I should have known this was going to be a strange day….any day in New York City can turn into an adventure quickly…New York City is a bitch, but I love it.
As I stand waiting on the platform, I notice the train schedule time is not changing frequently, it’s actually saying 2 minutes, but it’s now been 5 minutes and the time is now going up. There is a strange amount of traffic walking into the subway platform, which is a bit concerning to see it filling up so fast, with no relief of a train…meanwhile, we hear a muffled message about local trains being delayed downtown. This is when simultaneously, two older men, one to my left and one to my right start screaming obscenities about the costs of the subway and the “God Damned Delay’s!! We pay money for this shitty service!” one screamed, while the other screamed, “God Damn It! I got delayed 3 times yesterday on the fucking bus!! What the hell is wrong with the MTA!?!?” and he throws his paper into the subway tracks. Note to self, do not sit next to these men.
Meanwhile, I am monitoring the platform fill up more and more and wait patiently for the train. It finally arrives and to my surprise, it’s not a normal 6 train with the blue newer seats…it’s one of the older subways that runs on the west side with the brown panels and orange and yellow seating, no electronic messaging or notification of the times, delays, or next stops…which means that the speaker system is not the best either. I think, “Shit, what in the hell am I doing on this train!?”
As we finally get moving, the conductor tells us that we are now running express from 42nd to Brooklyn Bridge due to an accident at 33rd. Then, we get another message as we are being held again that there is now “No Service below 42nd on the 4, 5, or 6 trains and the train is being re-routed for uptown when we get to Grand Central!” WTF! I think to myself, “Damn…it must be a jumper”…and exit at Grand Central. I call my friend that I am meeting for lunch and tell her I’m delayed and walking there…meet me in 30 minutes, as I have to walk there.
I walk west across Bryant Park to head south to Eataly to meet my friend for lunch, when I finally make it there, this place is so fucking crowded with tourists and she is nowhere in sight. I text her and she says that, “she cannot talk now, but will call/text soon?!” WTF?! Today has been a complete shit show…I need a drink.
When she arrives, we have a bit of a wait for the table, then I order my food with a huge glass of wine, then another.
At this point, I’m being grilled by her on the trade secrets of dating in the United States, well specifically in New York City, as she is from the Philippines.
I’m like, “well… It’s difficult to meet people at our age, let alone date.” At this point in my life, I settle for a good book, a hot bath and a bottle of wine most weekends. However, she knows that I have been actively dating and have been in relationships, as the 2 times that we have both met and gone out, I have been involved with men. Yes, the only 2 men that I have been with in over a year happened to be timed right around the same time that she has been visiting in the New York City area.
She asks way too many questions. At some point, I tell her this. As she asks me more questions, I am reminded of needing another glass of wine. Yes, if they could pour the entire damned bottle in my glass, I’d be happy at this point.
The constant grilling of questions is reminding me of an interview and quite exhausting. Especially, when I cannot seem to figure out the “code to dating in NYC, let alone in America.”
I have been really good at being single most of my adult life. I could be voted off the island for this, I presume. One of my guy friends, recently told me that he needed to start lying to people about being “divorced” now, as people look at him funny because he’s in his 40’s and has never been married, let alone engaged. It’s sad because I can definitely relate to his dilemma, as I’m in the same category.
After lunch, we walk down the Highline, through the West Village, The Village, and Soho and to Chinatown, where she wants to buy me a Bubble tea and the plan is for us to get cheap massages. After walking 8-10 miles today…
I think to myself…”A massage does sound nice.” In my mind, I’m thinking spa…this is where that phrase, “Little did you know” comes into play. Let the fun begin.
We walk down Canal Street, and then we wind through the back alleys of Chinatown that I have never explored before. Imagine a fucked up maze of tiny streets with bright neon signs for massage parlors that are lit up and you know, they don’t look very clean, nor do they look very legitimate. My inner American girl that grew up in a middle class, southern/midwest family is screaming, “What the hell are you doing here!?! GO HOME!” However, she’s leading us deeper into the evasive maze and says that she always goes here when she is in New York. So, I let her lead the way.
As we wind through the streets, we pass many massage parlors, nail salons, hair salons and etc. all on the left side of the narrow street.
Then, we go into the smallest, thinnest store front with some strange writing on the wall and a fake rose bush on a table to the left of the hallway with a bright massage menu that I glimpse at as my friend is barking commands to the man and ladies in waiting area, that are greeting us as we walk in. The people that work here do not speak much English; they speak some words, but nod a lot; they smile and bow.
My friend seems to raise her voice louder to them acting like it makes them understand her more, since her voice is raised…this reminds me of something my mother would do and I laugh to myself.
The girls that work here are dressed in a strange “dirty” girl kind of looking way, maybe it’s to entertain the big, older gentleman that I just saw dive into one of the stalls with a younger girl for a “massage”.
The area that you walk in has some strange pleather sofa’s to the right, then you walk through a doorway with beads, yeah beads like the 70’s draping down to a darker area with red lighting and there are strange curtains hanging up on both sides of the room separating the massage tables, I guess.
They point me to one on the right. Mind you, it’s fucking freezing outside, so I have got a huge puffy coat, pants, sweaters, boots and etc. on and have a huge bubble tea in my hand. I walk beyond the curtain to undress and the space is obviously where they store crap, as the massage table is pushed up at the end against a small sofa with big bags all over it and shit everywhere. The massage table is so close to the curtain, that my legs hang out of it into the middle of the walkway and hands keep coming through the curtain as I undress. I place my belongings at the end of the massage table on the sofa with the other junk. The area around the table is about 6-12 inches from the wall/curtains on all sides. I finally get down to my panties and think, “Damn, whoever is massaging me must be in the Circus, as they’re going to have to trapeze into this tiny area and hang on strings to get around me to massage me! What in the hell did I agree to?!?”
