Back when I was living in Toronto, many moons ago, one of my roommates and I decided to take a road trip down to NYC. Now, normally this would be a trip that you might plan out in advance, but in reality it was more like this:
Me: "It's my friend's birthday so I was thinking of driving down to visit and could use some company, are you interested?"
Adam: "Sure, when are you going?"
Me: "This weekend, do you think you could get off Friday?"
Adam: "That's soon, I'm not sure about that."
Me: "Can you check?"
Adam: "Yeah I guess"
As luck would have it, he got the time off and we hopped in my *trusty van, which looked something like this:
It did the job for getting band equipment around Toronto, as well as helping a bunch of people on moves around the city. It also had a weird wiring in the stereo that didn't like it to be driven too hard or too much bass or treble. Sometimes the volume would start turning up on its own. This was the only trip outside of Toronto that the van ever made without breaking down**.
New York is a long way from Toronto (8.5 hours with no stops), so my lovely mother offered to make us a care package to take us through. We left Toronto at about 6 or 6:30am and hit the road. That put us in Burlington (where my mom lived) at between 7-7:15. I think that was a bit early for her, but luckily she loved me a whole lot, so she was awake and had a package of fruit and drinks and vegan chocolate for us. I don't remember exactly, but I think she had a pot of coffee on for us as well.
So we took off from her house at about 8ish, we didn't want to get to caught up in mid-day traffic if possible. We were about a kilometre away from my mom's house when some songs that were ripped off a vinyl came on Adam's Ipod. Songs that you take from vinyl to the computer tend to sound more tinny and have less bass once in mp3 form. I wanted to listen to it and didn't like the sound, so I went to turn up the bass. Adam said, "are you sure you want to do that?", to which I replied, "yeah it sounds like crap". Well, POP!. The radio blew; turned right off. Nothing we could do would turn it back on again. We tried hitting it and yelling at it, but then we were out of ideas. We were barely an hour into our trip and without music to accompany us.
Well we couldn't have that. So Adam started making some rhymes about it, which turned into rudimentary freestyle rap. We were 'beatboxing' ( I use quotes, because we weren't any good at that either) and rhyming about whatever we could think of.
After about two hours of that, we arrived at the border, which for obvious reasons temporarily put our rapping on hold. After crossing we chatted for a bit before getting frustrated and trying our hand at hitting and yelling at the radio again. Turning it off and on quickly (like an original NES when it won't work). No dice. At some point in northern NY state, Adam started singing "She'll be comin' round the mountain", possibly spurred by the low mountains and hills we drove past, though I'm not sure. After the first verse I let out a big sigh and he stopped....for a minute before singing "she'll be riding 6 white horses". After that, we decided to return to freestylin'.
Now, whenever you practice a lot at something, sooner or later you become alright or even good at it. I don't think we ever got into the good realm, but by the time we got down closer to Manhattan, we were getting much better than when we started. We passed through Catskill, NY and came up with gems like "Cats kill or Cat skill which one is that? Shootin' one down or break dancing with a cat?" I hope there are better ones that I am not remembering, or we definitely didn't get any better.
After many hours and a few refuelling/eating stops, we rolled into Mamaroneck just before dinner hour. There we picked up some beer (30 for $16!!! Way less than the legal cost in Ontario) and visited my friend Perry to wish her a happy birthday.
As we pulled back on the road, we tried again at the radio and miraculously it worked! We decided to shy away from the Ipod and opt instead for local radio. We found a station called 'WE BE 108" that was playing a lot of instrumental funk, which became our beats for our newly well-honed skill.
Around 7 or 8, we rolled into our hotel north of the city (White Plains). We had a coupon we had picked up from a service station 200 miles or so north of there. It turned out to be a hotel I had stayed at on a previous trip while on tour. We went to our room with the intention of resting a bit and going out to see Hot Snakes in the city. We kicked back on our beds and woke up at 9:30 or so, not realizing we had fallen asleep and decided to get some food instead. We went to the restaurant in the hotel, but it offered nothing for vegans, so we ducked out while they were getting us water. We drove out to a 24 hour A & P, but it was closed. Why was it closed? I don't know. All the lights were on and there seemed to be some workers inside, but none of the doors were open. Maybe they closed it for inventory or something. Now we were really hungry, but the only thing we could find open was a Walgreens. We bought some polaroids for our camera and some 'just add water' thai food. One thing we didn't think about at the time was how we were going to boil the water. We got back to the hotel and there was no kettle. Being the geniuses (Genii?) that we are, we ran the coffee machine empty to get our hot water. Don't ever do that. The water didn't really boil, it just got hot. And then the thai food was crunchy and tasted like old coffee.
The next day we ventured into the city to take in a few restaurants and hang out. Just as we got into town the van was rumbling. Some cars honked at us and finally one yelled out our window pointing out a flat**. This is where things got a bit heated. Adam and I very rarely argue, but he was concerned about screwing up the rim beyond repair and I was just trying to find a place to pull over (the streets in the city are lined right around corners. He was saying "dude you gotta pull over" and I was saying, "YEAH WHERE?". And then I saw a garage that looked open and said "OH. THERE I GUESS".
It was pretty stressful, but eventually we got a plug put in and went on our way. We parked the car and headed out on foot. We ate at Angelica's and Caravan of Dreams, two of my favourite restaurants in NYC. Actually amongst my favourite anywhere. We intended to find another place to stay because we lost the other coupon we had, but ended up resorting to the same place. Turns out the coupon was under my seat (which it turns out, is often where the things I'm looking for are). We decided to take the night easy and go to a movie. Just as we pulled into the theatre parking lot, a transformer on an electrical pole blew up in huge sparks above my head. It scared the crap out of us and I was swore that I felt the electricity from the sparks, but Adam assured me I was an idiot.
On our last day there, we went down to hit some museums. To our dismay, the MoMA was in the midst of a majour overhall and closed (to re-open the following weekend). So we just went to the Gugenheim, where I bought my family some art (....from the gift shop). We checked our 109 Million lottery ticket and we didn't win, so we decided to just head on back to Toronto.
*Over the time I had the van, it was only mildly trustworthy, and it happened to be on this trip.
**See second reference to this symbol...I don't really count that as a breakdown, but worth a note, I suppose.