It was 2005. I was 17, and it was January 2nd. My parents were driving me to Long Island, to study pastoral theology at a Baptist bible college.

I lasted one semester. I was figuring out that I was gay, and due to some shake-up in my family, I didn’t return to college from my trip back to upstate NY in August.

Fast forward to 2018. I was talking to my sister (her birthday is the day after mine) about coming to NYC, and spending the weekend to celebrate my 30th birthday. She was able to take the weekend off, and asked her best friend to come with her, as well.

I mentioned the trip to two of my best friends, and they’ve traveled a little more than I have, and they helped me book my flight and hotel, and told me they’d drive me to the airport.

Friday 

Finally, Friday arrived, and my friends picked me up. When we parked in the lot at the airport, I asked why. Then they got their bags out of the trunk. Surprise! It was going to be a weekend getaway for my birthday!

flight
Sunset from the plane

Arriving in JFK wasn’t that overwhelming, it just took a few minutes to figure out where to go. Hopping on the Airtrain, to the subway, was pretty easy!

subway
First time on the subway!

My sister had already arrived at the hotel, so after I checked in, I met her and introduced her to my friends.

room at Row NYC
My hotel room at Row NYC
Hotel View
View from my hotel room

After relaxing for a little bit, we grabbed dinner, and picked up a few things we needed for the weekend from a corner store, and then headed out for the night.

I wasn’t able to experience any of the gay nightlife when I was in NYC at 18, so I was looking forward to checking out the scene. Friday evening, we went to the Ritz, and danced the night away. On our way back, we stopped at a cart and got some street meat- nothing like an Italian sausage to end the night!

street meat

Dog Farts and Weed

On Saturday, after breakfast, my sister waited for her friend to join her at the hotel, and so my two friends and I went off to Brooklyn, after seeing the World Trade Center memorial, to meet a family member. She took us to see the waterfront in Williamsburg, and then to a dive bar to relax. When we walked into the bar, I noticed a few dogs wandering around. Once we stepped outside on the patio, it seemed like everyone had brought their dog to the bar. All sorts of breeds, and sizes; all adorable and friendly!

brooklyn scene
Scene from Brooklyn
WTC memorial
One of the World Trade Center memorials

As we left, two guys who had stepped out just before us, were talking, and one of them loudly exclaimed that the bar “smelled like dog farts and weed.” Well, it didn’t really, but that certainly gave us a good laugh.

After making it back to Times Square, we got ready for dinner. My sister had made reservations to a Brazilian restaurant (all the meat!), and so we made our way over to the restaurant and enjoyed a good, but overly filling meal. As she made her way out to meet friends, we went back to the hotel to relax after dinner.

I didn’t want to spend the night in, and a cute guy had messaged me on a dating app and invited me out, so I joined him, and went to a few of the clubs around the area; it was a great night out!

Chinatown

Up until Sunday, I had never experience Dim Sum, the Chinese version of brunch. It is truly an experience. We took the subway to Chinatown, and got to the restaurant just before a big rush.

Let me break it down for you. If you don’t have enough people to fill a table, you are seated with other people. Waiters push carts full of food (from pork dumplings, to seafood rolls, chicken feet, and everything in between), and you tell them what you want, they put the container (the food is kept warm in bamboo steamers) on the table, mark the card on the table to keep track of what you ordered, and go on their way. Talk about a filling meal. Tea is served with the meal, as well.

It was raining when we left, and after grabbing some bubble tea, we headed back to Times Square. I picked up a birthday gift for my sister, who was studying homework in the hotel, and spent a bit of time with her, before heading back to Brooklyn for a Grammy viewing party. After the viewing party, we headed out for one last night out.

One Last Morning

I woke up just after 8am. The time of birth noted on my birth certificate.

My sister and I had breakfast around 9am. It had been about 2 years since I’d seen her last, and while we text, and talk over the phone often, it’s never the same as seeing someone. We talked about plans for the summer, and what she had planned for her birthday.

I walked with her down to Penn Station (quite a walk!) and made sure she got to where she needed to be.

Ashley and I
My sister and I

Heading back home always feels nice. And I’m so happy that I was able to see my sister, and spend time with two of my best friends.

I thought flying to NYC would feel like closing a long (13 year) chapter. It didn’t. It felt like the continuing of a journey.