By late spring, my dreaded criminal case had been dismissed with prejudice. The DA dug up exculpatory evidence on Faith. She had recently been arrested for theft at the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter making her an unreliable witness. Ironically, my other tenant, had locked Faith out of the house on New Year’s Day, and Faith decided to camp out at the shelter where she was caught red-handed breaking curfew and stealing from fellow residents. A huge weight was taken off my shoulders, and now I was ready to haul heavy loads and massive freight without a pending trial.
The first company that hired me straight out of school was Coastal Transportation, a struggling flatbed company based in Savannah, GA.
We need to get you down to Savannah for a 10-day load securement training,” my recruiter instructed.”After that three weeks with a trainer, and then you’re qualified to go solo.”
“Well, as a trucker, I’m not much for riding a bus. Can I fly?”
“Absolutely, you can purchase the ticket and we’ll reimburse you with your first paycheck.” I went online and noticed that I could fly United from DC to Savannah with an extended 12-hour layover in Newark, a destination nearly 800 miles away.
United’s hub is in Newark, and the Jersey airport on the other side of the Hudson Bay is only a hop, skip, and a jump from the Big Apple.
My eyes were sparkling with visions of Stacy, hitting the town like a Sailor on Cinderella liberty.
When I arrived, I checked into Hertz Gold and was surprised to get a huge upgrade. Not just a larger vehicle, but a luxury Mercedes Benz GL-450 SUV with stunning leather seats, slick center console, and walnut trim.
“Hey Stace, I have a surprise for you!” I texted.
“Super, looking forward to seeing you. Can’t wait to see the surprise,” she immediately replied with a smiley emoticon.
“Awesome, see you after work. Meet you at 5 at the ‘Crossroads.'”
There’s no business like show business, and that’s why there were tens of thousands of tourists swarming Times Square that evening. Since Stacy worked in marketing, she was amazed at how much it costs to purchase advertising just for a day.
“$50,000 – that’s the price of a one BR condo in Upper East Side,” she mentioned.
After walking for a good half an hour, we worked up a voracious appetite.
“Ok, Stace, this is nothing like cheung fun at Tonii’s – we’re actually going to eat semi fancy tonight,” I revealed.
Nestled next to “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic is the diminutive China River. From the outside, this spot looks like any low-key Chinese eatery sprinkled all over the city of 8 million.
But once you step inside and study the menu, you will discover that China River boasts authentic Sichuan food with all the bells and hot peppers.
There are tons of dishes to choose from, depending on mood and hunger. You can also choose the level of hotness you can withstand. Whether you like to have your lips numbed by fiery peppercorn or you prefer to have your taste buds scorched by chili oil – it’s all customized to your heatness.
For the first round, I had the Dan Dan Noodles also known as spicy Szechuan noodles. True to its name, it was spicy & sour and a bit too oily for my liking. Every time I slurped a few strands of buckwheat noodles drenched in ground pork and chili, I would redecorate my shirt like tie-dye.
Contrary to what you may think, the dish is not named after infamous Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese. Instead “Dan Dan” is the carrying pole that street vendors in the Sichuan province use. They place the ingredients, bowls, chopsticks & cookwares in two baskets tied to each end of the pole. They cook and serve the noodles in the street whenever stopped by customers. What started in small towns throughout Sichuan is now a popular Szechuan dish enjoyed by Szechuan fanatics everywhere.
After dousing my tongue in ice cold water and wiping off my chin of Sichuan pepper and chili oil, I was ready for Round 2
Since I’m adventuresome, I went with the Diving Fish Pot. It’s an entire fish soaked in Sichuan broth with peppercorn, leek and kelp. The fish was so tender, the sliced pieces melted in my mouth like molasses. I paired the dish with brown rice and enjoyed digging into every part of the fish until every bit of morsel was consumed.
