Filtering by Tag: travel

The Big Apple and the Long Island

I hadn't planned a "vacation" when summer break finally arrived. To me, just getting a chance to cool down from the rigors of school and have huge blocks of time to write (and, uh, other things) is enough of a blessed relief. However, I just got back from a trip that could be called a vacation. I left behind the sizzling heat of Florida for a few days and flew to New York.

I'm not a Florida native - which is probably why I complain so much about living here. I was born in New York and lived there up until the end of elementary school. Most of my relatives are still in New York as well as a ton of childhood memories. My volatile teen years happened in Florida, haha.

More specifically, I grew up on Long Island, only a stone's throw away from the city. My memories are blurry at times, but I remember crawling under the table at family gatherings, staring at bare feet with a belly full of Italian cooking. There was my elementary school, with nuns and stiff uniforms, and the lawns that felt as soft as comforters. Sprinklers, ice cream trucks, dirty snow. And piles of leaves. Millions of leaves to jump in.

My father, brother, and I boarded a plane a few days ago to head first to Long Island. We met my relatives there and stayed with them for a few days, reminiscing about things that I didn't recall, haha. There was a lot of delicious food and lovely showers; for the first time since I moved, I finally had soft, frizz-free hair (No joke. It's the water pressure that's magic).

On Friday evening, my aunt passed me the local paper and asked if there was anything we'd like to do locally over the weekend. I searched through the event page, not expecting to see anything stand out. But as it happened, something special was going to happen.

Saturday was the centennial celebration of
Nunley's famous carousel

Look at that horse! That's a nice horse.

The carousel itself had stood in Golden City Park before finding a home at Nunley's, an amusement park that operated from 1939-1995 (so says, ye old wikipedia. I'm terrible with dates). Even though the park had a roller coaster, boats, and other interesting rides, its main attraction was the carousel. After the park closed, the carousel was moved to Museum Row where, thankfully, it still runs.

The carousel is made up of forty-one horses, two chariots, and one stationary lion. My brother used to always opt for the chariots; to him, it seemed rebellious not to ride on a horse. My parents used to take me to Nunley's often. I rode that carousel many times before moving away. My mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and even my grandparents rode this carousel when they were little. That's a lot of history right there. We had to go see it again

On top of that, the celebration included turn-of-the-century amusements like knocking down milk bottles, making clothespin dolls, and playing croquet. The whole event (and the park) was set up to mimic a Coney Island feel. There was even a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator to take photos with (and I just couldn't do it. I burst out laughing when I saw Teddy carrying a bottle of Diet Coke. That totally ruined it for me, haha). The staff for the event wore ribboned straw hats and t-shirts that said "Got Carousel?" on the front.

I've been writing a lot of stories lately that are inspired by 1900's ( in and around that time period as well) so I drifted through the festivities with a bounce in my step and a fluttery heart. It was almost like doing research, haha.

Riding the carousel was a wonderful experience - as well as waiting in line for it. No matter how long the line was, everyone had a smile on their faces. Nostalgic stories about the carousel were swapped by the adults and children got to ride it for the first time - the first of many times, hopefully.

One of the many informative boards

One of the chariot my brother loves so much, haha. 

Details, marking some of the places around the Long Island of the past

On the carousel at last! And there's the lion too!

From Long Island, we took a cab over to New York City. It's hard to forget a city like this one and I found, as I walked briskly through the streets, that nothing much has changed. Times Square is still as clogged and neon-bright as ever. Garbage continues to be tossed on the streets. Restaurants are filled to the brim.

I loved the movie Ghost... but a musical? I don't know...


Knock-off Hello Kitty. That really startled me, haha.

Dinner at Bubba Gump. If you serve me fish with mango salsa, jasmine rice, and other flavorful sauces, I will be your friend for life, haha.

The last thing we did before returning to Florida was go on a Circle Line Cruise. I like boats, especially big ones you can wander on, but this one was overwhelming with the amount of antsy tourists on it. For two hours, I sat out on the deck in the surprisingly hot sun, drinking from my warm water bottle and trying to see the sights despite the flood of people striking embarrassing poses for their facebook pages (or something like that). And on that day, manners seemed to have been lost. But I did manage to take a few decent photos. And, ironically, I got major sunburn. My skin still itches as I'm writing this blog post. I'm used to being pale. It hurts to have burnt skin, haha.

