Searching Everything in New York

Friday, January 20, 2017
My sister just got married 3 days prior to our flight to New York, so technically, I was crashing her "honeymoon".

The three of us have gone on trips before. I go because of the free travel, accommodation, and food... but mostly to put my sister on blast 24/7, like most younger sisters do.

This time, I went to New York for me. They were merely tagging along.

Leica Montano

I've always dreamt of New York. You know, live in a brownstone somewhere in West Village, know the metro by heart, and have that perfect meet-cute Mindy Kaling would be proud of.

So, landing in LaGuardia, I was optimistic. I thought of all of the Joe's pizzas I would eat, the strolls I would have in Central Park, and the endless hot-dudes-reading I'd brush shoulders with at the subway. I wanted to experience all things New York and more.

I tried not to think too much of anything up until I was handing in my ticket to board my flight. I didn't want to expect all these things only to be disappointed of its reality. But on the car ride from the airport to our place in Brooklyn, there was really nothing to be disappointed about. I was all heart-eyes emoji and noticed everything we passed by, pointed things out like a 6-year old in Disneyland for the first time.

I remember we crossed the Canal and Bowery intersection in Chinatown and told my sister to play Ho Hey by The Lumineers - told them, those were the streets in the song. "We just passed by it! Look!"

They didn't really care. And much of the trip was like that.

"Look! It's the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where I can't afford to buy overpriced Hamilton tickets." shrug

"Look! It's the bench where The Doctor read Amy's Letter." who?

"Look! It's the FRIENDS appartment!" where? "JK, we ain't no where near Bedford street."

I was in my little world and they were in theirs. Sometimes we'd end up in one bubble like Roberta's in Williamsburg, eating pizza by the outdoor backyard, and we'd all be thrilled... because we could all appreciate a good slice, or three.

Leica Montano

I had a list of places to go to and things to do. One of them was to watch a Broadway show.

So on our first night in New York, we booked 3 tickets and watched Something Rotten. We were a tad late to the show because traffic was gruesome but we made it and it was such a treat. The show was incredibly funny, clever, and the music was fantastic.

Broadway was amazing. We walked along the avenue and passed by the stretch of theatres, all of which glowed with neon lights, luring you in like moths to a flame. It really doesn't matter if you watch Book of Mormon or the off-broadway show, Spamilton. Everything's worth it.

From there, we took a few more steps and got to Times Square.

And there it was, the I-heart-NY shirts, the statue of liberty mascots, and the billboards that covered every square foot of the buildings. If anything screamed "New York," it was Times Square, literally. And everywhere there were people - people taking pictures of each other, people lining up to take pictures with the police horse, people selling hotdogs and nuts, people handing out fliers for comedy shows, and everywhere, people were walking.

Leica Montano

In New York, I learned how to walk. Fast. And that it doesn't matter if the light is red, as long as cars are at least a good 10 meters away, cross it. Make sure to take big, long strides and keep up the pace because essentially, time is money.

There was this time we walked 26 blocks from Rockerfeller Center to the Flatiron building. I felt a little like Carrie Bradshaw walking along Midtown, although she probably wore Louboutins and I didn't. We bought $2 hotdogs along the way, stopped by a souvenir store, went inside the New York Public Library, watched the people a bit at Bryant Park, and then finally made it to the Flatiron building.

It was picturesque.

Actually, everywhere we looked was picturesque. The city was beaming with beauty. Even the trash looked cinematic.

I loved it.

Leica Montano

I'm used to traveling with my sister and her (now) husband. I knew when to shut up (like when they started to get testy with one another over red velvet cupcakes) and when to intercept with fun suggestions (like when I convinced them to go on a road trip to Austin, TX.) But I wasn't too imposing of my presence, just there to hit the punchlines.

Sometimes, they'd do couple-y stuff together and I'd go explore on my own.