Stacy ordered Crispy Pan Fried Noodles with Beef. Though this is a very common dish, it was surprisingly good. The crunchy fried noodles had a crispy texture and thick gravy over the finely sliced pieces of beef was heavenly indeed.
The place has three levels including a fully equipped bar with tall bar stools. All the drinks in the menu looked appetizing, especially the popular Tsing Tao Mojito – lime, rum and a bottle of beer flipped upside down. I call this the Tsing TaoRita just like the ever-popular CoronaRita.
So after sipping on hot tea to cool down our scalded tongues, we walked hand-in-hand to the luxury SUV and proceeded to Brooklyn in style.
I absolutely love driving over the Brooklyn Bridge – the views are so breathtaking.
“Yeah, I run over this bridge, sometimes.” Stacy mentioned. “They have the love locks here – couples engrave their names on the locks and throw away the keys.”
“I wonder how many of these relationships are still strong?” I said teasingly.
“If it’s like most couples I know, not long – finding endearing love in New York City is damn near impossible.”
“Well, for every one that splits up, there is always one that lasts a lifetime,” I said wishfully.
“Yeah, and if you see a Blasian couple, you should turn around and stare, cuz it’s especially rare.”
Stacy loved the beach. As a young child, she would visit Coney Island often with her sisters. Summers at the “Big C” usually ring with the sound of screams from roller coasters and playful shouts from bumper cars and spinning teacups. The sounds, the smell the sea breeze – all brought back lovely memories of peace and bliss.
She had an uncle who lived in nearby Long Beach. She loved how the beach has retained the unique urban New York look and feel.
“Despite been 20 miles away, I feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of Brooklyn with the same diversity, culture and character. Just substitute an enormous sandy white beach for the massive skyline,” she declared.
There are no major hotel chains here – it’s not overly congested like the shores in Florida. And the water is cool and clean – unlike the beaches in Mississippi or chilly like it is in Cape Cod and Nantucket.
After walking leisurely around Luna Park, we were ready to call it a day, and ready to head back to the congestion of NYC.
When we finally arrived in her hood and parked in front of her apartment, I reached over to grab something from the back seat.
Stacy looked suspiciously as if I had something up my sleeve.
“So I want you to hold on to this for me until I come back,” as I pulled out a brand new Macbook air, mint condition, still in the box.
“What!! Why not just bring it with you?”
“Because I’m going to a trucking school in Savannah and don’t want to bring it, in case it gets stolen – you know how truckers are,” I quipped.
“Yeah, you told me about Western Express – can’t trust them as far as you can throw them.”
“Well, this is a smaller, more respectable company, but you never know who will be my roommate,” I chuckled. “I could room with a polyanna or a psychopath.”
“Well, for your safety and sanity, let’s hope you don’t bunk with any sicko pervs or highway robbers,” she stated.
“Yeah, I hope to be back in one piece, in two weeks, so we can do this all over again. And maybe if we have time, we can go over some cool WordPress templates and plugins.”
“Absolutely, I’ll pencil you in my calendar, so I won’t be working late.”
“Thank you, I have something to look forward to. Tarping loads in the summer heat of Savannah will not be a walk in the park.”
“Well I hope you have more to look forward to besides spending time with me. Still can’t believe you’re entrusting me with this high-priced mac – what a huge responsibility,”
“That’s because I trust you and am beginning to have feelings for you,” I stated.
“But we just met and we live so far away from each other.”
“I realize that, and I know your laptop is on its last leg. So if she ever craps out and you need something on a pinch, I would totally understand it if you had to use it for work. But please before you do, just let me know.”
“You got my word, and I hope we never come to that.”
“Open communication is essential for a strong relationship,” I stated.
She nodded and then I bid her adieu with a warm kiss on her cheek. She turned abruptly and for a millisecond, my lips brushed against hers.
With that, I felt ever more certain I met someone I could count on. And I looked forward to returning to see her in 10 days – someone who could hold my hand and hear me out after a long trip on the road.