Monday, September 26, 2005

Big Apple

Ah, New York. My first time there was nearly three years ago. It was Valentine's day and it was cold. To say it is cold, and to say New York means really cold. It's humid there,which can make any gust of wind feel like a stab of ice right through your bones. The temperature at that time was around 14 degrees farenheit. I was in my last semester at the U, and I was an intern working in DC. A bunch of us interns rode up on something called the Chinatown bus. It was a bus line that takes people from Chinatown DC to Chinatown New York. It's four hours ride, from midnight to 4 am, and costs a mere 30 bucks round trip. It snowed so hard that weekend the bus couldn't pick us up to take us back till two days later. All the roads were closed. And New York actually shut down.

My friend's uncle lived in New Jersey. He owned a tanning bed distributorship. We stayed at his place for the night. In the morning he gave us all Valentine's candy and a rose. Which was kinda nice, but also kinda weird. He was single, but old, and except for his niece, we didn't know him.

Before the snow hit my friend Prima, an intern from Brazil, and I found a classic New York deli with a fish bowl window. We sat there to get out of the cold and to taste a New York bagel and cream cheese. There's nothing like it. Best bagels ever. They say it's the water. I've seen the Hudson and this worries me, but I'll still eat the bagels. We sat in that deli and watched protestors for the Iraq war march by. Hundreds of them. The war had just begun and people were taking to the streets. Some signs made sense, some professed President Bush was an Alien, others said he was more like Hitler. Little kids, parents, grandparents, people dressed in clown suits, white people with dread locks, and guys with short mohawks and purple hair, even a man on a unicycle, all marching in protest, all chanting something about wanting answers and not taking it anymore. I like New York I thought.

A friend I grew up with became very successful in New York. She landed the role of Mimi in LaBoheme. She was in the paper. She won a Tony. We thought she was divine. There are actually more LDS actors on Broadway than you would think. Maybe all the singing and dancing in Family Home Evening helps. Her show closed before I could see it. She dropped everything and moved to DC a few months ago to convince a man he should marry her. She's a redhead and has always been dramatic like that. They're still working things out.

I think I understand what Andrei Codrescu was saying in his Road Scholar book about wanting to go back to a dream-like, carless past. Most every trip to New York was carless, except last Thanksgiving when I stayed with one of my friends from DC and her family in Jersey. We drove into the city, but left the car at the Port Authority. New York just doesn't make sense in a car. It's too expensive, too cumbersome to try and park it anywhere, and you see more of the place on foot anyway. The delis, the vendors, the subway system and all its entertainment value, the bus tour ticket sellers promising you a free ride until you begin to talk to them and they ask you for 40 bucks, one guy we asked directions from told us he'd tell us if we paid him. He then lied to us about where to go. Maybe we should have actually given him money. Then there's Central Park. It's humungous. It's this gigantic park with rocks and hills and grass and lots and lots of trees right in the middle of a pavement metropolis. Of course there's also the fashion district with all of it's little boutiques and discount stores selling some unknown fashion designers new line that you can't get anywhere else. And walking around Chinatown, negotiating a cheap knock-off designer purse down from ten bucks to six. I never did see the Statue of Liberty, nor Ellis Island, though the ferry over there is free. How fitting. New York is like a dream, a carless dream with wonderful memories, and always, always more to do than can be done in one trip. Always a reason to go back.

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