4:00 pm – One thing that never gets old in NY is the airports. I mean, it’s like rats cooped up in a cage then left go in search of that last piece of cheese, only to get to the next hurdle (aka Baggage Claim) to be trapped again! While standing at conveyor belt #3, RJ was damn near accosted almost every five minutes by these tourists and random others who thought that he was Ray Lewis from the Baltimore Ravens, and not only would they not taken “No” for an answer, they had to take at least 17 pictures and videos with their flip cameras! After an impromptu “autograph session”, we proceeded to exit the airport. Teresa had arranged for a car to pick us up and take us into Manhattan to stay at a hotel that her parents had reserved for the four of us. (Did I tell you I could get used to this “girlfriend” thing?) Upon arriving at the hotel, we were greeted by a lady who looked like Julie from the “Love Boat”! While we received the “star” treatment from the hotel staff (i.e. having our bags carried, given those special entry keys to certain floors of the hotel, and the pre-requisite 24/7 service and all that entails.) Teresa would later explain to me that her parents had a MASSIVE penthouse that they rarely used and it would comfortably accommodate all of us. I don’t think I had EVER been this nervous and or excited before. (There was this one time, but, BUY the memoirs, people!)

5:30 pm – After running around the penthouse, exchanging “high fives” and dropping our bags off into the rooms we had chosen, we decided to find a place to get something to eat. Oh, I almost forgot, we ALL had to make the pre-requisite calls to our parents to let them know we had arrived safely and speak to each other’s parents and promise to watch out for the others (especially the girls).

    After showering and putting on “fresh” clothes, Dawn decided that since we were in “her” city, we would go to her favorite place to eat tonight! (in case you were wondering, It was her parent’s house!) First rule of being in a relationship: “Never attempt to try and figure out women.” RJ and I learned this lesson the hard way when we began our “journey” to Dawn’s parent’s home in the Bronx. “Why do we have to ride the subway?,” quipped RJ.  “Because you can’t seem to flag down a cab!,” said Dawn. Teresa and I both laughed out loud. RJ was still confused as to why cabs in NYC didn’t feel the need to stop OR the fact that every single cab only had ONE person in it. When we finally convinced RJ that subway was our best move, we headed towards the subway station. After having to drag RJ down the stairs like B.A. Baracus from “The A-Team”, Teresa proceeded to hand all of us NYC subway maps that looked like they had been organized by someone that worked at the Pentagon! ( it had so many different colors, little stickers, and notes that it became increasingly clear that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to complete everything in the small window of time that we would be in New York! (Teresa and Dawn had planned this, remember what I said about rule number one?!)

If you’ve never been to NYC, the subway is like that mythical dragon that everybody hears about, but very few get a chance to see.  The subway system is not for lightweights, the timid, or those that get easily frightened. The NYC subway was “no punk b*tch!”  For a “native New Yorker” like Dawn, maneuvering through the subway was like watching a ballerina at Lincoln Center. She moved with precise, grace, speed, and no wasted motion. RJ, on the other hand was like a “bull in a china shop”, banging into random people and looking like a ten year old lost in a department store! Dawn grabbed his hand and was basically carrying him to the front of the subway train. Teresa and I just followed the flow and pushed our way onto the train. We found seats and prepared for the ride to Bronx to meet Dawn’s parents and get a home cooked meal.

7:30 pm – I was awaken by the sound of the automated voice telling the passengers we had arrived at our next location. As we exited the train, Dawn pulled out her cell phone to alert her parents of our arrival. She explained that we were only a few blocks away and not to act “crazy” (If you only knew.)  As we walked out of the station to the street, I could tell that RJ was nervous and a little scared. “What’s wrong, RJ?” I asked. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.” You would think that a guy who got as much attention as RJ did and does would be able to handle the pressure of meeting a girl’s parents for the first time! (I’m not even going to lie; I was just as nervous when Teresa surprised me.) After watching RJ go back and forth between sanity and insanity, Dawn finally grabbed him, said something in Spanish that made him smile and then proceeded to drag him down the block like an eight year old in a department store! I just shook my head, grabbed Teresa and followed Dawn for about one more block, where we made our way into her building.

 7:45 pm – As Dawn gave us the “grand tour” of her building, which included showing us where she beat up some boy for grabbing her, the “tar beach” (the roof of her building), where she had her first kiss, and finally, where her Dad chased “her first kiss” down the block with a baseball bat! (by the end of that story, I was literally in tears!) If you’ve ever been to the “projects” in New York City you know what to expect: black/white tile floors, the steam blowing out of the laundry room, the group of people who ALWAYS stand by the door waiting to determine if they are going to let you in or not, that old lady who lives on the first floor, but never is in her apartment, and the smells that are always present (i.e. sofrito, oil that had been used to fry chicken, fish, or shrimp, curry, faint traces of marijuana, urine, and Hennessey) Upon entering the elevator, everyone seemed at ease, even R.J. Dawn pressed the number 4 for the fourth floor and we waited as the elevator pulled us to our destination. The exit from the elevator was swift. Dawn guided us down a long hallway, which for some reason still had decorations up from Halloween. She knocked on 4P and waited for someone to open the door……..