbord of food that they usually do for the Super Bowl: pizza, wings, shrimp, chips/guacamole, and all that. My dad had made a bunch of bets in Vegas the previous week, because he always goes there the week before the Super Bowl, something about every year there being a furniture market he has to attend which always coincides with the week before the Super Bowl. The place he goes has this “prop sheet” that lets you bet on all different types of stuff. In previous years, I’ve seen bets that asked you to pick if one team would score more points than Kobe Bryant was going to score against the Knicks, or something. My dad bet on the following items:
– That there would be at least four made field goals in the game
– That the Broncos would score at least 10 points in the first half
– That Cam Newton would throw at least two touchdown passes
– That the Panthers would win and cover the spread
He got the first two right, but ended up losing about $50 overall. Mostly he was just rooting for the MF’ing kickers to kick field goals. Didn’t bother me that much, even though people watching games/rooting for things because of their bets or fantasy teams usually annoys me.
The game itself wasn’t that great, but there was a lot of good defense, which I like to see. Cam Newton got sacked like six times, and it was kind of close near the end. Plus some guy named Aqib Talib kept screwing up which was funny, and there were some good sack dances. The Super Bowl has gotten annoying to me because of all the mass consumerism and halftime show (which sucked) and whatever, but it still always feels like a special game to watch. The commercials weren’t funny, either.
SUPER BOWL 50 – 7/10. C.
My mom gave me some stuff for my birthday, just some candy mostly (which I thought was funny because that’s all I ever get people for their birthday) and I hugged my mom and dad and said goodbye to them. Then I went over to one of my friends’ houses and said goodbye to her because she is moving to Prague to go live with her boyfriend. I will probably never see her again. It just made me think a lot, and it was a little sad.
SEEING A FRIEND FOR THE LAST TIME EVER – 6.8/10. C-.
I drove back to DC, found a spot on a street somewhere, forgot about everything and fell asleep.
And that’s what I did this weekend.
OVERALL WEEKEND RATING – 8.9/10. B+.
**EDIT: The rating seems a little high based on all the low grades I was giving but I rated this after the fact, having come down from an “insane weekend” and the grade was influenced by novelty value and how content I was with myself afterwards.
(1) Washington DC’s parking system, which basically makes it so that nobody who is from outside the district can park in the city for more than two hours without paying some ridiculous amount, has traumatized me and made me paranoid about parking my car in cities. I perceived New York City, which is of massive size and stature, especially compared to Washington, DC’s, to have an equally fiercer, more expensive parking system than the Nation’s Capital does. It turns out this isn’t totally true, and street parking is pretty much free.
(2) I want to point out that the only friendly looking person in this area was also the only white person I saw in Jersey City. It’s not that I think anyone who isn’t white isn’t friendly, but everybody I encountered on this street honestly looked menacing or drunk. For some reason I didn’t think my inquiries about whether I could take up a parking spot on their street for a night would be well met.
(3) This box of Trader Joe’s Pineapple Juice was my traveling companion and I felt a special bond with it – I hung onto it most places I went and never put it in my bag. It lasted the whole weekend.
(4) I went to a soccer game once, the United States played Peru, and there were more Peruvians at the stadium than Americans, and an American kid in front of me mentioned that he didn’t feel like he was in America at the time. When he said this, I thought about how it feels to be in America – not really sure what I concluded, but I think a lot of people still have the idea that America is white.
(5) Omar, my Lyft driver, was a good looking guy who didn’t understand me that well and was kind of foolish. I told him three times that I was from Washington, DC and he still didn’t understand. Kept asking me if I liked living in this part of Jersey City. But he was nice. When I told him that there are a lot of car window smashings in my neighborhood, he asked me, “black people?” I said I didn’t know.
(6) Although the $15 toll, as well as the other tolls which amassed somewhere around $30 on the way there, killed me a little inside. I guess they did keep me alert and awake, though.
(7) Research since this happened tells me that the Tobin Bridge is a bridge completely different from the one I went on, but I find it hard to believe that the bridge-fiend inside me would misremember the name of a bridge like that, and even go as far as to misattribute it to a different one. The bridge I remember going over was a cable-style bridge, similar to Boston’s iconic Zakim Bridge, and it was lit up blue. I believe it was on the Morrissey Throughway.
(8) I’ve been very into DFW recently, and it’s pretty obvious that his writing style has rubbed off on me, as evidenced by how heavily footnoted this piece of writing is.
(9) We went in to eat lunch and they told us we could sit at what turned out to be the very historic U-Shaped Oyster Bar, where seats were very highly coveted. Eventually there was a line of probably 10 people waiting to sit at the bar, which I felt bad about because I didn’t really care – would have just been fine with a table. I actually felt kind of weird at the U-Shaped Oyster Bar because bars make me uncomfortable in general, and my friend, whom I usually have strange, profound, in-depth conversations with – felt difficult to reach at this place, because of the setting. Other people were listening, we were oddly positioned; I felt strange. Plus, I felt compelled to order expensive stuff for some reason. The Oyster Bartended, I guess I would call him, had a thick Boston accent and told some stories to the tourists sitting at the U-Shaped Oyster Bar watching him shuck oyster after oyster with complete grace. It was just uncomfortable. The oysters were really good, though.
(10) I wanted to walk over the Zakim Bridge, but I didn’t know if it was open to pedestrians. It turns out it isn’t, but on the way there, we walked over the Charlestown Bridge, which research reveals to me is a plate-girder bridge. I had mistaken it as a cantilever truss.
(11) It’s probably clear from this essay that I like to rate things, usually on a scale of 1-10, and I’ve hyped up my tendency of rating macaroni and cheese quite a bit. This homemade casserole made with rotini pasta and bread crumbs, cheddar jack cheese, and avocado, got an 8.8/10 from me.
(12) The SVU was trying to find truth in a claim made my multiple female inmates that one guard was raping them, and in their background search of the guard, they accessed a list of websites that he had paid for with his “Vistal” credit card. We paused the show at that moment, and among the list were websites that had names like “loveinafarm.com,” “lovebooby.com,” and “New York Post.”