I hate to admit it, but it's nice to be back in Florida. At least, until I step outside my door (ah, how the sun burns my sunburns!).

AWP 2012: Chicago

Before going to AWP, I had never been to the Midwest. 

My traveling experiences had been severely limited to the East Coast, more specifically New York, Jew Jersey, and Pennsylvania - all places where my family is. I have been to England and, for a day and a half, France, but for the most part, America has been largely unexplored for me. As a family, we never went on road trips. We never drove for hours in one direction, not really caring where we ended up. Everything was planned down to the smallest detail. In my family, the familiar is good. Safe. 

However, as sick as I am of Florida weather, I was ecstatic to have found out that the conference was in Chicago. I had it on good authority it would likely snow while I was there. I hadn't played in the snow since I was a little girl. I couldn't wait to have my hair blown about in the windy city, to feel my bones ache from the cold, to feel tingly when stepping inside a warm building. Yes, I'm weird like that. I practically daydreamed about the horrors of winter with a big smile on my face. 

Prepping for Chicago was another ball game. Because it doesn't get cold here, stores don't sell winter gear. I spent hours in shoe stores (so not kidding) trying to find boots. It was January and flip-flops and sandals were already pushing out the fleeting Florida shopping season of boots. I stared in horror at the boots with high heels - instant death for me, I imagined. Finally I found a pair of plain black boots. I remember telling my mom that the tops of the boots were tight  - not very comfortable. She laughed at me and said, "You really don't remember, do you? They have to be tight to keep the snow out." 

Well, not my fault. I was a kid when I had been bundled up in boots and jackets and rolled around in the snow like a careless puppy. It's been so long. 

EXCLUSIVE SCANNED PHOTO of me as a wee one, rolling around in the snow like a carefree puppy. I actually went looking for the photo after writing that simile... and I'm happy that this photo actually fit. 

Looking for a coat... well, that was something. My dad tried to get me to wear his old winter jacket that he still had from when we lived in New York. I put it on and my arms were lost in the sleeves. The jacket went down to my knees. There was no way I was wearing that to Chicago - I had to look "cool," haha. I ended up going with a bright blue pea coat from Forever 21 that my parents were skeptical about. They said that there was no way it would keep me warm... but I remained firm. "If I'm going to freeze," I had said, "I'm going to look good turning into an icicle." I also packed my dad's jacket just to make them feel better.


I'm glad I made that decision because in Chicago, everyone looked very comfortable and stylish in their winter garb. There were pea coats everywhere! (A rare find in any Florida stores, trust me). I proudly held my head high against the tear-inducing winds and almost skipped down the street in pure happiness. I hadn't been bluffing. I felt at home in the cold weather. My body may not have remembered the feel of boots or the stuffiness of many layers, but it remembered cold. And I adjusted pretty quickly to it even with my thinned-out blood.

Interestingly enough, the people of Chicago were fascinating - so much different than the way Floridians are. The people I met seemed genuinely friendly, eager to help, and had all around warm personalities. It feels strange to type such a statement, almost as if I had dreamed the whole thing up. I remember being surrounded by those smiles and cheerfulness in Chicago, and being so stunned that I apologized for little things like not putting my train ticket in the scanner correctly. I actually felt worse that I usually did about not knowing something - being a tourist - because people were so quick to help me. It's an odd feeling that sticks with me still.

I didn't get to see snow until the morning I headed back to the airport. I was walking over to the train station, lugging my suitcase behind me, when all of a sudden I noticed a flurry of white stuff drifting down from the sky. I wasn't sure what it was at first, and turned to my mother and said, "Did a bird just smash into something? Look at the feathers."

Yeah, I said that.

In Florida, birds smashing into walls is a regular occurrence. So much so that some glass walls have stickers on them so that birds will be able to recognize the walls before they try to fly right through them. Don't even get me started on the hawk that broke through the mesh in my backyard last summer. Yep. So I thought, at first, that was I saw was the last remains of a recently squashed bird.

