Monday, July 4, 2011

Hot Dogs and the Hudson

What better way to spend the 4th of July, America’s birthday, than to witness a man gobble 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes and then watch a fireworks show overlooking the beautiful Hudson River?
Our travels with Mrs. Lilhanand began when we met her at the Starbucks near Columbus Circle for breakfast. We then headed out for the long Subway ride to Coney Island to with the goal of witnessing the famous hot dog eating contest.
Coney Island is fantastic. Along with the iconic Nathan’s famous hot dog joint, Coney Island also features a flea market, roller coasters and a beach. It reminds me of the Santa Cruz beach Boardwalk though, being in New York, it was much more crowded than Santa Cruz.
I could not see any of the hot dog competitions because of the crowd, but I am relieved. I do not think I could watch a person eat more than 10 hot dogs without feeling queasy myself.
After resting for a few hours in our dorm, Milani, Eric and I watched the fireworks at Riverside park overlooking the Hudson River. The view and fireworks display were spectacular.

The Fourth in New York

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Its funny, the different traditions everyone has for spending Independence Day with their families. For me, its always been a barbeque in someone's backyard or kitchen before gathering somewhere way up high to watch the fireworks from across the bay. Apparently, in New York, the biggest attraction is the beach.

My suite had planned at the last minute to head out to Long Beach for the day, but us ILCers had already decided to head out to Coney Island with Mrs L about a week ago. Getting up before the rest of my suite had even stirred, the five ILC students met at the gazebo around 8 to sleepily ride the subway to our old haunt, Columbus Circle, where we met Mrs. L and grabbed coffee and breakfast; I know that I certainly perked up after food and caffeine. After our quick Starbucks stop (with the lack of Peet's in the city, I'm afraid I'm becoming quite the Starbucks convert; their chai tea is amazing), all of us hopped on the subway once again, taking the D train down to Coney Island. The ride was long, but the first two-thirds were made fun by a big family on the subway, obviously headed to the beach, who graced the car with great music from a throwback boombox they had with them. Milani and I definitely enjoyed the music as it woke us up and reminded us of home, and even the incredible amount of graffiti we passed by during the trip gave us a faint sense of nostalgia (I love graffiti; a large percent of it is really impressively artistic).

So, finally, we arrived at the Coney Island station. My first impression was of the overwhelming amount of people everywhere I looked, and that held true until the minute we left. And I thought Manhattan was crowded!

First up at Coney Island was the hot dog eating contest which is, apparently, a really big deal. The world record there is 68 hotdogs (including buns!) in 10 minutes. That is terrifying and impressive at the same time. The guy holding that record, Joey Chestnut, was at the contest this year too, and he won first place, even though he was still 6 shy of his previous world record. Watching these guys eat is mildly repulsive while still being incredible fascinating. And the announcer is hilarious! He was constantly cracking jokes or giving commentary or firing up the crowd: he turned MCing into an art form. It was worth going just to be entertained by the announcer alone.

After the contest, we puttered around the park for a while, grabbing some lunch, riding a rollercoaster, playing some games on the fairground, and dipping our feet in the water before we packed up to head home. The ride home was a lot less fun than the ride back: no music, and everyone was pretty tired after the intense crowds we'd been fighting our way through; I was so burnt out I took a nap. Speaking of burning... I didn't get sunburnt! First thing I did when we got off the subway was to buy a brimmed hat and a pair of sunglass before slapping on some more sunscreen, even though the sky was still pretty cloudy. Yes Mom, your nagging has finally paid off! I'm incredibly happy that it did: the hat kept my head cool, the sunglasses protected my eyes, and a sunshirt and sunscreen worked together to shield my rather fair skin, as the Scottish do not tan. We have two color settings: sheet-white or lobster. It was a great feeling, not being in that complaining lot that had gotten sunburnt at the beach that morning, and I can go to bed without slathering aloe and moisturizer over smarting skin. Thanks Mom!

When I returned to the suite, everyone was home and taking a break after a morning and afternoon at the beach, and I gladly took the time to study and just generally relax in my air-conditioned room for a few hours. Our entire suite went out for Cuban food around 6:30 PM, munching our way through yummy empanadas and mufungo (an utterly delicious dish!) before heading to the river to watch the fireworks, which were, as I had hoped, fantastic.

I'm beginning to get really close with my suite-mates, which is a really wonderful feeling. Two of the girls in the rooms next to me are incredibly friendly, always willing to introduce me to their friends and include me in anything they do. Heck, we painted each others' nails tonight before we went to bed! Maybe that's a silly thing to put in a largely academic blog, but this seems to me to be more about new experiences that just studying hard with our noses buried in textbooks, and being this close and friendly with a group of girls I'm living with is a great new experience!

Sorry this post is shy on pictures: I had purposely left my camera at home during Coney Island, as it is rather bulky and I'm terrified someone will steal it or it will get lost, and the photos from the fireworks still need some editing in photoshop before I can even consider posting them.

Anywho, good night and a happy Independence Day to everyone!

Big City, Bright Lights

As dusk fell over the Hudson, anticipation arose.

Murmurs in the crowd constructed a roof of expectation and impatience that elevated as far as the fireworks themselves.

Barges barraged the horde of civilians with booming explosions and scattered lights. The collection of people watched as lights soared through the sky, as if shooting stars in space: the blackened sky subject to the illumination of independence.

