Well, I had heard things. Probably you have all heard things. We all hear things about Shabbat at Stern.
What do we hear? Well, about the stigma that is associated with it, how it is boring/ unhappy/ frightening, and so on and so forth. In other words, there are many variations on the theme that if you are an out-of-towner, you are doomed to failure and complete misery.
It is understandable, then, that I entered said Shabbos with a healthy bit of confused apprehension.
Now, here's the fun part-after the meal (which wasn't such a sketchy meal; it actually appeared edible and even appetizing) we all (this means the girls and also the guys from YU who come up to make a minyan) went back to the girl's dorms. The guys sleep at a hotel, but there's a lounge, Oneg Shabbos as it is called, games and conversation.
I wanted to play Apples to Apples. It's possibly my favorite game ever. One girl claimed she would play with me, but as she disappeared into oblivion, and I saw a few other people in possession of a box, I invited myself over and inquired as to whether I could join. These being nice people, I was indeed allowed to join, and even began a winning streak (until my magical mind connection with another girl in the group led me to pick her every single time I was the judge.)
In case you don't know how Apples to Apples works, it's a game where one person puts down a card upon which is written an adjective, and you (each member of the group) hold seven cards with nouns. These nouns can be anything and everything from "Adolf Hitler" to "Hangnails." You each submit a card with a noun on it facedown to the judge, who will then decide. Based on this person's sense of humor, you shall win or lose. Officially, the first person with seven (or twenty-one, or any number, as you like) cards, wins.
During this game we engaged in good-natured rivalry and amused conversation, after which I somehow ended up relating the extremely complicated and, for some reason amusing (maybe it only works if you're telling this over at one AM) anecdotes and stories that occurred within the four walls of my Jewish highschool (before I switched.) This was intercepted by statements from the other people about their own highschools, or yeshivot, or what it had been like in Israel, and so on and so forth...
Fast forward to Shabbos morning. I went to shul, while most other people appeared to have gone to the YU minyan in the cafeteria. As I came back early from shul, I decided to help the waitresses (and discovered the extremely unsanitary chopping-boards we have...they are only rinsed with water, no soap or anything else.) The amusing part was when these girls came up to me with expressions of awe (and dare I say fear?) in their eyes, inquiring as to "why" I was helping them. "I've never seen anyone do this," one said, "you're not even getting paid!"
I suppose one cannot put ice-buckets on tables unless one is paid to do it...
The meal was good fun, especially as I was able to continue my conversation with the three people who had so amused me the night before...
After the meal we returned to the lounge once again. Here I must describe the weather in New York. Some would call it miserable. Others might call it wet. I'll say it was raining, and there was a breeze as well, so the combination wasn't the most suitable for outdoor excursions. However I wanted to take a walk. It seemed cruel to insist upon another human being coming alongside me due to the weather, so I decided to take said walk alone. Not a good plan, as I soon found out.
Important note to self- never take walks alone in New York when you are dressed in Shabbos clothing.
I hugged my green Gap belted jacket closer to myself as I strode determinedly down Fifth Avenue. I was dazzled by the shops, the stores, the colors, the lights...everything appeared fabulous and exciting. I was humming refrains and snatches of popular songs to myself. I goodnaturedly said hello to people, and was pleasantly surprised when a few of them even said "hello" back.
Now to my attire. This is the important part of the story. As it was Shabbos, I was dressed in a red and black turtleneck and a short black skirt. This black skirt has silk fringes and a small silk bow. As it's cold, black tights and lace-up calf-length boots complete the look. A green Gap jacket, as previously mentioned, is worn over the turtleneck.
I walk with a sense of purpose, curiously glancing at stores, but more often, at people. There are so many different types of people, homeless or otherwise. After wandering for a while, the rain misting my hair and the breeze dancing around me, I decide to make my way back to the dorm.
I walk back down Fifth Avenue, though in the opposite direction. I am waiting for the walk sign at an intersection, and I have a stone in my boot. I look down at my boot as I move my foot, trying to move the pebble so it does not chafe against my foot.
"Nice boots," says a voice beside me.
I look up. There's a man, significantly taller than me in his late twenties or early thirties. He's wearing a leather jacket, black jeans, and some type of polo shirt. He has black or simply dark hair. He's a sturdy-looking person. He's also waiting for the Walk sign.
"Thanks," I say.
"I like the skirt, too," he says, and gives me a meaningful smile. "So...do you know some place around here we could go?" He accompanies this with a hand gesture, expansively taking it the whole of Fifth Avenue.
(I'm thinking to myself- how old does he think I am? He wants to take me to a bar!)
"No place I know," I say airily, and smile.
"Oh," he answers. "I'm from LA. That's why I'm asking."
"I'm from Chicago," I volunteer. "I'm walking."
That's when the Walk sign came on, and I walked swiftly (though not too swiftly, lest I attract more attention) away. That's also when I began to smile, and finally to laugh softly to myself. Nobody has ever attempted to pick me up before. It's just not done in Chicago. And people are certainly more subtle about it...
I return to the dorm and sleep.
Shalashudos goes well, after which is Havdala and then a movie ('Proof,' filmed on the University of Chicago campus so I recognized everything!) at another dorm. There was an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins as well, and that was possibly the best part. I don't like how open-ended the movie is. 'A Beautiful Mind' is much, much better.)
When the movie was concluded, I was invited out by the three (well, actually two, as the third had disappeared but would soon return) people who had amused me throughout Shabbos. As this is a long weekend (which meant I had nothing else to worry about, homework-wise) I accepted. This meant walking in the rain, wandering around Broadway, and pizza and drinks at J2!
Huzzah J2. It was good pizza ;) Plus I learned some interesting things about various Yeshivot.
Now, to the broken umbrella. Enter our aforementioned third party to the restaraunt, complete with iPod, cap and backpack. He is carrying this odd-looking black and red umbrella. It's the kind of thing you might expect to see old ladies carry, or perhaps women who are very garishly made-up. He closes it and explains that he "found it on the street." This doesn't make sense to me, as I do not comprehend the strange ways of New York.
Does anyone else find it amusing that the guys opted for Diet Coke when I went with regular? I was once again amused.
At some point we have to return, of course, as the guys need to take the shuttle back to Uptown. The last shuttle is at 1:15 in the morning, so we're walking back from J2, dancing along the streets (at one point three of us were listening to iPods, and arranged it so we even had the same songs going on at the same time...the logic in that I don't know, but it was fabulous) as the rain fell upon us.
Soon I understood what our third party had meant when he stated he had found the umbrella "on the street," as it were. We passed two more abandoned umbrellas, each of which one member of the group alternatively picked up. I had a blue broken Six-Flags one for a few moments.
There's really something about passing by lots of shuttered stores in the middle of the night (or in the early morning) while it is raining, there are bright lights everywhere, you're in good company and marooned umbrellas invade the sidewalks.
Then back to the dorm, goodbyes and farewells, and twas the end of the night...except that the original broken umbrella (red and black) was bequeathed unto me until another time when it shall be needed and/or our people come back to pick it up.
The best part is that all of these people are in-towners. So ha. See? Sometimes in-towners do stay for Shabbat.
Huzzah everybody! It was a wonderful Shabbos.