Saturday, October 21, 2006

I (Heart) New York!

It's really just that simple. Every fall, I get the urge (among others) to visit Gotham and grab onto that magical third rail of energy that is unlike any other. I am here now and I am not disappointed.

Believe it or not, I do not need to party heavily and go 'clubbing to get this satisfaction. I feel it just walking down the street or even riding the subway – where I wear a ridiculous grin like some tourist goonball. The New York City subway system is one of the great feats of mankind, right up there with Egyptian pyramids and Velcro - truly mind-boggling. Add to this the random live performances of the cello, steel drums, flamenco guitar and the human rivers that ceaselessly flow and you've got one teeming civic miracle.

Despite the widespread assertion that New Yorkers are gruff and grumpy, the reality is that this is probably one of the friendliest cities on earth. There is something about being all packed in together that makes them approachable. I find it very easy to make eye contact and exchange pleasantries here – of course, with my silly grin, the locals probably think I'm mentally unstable. On Friday, I struggled with getting my luggage up the subway stairs, a polite man offered to carry them up for me. "There ya go. Have a great weekend," he said smiling, before he disappeared into the crowd.

Magical experiences never fail to occur here in the Big Apple. Earlier this week, I quietly escaped from my company's Park Avenue HQ to get my hair done. While looking for the address, I came upon a small sign that read: "Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace. National Historic Site. Victorian Museum and Brownstone. Open to the Public." My jaw dropped and I may have emitted a sudden squeal. What unbelievably good luck!

If I have not mentioned it before, let me do so right now – I am a HUGE TR fan. I quickly ran inside to double confirm the facts and found two bored park rangers who found my babbling enthusiasm mildly amusing. I returned the next day to take a tour - just me and a bunch of students. (When the park ranger mentioned that TR would go skinny dipping in the Potomac, one girl asked where that was. "Washington DC" said the ranger, to which she replied, "Yeah, I'm just not that good at geometry.")

Of course, the tour wasn't exactly Graceland, but I was incredibly thrilled to have stumbled upon such a significant landmark amidst the busy hive of Manhattan. I was also happy to let the rangers know about the TR action-figure doll I keep in my office. "He's very flexible," I bragged. They seemed genuinely jealous and I am half-considering sending one to them for Xmas. I could probably even write it off on my taxes as a 'government donation.'

Mind you, if I lived in New York, it would probably kick my wimpy Californian ass - I am happy to love it from a distance. (I'm counting on Colorado to toughen me up.) Nevertheless, whenever I am here, I feel incredibly alive and powerfully drawn into the present moment, something I strive for always. New York City is one of the great, beating hearts of my country and (all 9/11 sympathies aside) it never fails to evoke a great swells of patriotism in my heart. Just by existing, it showcases Americans at their very best.

I've been pondering all this over the last few days, culiminating in a single observation. "This place," I thought to myself as I passed a smiling Fed Ex man on 5th Avenue, "can never be killed."


Howard said...

Wow, that's great. Believe it or not, the only area in the continential United States that I haven't visited is the NE. I really need to go up there.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about New Orleans. It is just one of those cities that this time of year is just magical (I am sure for 90% of the other people, it is more during mardi gras season). For me, I like how quaint, alive, charming, and disarming it can be when it is a bit nippy outside and Jackson Square is not so busy that you get the warm feel of good tidings that just feels old like the city itself. Post katrina that vibe is still there :) Thank you for reminding me it is time for a road trip!!!

hotdrwife said...

My visit (first) to NYC a few years ago was just how you described. Everyone was friendly. The place so full of life and energy. I loved it and I didn't want to leave.