September & December 1999
What can I say about New York City? There's so much going on there that I'd like to live there someday... at least for a few days. There are ethnic pockets scattered throughout. China Town, Little Korea, Little Italy and all of West Side Story live here. Movies are made about NYC and the stars live here too. Where is one to start in such a labyrinth of concrete? The hubbub of Manhattan appears to be the obvious choice.
The sky scrapers radiate dominating power down to the people below and it's easy to feel insignificant. People swarm through the streets like busy ants. There are thousands of people and millions of stories - most of them never heard. Life moves fast here and that isn't always good; however, the unattached feeling to the people around you lets you have your own sense of space even when on a crowded subway.
Today wasn't my day to rush around, attended a business meeting, or see a Broadway play. It was simply to saunter - something I'd never do while visiting NYC unless I made plans to do so.
My hotel, the Aladin, was full of travelers looking to find their way to the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. Most of them seemed to be backpackers from Europe staying in the hostel rooms or young couples from Asia staying in the suites.
The funky red lights and purple walls in the lobby take you off the street and put you in a different world. A large woman approached the skinny fellow at the Internet kiosk and announced, "I would like to browse" in a thick German accent. I can't say I interacted much with anyone there except for one chap, Tim Burkinshaw, my room mate for a night. We spoke only in the morning of our travels. We traded contact information and because of the words shared there, I will now be taking part in a U.K. working holiday! (This I can share more with you when it happens in Almeria, Spain this March-April)
Worthy walks are to the city library and the United Nations Building. It's too easy to get lost in the library to act like a local, but it's good quiet place to explore on a rainy day. The front steps will remind you of the Ghostbusters scene filmed here. Now where is that secret basement?
Definitely a nice break from the busy streets is a stroll through St. Patrick's Cathedral. Even if church isn't really your thing, this place worth a peek in to admire the architecture.
In Central Park I found a guy from Poland, who's name I can not pronounce, so won't even try to spell, was selling henna tattoos! I couldn't resist the phoenix. He did a pretty good job of it and for the rest of my time in the city I saw people staring at the bold tag on my arm while I played the cool tough guy.
Of the entire trip though, the highlight was conversations with Irene, a very old Russian woman I met on Central Park bench. We talked about the responsibilities of government, old Russians vs. new Russians, responsibility of parents, influences on children and issues of privacy in the business world. I'd say it was even more enjoyable than the travel club meeting I went to attend!
The Travel Club was interesting to find other people who discovered travel and could understand that a rich life is made more of experience than possession. If you are interested in this group, you can find them on the web and Yahoo clubs as Travel Pals.
Oh, I almost forgot, the Guggenheim museum, that now looks like a giant toilet bowl with the new box addition behind it, is right across from the park. Every time I get around to it appears to be after hours.
|Near the end of the day, take a look at Time Square in the dark and imagine it a sea of people on New Year's. Now that you've experienced that, you might not need to stand in the cold for hours to watch a big light drop and go to a real party instead.|
Ah, New York, New York. This walk definitely wasn't as soulful as peddling through Philadelphia, but it was a worthy experience none-the-less.
Travel diary, December 1999
I returned to New York City a second time and checked out the museums near Central Park, still getting to the Guggenheim only when it was closed.
Anyway, it was fun exploring with two of my friends who came with me.
They went off to Rockefeller Center and I checked in at the HI NYC hostel. This is the largest hostel in the world and may also be the one with the least character. It also wasn't very conducive to talking to other people, but then again, I had burned my hand from the soup I was making and was getting up every five minutes to find more ice.
The next day I walked through Central Park again. There were break dancers performing, a movie
being filmed and a photographic moment as people huddled around a tribute to John Lennon and his
famous tune: Imagine.
"Some will say, I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you will join us and the world will live as one."
Following up to this New York city journal entry - A valued friend of mine moved to the city and after a few months, here's his impression:
What to say about a New York City street that hasn't been said before and better by Jim Carroll, Paul Simon, and loads of others in black turtlenecks, funky glasses, French cigarettes, and high cheekbones? I guess it's just one of those things, you know. Seething, slithering, slobbering, stinking, creeping, clattering, clanging, calling, bla bla bla bla bla. Ask some poet to do that part for you. If I had to, I'd say that to me, the strangest, and perhaps most magical thing about New York is how quickly one gets used to it. It lulls you to sleep, it does. Smack in the middle of the center of the world, so they say, with hundreds, (thousands?) of people swirling around you, somehow you still are able to filter it all out, and shrink your world down to the clothes around your body. There's this feeling from those first few seconds where you looked out onto the street that now you've seen it all, you can no longer be shocked, and must make a concerted effort to never be shocked again. I'd be willing to bet that if I stripped naked and ran through Battery Park with my hair on fire, there would be at least one person that would say "oh, shit. Not again." Sometimes I think that the only unforgivable crime in New York is to express surprise.