new york in words

One of my favorite essays from E.B. White is about taking cameras with us everywhere when we travel, and as he watched technology advance people started to live their experiences through a lens, instead it. That has stuck with me ( I really need to find the title and reference it) for over 11 years now.

People have been asking me, "How was the big apple?!", "Was New York as amazing as you thought?", or my favorite..."Do you want to live there now?". Somehow that one always cracks me up.

I think the greatest blessing of my trip was that it was at the worst timing...ever for going, so I really didn't have time to stress about the details of staying in New York. After the recital we had only ten days of school left. For you parents of multiple children attending school you know what kind of craziness the last week of school ensues. Teacher gifts, dress up days, scrambling to find food for school lunches without actually buying more lunch food. Fifth grade graduation (which I thought was a terrible idea and ended up being pleasant) was Wednesday afternoon, then we swam to celebrate summer for about 2 hours and went home. We left for my flight at 3:45am the next day! So, um, things were more than crazy the week before. Packing, planning, packing for kids, planning food for everyone at home, arranging play dates etc. 

We ended up getting to the airport just in time because somehow Las Vegas' security is always the longest of any airport I've been too ( and yes that always keeps me a little worried). I basically speed walked to my terminal, and walked straight into line, boarded and was in the air in 30 minutes. Even though the flight was full with a very hungover Oregon Ducks team of no one less than 6'4" it went super fast without kids! Who knew?! And with a tail wind we landed 20 minutes early.

This is where it gets tricky, my girlfriend Renee was flying in from Calgary, Canada bout 2 hours after me, then our flights changed and it was 2.5 hours, but she was late and I was early so it would be about 3 hours of waiting in a tiny little exit terminal at JFK. I was nervous about taking the subway by myself into Manhattan with all of my luggage. But I decided to put on my big girl pants and do it. I MEMORIZED that stupid MTA map on how to get there and boarded the air train to the subway. If you are wondering why I just didn't take a taxi it's because 1. it's only $5 on the subway and $65+ for a taxi to get to Manhattan and 2. As much as I love driving into the city for the view and experience, I get extremely carsick in traffic and barf. There's your answer. 

While waiting for the subway a nice elderly man with salt and pepper hair and a polo shirt asked me for directions, I answered (remember I had it memorized!) and then asked him where he was from. "Manhattan" he cooly replied with a chuckle. Ha! I will add that I ended up giving directions to 3 people from manhattan over the next week. That made me feel much better about getting lost a few times. 

Of course, the only time there was a sketchy, creepy, borderline gang member/serial killer, was on my first train.  Of course. I quickly looked around and took note of subway etiquette from other passengers. It's pretty easy to select the natives vs. tourists, sometimes. The swedish family with their crisp white socks and birkenstocks, the chinese businessmen with their locked aluminum suitcases and pocket protectors vs the new mom from Jersey with her juicy pants and bedazzled jacket holding onto the stroller with her daughter half falling out while she listened and bounced to iTunes on her earbuds. I just held on to my luggage, which with every stop and start would lug one way or the other and I"ll just add right now that yes my arms were sore the next day from stopping sliding suitcases for an hour. I kept watching the stops for my transfer (you guys I made a transfer!) and when I stepped off the next train was right there across the platform. Somehow I knew it couldn't have been that easy so I let it leave, only to realize, yes that was my next train and now had to wait 7 minutes. NO biggie as I memorized, again, the subway map. After my transfer I only had 2 stops of squeezing suitcases again and I was there, at my stop. I pulled my suitcases up the 2 flights of gum riddled and wet? why were places on the stairs wet? stairs and exited onto 23rd street and 8th avenue. 

The sun was in my eyes and there were swarms of people moving everywhere. Much like an ant hill out our back door after Rodney pours water onto it. Scramble, dash, chaos, everywhere. The first words I thought were "We're not in Kansas anymore Toto". The honking of the taxis, cars and ambulance screaming by made it a classic country mouse in the city moment. I literally took a deep breathe, squeezed my luggage handles and squinted at the street sign to see where I was. 

 I got lost a lot in the city.  I don't know if you know this but on the island of Manhattan there are NO MOUNTAINS to tell me where East or West were, and also, the skyscrapers and buildings all look the same to me. I imagine it's the same as someone from the city thinking all Nevada mountains look the same, not knowing they all have names and look completely different to a native. I realized once I tried to get to my apartment rental that the address wasn't correct, and the owner gives you the exact address once you are checking in as a security measure. Nice. Besides looking like a lost tourist, there was no harm done except for two blocks of extra walking. I should add now that I was staying in Chelsea, and in the historical district to boot. I did not know this prior to my stay but soon knew from the row houses and amazing architecture. This was my little apartment on the 4th floor of the white building. I know right? Perfect.

A 4th floor walk up is not 4 flights of stairs by the way, it's 6. The stairwell was so narrow I had to carry one suitcase at a time, then walk back down the flight and get the next and so on and so forth. I was a hot, sweaty mess by the time I opened the apartment door. I forgot about the humidity, it had been 8 years since being there.

Up until I opened the door I still was 70% sure I had booked a terrible apartment that would look nothing like it's picture, smell like fish or something else and have cockroaches. I was wrong. It was the most beautiful and quaint little place I could imagine.
The view from the apartment. My neighbor had the cutest rooftop garden, and he also wore ladies underwear. On another rooftop people practiced judo every night and one of the high rises had parties on weekends. 
One of my favorite movies is Rear Window, so,you can imagine my delight with this view. Last stay in NY our view was an alleyway with dumpsters and rats. No joke.

After realizing I hadn't 1. been mugged on the subway and 2. get lost and not find my way I quickly unpacked and headed to the grocery store to stock up before Renee arrived. 

The grocery store was just a tiny little mom and pop one and no one was in there except a little old lady buying pineapple. I thought that was strange. I later found out that it is because no one shops at the local grocery stores unless they are desperate. Only Trader Joe's or Whole Foods will do, I guess only small town people don't mind buying non-organic fruit and pasteurized meat and eggs still. 

After unloading the groceries I went and met Renee on the street and the real adventure began! I should admit this was when I was still carrying mace with me everywhere and carefree about my teacher training. This would only last 12 hours. Then I didn't carry any mace while I traveled butwas scared to death of my training.

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