Sitting in the back of the taxi on the way into the city, I remember being shocked at the sight of the graves.
There were rolling fields, large enough to accommodate a small suburb, saturated with endless rows of headstones. That alone was a striking visual, but what pushed it into the realm of audacity was the fact it was just beyond the walls of the freeway we were driving over. I’ve never seen anything like that–a phrase I would be uttering a lot over the next few days.
The taxi dropped me off in front of the Slingshot office. I paid the driver with the cash my mother had given me, and headed inside. I made my rounds to say hi to Vince, Andrew, and then met the boss-man himself: Joe. Dressed in a blue suit, no tie, and slicked hair, he was the spitting image of class. I gave him the black bear slingshot I picked up from a gift shop in Colorado; a token in honor of the brand, and my thank you to him for all he’s given me. I secured several Slingshot stickers, and a hefty “tab” from Vince.
At 6 p.m., Andrew and I left to take the subway back to his girlfriend’s apartment in Queens. I got a metro card from the terminal — a flimsy yellow card with a black stripe — and followed his lead through the labyrinth of stairs, platforms, and people to take the proper trains home. I would eventually learn how to navigate my own way, but for now I let the expert handle it.
The apartment was a small matter. It had one bedroom with a door, the bathroom, a tiny kitchen, then another bed by the living room behind a sliding door. There were plenty of gaps in the wall for cords to go through–and the cats. They were four adorable pets, each one slim and nimble. They took a liking to me, and I liked them, but due to my allergies I had to refrain from petting them so much. With Benadryl in my system, I fell asleep.
The next day, I met with Blake Bottrill at the office, and we took off to tour New York. We walked through the dazzling Time Square, visited Nintendo World, I fell for one of the monks’ schemes to donate money, and managed to trek half of Central Park before heading back. I remember being amazed at how massive the park was. Once you were well into it, you couldn’t even tell you were surrounded by one of the biggest cities in the world. I felt like I was meandering the countryside.
I revisited Time Square that night for three reasons: to meet the Spiral Cats, to meet Barry and Noah, and to see the area illuminated by the cacophony of artificial lights. I remember passing someone famous: I didn’t recognize them, I didn’t bother figuring out who it was as the the crowd of screeching girls disinterested me. When everyone arrived, it was fun to watch the crowd admire the cosplayers, save for that one asshole who instantly made them his entire world despite not knowing a damn thing about them.
That night I didn’t have Benadryl, and my sleep was light. The cats slipped into the room like ninjas, leaping over the wall and squeezing through any crack. They broke my phone charger too. I was impressed.
I went out to lunch without Andrew, as he had work and went to move my things to his apartment. I got to meet Connor and Tim at the restaurant that Amanda had selected. It was an excellent meeting, which turned into an extensive nomadic journey as we waited for Madison Square Garden to allow access. Those of us in press went in through Pavilion 8, where we were greeted by Rioters, given our passes, then escorted to the press room. There were two levels: the lower had several TVs set up by folding tables in the same room as catering, and the upstairs had three rows of empty cubicles. That was the base of operation for the next while.
Since there was only one series a day, we had to wait until the very end for interviews. Due to the lack of translators, the Riot crew decided to solely host press conferences, though some individuals also got one on one interviews. With my questions for a feature prepped, I made my rounds to visit friends attending in the audience before I watched the SKT and ROX series with riveting attention. This was the battle to decide the legacy of my favorite team and player. I watched the final game from the press seats. I stayed, even while others left early. I had to see this live. As the final game ended in a SKT victory, I allowed a few tears. Once again, second to SKT, but by god it was an excellent series, one for the players to be proud of.
The next day was more of the same with Samsung and H2K, though I got to have more fun by being the fan of the Korean teams over Western fans.
We went out late both nights. After messing around with lip syncing at an after party, Blake, Matt and Jared from World Wide Gaming, Vince, and I went to a Karaoke bar and rented a room. It was an entertaining evening of laughter, sick raps, and self-indulgent screaming on my part. Andrew and I met up to take his girlfriend back to her place safely, where we crashed for the evening.
After making it back to his place and showering, I hauled my suitcase around with me as I did my last bit of exploring of New York. Following Joe’s advice, I went to the Rockefeller Center and went to the top of it. The view was fantastical–it felt like being a king overlooking a vast kingdom.
After one last dinner, I went to my hotel room by the airport. Alone, I laid in bed, thankful for a brief respite. The journey was over. I had made my first time back east an adventure that I won’t ever forget. It cost an arm and a leg, but by god was it worth.