So on the day that my sister and her husband were out in Manhattan taking their prenup pictures, I was busy taking my first steps alone in Brooklyn.

Immediately, I get stopped by this bearded hipster with Warby Parker glasses on. He wanted a minute of my time but I was in a rush to catch the metro for a Ham4Ham show so I politely declined.

He cocked his head to the side and pleaded, "Oh, come on?!" but I already took two steps past him before I thought twice about it. I wondered though what he wanted from me. Maybe that was my meet-cute and I literally turned my back on it. But he probably just wanted me to sign his petition and ask for a few dollars of donation.

I know this because it happened again on that same day. I get approached by someone holding a clipboard. I was happily taking photos by the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park when this guy walks up to me and asks for some donation for their local basketball team. Again, I politely declined but I guess he somehow knew that I'd cave one way or another because after about five minutes of awkwardly explaining I was on a tight budget as a tourist to make it in the city, I ended up "donating." So hopefully, some kids somewhere in New York got cool, new uniforms and winning championships.

Funny thing about that little anecdote was he asked for my number afterwards and wanted to connect. Boy, bye. 

Leica Montano

The trip wasn't all post-wedding curriculars for my sister and her husband. He actually left halfway through the trip to go back to work, leaving just my sister and me in New York. In Upper Harlem. In a room off airbnb on the 5th floor with no elevators.

It was just the two of us; the last time it will ever be just the two of us. We had a few more days in the city and Govball before she officially moves in her married life. We had to make the most, and frankly, there was no better way to do it than in New York City.

We always dreamt of going to music festivals together. Every year, we'd anticipate the release of line-ups and then hope on seeing our favorite artists live. We'd always say, we'd go next year but then plans would fall out. This time, everything fell into place.

So, for 2 days, we took the bus to Randall's Island and relished in our first music festival, ever (in the US).

Governor's Ball looked like a different world. A world full of girls in knit halter tops and cropped shorts, and boys in Supreme shirts and dad hats. We would arrive before noon and saw the grounds fill from a couple hundred people to a couple hundred thousand. It was crazy.

For 10 hours, we were either singing along to Years & Years, MisterWives, or Catfish and the Bottlemen, or eating something from Luke's Lobsters, Spaghetti Incident, or Momofuku milk bar. Sometimes we'd rest, sit, and appreciate artists like Beck and Father John Misty from afar. Other times we'd squeeze in the crowd for Jamie xx and The Strokes.
(*More details on my first govball experience in another post*)

Leica Montano

My favorite part was probably getting drenched in the rain during Haim's set. I've seen them before in Singapore and knew they could give a good show, but in the rain, it was even better. No phones, no cameras; we were just lost in their music...

Very much like during The Killer's set. The rain had just stopped pouring when the stage lights came on and the band started playing Mr. Brightside. The whole place lit up. Everyone was jumping up and down, shouting the words to every song. It was in every sense of the word, fucking awesome.

I'm smiling as I remember those moments. It was such a shame that day 3 got cancelled - missing out on Kanye, and the others.

Leica Montano

With just a few more days left in New York, we ticked a few more things off the checklist. We ate everything and walked everywhere, went to museums, visited some parks, and hung around bookstores and record shops. And then just like that, we were sitting in by Chloe., having avocado on toast hours before our flight back to Dallas. It was hard not to feel sad about leaving. There's something about New York that made me feel like I belonged, that I fit in with the other 8 million crazies of the city. It felt great to be there.


Most realities do not live up to people's expectations. But New York, it exceeds all expectations. There's a reason why it's one of the greatest cities in the world. It's got that vibe that anything is possible and maybe, truly anything is possible. That maybe someday, I get to actually live in New York; do the whole How to Make It in America stint and actually end up in an apartment in West Village.

But for now, I'll gladly spend all my money coming back to this city - staying in cozy, eclectic airbnbs, riding the subway, and living off dollar pizzas - because why not. It's New York fucking City, after all.

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