The long drive My family made pilgrimages to New York three times each year—Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Easter weekend to stay with my father’s parents in Queens.
The alphabet game My sister and I tried to find every letter of the alphabet, in order, on road signs and license plates along the drive. Sometimes collaboratively. More often in competition.
The yellow bucket I grew prone to car sickness. We repurposed a yellow canister that had originally held children’s blocks as my puke bucket.
The tri-tone When we got within range of the City, Dad turned on talk news. I hear the station’s signature tri-tone sound. I still associate that sound with car sickness and boredom.
Chinese people For years, I thought the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers were Chinese people because our visits revolved around my grandparents’ apartment and Chinatown.
Non-Chinese people My Grandma Jean joined the drive once a year to meet an old friend. They saw Broadway shows and drank--my first hint at a non-Chinese part of New York.
Seating arrangements Grandma Jean joined in a Chinese dinner once. I wanted to sit next to her; she insisted that I should want to sit next to the grandparents we were visiting.
Spinning When I was little, my grandfather greeted my sister and I each with a hug and a spin through the air our legs dangling to either side of his potbelly.
Feast My grandmother cooked feasts of beef and spare ribs and broccoli and mushrooms and lobster to devour upon our arrival.
Lobster tales Before dinner, my grandmother kept the lobster alive in the fridge, crawling around produce and milk and eggs and beer.
Dogs My grandparents kept two dogs--their own, Ling-Ling, and my uncle’s, Ginger, the latter a Doberman pinscher I felt certain would maul me if given the opportunity.
Other visitors My uncle ran a pharmacy in the neighborhood. He and his wife stopped by for a later dinner. My uncle and my father traded barbs that rarely sounded good natured.
Museums Once each visit, we started visiting a museum--the Metropolitan Museum of Art or American History Museum. Growing up, I preferred the dinosaurs of the latter.
Buttons My father neither wanted to pay for museum admission, nor look stingy eschewing the suggested donation. We scanned sidewalks for blocks, looking for that day’s colored button to get in.
Musical artifacts A teenager, I grew bored of museums, and lingered on a music exhibit because I thought it would give me fodder to talk with the singer I liked at school.
Another girl At summer camp, I developed an intense crush on a girl from Queens, and spent whole trips hoping to catch sight of her on the street.
Return Summer after freshman year at college, I went to New York with Dad shortly after Mom left him. He meant to keep the break from his mother, but didn’t.
Conference I attended an intercollegiate conference against going to war in Iraq. We slept in the pews of a church our first night, a stranger’s living room in Harlem the second.
Reunion My first fall with a car, I drove to New York to meet up with two childhood friends. One of those nights, I saw Times Square for the first time.
Spring Break A girlfriend and I bused to the City for Spring Break. I was new to drinking and new to bars and ordered a twenty dollar rum and coke.
Last trip Just after college graduation, I made my last drive to New York with Dad. I started to recognize how weird all of those childhood trips were.
Recuperating After a bad break up, I went to New York to stay with a college buddy. I chatted up a young Manhattanite I thought might take me home. She didn’t.
A Cappella I started The A Cappella Blog, and started an annual tradition of traveling to New York to see the college and high school International Finals.
Pie After my first ICCA Finals, my best friend, my girlfriend and I wandered Manhattan with aims on sating a hunger for pie.
Central Park I was supposed to meet my friends in Central Park one year. It took forever to connect with them. But spring had just sprung and the Park was beautiful.
Happy Birthday The year Annie came with us, her birthday fell on the same night as college finals. We got the Buffalo Chips to serenade her with “Happy Birthday.”
White Castle In a drunken stupor, we once walked over two miles to reach a White Castle. It was glorious.
Early morning flight home We stayed at the LaGuardia Hotel. Got in at three in the morning. Had to be out the door by five. I found I was too old for all-nighters.
’Melo I was in Manhattan on business the night Carmelo Anthony debuted at Madison Square Garden. The receipt I turned in for reimbursement was for an eight dollar concession stand hotdog.
Taylor Swift Full disclosure, the first track from 1989, "Welcome to New York," first inspired this post. I’m not ashamed. Nor proud.