Saturday, October 15, 2005

From Dali to Remi: Great Sunday

It was September 16th, Friday, when Greece was playing France for the first game of Eurobasket 2005, and in the first half we were beating them with double score. Several people were gathered in my house to watch the game in the projector over webstreaming, and I was seating next to Stayros. Suddenly, in mthe midst of all the excitement for beating the french, I realized it: we would be in NYC the next weekend when the finals are taking place... So I turn to Stayros and say: "Imagine, us watching Greece in the final the next Sunday in Astoria in New York". Our faces suddenly became serious, with a twist of hope in them, although we didn't really believe that it could turn out to be true.

To cut the long story short, 10 days later:

The dream became true, and that whole day was so unexpected. When I woke up that day (right after the Remi bouzoukia night) I decided to fulfil one my long-time dreams: to go for a Sunday morning walk in Central Park. As I exit the hostel, I immediately realized why NYC is NYC.

If someone told me in LA that as they walked outside their house they found a concert going on, I would have thought he was crazy. But in New York that seemed completely normal: the street outside our hostel was closed and a small fair was going on, with 2 bands performing live at each end of the street.

The walk in the park was relaxing and quiet. I sat along a small lake and gazed on the ducks and the passing-by bike riders, looking ahead on the trip to Astoria that was coming up. At noon, exactly as planned, we met with Stayros who was just ready to catch the metro for Astoria. On they way there, I captured one of my favorite pictures, a picture that points out the differences in NYC.

Look at Stayros: a young student, in athletic uniform, who just spent his night in bouzoukia, ready for the match. Right next to him, a typical (?) New York City classy couple. The gentleman in an expensive suit, perfectly ironed pants and a Rolex watch, along with his equally well-dressed wife who has carefully places cosmetics around her body and meticulously prepared hair. These 2 different worlds have nothing in common, except the city that unites them.

We found Athens Cafe, a quite famous cafeteria in Astoria were people gathered to watch the game. Although winning the championship was not celebrated as much as the soccer one on year earlier, we had great fun and we met several interesting people along the way. We indulged into a heaven of Greek food: Frape, Tiropita, and Pitogyro. It was delicius.

Afterwards we cheered for the win along with some other greek fans closeby to the cafeteria. The cars were honking, the people were cheering, we were just happy to be there and witness that: It's one of the experiences that we wouldn't ever forget.

Just when we were thinking that the day couldn't get better, the best part was saved for the evening. As we has scheduled some days ago, we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge on that Sunday evening, along with hundreds more New Yorkers and tourists. I had never walked the bridge before during the night, and it is certain in is far better during the nighttime.

No picture can capture the feeling we felt as we stood in the middle of the bridge, at the highest point and we gazed on a stunning 360 degree view on one of the most clear and nice nights of the year. Everywhere we looked we could see New York: The Statue of Liberty, the lower Manhattan lights, 6 lanes of traffic below us, the stunning colorful midtown skyscrapers, the Manhattan bridge, the subway moving below it with the small light windows, Queens, Brooklyn, the bicyclists and people passing by, everything, absolutely everything was there. My mind travelled to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, when he was getting a one-way ticket to NYC so that he could die there. I never fully understood that feeling (which lies at the heart of that movie) until I stood in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge on that September evening.

Now on to Grimaldi's, at the foundation of the Brooklyn side of the bridge.
Grimaldi's is supposed to have the best pizza in New York: It has been rated by Zagat 5 years ina row as the best pizza place in the 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island). That's an area where 18 million people live and breathe every single day.

Grimaldi's lives definately up to its hype: It's a solid 5 star real italian pizza restaurant, in a single location, with a single brick oven, 25 or so tables only, and the freshest of ingedients, for a $14 only pizza. The line is usually huge but we were lucky to arrive at a non-peak time. What followed inside can only be described as one of the funniest moments of my life (eating one of the best pizzas in my life!).

The happy guy in the background is a Puerto-Rican fellow who had just moved to NY with his girlfriend. On the opposite side of us (not visible here), were a bunch of Taiwanese ladies who had as much idea regarding European basketball as we had for Taiwanese Badmidton. When we told them that we had won the european championship on that day, they started cheering like crazy and initially we didn't realize why all that fuss was for. But then I saw the truth: they saw Stayros wearing the greek outfit and they thought that it was literally WE who played in the game and won the match!

We signed autographs on their backpacks and wallets, and they took pictures with us holding the greek flag. I could barely hold the pizza on my mouth as I was burtsing into laughter trying to keep myself from revealing the truth to them. It was a non-sexual orgasm: a good laugh, followed by a slice of perfect pizza, followed by a bigger laugh, followed by another slice of perfect pizza. I was too overwhelmed from the emotions overtaking my thoughts for these few minutes.

I hope these ladies are not reading this blog:-) We didn't have bad intentions not telling them, it was just too fun to stop it happening, and they had a great time too. Anyways, that was an unforgetable evening. Goodnight, and good luck.