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Cooling the itch in the sleepless city of fruit and produce

About a month ago I started getting that itch that college students get over winter break. You know, the one that starts bugging you while you're sitting on a couch that you haven't moved from in so long your skin has begun to graft itself to the leather. You know, the itch that really gets bad when you find yourself quoting lines from "Matlock." I'm talking about that painful affliction that doctors have termed the "I gotta get the hell out of here!" itch. This is not to be confused with jock itch, although Andy Griffith has been known to cause cases of that as well.

This pain hit me after about two weeks of winter break, and I spontaneously decided to do something about it. I turned on the radio and swore to myself that I was going to take a road trip to the next state that was mentioned in a song. It turned out that the next song was "Sweet Home Alabama." I immediately threw my arms up in excitement and yelled, "New York, here I come!" Can you blame me? Who ever took advice from Lynyrd Skynyrd?

I packed my bags and set off on my way. I was leaving from Richmond, and as luck would have it, it snowed six inches just before I planned to leave. This is a problem in Virginia because most drivers here seem to follow a tradition when it snows. They all go out on the icy roads and try their hardest to get involved in 12-car pileups, making the streets difficult to traverse for normal people.

The drive to New York was fun in a not-at-all sort of way. First I went through Virginia, where people can't drive, then Washington, D.C., where the local past time is traffic, then Delaware, where the local past time is getting away from Delaware, then Philadelphia,the city of brotherly flicking each other off, then New Jersey, where they aren't even brotherly about their flicking off.

I left my car at a friend's house in New Jersey and took a train into New York. I did this because it was established long ago that anybody driving a car into New York City is about as intelligent as the fourth guest on "Politically Incorrect." However, there are a lot of dumb people in New York, so the city still is packed with cars.

The first thing that surprised me about New York is that the subway system is not too bad as long as you don't touch the seats, don't talk to the people, don't open your eyes and don't breathe.

Getting somewhere by way of the subway system is not the easiest endeavor when you have never been to New York before. You must first stare blindly for about a half-hour at a subway map that looks more like a crayon drawing by your 4-year-old cousin after he's had a little too much Benadryl. Once you've gotten sufficiently pissed off at the incoherent map, you will ask a friendly New Yorker, "If I'm trying to get to uptown Manhattan, should I take the S train, the F train or the B train?"

Then the friendly New Yorker will say with a friendly smile, "Oh, you actually need to take the SOB train, and then switch at 11th Street to the F-Youtrain." Then the friendly New Yorker will leave a friendly spit wad in your coffee.

No, actually the people I ran into were, for the most part, extremely pleasant. Some actually did help me get where I was going. The true problem in New York subways is the rats. Giant rats the size of 1980 personal computers waltz about the subway tunnels like they own the place. However, it might be justified, because I think they actually do own the place. I heard they pooled their funds together and made New York City an offer it couldn't refuse.

I did notice signs that read, "Beware: This area has been sprayed with Rodenticide." However, I don't think this effort to kill the rodents is working because I saw several fat and happy rats running around, some in business suits, but I did not see a single dead one. I think this mysterious chemical "Rodenticide" is only meant to clean the rats' teeth, not actually kill them.

The first thing I saw in above-ground New York was a shop that seemed to sell only fruit and cameras. This is normal for New York. Apparently the people there often need to pick up fruit and cameras at the same time. The store might as well have had a sign out front, "Come to us for all your photography and produce needs."

That was not the only strange thing about the city that never sleeps. You know what else was weird? No one ever sleeps! The streets are as full at 4 a.m. as they are in the middle of the day. Little tourist families with 5 and 8-year-olds are walking around with huge smiles on their faces taking pictures. I wanted to yell at people, "Go to sleep! This isn't normal! Hey you, buying the peanuts - What are you thinking?! How did you end up at this point in your life when you're purchasing peanuts at four in the morning? Besides, you cut in front of me in line."

Anyway, I stayed for a couple days with my older brother who lives up there. We went to comedy clubs, we went to bars, we effectively rocked that city. I won't go into specifics, but let's just say there isn't a heroin dealer north of Hoboken that doesn't know my name.

So I headed home eventually, having satiated my "I gotta get the hell out of here!" itch and replaced it with some sort of New York City rash. I drove the six hours home, and once I arrived I snuggled back onto my couch, flipped on "Matlock," and recommenced my skin grafting.


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