New York City/Brooklyn – Empire State of Tequila, Mustaches & Hookah Bars

Walking through the airport today, I was super sentimental. I’ve had this feeling before. The feeling of “I don’t want to leave”. The feeling that you’re missing something. New York is such an amazing place. So full of life. Energy. I’d been here before, but so long ago. Once to visit a friend about a year after college. Once with a guy. Both trips didn’t live up to expectations. Somehow this time was different.

I love big cities. I love the adventure of big cities. The surprises around every corner. The challenge of finding your way through the subway. The sights. The sounds. The never-ending passion for living. And people truly live in New York. To the extreme. I miss that. Is there monotony in New York? Ever? I don’t know that that word even exists there.

My arrival was quintessential New York. Everything I love about the madness in Manhattan. I arrived by plane around 4pm on a Friday and made my way from JFK to Penn Station to meet Stephanie. Carrying a big bag through the subway system was no easy feat. A nice stereotypical New York guy (read: guido) kept asking if I needed help. I finally gave in and he muscled my 50 pound bag up a couple of flights of stairs and out of the station. I stepped out in front of Macy’s and the afternoon Friday rush to see the Empire State Building. People were crossing the street every-which way. Traffic cops were directing traffic. Cars were blaring their horns. This is New York. I’ve arrived.

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I met Stephanie who walked me up to her office area in Macy’s (she’s a buyer there) and I waited for her to finish up for the day. We then proceeded to get our rental car and get out of Manhattan. I was in New York for work (sponsorship of a Triathlon event) and it was upstate about 30 miles. Stephanie had decided to do the duathalon portion as well, so we went to the event together.

Driving in Manhattan is a feat in itself. Stephanie navigated while I attempted to push my way through traffic and into Lincoln Tunnel. No rhyme or reason to this process. Just a ‘get out of my way or you’re getting hit’ type of attitude. So New York.

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We made it to the hotel in Mahwah, New Jersey, ate dinner nearby, and got some shut eye. After getting up at 4am for my flight, I was beat.

The following morning we went to the race. Stephanie ran and biked her ass off and I served beer to the thirsty athletes. Morning well spent.

We made our way back into the city and dropped off the car. It was all I could do to get out of that thing. Driving in the City is intense to say the least. Then, directly afterwards, we hopped in a cab that almost killed us. Driving or taxi equals a ‘lose-lose situation’ in New York.

We rested that afternoon and then decided it was time to make our way to a local spot to watch the Kentucky Derby. We hit up Southern Hospitality, a bar owned in part by Justin Timberlake. We figured this place would be appropriate for the race, and it was, however it was also full of complete A-holes. There was Creeper Dude who kept holding his drink with two hands, drinking out of a straw and staring. (What guy drinks out of a straw anyway). Then Babe Ruth – burley dude dressed in head-to-toe Yankees gear. Also staring. To top it off, there were also about twenty 20-somethings that had been drinking since 10am and were totally wrecked. Most of them kept bumping into Stephanie and I thought she was going to bitch slap someone at any moment.

After the Derby race, we decided it was time for a change of scenery and we stumbled into Recovery Room, a total hole in the wall, and bellied up. An old Irish guy befriended and offered to buy us shots. Jaeger it is. (Steph’s call, not mine). At least the evening was starting to get interesting. Plus, Steph had a new bestie in NY. Bonus!

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Next up was a bar called Hibernia. She had been there before, about a year earlier and the bartenders completely recognized her. Too funny. We proceeded to have some cocktails, met some total randoms and spent the next hour or so taking hilarious mustache photos in honor of Cinco de Mayo. The night just went from 0 to 60.

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After causing a few scenes, we left and headed to another bar somewhere in between the West and East Villages. Driving through Times Square, I snapped a quick photo of the big city lights.

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We landed somewhere around 3rd and McDougal and again, more Cinco festivities. This time we recruited a 3rd, Ryan, a friend I had met in Rio last year that had moved to New York recently.

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After a few Facebook posts to our friend across the pond, a drink and tequila shots, we bar hopped again to a great little dark hookah bar and ended smoking some sort of apple flavored tobacco, which was quiet delicious I must say. Then Ryan decided to order a flaming tequila shot that you suck through a straw. I hesitated, but Steph and Ryan took theirs and had some of the worst post-shot faces I had ever seen. My attempt only melted my straw and then I decided to pass on the horror that they had experienced. Best decision ever.

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Eventually we wandered, yet again to another bar to meet up with Steph’s new friend Sammie and his buddy and then eventually on to his place. After attempting to play the worst game in history, Scruples, and drinking a bunch of wine, we finally called it a night. We had been drinking for 11 hours afterall.

The next day, Steph and I were both in a lot of pain. Our initial plan was to rent cruisers and ride across the Brooklyn Bridge, but a 3pm start didn’t give us much of an opportunity to do that. We did, however, take the Metro, to the bridge and walk across. It was beautiful out and the views from the Bridge are pretty impressive. As you get further out and closer to Brooklyn, the whole city skyline unfolds over the East River….the Empire State Building, the Manhattan Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. It was probably one of my more favorite “tourist” activities I’ve ever done in New York.

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We eventually left the Bridge and made our way to Williamsburg, an uber-hip neighborhood in Brooklyn I kept reading about. Apparently there are lots of beer bars in the area and I was eager to check some out. Spuyten Duyvil had received a bunch of great reviews on Yelp! so we headed there first and ended up just staying. From the front, the narrow bar didn’t look like much although it had a great selection of mostly bottled beers, but beers from around the world. Head to the back and an amazing patio stretched out before you…with huge surrounding brick walls strung with ivy. Ryan met us at the bar and we grabbed a table and rehashed the previous evening over beers, wine and an killer meat and cheese board.

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That night we walked through Brooklyn under a full moon and made our way through McCarren Park. We stumbled on some twenty/thirty somethings playing kickball with Jackson 5 and Prince blaring on some seriously oversized speakers. Reminded me of home, but wished we had this awesome stereo set up at our games. We wandered some more and happened upon this cool bar called Nights and Weekends, built into the side of a mini Flatiron-like building. With windows on either side, you simply pulled up, rotated your floating stool out from the wall and bellied up. This hipster bar was playing hip hop and Brooklyn had yet again found a way to make me smile.

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The next day was fairly uneventful. I worked from Stephanie’s house while she joined the rat race and then we met up at a great little place in the East Village called 10 Degrees after work. Another cool beer and wine bar. We talked about New York and how it seems like this place would never tire. Like you would never be bored or going to the same ol’-same ol’ because around every corner was some soon-to-be discovered little place to fall in love with. After our two-for-one happy hour drinks, we made our way to Lil’ Frankies to grab dinner with Steph’s cousin and friends, squeezed 8 around a table meant for 4 and had some pretty phenomenal Italian food. After not eating a proper meal in two days. I was starved.

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The night ended with us hitting up one more dive and then I had to call it a night. After little sleep, jet lag, and boozing it up for several days, I was exhausted. I made my way back to Steph’s place via subway and it was all I could do to keep my eyes open.
Walking through the airport this AM, Steph’s name popped up on my phone. “I don’t wanna leave,” I answered. “I know,” she responded. “10 days. I’ll be back in 10 days,” I said. (I have another event in New York later this month).

I walked through JFK with my headphones in, listening to music, looking out at the planes parked at the various gates. This sucked. If only I could stay. So much to do, to see, to explore. I sat down to eat breakfast. A song I had never heard came on over the speaker system, “I don’t wanna be the one to say good-bye,” the voice sings out. “Maybe, in the future, you’re gonna come back around”.

See you soon New York. See you soon.

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