My mom gave me an odd look and said, "No, Kim. It's actually snow."

I looked up with my mouth hanging open as the flurry rained down, light as soap bubbles. Some snowflakes landed on my coat and melted right away. We waited for the train for at least fifteen minutes and, the entire time, I kept my eyes on the falling snow. "It's beautiful," I said.

My mom burrowed deeper into her scarf and replied, "It'd better stop before we get snowed in at the airport."

Ah, ever so practical. We were fine. The snow melted long before our plane even arrived. A safe flight home.

Because of the conference, I hadn't been able to sight-see. Mainly I stuck to the streets in the area where the two major conference hotels were. As I mentioned in my last post, I did wander around the eight-floor Macy's after a long day at the conference. The most amazing floor was the dishware one, ironically enough. The displays were just pretty. Very much like the tourist I was, I took pictures of the displays and dodged the employees. I also ate a lot of delicious food and saw some wonderful paintings.

Kim's Mini-Food Adventure

My first legit deep dish pizza. It was outstanding! We put olives, tomatoes, and peppers on it - a bit of an odd mix, but it worked well in the end. The pizza was very fluffy and thick; it really was like eating a cake. Now that I'm back in Florida though, I'm dying to have more... but no one makes it here ;_;

Bread Bowls! This was the perfect lunch for my first full day in Chicago - it warmed me up right away.

Pad Thai. 'Nuff said, right? I came back twice because it was so delicious. 

Flatbread Pizza! Now, I've had flatbread pizza before, of course, but  eating it in Chicago is different. The bread is thick, soft, and fluffy here, so it makes the pizza taste fresh and full of flavor. I'm used to eating tasteless, cardboard bread - the water and dough don't mix to well in FL (I know I keep bashing Florida, but, well, come eat here and then we'll talk). 

Art Institute Chicago

I love museums - even the cruddy, local ones with dubious things encased behind glass. So I had to go to the Art Institute Chicago. The building, while impressive, doesn't look too big until you actually start wandering around inside. I couldn't believe how many rooms there were, all splitting off in different directions, and random hallways that seemed to make sense but then, really didn't. After stomping around at the conference that morning, my feet were aching by the time I trekked through the museum. I had to stop frequently on benches to give my legs a rest while admiring the paintings.

The collection was huge, but my favorite parts were the Impressionists and the Decorative Arts exhibits (a fancy term for beautifully crafted items found in the home). I'll end my post today by sharing some photos from the museum - a great way to end my time at Chicago before the flight home. 

The Wandering Apple

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, they say. But this apple rolled down the hill and left her sisters behind. Her father had called her a Pink Lady, but she knew in her heart that her heritage was strictly Empire. She wanted to go sailing on the aquamarine whale-roads and eat chocolate-filled croissants on rainy days. Staying in the shade of her mother-tree could offer her none of these experiences. So the apple had packed her bags and went away.

Dogs lapped at her shiny skin when she hitched a ride in the back of a dog-catcher's truck. Red-headed children used her as a ball while she waited for a neighborhood bus. An evil queen with a haughty mirror wanted to make her into a gift, but the noble apple refused.

The apple couldn't stay still. The world was too big to stay put. Every cloud, wildflower, and garbage receptacle passed through her head faster than film tape through a projector. Maybe apples were meant to sit under trees because they couldn't hold onto their own memories.

The apple could only carry her one desire with her: to see the world. And since she couldn't remember, the world, to her, remained entirely endless.

Okay, I swear I'm not hungry. Actually, I'm thinking about a tiny, curious memory I've kept with me, even though it happened a few weeks ago. Waiting for my family to gather fruits and veggies for the week, I wandered over to the small section of apples in the grocery store. As if in a trance, I picked some of them up and turned them in my hands so I could read their names.

It seems to me that there are so many types of apples in the world. When I think about it, I'm in awe. And the names can be very beautiful. I like to imagine that each apple has its own name, but I confess I've never asked one. I don't eat them as much as I should.