Then, as I lay there practically naked, someone comes into the area around the sheet and for all that I know, my arse is possibly able to be viewed by anyone in the walk way. I’m trying to relax enough to enjoy a $40 hour full body massage. Someone starts rubbing my back and maneuvering around the table…I’m a ball of pins & needles and I cannot relax.
In my mind, I’m thinking…”What the fuck am I doing here!? Only $40? Am I still in New York? This place is scaring the crap out of me…are these people legal? Are they slave labor? Is that grunting that I’m hearing in the other stall? For fucks sake, what have I agreed to?!”
Then, my concentration is broken by my friend yelling in the opposite stall that she needs someone new. Well, that meant that the person that she didn’t want was then exchanged with the person that I had at present, so they swapped.
Then, I get a woman…the only reason that I knew this is because she has her hair down and keeps draping it over my back as she rubs my shoulders and at some point, she directs me in a movement.Wait a minute, is there a monkey in here, someone just hoisted themselves on the table with me! What in the hell just happened?
Meanwhile, a man interrupts the massage through the curtains to ask me, “HOW LONG YOU NEED ONE HOUR?” I reply, “Sure, whatever my friend has agreed to!” This was a strange reply that they did not understand, so they keep sending people over to ask in different ways, so I finally reply, “Yes. One Hour!” What am I doing here?
I’m being rubbed, groped, pushed and pulled all over my body and she is pulling down my panties and accidentally touching me in areas that she should not be that close to, so I keep shifting by body around the table and moving my head. Let’s just be clear, I am not here for any happy ending folks, nor do I care to get massaged in my nether region by a chick for cash. What in the hell is going on here?
After my massage is finally finished, I am shuffled out to the seating area on the pleather sofas with the strange Chinese woman that gave me the massage.She keeps showing me her hand and making a face. Apparently, she has been doing so many massages that she has injured her hand and She tells me, “You pay my boss! You pay my boss!” and then goes, “You tip me?!”
So, I hand her a $20, and she hides it after looking around in both directions, then I sit and check my phone, foursquare, face book and wait for my friend to return and finish while listening to strange music on the sofa with this woman, while she puts on makeup and primps for the next person to enter the parlor.
As I sit there, I wonder about the big man that I saw going behind the curtain with the other young girl when we walked in, what in the hell kind of service is he getting? As, I started after and had an hour massage and I’ve been sitting here over 30 minutes now… Is this place a brothel too? Is he getting a happy ending? Gross.
Once my friend finally comes out, she doesn’t stop there with the body massage, she has the owner giving her a 10 minute foot massage and her feet are on an ottoman, as he gets on his knees in front of her rubbing. She tells him that I need one and tells me that it’s included, I opt out, as it seems completely demeaning at this point, plus I’m ready to get the hell out of this place in fear that some authority will come in and bust it up at any moment. I make an excuse, “that I don’t want to take off my boots again.”
After her massage, we walk through the streets and wind back to the main streets and get back to Mott Street to modern day civilization. This is when we determine that we should get some food for dinner.
We see people standing in line for dumplings and dim sum and opt for another szechuan restaurant that looks pretty popular. Again, I need to explain that I am American, now this means that I’m somewhat adventurous, but only to an extent and fish is a touchy food item for me. I love sushi, love sashimi and I love meat, but mine comes in pretty pieces, in packages in the store and etc. I think you understand.
My friend keeps asking about sharing food and I tell her that I’ll just order something, as I’m funny about eating fish. I look at the menu and it’s huge…opt for spring roll’s, something similar to Kung Pao Chicken and she orders some fish dish and other dishes. She refers to me as such an “American”, and I think to myself, “Why yes, I am.” And I tell her about the time that someone tried slipping me some catfish to eat 20 years earlier and how upset that I was.
The spring rolls come, Dumplings come, I eat them too, then the Kung Pao dish, and I’m eating some green beans that she has ordered to share and it’s a huge plate. At this time, I have no idea what is about to happen. This little waiter comes with a HUGE platter with a WHOLE FISH ON IT and puts it in front of me, in between the two of us. Then, she looks at me and says, “Dig In!”
My face must have said it all…the waiter cut it in the middle exposing the bones everywhere and leaves it. She asked for Soy Sauce and rips into the fish like she’s never eaten before.
First thing she eats is the entire head, face, eyes and all with soy sauce, as I watch wondering about the bones, eyes and lips…then, eats the fins and explains that in Asia, this would be something that is fought over first in a meal.
Meanwhile, she is asking me if I want some. I reiterate that I’m funny about certain foods…fish, being one of them and the fact that she just ate the entire face off the fish…it’s messing with my appetite. You see, I’ve realized that American’s, or at the least, this one, we do not like to eat things that look back at us on the plate. I explain this to her as well, then as she goes back into the banter of asking questions about dating American & men in New York City while devouring the remainder of the fish. I am thinking to myself, I wonder if any of the men that I know and have dated would react well to someone eating a whole fish in front of them, let alone the head first. After we are finished, she had the server package up the remaining food, both the fish and the food that I had not eaten to take home with her.
This evening was good, but a very strange adventure in New York City…. When I got home, I seriously scrubbed my entire body clean in the shower to ensure that I was clean before getting into my bed for the night.
As I’m dying for another massage, I’m still not tempted to return to this land of the happy ending.