Yesterday I wrote about how my head had some pretty “interesting” ideas regarding life in New York City. A month ago, I got to actually visit there for the first time.
I’ll say right up front, we were lucky. We had a huge advantage that most people won’t have on their first trip to New York City. One of The Long-Suffering Wife’s aunts owns an apartment in Manhattan and we were able to use it for the nine days we were there. This not only made a huge difference in the financial considerations for the trip, but it put us right in the heart of the city, right next to Central Park.
My undying gratitude to Aunt Eleanor!
Prior to the trip, as is my wont, there was homework. As I mentioned yesterday, I had already tried to learn as much as I could about the city after I had some potential job opportunities there. Now it was time to get serious.
There are a lot of really great resources out there in cyberspace. If you’re going on any trip to someplace new, I strongly advise you to prepare and use them. It made a tremendous difference for me. I had a lot of good advice about where to go, when to go, what to see, what to avoid, what might be a problem, how to deal with those problems, and so on.
We had a “wish list” of close to a hundred places to see. We were well aware that we would be lucky to get to half of them, or even a third. That wasn’t an issue. I just wanted to avoid being there on the last day with no time left and suddenly slapping myself on the forehead, saying, “How could we have POSSIBLY forgotten to go see the [insert name of famous tourist trap or landmark here]??!!”
Up at Zero Dark Thirty, we left LAX for JFK. Six hours in the air.
Astonishingly for anyone who’s familiar with this website, there will be no dozens and dozens of pictures of clouds and fly-over states at some point. On both the trip east and then back home, we had exit row seats, which means lots of leg room, but no windows. So I didn’t even get to see the city from the air, either coming or going. Something for the next trip.
The TSA lines at that time of day were short to begin with, in addition to the fact that we were both put into the TSA-Pre lines. The plane left pretty much on time, there was little bad weather or turbulence, and we landed on time. There were no lost luggage issues. We were out the door and hitting the ground running.
Well, we ran about a hundred feet until we got into the line for a taxi. To their credit, this was very well organized and moved right along. It looks bad, but it wasn’t more than maybe ten minutes before we were in a cab. It also bought us a few minutes to start acclimatizing to the heat and humidity while still staying in the shade.
New York City cab rides. They are everything you’ve ever heard about and more. I loved them, which may be one of the more bizarre results of the trip.
When I’m behind the wheel, very little pisses me off more than drivers who are constantly bending the rules and outright breaking them to try to get past that one next car. If you zoom along in through traffic while I’m stuck in the lane that’s exiting onto another freeway and you want to cut me off and get into line at the last possible second, we’ll see who has the better insurance. If you’re driving along on the shoulder, I’ll be trying to get your license and calling the Highway Patrol to report you. If you’re swinging through lanes like you’re in a pinball machine, I’ll be rooting for you to wrap yourself around a bridge abutment.
And I never, ever, under any conceivable circumstances even back out of the driveway without my seat belt on.
Not in a New York taxi cab.
Almost every driver we had took every opportunity to do every single thing that would send me into a frothing road rage if someone did it to me when I was driving. Sitting in the back seat of a NYC cab, I thought it was a truly delightful ride, almost like being on a roller coaster. And I never once put on my seat belt.
I have no explanation for it, logical or otherwise. It’s a complete 180° turn in my most basic attitudes across the boards. I knew it at the time, I was surprised and astonished by it – and I didn’t care. Go figure. (For the record, once back in LA, I’m still the same old stickler for the rules of the road when I’m driving. Maybe it was the water.)
Coming into the city from JFK, this was the first glimpse I had of the skyline ahead of us. I was ready, I was relaxed, I was excited.
Once we got into our apartment, having been flying all day with nothing but a little bit of airport food at 05:00 and some coach-class airline food in flight, it was time to eat. We found a lovely little restaurant on Central Park South, across the street from Central Park (that’s all the green stuff on the far side of the street) and less than two blocks from where we were staying.
While the food was great, what was better was what we spent a lot of time doing – watching people and the city go by. In this case, the parade of humanity wandering by was as cosmopolitan as any I’ve seen anywhere in the world. And watching the limos and town cars jockey for spots to double and triple park while waiting for their clients was like watching a bizarre ballet where I couldn’t hear the music. I had nothing but admiration for the show.
It was only about 17:00 local time and while we had been up early three time zones away, adrenaline is a marvelous thing. With my bag of cameras in hand, we headed toward Central Park. The Long-Suffering Wife found a shady spot to people watch and I started to explore.
The different vistas offered were wonderful and varied. I would love to come back over the different seasons and see them as they change through the year.
The park today is lush and well maintained. It wasn’t crowded, but it was far, far from empty. Part of that was the time of day – the longer I stayed there, the more crowds I saw. Joggers, people on bikes, people with dogs, and people hunting Pokemon.
I knew it was a thing, but I had no clue how much of a thing it was in Central Park. Herds of people chasing around after imaginary digital critters like the bison once crossed the Great Plains. They all seemed to be having a good time.
There are rock outcroppings, streams, lakes, meadows, and all manor of landscapes. The more I saw, the more I loved the place.
I was also completely blown away by how freakin’ HUGE it is. It’s one thing to see it on a map and say, “Okay, that’s a big park.” It’s another to spend nearly three hours walking and twisting along the paths and stopping to watch some of the wildlife and watching all of the people, only to realize that I might have covered maybe 20% of the park. Maybe.
I wound my way around The Pond, past The Dairy and the Chess & Checkers Building, finally pausing at Sheep Meadow. After work, a summer evening, good weather, there were couples, families, people playing frisbee, tossing a football, a high school field hockey team practicing, people doing yoga and tai chi, the occasional cop keeping an eye on things… With some of the world’s biggest skyscrapers surrounding you in all directions.
I was almost overwhelmed. Central Park is wonderful!