Small-town girl’s subway rants while visiting a friend for the first time in New York City
The city quakes with life. It calls to you the minute your feet hit the pavement. The blind man beckons for your change. The man in the suit reads his paper. Neither of them notice each other. The subway stops. A middle-aged black man gets on with his toddler son in a stroller. The boy feeds his father a Cheerio.
Down the street the noise is endless. You look up. The buildings seem to lean in to each other. Their size is overwhelming. The music booms and we order a Bronx Pale Ale. Our food comes out sizzling, and it’s delicious. Back on the street the city swells with a mixture of tourists and locals. In some places the lights are so bright it’s difficult to discern whether it’s night or day.
The next morning I wake with an excitement that it wasn’t a dream. The city exists, and we are in it. The streets are fresh and the atmosphere changes from one block to the next. We emerge from the subway to romantic music played by an Asian woman on an accordion. The walls are covered in colorful murals of animals and sky scenes in blue, gold and green. The museum is booming with people of all ages and nationalities. The exhibits map our fascinating history. The hot dog stand serves us up a juicy New York dog. On the way to the subway, a runway model struts her stuff for all her friends.
The doors open to the another section of the city–home to the World Trade Center. The history floods into my veins as I remember these streets from 9/11. The news clips of the twin towers flash before my eyes; it is all too real. The people crying and falling from windows; the stories of children who would be orphaned because both of their parents worked there; the rescue workers crushed by the debris. These streets scream remembrance.
Returning to the subway we grab a slice of pizza that is like no other–thin, cheesy and with a sauce that’s not too sweet and not too spicy–perfection. The numbers get blurred, and we end up in Brooklyn. Every section of this city has a different story to tell. The kindness of a woman who can tell we’re lost touches me beyond belief. This day has been full of emotion–the city is touching my soul. After this long ride on the dragon in the dungeon of the AC train, we emerge in Harlem once again, and it’s a relief.
Asian fusion calls our names as we make our way to Broadway. The crowd floods into the theatre with the excitement of the stage surrounding us. As the munchkins fill the stage, the atmosphere becomes Wicked. Drama and comedy join together for the next few hours. My exhaustion hits me, and the city carries me to 137th.
We join the speed again in the morning at Lenny’s for bagels and coffee. Dropping off at Steps for ballet feels like throwing my daughter to the wolves. Competition surrounds the little ballerina from small town Alabama. We trek over to Central Park and find the woods booming with bikers and runners and the yoga groups and couples with picnics. We discover Bellevedere’s Castle and sit on the steps to enjoy the view.
Our feet hit the street on our way to soak up our last day in the city. The shops on Fifth Avenue burst with consumers searching for the products to complete their lives. We pass Lincoln Center and I envision the thousands of dancers who have stepped out chasing their dreams on that stage. My guide discovers the key to my heart when he suggests that we go to the New York City Library. Over 6 billion books live on those shelves. We pass the familiar sites of our favorite shows–30 Rock and the hotel from Bass Industries of Gossip Girl and visions of stars behind cameras dance before my eyes. As we cross the street from one borough to the next, it is like entering a completely different city. The Upper East Side ends and we venture into the busy and mysterious streets of Chinatown. I immediately decide that this is my least favorite section and hope to hurry out. We purchase our souvenirs and move on to a pub for drinks and a place to rest our weary feet. The sun begins to set as we stroll into Little Italy and again we leave one city to enter another. The atmosphere is filled with romance from the music and the smells of pasta. Tables lines the streets. We make our way into a cozy little restaurant and order wine and four different Italian dishes to delight in together.
We board the Staten Island ferry for our final destination. The air is brisk coming off the water. Our nation’s symbol of peace is illuminated in the distance. As we make our way back to the island, I envision our ancestors arriving for the first time. On the dragon again our exhaustion reveals itself. As I drift in and out I notice the other passengers. The man with an odd green stamp on his hand glares at me from behind a pole. A group of deaf girls sign to each other and laugh. We disembark and head down to Harlem for the last night’s rest before the trip home. As I close my eyes, I soak up the moments that have now become My New York City.