Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bites of the Big Apple

Snippets from email I sent home from Manhattan:

I'm here in my parents' (tiny) apartment in NYC.

The taxi drivers must think that they operate amusement park rides (or perhaps that they're racing horses). They race down the streets, run red lights, jockey for position, honk, and otherwise keep their passengers alert. I was not disappointed in my first NYC taxi ride. As we raced down 26th Street, I saw the Empire State Building in person. Very pretty, lit up at night. It gave me a thrill that I recognized it all on my own, looking much larger than it does in pictures.

It is a place of many beautiful buildings. After I got to my folks' place, I was quite ready to settle down and relax. My mother, as you might imagine, had different ideas. We went out for a walk about quarter to 11, and were out walking the city until 1am. It's true that they never roll up the sidewalks here. The streets were thronged at 1am. Since everyone lives in such tiny apartments, they spend their time out in the city.

NY Harbor from Brooklyn

As I was falling asleep, I heard a great wind. That surprised me, because I'm on an interior courtyard ("light well") and it's warm and humid (high 70s, day and night) and there was no breeze. I thought it was the sound of traffic (which is omnipresent in New York), but it turned out to be the neighbors' air conditioners.

New York seems strangely familiar to me. I realized that this is because I've seen it all before. New York is exactly like they portray it in the mooooveeees, wall-to-wall screaming taxis, park fences, fire hydrants, and picturesque buildings.

It makes me nervous to walk beneath the looming buildings. My mom is always pointing up at this or that interesting features, and I get vertigo at the sheer walls. The buildings are better from a distance. We sat in the park at 11:30 last night and looked at the Empire State Building and the Met Life tower. That was pretty. Later, we walked around the Met Life building and I couldn't look up. We also saw the Chrysler building from a distance, extremely lovely. I shall endeavor to be too busy to visit it close up.

My city girl ways have come back, but this city is on steroids compared to dear old Berkeley (or even SF). It's all like the taxis. My mom, naturally, can match speeds with the city. No wonder New Yorkers talk so fast. You'll have to wind me back down when I get home.

The Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan from Brooklyn

Today, we walked a lot. We were going to take a Gray Line bus tour of the city. Jerry said he'd rather be hit by a garbage truck (New York is full of garbage trucks; they pick up the trash that is piled on the curb outside of the buildings every night -- it stinks). When we got to Times Square (think Las Vegas on crystal meth and growth hormones) and talked to the folks pushing the tours, I decided I agreed.

So we walked home by way of Rockefeller Center (worth seeing), Saint Patrick's Cathedral, the Palace Hotel, Grand Central Station (kinda close to the Chrysler building), the Algonquin, and the New York Public Library. All quite impressive. My favorite thing was Grand Central Station. A magnificent building teeming with human beings going places. You've seen pictures. Oh, and we went by J.P Morgan's house. Quite the architectural tour. I have some notion of the geography of NYC now.

An Archer Giving Me Lessons at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

My head is all gorged with New York. I'm longing for my own quiet life and my wonderful family. You guys give a person time to think and don't interrupt her every 2 minutes.

NYC is mobbed on Saturdays. Jerry and I walked through the farmer's market at Union Square. This huge city square was full of produce trucks and customers, absolutely jam packed. When we got to the movie theatre, it was also mobbed. We had to go up 4 escalators to get to our theatre, and weave our way through a lot of lobbies and the whole place was full of people. The theatre itself was also wall-to-wall people.

After the movie, we walked down to Washington Square (with a famous arch). There were lots of good musicians busking in the square, and tons of people sitting everywhere people can sit. We heard a good pianist (who somehow wheels his upright piano down to the square to play there) and a jazz band and some other groups of musicians. I could have spent more time just hanging out, but my mom was hungry.

Greenwich Village is not a village by any standards, but it is kind of like Berkeley.

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