New York Diaries, Vol 1

I’m finally changing career paths. At almost forty years old. But they say it’s never too late to learn something new, right? I’m tired of fixing computers for a living. I’m pretty good at it, and I’m almost never stumped by a problem for too long anymore. I mean, there are perhaps an infinite number of things that can go wrong with a computer or a piece of software, or a printer… But a lot of them start to look alike – and certainly have the same solution. And I’ve been doing this a really long time. Yeah, it’s time for a change. So my company sent me to a three-day training course in New York City. So this is it, huh? I finally get to go to New York. Well let’s do it!

You see, all my friends have been. Well, most of my friends anyway. My red-haired wife has been. My dad has been. And everyone says you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street. Well, I’ve been here for four days now, and let me just say this about it: you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street.

Flying into LaGuardia is not the most comfortable event in the world. You keep looking out the window and seeing nothing but water until you’re finally so close to the water that your back (and other things) tense up to the point where you feel like you’re going to break the armrest off in your hand. “Uh, miss?” I call out to the pretty flight attendant. “Does the pilot know there’s no land here? I mean, we’re like ten feet over the water and still going down.” Well, apparently it’s supposed to be like that. Right before the landing gear hits the water, there appears out the window a flat piece of concrete much like the surface of an aircraft carrier, jutting out into the water. Though it only looks to be about two feet off the water.

The flight itself was uneventful in most other respects, except one that I think is worthy of mentioning – simply because of the above-and-beyondness the pretty flight attendant, Sara, extended to me. When she came down the aisle with the snack cart, I accepted a can of soda and – of the three choices of snack bag – a bag of pretzels. I noticed instantly that it was manufactured in a plant that processes peanuts and other nuts, blah, blah, blah. I go through this all the time. If it says that, I ain’t eating it. So I handed it back to Sara and told her I couldn’t eat it. She said she’d see if she could find something else on the plane for me to eat. Boy if she wasn’t serious.

Twenty minutes later, she came back and said she’d scoured the plane but could find nothing else suitable for me to eat. So she offered me a banana from her own personal lunch bag. Seriously? Someone who actually cares about her customers? I thought this type of person went extinct some years ago. Unfortunately though, I cannot eat bananas either. She looked flustered, and I felt sorry for her. Until an hour after that she returned once again, beaming like a lighthouse, with a bag of Gold Fish in her hand. She said, “I finally found something on the plane you can eat! I am so proud of myself for finding these!” Yeah, there was no way I wasn’t going to eat them. And they were the best damned Gold Fish I’ve ever eaten. Hurray, Sara. Way to represent your company and totally make my first day memorable. Thank you.

New York itself, unfortunately, was not quite as welcoming. For instance, flying in on St. Patrick’s Day and taking a taxi from LaGuardia to my hotel on Times Square shouldn’t have been an issue at all. I mean, everyone knows there’s a parade on St. Patrick’s Day, and everyone knows that any parade in New York City will march right through Times Square. But this is me we’re talking about, people. They should have held the parade back so I could get to my hotel without sitting there for an hour waiting. Clearly, Sara wasn’t the event coordinator. I was just another scrub here – a random who had to wait. Oh. And it was snowing. Seriously? Who’s in charge here?

My initial impressions of New York City are not really that bad. It was a little overwhelming at first, I’ll admit. I mean, I work in Uptown Dallas. Which means I’ve been exposed to foot traffic, buses, trains and street traffic. And buildings. There is absolutely no comparison between the two cities. If you think Dallas is a big city, you’re in the same boat I was: the wrong one. I mean, if you’re supposed to be on the Queen Mary, you’re in a canoe. With a large hole in the bottom. And a plastic Dixie cup for shoveling out the water. With a hole in it. And it’s paper and soggy. And it’s raining. And there are sponges lining the bottom of the canoe. And you’re in the middle of an ocean at high tide during a tsunami and a hurricane while a large ship just passed by and created a huge wake. Have you caught my drift yet? Good.

The taxi-ride from the airport was an exercise in Attention Deficit. I tried my hardest just to not pay attention to what was going on in the road in front of us. And beside us, for that matter. People cutting in and cutting out, coming within inches of each other before finally giving way. I did learn that while taxi drivers here are some of the best and yet most aggressive drivers in the world, they are also apt to aggressively stand down when they know someone else needs in. For a small-town boy who has never been to New York, this looks like disaster waiting to happen. And for the ten-mile trip from LaGuardia to Times Square, which only took about 80 minutes due to the parade, it was a long, long drive. I felt physically exhausted when I finally stepped out of the cab. Dear Lord, these drivers are crazy. But wait. They’re also very good. I didn’t see any wrecks holding anything up.

And that’s not even taking into account all the pedestrians they have to dodge. The streets are busy with them. A busy street in Dallas means there are somewhere between twenty and twenty-five people standing there waiting to cross the street with you. In New York City, there are three hundred. Plus three hundred more on their way to the intersection. Plus three hundred more standing there who aren’t planning to cross. And three hundred more who are not waiting to cross – but who are just crossing already. It’s remarkably easy to be overwhelmed – espescially if you’re not into large crowds. Alternatively you can just dive in and become part of the sea of bodies. This is the option I chose. I dove in immediately. And instantly fit right in. I noticed the flow didn’t take me down. There were no people running into me, no shoulders knocking mine, no one stepping on my feet… It was like a chaotic symphony that fell together with perfect harmony.

I could quite easily fill five more columns with the last four days I’ve spent in the Apple. But I think it would be redundant. I didn’t have a whole lotta of life-changing events, so I can leave all that out. Well, except for the 9/11 Memorial, of course. That deserves a few sentences. I also don’t think it will be necessary to flood you with photos. I took far fewer pictures on this trip than I ever have. For one I didn’t have a lot of time to stop and take them, and another, I didn’t feel like I wanted to. I wanted to fit in and flow, not seem like a gawky tourist. I got a few good ones, but I think you’d be better finding them on another site. You want to know what New York looks like? Google it. Turn on your TV. Open any magazine. I just think it’s pointless to show you a whole bunch of my Texan perspective on the city. Shrug. Maybe I’m wrong. I also won’t be showing you the pictures I took at the Memorial. Those are mine. If you’re interested, you already know what it looks like. What I will be doing is comparing and contrasting my life at home with my short, four-day slice of life here in New York. What I did, who I met, what I learned, and maybe a few things that might help you decide to come see for yourself.

While I wouldn’t say this has been the most exciting place I’ve ever visited in my perception, I think it is easily the most exciting place in the world based on the activity level and the sheer number of souls on the street at any one time. It’s hard not to be affected by that. I had some really amazing experiences. And I plan to write about them here. For you. For ten years or so now, I’ve wanted to close some questions off in my head about New York. Some of them spurred from Kimbre’s New York journals, some of them from what happened on September 11th, and some of them from stories I’ve heard from others, including my dad. And now, if I never come back here, which I would very much like to do with my red-haired wife someday (but certainly not the children) I can at least die knowing I saw the things I wanted to see here. I found answers to my questions, and learned the things I just absolutely needed to know. Join me here and I will share them with you.

2 Responses

  • Spark says:

    Right on! Looking forward to hearing more about your NY experience.

  • Sara says:

    I finally got to read this! I’m glad I could find you something and make your flight memorable! Did you go to the Shake Shack??