I recently visited New York City, and by “recently” I mean, like, three months ago. I was typing up this post as a kind of travelogue because it’s a special occasion — I really don’t travel anywhere — and then forgot about it. Apparently, I need to set the record straight, after Stella’s account of events, which make me out to be quite the fool!
Stella had invited Donovan and Josh to a showing of Macbeth starring Danny Craig and Ruth Negga. By her words, she “cajoled” me, asking if I wanted to come up to Manhattan because it would be easy by train. She asked if there was anything I’d like to specifically do while there, and of course I mentioned I’d probably visit Koreatown. My first thought was actually Chinatown, because I need to track down some rare DVDs and assume there’s some sort of mystical shop with an old man like every American movie about Chinatown — except for Chinatown. But these days, I’m the Korea Guy. I love Korea. It’s all I talk about.
I don’t have a lot of photos to share, because I spent both days entirely in Manhattan, where indoors or outdoors, you can’t frame a photograph without including a dozen faces. That means more than a dozen looking back at you (yeah, right). It’s just awkward. The photo above was taken on the second floor of Midtown Comics, not in Koreatown, but as you can see, Squid mania persists.
I first met up with my cousin Kelly at a famous bookstore:
We hung out for a while, walked around. We even meandered down to Koreatown (because I’m Mr. Korea) and she introduced me to boba tea, which I did not like. But I was able to scope out the scene. It occurred to me that I didn’t know when the show was supposed to start. See, I didn’t opt to see Macbeth with the Craigster and Ruth Negga, but Donovan and Josh extended an invitation to an Office musical parody — and it was starting soon. I decided to stop in at the hotel and drop my stuff, but I went to the wrong hotel and then got lost on the way to the theater. As corroborated later, Google Maps was glitching out. But to be honest, it wasn’t exactly a Jack Bauer-esque race against time, because I knew I wouldn’t make it and the prospect of an Office musical parody sounded pretty bad (Donovan later assured me I would’ve hated it).
So I tracked back to Koreatown while I still had time alone, and went into Food Gallery 32, hoping to lean over and peer into glass displays or what have you. I went in and saw people’s backs. An already narrow space was packed full of people, and this is two years into the pandemic when I’ve been COVID-free so far. Against my better judgment, I got dumplings and then searched for a place to sit down, which I did not find. Either way, I was eating Korean dumplings for the first time since Seoul and IU’s “Lilac” came on over the speakers. Everything was gonna be alright.
This was the harrowing journey from the hotel to West 32nd. Notice how I elected “fewer turns,” even though it added a whole minute. For some reason, I didn’t think about the toll that a half hour of walking would take on a body that hasn’t experienced physical activity in over ten years. I mean, two years. Two years, because we’ve all been locked down and, boy, did that pandemic ever disrupt our daily routines. Not ten years because I swore, after the Falmouth Road Race, never to move again. For additional irony, I arrived and departed via the labyrinthine Penn Station, which as you can see is adjacent to Koreatown and a whole long walk from the hotel. I chose that hotel based on its proximity to the Office theater.
Here’s more Squid mania at Food Gallery 32:
I met up with Donovan and Josh that night and then Stella later. The next morning, Stella and I got breakfast sandwiches at a pretty famous bagel place — if the line was any indication. We sat in a park nearby and it was nice. Later, her friend The Professor arrived, an actual New Yorker, and we spent time at Midtown Comics. By this point, my body was in shambles, and I’d often squat down to “read” book spines because I couldn’t maintain an upright posture. It’s extraordinary, the toll inactivity takes. If only it weren’t the better option.
Fight Comics is what Mac from It’s Always Sunny would write
Lunchtime is when the trouble started, specifically with the story of us getting lost. The Professor was only gonna be in town for that day, and apparently, she and Stella had been talking about Koreatown, something she hadn’t really explored despite adopting a fair measure of the culture into her life. I was surprised to find out that she made kimchi herself and her daughter is a total K-pop fanatic, so we bonded over that. But regardless, we went to Koreatown again.
Mr. Korea. Koreaman.
Stella got a huge kick out of myself and anyone else not knowing how to get around the city, exacerbated by glitchy Google Maps, remember. But the reason we got lost is because we didn’t have an agreed-upon destination. In the conversation, ever disrupted by the constant rearrangement of the group along the walk, there was Koreatown in the mix as well as a Korean BBQ place allegedly outside of Koreatown. That was the confusion and the reason we got turned around so many times. Stella.
We ended up at Five Senses, and we took turns being confused and astounded by the banchan. There’s nothing quite like putting something in your mouth and not knowing what it is, but Five Senses is a nice restaurant and Korean food tends to be good. Trouble is, it was incredibly hot out and we’d just been walking around in circles. I could not handle anything the uzhe, whatever spicy soup or a deep, magma pot of rice and beef. I opted — once again — for dumplings.
Donovan was eyeing my rice, but that was not part of the side dishes
I had no interest in New York, but after this trip, I’d happily go again if it was this same crowd and I was in better shape. Amazingly, I didn’t get COVID, despite the train and the jam-packed indoor dining. COVID would come later, via third-party, like Death in Final Destination.
Donovan, Stella, and I coordinated with Kill la Kill shirts