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and to think that i heard it on mulberry street
well, i started out on mulberry street, anyway
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)

So this Weight Watchers thing that I'm on, see....

No, just kidding.

I promise not to write three columns in a row about my weight loss. I mean, seriously. Unless the Weight Watchers people ask me to. Or even better, pay me to.

But they haven't asked. Despite the fact that I'm pretty much keeping their entire operation afloat, based on the amount of money I spend each week on their frozen dinners (tonight: Chicken Enchiladas Monterey. Whee doggie).

Anyway, no, I'm not writing about them again. Well, maybe as a segue. (Oooh, foreshadowing.)

Two weeks ago, I took a little vacation/road trip with a friend of mine. He and I (no, not that kind of friend) started out in New York, where I think I drank half a bar. Then we headed down to the Jersey shore, where he drank half a bar. Then we continued down to Baltimore, where we, along with some friends, opened a bar and then closed it down by drinking everything.

Okay, an exaggeration, but you get the point. I had a lot of beer. Light beer, to be sure, but plenty of it. And two shots, if memory serves.

Now, for those of you who are unaware, alcohol makes you fat. Just look at Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. Do you think they want to be drawn that way? No they don't. It's all the beer they're forced to drink by evil animators who get their kicks by giving their main characters adult diabetes and liver problems. Mean, mean animators.

The point is, when I returned to New York, after helping to put on that free drinking clinic, I was feeling nervous that all my weeks at Weight Watchers had been for naught. (see? segue!) So I took a long walk. Lucky for me, there were no short piers around.

(cue rimshot.)

It didn't start out as a long walk. Actually, it started out as a subway ride to Canal Street and Broadway. That's Chinatown, for you tourists. And I don't mean "tourist" as an insult (well, sometimes I do, but not this time). I'd actually decided to visit Chinatown that day to engage in a purely touristy endeavor - I wanted to buy a brand-name knockoff wristwatch.

No, it's true. And anyone who's ever spent more than a layover in New York City knows that Chinatown is where you go to get a brand-name knockoff wristwatch. And a Coach purse. For $50 each.

So that bright Wednesday afternoon, I headed down to Chinatown to buy a watch. The plan was simple: take the subway downtown, buy the watch, earn some Weight Watchers activity points by walking uptown until I got tired, and take the subway back home.

Fate, it seemed, had other plans.

Okay, that sounded ominous. The long and short of it is that I wound up walking all the way home. I hate to spoil the surprise, but that's what happened. I walked 8 miles back to Astoria, my path taking me through Little Italy, Union Square (where I bought an excellent book for my niece), Midtown East (where I stopped at the Sprint store to pick up a spare battery for my new phone), across the Queensboro Bridge (where I contemplated calling it the Ed Koch bridge, and opted not to), and north along 31st Street (where I stopped to buy 5 DVDs for $5 a piece) until arriving at my door.

I still have the shin splints to prove it.

The thing is, that walk reminded me over and over and over again why I really love living in this city. (Yes, this is about to be a tribute to New York. No, you're not allowed to stop reading. There are some good stories coming up.)

First of all, the negotiation with the watch seller did not go as planned, largely because he was a worse salesman than I was a mark.

I had taken out some cash on my way down, hoping to pay about $60 for a high-quality Breitling copy, but knowing I might have to shell out closer to $70 or $80. That's just how it is. Except with this guy, who kept trying to push a $15 Seiko knockoff (a Feiko?) on me. I said, "Do you have anything nicer? Breitling? Tag Heuer?" And he would hold up the Seiko and say something like, "This is nice watch." (I'm not trying to make fun of his accent or immigrant status, by the way. He was just nearly incomprehensible.) And I would say, "Yes, it's okay. Do you have anything nicer?" And he would then indicate the same watch again said, "Look. Is nice." Etc.

In the end, I bought the $15 Seiko. It was a nice looking watch.

At which point, the "salesman" reached behind some curtain and pulled out a fake Breitling. "You ask for Breitling? Here. In black or white."

There's no way to really demonstrate here how long I paused.

"Ummm...you just sold me a watch."

"I know. You ask for Breitling. Is $80."

I was too astonished to bother haggling him down. "But ... you just sold me a watch. I don't need two watches."

"Okay, $70. How much you pay?"

"Nothing. I have a watch now. You just sold it to me."

Other people were starting to take notice of this conversation, which wasn't great, since essentially what we were doing was in a gray area of legality. Charcoal gray.

"Okay, $60."

"I'll give you $60 for that one if you also take this one back."

"No, you buy that one."

"Yes, I'm aware. I was there when it happened. Which is why I'm not buying that one. I only have one left wrist."

I'm not sure if his was a tack that usually worked. "Oh, sure. I'll take that one, too. That way I can have a $3 watch that cost me $15 and a $7 watch that cost me $60. I'll wear 'em both, like they're Swatches in the '80s."

I walked away with him still calling after me. I love New York.

Then, since I was already a few blocks east of Broadway, I headed up Mulberry Street, otherwise known as the last section left of Little Italy. It turns out (not making judgements) that there are a lot more Chinese immigrants to the US these days than Italian immigrants. Go figure. So Chinatown is not-so-slowly devouring the surrounding neighborhoods, Little Italy included. On the plus side, I know a place with a great egg roll/cannoli lunch special.

