I can finally cross off one thing that has been on my New Year's resolution list for several years running. No, silly, I didn't lose weight. I saw New York City.
My initial thought from the window seat on the Fung Wah bus: It's massive. No kidding. By comparison, Boston is a cute neighborhood. Boston has about 500,000 people. Chicago has 3 million people. New York City has a whopping 8 million people. Holy crap.
NYC is so infused into American culture (movies, TV, music, photography). So going for the first time gave me the same giddy feeling as listening to the Quebecois speak French. It's real. Terrifically real.
Over the years, well-meaning friends have offered to be my guide to NYC. And as I begin to get excited, their voices become dreamy and I hear the words "theatre," "modern art," and "Cats." I instantly chill and think fuggetaboutit. I don't want to be a tourist in that sense. I don't want to wave a sign outside the GMA studio in the freezing cold. I want to see the city. I want to work at not making eye contact with the crazy guy (actually, guys; there are many crazy guys there). I want to see the juxtaposition of glamour and poverty. I want to smell the urine in the alley . . . well, maybe not that. But you see where I'm going.
My kind friends who live in Brooklyn played tour guide and took me on a whirlwind tour. It was akin to being a prairie dog. Every time I lifted my head above ground from the subway I was tranferred to a wildly different aspect of New York. Some aspects were scarier than others. I think Times Square was the scariest experience of the weekend. There was just too much. You name it, there was too much of it. People, lights, chaos, taxis, consumerism . . . it was just too much. But now I've seen it.
But there were far more incredible moments that gave me the warm and fuzzies:
1. The guy who ran the Italian restaurant single-handedly, the inspiration for this entry's title. He was kind of like my uncle Mike. Corny and intimidating at the same time. He joked around with a four year old at one table and then stared us down when we asked for the check. I was spoken to for not being part of the clean plate club. And I began to sweat.
2. The Drop Off, a chill bar in the east village that welcomes children and dogs. Oh, and adults of drinking age too. It was the kind of bar that just feels right.
3. Standing beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. My friend was right: It's awe-inspiring. The sense of lines, scale, architecture, and history is unique.
4. Eucalyptus. The farmers' markets are intoxicating--the people watching, the smell of fresh produce, the bundles of fresh eucalyptus. That right there is enough to make me sell my car and live in a cruddy, overpriced apartment.
And the things that blow my mind in a not-so-great way:
1. Monuments and statues constructed to remind us of 9/11 and the struggles of our immigrant ancestors are not smiley photo ops. What did amuse me is that it was not solely the American tourists putting on a tacky display of smiling in front of such serious statements. Most of the folks in Battery Park clicking photos were not speaking English.
2. A liquor store that is really like walking into a glass closet. When it's your turn, you yell out what you want and point to it behind the glass. Then the little man behind the register skirts around the glassed-in corners and retrieves your choice. The transaction takes place through a 6x6-inch opening in the glass.
3. Being around so many people calls for a lot of touching. Stranger danger!
4. Who charges $18 for an omelet?! I don't care if you shave gold over the top. It's a couple eggs and some cheese. Get over yourself.