Sunday, June 22, 2008

New York City Trip (Part 1)

Wednesday, October 7

I entered New York City by train, and for the most part, it was an enjoyable ride. An Amtrak train from Washington D.C. takes about 2.5 - 3.0 hours and costs around 150$. Penn Station is the main Amtrak terminal and is located just beneath Madison Square Garden. Arriving at Penn Station relieves the pain of an undesirable (and expensive) taxicab ride from JFK airport into the heart of the city.

I had been wanting to visit New York City for about a year and a half. Since my tour of Europe in the summer of 1997, I have desired to see more of the United States. I remember sitting in a little Café in Athens, Greece during my trip, writing in my journal. I was commenting on how peculiar I found the natives. I noted that, "Buses and streetcars putt nonchalantly past thousand year old buildings and people walk mindlessly past streets trotted on by emperors. Never is attention paid to the significance, nothing disturbs daily life."

I believe this observation is worth note because I learned a great truth in that very moment. I realized at that moment in Athens that I too was one of those people in a certain way. I have for years lived on the outskirts of both Washington DC and Baltimore and never have I truly appreciated either city the way I should. I too have walked past the Nation’s Capitol and the White House without batting an eye and I too have failed at times to stop and appreciate just what has surrounded me. I have even looked skeptically in the past at tourists who’ve marveled at such sites. I have resolved to change in this area and believe I’ve learned how to appreciate these attractions the way they should be appreciated. From now on, I’ll view these attractions as if I were a tourist.

It’s with this spirit that I came to New York. I hadn’t spent any appreciable time there since I was about seven years old (I did pass through the city and spend about five hours there while touring with the Longwood men’s basketball team in 1990.) My memories of the city are very few. The only real image that remains burned in my memories from my visit as a youth is that of the Statue of Liberty. I remember vividly the first time I saw it. I was standing on the shore when I finally found it on the horizon. It seemed almost divine, like I was staring at something from heaven. It was magical, but more so it was unique; a huge, towering statue on an island off the coast. I had never seen that before.

So, to make a long story short, New York City seemed like a logical destination to me. It was within my financial means, full of historical attractions, and it held a certain childlike innocence of memory.

I had the opportunity to stay at a friends house in the heart of New York City on 39th street between 1st and 2nd avenue. It was a nice apartment with an unbelievably high rent. Patricia and her roommate paid over $2,000 a month for a two bedroom apartment with a tiny living room and small kitchenette.

The first night I arrived, Patricia and I went out to eat at a local restaurant and we got caught up on how each of us had been doing. Patricia has a PhD in Psychology and used to work where I work now at the National Institutes of Health. Her brother attends my church and he is also one of my friends. She had moved up to New York City just two months before I arrived, although she knew the city well having lived there before. It was good that we had this time to catch up. Patricia would be working a lot while I was there and I didn’t even know if I would be spending much time with her at all.

I was very excited to be in the city, but very tired from my trip. So, I decided to lay low for the first evening and get some sleep.

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