Here's the thing, though, about Little Italy. It's still Little Italy, if you know what I mean, just somewhat littler. I am not exaggerating or making up either of the next two things I overheard while walking up Mulberry Street:

a) spoken by an older gentlemen to two of his friends, "So now the cops are thinking he killed his wife, right? She's missing for two days and of course he becomes the prime suspect."

b) spoken two blocks further north by a 30-something woman to the guy she was standing with. Well, yelled, really - "And you, you boombatz. You think he's got it lucky when all you do is sit around like a minchione all day, waking up at noon and getting high!"

I promise those are both as close to verbatim as I can accurately remember them. I love New York.

Following my trek through Little Italy, I headed back toward Broadway, where I was asked by a very beautiful woman how to find Bleecker Street. I pointed up Mott Street and she was on her way. There's actually no more to that story, but I like the memory.

The rest of the walk to Union Square wasn't very eventful, nor was buying the Dr. Seuss book for my niece. The book was not, by the way, "And to think that I saw it...." That's just a freaky coincidence that I'm going to have to have haunt me for the rest of my days.

Upon leaving the Barnes & Noble on 18th, I headed to Park Avenue, as I had to eventually make it to 41st and 3rd to stop in the Sprint store for the spare battery I ordered. Thank goodness for bluetooth headsets because I don't think it can technically be considered eavesdropping when the woman walking up Park behind you is alternately berating and crying to a person I can only assume is no longer her boyfriend. "You don't get how you disrespected me by calling to tell me today? I had to make the reservation yesterday. Yes. I told you. I told you. How can you not ever listen to me. You know how much I love you. Now we'll have to wait even longer to see each other. Uh-huh. You should have thought of that. Hold on - call waiting."

Again, verbatim. I love New York. I should have gotten her number.

Again, Sprint store - totally uneventful. Well, not uneventful. I suppose getting my spare battery can be considered an event. Just not an interesting one. Also, I snuck into my office building to use the men's room. It was about 6:00 and I was on vacation, but I still felt oddly grateful that I didn't run into any coworkers. Is that weird?

More or less weird than having shared that on the Internet just now? Whatever.

Anyway, my original plan called for me to pick up the battery, finish my walk at 59th Street, hop back on the subway, and head home to the gloriousness of my air conditioning. But I'm really dumb. "How dumb?" you might ask. Dumb enough to pass the Sports Authority (even though I knew it was only a few blocks up from my old office building) where I'd planned to buy a pedometer. Get that? I walked past the store where I was going to buy the device that would tell me how much I walked. That dumb.

Also dumb enough to walk across the Queensboro Bridge, even though I'd already been walking for more than 2 hours. Though not as dumb as the guy I passed who had a crowd gathered around him, as he'd apparently been riding his bike too fast down the far side of the bike lane on the bridge and somehow managed to smack his head against it. "It" being the bridge. He was bleeding quite a lot from a pretty nasty bump right in the middle of his forehead, and I would actually have stopped to help if it hadn't been for the other twelve people who had already stopped to help. I really would have, had I been one of the first to the scene. As it was, I was gratified, as I continued my walk, to see an ambulance pass by on its way to him. And the lesson here, kids, is that going fast downhill might be fun, but wear your helmet. I love New York.

Are we having fun yet? Well, that's a shame because this story's nearly over. Well, for you, not for me. I still had an hour walk from the Queens side of the bridge, where the two trains that I can take home both stop. So I walked into the subway station ... no, I'm kidding again. I'm that dumb. Did I think, "Well, Ad [I'm on a first-name basis with me], it's been nearly three hours. Maybe you shouldn't push yourself."


I walked home. (Though you'd have known that, if you'd been paying attention earlier in the column. And after everything I've done for you?) Up 31st Street, stopping at the aforementioned DVD store (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Pie 2, Animal House, Tommy Boy, and Dazed and Confused). Don't judge me. They were $5 each and I'd saved $60 not buying the watch I wanted. Okay, judge me.

I overheard a bunch more conversations - two more beautiful women speaking in Hebrew is one that stands out in my mind, though the only two phrases I still remember from my three semesters of Hebrew in college translate, respectively, to "I want to drink beer" and "I have a large monster in my pants" - so I did not stop to converse.

And after a final brief stop at the grocery store (more Weight Watchers frozen dinners), I walked into my apartment just over four hours after buying only one watch.

So what did I learn on my epic trek? The meaning of life? No. People who hang out in Little Italy can even today talk about things I'd prefer not to overhear? Well, yes. Acai-Blueberry-Pomegranate Vitamin Water really tastes like crap? Uh-huh. Do not ride your bicycle fast enough to lose control and bounce your head off 7,449 feet of steel and pavement? Oh, yeah. Whether an inappropriate comment in a foreign language to a pretty girl would get her to pledge her undying love for you? Sadly, no. Do not exacerbate shin splints from 8 miles of walking by then walking 6 more miles three days later? Yup (managed to lose another 2.2 lbs, though). But most of all - I'm sure you guessed it by now - I love New York.


A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

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sandra thompson
7.7.11 @ 9:15a

Reminds me of a stroll up Broadway in 1986. with my daughter: from a movie theatre near Times Square all the way to West 102nd Street where she lived. We stopped at every Haagen Das on the way, perused all the items for sale by the street vendors (mostly used books), and listened to all the street musicians. We had not planned this long a walk, it just turned out that way. It''s just one of those things that happen in Manhattan. I love NY, too.

maigen thomas
7.7.11 @ 9:17a

A'nee ro'tsa lishtot kafe. I would like to drink coffee. But I didn't take classes of Hebrew to learn that. I enjoyed reading more about New York - I wish I had more time off and inclination to explore it.

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