NYC in a (Tiny Tiny) Nutshell
If I had to name some of the places in this world that I've been dying to visit I would say that New York City is definitely among the top 3. And today, that wish came true with the unexpected outing to Manhattan.
There was nothing that could have prepared me for my experience today. It's like one of those things you picture in your mind ahead of time, but once you're in the thick of it, you're still flopping around like a fish out of water. After all the movies, comics, television shows, songs, and everything else based in New York, I would say that none of them did any true justice at depicting this place.
To say that I had an authentic New York experience would only be partially correct. I recognize that to know New York would probably take a lifetime, or at least 10 full days of wandering the streets... But today's whirlwind tour was just a sample; a tease that has left me starving for more. From the start of this outing (which shook me up like a 1-2 punch), to a bitter sweet parting of ways, I already know that I WILL RETURN... OH YES I WILL!
It was almost exactly an hour train ride from Morristown NJ (where I'm staying) into the city. We got off at the Pennsylvania station which is directly underneath Madison Square Garden. My calm suburban mind could not have possibly been prepared for this city no matter how much visualization I had done. I always say that the best way to learn how to swim is to jump in the water, but I don't think the saying is meant to go If you want to learn how to dive, go up to a 200 foot high cliff and jump off...
There was a foul stench accompanying the trail of urine inside the elevator going up to street level. I thought to myself "I can deal with this; after all, it must be part of the authentic New York experience". But upon exiting the elevator we were completely bombarded by people coming and going through the train station. I wondered where they came from, where they were going, what their life experience had been like so far, where they were going to sleep tonight... There is just something more intriguing about a New Yorker than most other people in this country. Their brains must have adapted to a constant barrage of sensory overload, so their ability to tune things out must be second to none. All true New Yorkers should become preschool teachers for that reason alone.
Everywhere we went in the city, we traveled on foot. I must have covered at least 6 miles over the course of the day, and I have the blisters to prove it. What made this even more interesting were the two strollers we were pushing along as well as the rain which fell in intervals. But we were just a part of the massive crowd, flowing along like a wave in a river. People don't seem to mind having no personal space, and it's all just a normal part of walking around the city. Taxicabs and cars perform a delicate ballet with the pedestrians, and it's an absolute wonder that nothing collided today!
My appetite was growing very quicklly after being on the train so I insisted that we make a quick stop at one of the many neon flashing McDonald's restaurants for a true taste of America - a fast food cheesburger. After that our first touristy stop was Times Square. It looked very different to me than how it appears on television.
Apparently we were there at a very "slow" time. There were so many flashy signs and lights, as well as a seven story Toys R Us with an INDOOR ferris wheel. I can't imagine what the commercial space in Times Square goes for!
The city streets and buidlings seemed to go on forever. It is totally conceivable that there are people who are born, live, and die without ever leaving this massive island. And from a purely technical perspective there would be no reason to ever leave. This city seems to have everything. Cultural diversity, people of every size, shape, and color, speaking in dozens of tongues. New York City is really like its own world. There was almost this mutual understanding among everyone... I felt like the level of tolerance for one's individuality was an inspiration. Everybody seems to be able to go about their business without interference or judgement. I did not get any sort of feeling that New Yorkers are cold. In fact, I feel as though I experienced quite the opposite. Now I don't know if that's just what I see in other people (or look for more than others), but I felt a sense of warmth and acceptance everywhere I went. Of course you can see your share of people who seem to be miserable, but I always try to see through any external moods. And I can say that 98% of people that I made eye contact with and smiled at returned a smile back to me. And everybody was so understanding about our situation with the strollers, and were in fact happy to offer assistance when needed.
A few of the other landmarks we managed to squeeze in today were:
Viewing the Plaza Hotel from Central Park
Radio City Music Hall
If I had to use one word to describe Manhattan, I suppose without much thought or hesitation I would say: ALIVE
Everywhere here there is life. Even the city itself seems to have a life of its own thanks to all of its inhabitants and visitors. Today I went to NYC for the first time, but I know that it will definitely not be the last. It has truly found a special place in my heart. Now I know first hand what those t-shirts have been saying all these years:
I ♥ NEW YORK