A few months ago my boss called and said, “how would you like an all expense paid vacation to Manhattan”? He obviously knows my weakness for traveling, and you can’t beat free when being frugal. I decided to bite: “Ok, what’s the catch? Who do I have to go kill?”
It turns out what he really meant by vacation was, “why don’t you spend a couple weeks in the financial district while you tackle hard engineering problems for one of our Wall Street clients.” Yano’s been busy with accreditations, tests, and the like, so I couldn’t bring her along, but I decided to give it a whirl, since the boss asked nicely, and there’s a standing bet amongst my friends of how long I’ll last working 9-5 with no naps in between like the rest of the working population. So I’ve decided to prove them wrong!
It’s hard for me to surpass my backpacking frugal habits, so $300/night posh hotels downtown still don’t sound as exciting as a bunk bed in a hostel. So I was sure to pack a budget guide to New York City before I embarked this morning (borrowed from the Palm Beach County Library of course).
This probably being the only day I’ll have to walk around (that whole 9-5 thing again), I decided to follow the guidebook’s walking tour of Lower Manhattan. I’d never taken the time to properly tourist around the historical sites, so this proved an incredible experience– that is, until I started collapsing with hunger 4 hours later.
I had been starving since 4pm, but I had decided to push through it, in an effort to see the sites before sunset. I wanted some authentic cuisine, and despite the fact that I had an ample allowance for a family of eight in just about anywhere else in the world, I decided to eat at a (guidebook) recommended hole in the wall in Chinatown. Apparently even chefs from Nobu (one of the city’s most celebrated Japanese restaurants), still in their chef’s whites, come to dine here after their shifts are over. I decided to try my luck, and pushed my way through a crowd of dining Asians. This was definitely the real thing!
Not being able to read or understand most of the menu, I opted for the book’s recommendation “sauteed pea shoots”. After a short wait, I realized that sauteed pea shoots were mild flavored lettuce looking things with a semblance of seasoning. I quickly scarfed down the entire 2 pounds of lettuce, and ended up hungry. I looked around at the nearby tables and the scrumptious plates around me. It seemed I was the only one with a less than spectacular meal. All right, let’s try this again… this time I ordered something more recognizable: chicken fried rice with onions. Wrong again! This other meal was what you cook yourself when there’s nothing in the fridge but left overs. This is what you cook when there’s no seasoning, the rice is stale, you have no soy sauce, no vegetables, and you only have one egg to spread for 8 cups of rice. Maybe a little too authentic, or maybe the entire restaurant staff, was secretly laughing at the stupid foreigner ordering the 5 English things on their menu. Oh well, I wasn’t about to try a third plate, so I politely smiled, paid, and left. I could hear the laughter as I closed the door.
Now, I’m all about taking public transport, but it turned out that I was in an uncomfortable corner of Chinatown, in which I was so far from a connecting subway line, that it was a wash between taking a few subway hops and a bus, or just walking back (a taxi would have fared worse with the bumper to bumper traffic). I started to walk, and as is customary, it started to rain, so before I knew it I was running full speed, pushing small Chinese women out of the way, out-running small children on their bikes, and screaming at tourists for walking too slow. After a couple miles I started doing some quick mental calculations:
- 2 pounds of lettuce: 80 calories
- boiled chicken parts: 200 calories
- copious amounts of rice: 700 calories
- miniscule bits of egg: 17 calories
All for a total of 997 calories. But then you start subtracting:
- 4 hour walk: 800 calories
- 3 mile run: 300 calories
So I was basically sporting a caloric deficit which was bound to wake me up in the middle of the night with insatiable hunger pangs that are only serviced by room service (which I’m obviously philosophically against). So I did the next best thing– I stopped at the closest hotdog stand and ate a big New York hotdog. Unfortunately, by the time I got home it occurred to me I had only had two meals today, and had gone for a 2 hour bike ride before I got on the plane.
So now I’m sitting in the hotel room and the $15 can of peanuts is looking mighty fine, cause I’m not about to walk to McDonald’s, let alone Chinatown. I think the fine dining experiences in the subsequent week will be kept down to a minimum of mostly recognizable plates: I’m thinking Indian food every night, because that’s never done me wrong.
So, I may update the blog in the next week, if only to amuse myself after a long day of “real” work. I’ve yet to prove to Mirialis that I can “nine to five” with best of them. I can even do proper overtime, and can even donn dress slacks and button down shirts for work (ok, I had to buy some last week)…
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