Today was good. It was also tiring, painful, awesome, dazzling, delicious, heated, uncomfortable, comfortable, cramped, and worthwhile. It was a journey. And, it was the best 4th of July I've ever celebrated. The intl. hot dog eating contest, Coney Island, a cumulative total of 3 1/2 on the subway, no time to rest, a tasty dinner, and bright lights gave my Monday a lot more depth than usual.

I had fun. I feel like I'm really starting to get familiar with the city. I'm pretty keen on the subway system by now, I've memorized the city-scape here and there, and I've toured many of the hottest spots. I've experienced New York at its best, and I've probably experienced it at its worst as well. I've gotten a handle on things, and I can finally begin to feel comfortable outside of Columbia University. Everyday that goes by, I continue to build my expectation that Columbia University will fall from its top-spot on my college list. But, each day that passes yields a completely contrary result. Columbia University and I form a stronger bond, and I grow closer to both the school and the city. I become more attached to both the academics and social opportunity. The East Coast stole my heart. And, I'm not asking for it back.

As the U.S.A. celebrates yet another birthday, I proudly stand as an American. I hope to do great things for my country as time passes, and I will have it no other way.

What can I say? I've got some patriotism in me.

And, it seems as though the lights get brighter and the city becomes bigger as the days progress. I can only imagine what it would be like as Columbia Freshman in the next couple years.

Happy Birthday, U.S.A. You made it another year. And, I've been around once more to witness it all over again.

Happy Birthday America

Today was one of the best days of my life. I am so serious. I cannot believe I am actually in New York celebrating our nation's birth.

We started out the day by heading down to Coney Island to watch the Nathan's hot dog eating contest! It was amazing! Eric and I made sure to hold our spaces foralmost an hour and a half to make sure we could see everything. Besides being disgusting to watch them engulf hotdogs at an unhealthy pace, the crowd made me realize that this is one of the nation's pastimes. My family and I watch the contest every year and to see it in person was unbelievable.

The women's competition was up first. The campion, Sonya Thomas, engulfed an amazing 39 hot dogs in 10 minutes. The best part about the whole contest was listening to the MC throughout the competition. He made remarks like "look how beautiful they look eating!" and how they had nice manners, as theychugged down hot dog after hot dog. After the awards ceremony it was the men's turn.

Now I don't mean to brag, but once again Joey Chesnut from California took home first place! Way to represent Cali! This time Eric and I couldn't really see that good, but we saw some parts and listening to the whole thing. Again, the MC was the guy who made the hot dog eating competition that muchmore worth it to see. Joey ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes. That's about 10 hot dogs per minute. I would tell you how he did it, but I will continue on with my story rather than disgust my readers.

After that was over we headed to the beach just to take a quick look around. I touched the Atlantic Ocean and it was warmer than the Pacific. I feel like I'm betraying my home when I can pick out things that are so much better over here than over there.

We returned home to wait for our suite to go see the fireworks on the Hudson. While I was waiting I managed to do some reading. I'm telling you, my time management is absolutely brilliant! We headed down to the shore and watched the fireworks together, Beilul, Eric, and myself.

If I could redo this day, I would in a heart beat. It was one of the best days I have ever had. It was nice to take a break from all the school work and enjoy one of the most important American holidays. I can appreciate this holiday more after learning from my class all the struggles american leaders have had in trying to make this country equal for everyone. All I have to say is happy birthday America! This is the day of our independence.

Happy Fourth of July

No, that wouldn't do.
How about the hot dog eating contest?
Oh yeah!

Today we got to watch a truly awesome but disgusting event better known as Nathan's hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. Last night I watched a video from last year's contest and I was truly amazed at how the contestants can physically fit over 60 hot dogs into their bodies. In addition, I was also interested in how Joey Chestnut, five time champion, ate the hot dogs.
By the time we arrived at Coney Island, an hour before the first ever women's competition, and the area in front of the stand was already packed. While we weren't so lucky there, we got lucky while waiting for our cohort to use the restroom because all the contestants came out of a bus and high-fived all of us as they walked by.

We're Here!
"They Came. They Ate. They Conquered."
Once we had modeled next to the Nathan's logo, we set up camp in the crowd. However, only Milani and I wanted to stay and be guaranteed a spot to watch the contest, so the rest of the cohort went to buy some famous hot dogs. I must say, the introductions are far more interesting than the actual contest mainly because the announcer is really passionate about his job. He made sure to give each contestant an amazing introduction. Another reason why I found the introductions more interesting is that once the contest began a security officer stepped onto the stage blocking our view. I took 6 minutes of our whole section screaming "Move!" before he finally stepped aside. Moreover, once the males began, he went right back to his spot, blocking our view again. When we did have a window to watch the madness, I really enjoyed how intense the contest was in the beginning when Chestnut and Patrick Bertoletti were neck and neck. After the contests were over and the titles were crowned, we spend a little bit of time to go through the carnival and touch the Atlantic Ocean.

Women's champion Thomas
5 time champion, Joey Chestnut

Being the fourth of July, once we arrived on campus we washed up and ate before setting out with our RAs to watch the fireworks along the Hudson. Initially we though we were going to not get a good spot to watch the fireworks because we missed our 4 PM RA trip. I was more than happy to find that we were able to fine prime real estate along the Hudson River even though we left at 7PM. It was neat to watch the firework display but I didn't see what was so special about it. I mean, sure we're in New York but I don't feel as if the fireworks were any better than those in the Bay Area. Regardless, it was a pretty sight.
Fireworks on the Hudson