NYC, and other stories

Posted on February 9, 2012

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I must have, deep down in me, a lost soul from New York City. Namely, Manhattan! (Yes, that’s a fragment but I don’t care!). Back in December I talked about the wanderlust I discovered when I was a teen. It seems I can be at ease wherever I am. But for some reason I had avoided New York City. Even in my 30’s when a family vacation had us driving from Dallas to Massachusetts, down to Rhode Island and back, I detoured around the town.

But a few years ago I had the opportunity to work there for a few months and I fell in love with the city. Tonight, I made another trip into town. I’m working in Secaucus, NJ so it’s a quick trip. Hop on the 320 from the Harmon Meadows area and 15 minutes later you’re in the Port Authority building near Times Square.

I was off the bus and navigating the hallways, tunnels, stairs and escalators like I’ve lived here all my 40 years and not like a tourist. (My secret is that I keep moving, constantly scanning the signs to my desired train). Tonight, I’m headed downtown near the Empire State Building. So from the Port Authority to Times Square. There I need either the A,B,C or 1,2, or 3 train.

There it is; Times Square and 1,2,3 to my right. Down a long tunnel without breaking stride. Past a duet of young women singing THe Beatles’ “Let it Be”, 50 yards further down, a young man on a violin, a man in dreads playing a trumpet with case and few dollars cash on the floor, and I’m at the turnstile for the subway. It’s like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and Amazing Race all rolled into one experience.

I make a quick stop at the Metro kiosk and purchase a new card and load it with $20. THrough the turnstiles, look up to see 1,2 downtown again to my right. Down a short flight of stairs and I’m on the platform as the train pulls in. THe doors open and I’m met with a sea of people: men, women, children, all different ethnicities. The entry way clears and I’m on board with perhaps another 2 dozen people. I keep the nearest seats open for women, the elderly or handicapped but no one seems to want to sit. Is that just the energy of the city?

Even though it’s been 2 years I still have my subway legs. The train pulls away from the platform and I gently brace myself against the poll, hands in pockets, shifting my weight between legs as the train lurches, accelerates, turns then slows as it approaches Penn Station.

I’m already moving towards before the train comes to a complete stop and reach the door just as it slides open. Again, my eyes are scanning the signs as I’m moving. My goal is the Rattle and Hum bar on 33rd between 5th and Madison. I see an exit for 33rd and 7th to my left and down and I’m on the go. Through Penn Station, past Madison Square Garden and then out on the street.

It’s mid 30’s and there are light snow flurries when I hit street level. The bright lights, the sounds, the smells!!! A quick glance to my right and I see 32nd St.. To my immediate left, 33rd. Ok, downtown right, uptown left. That’s means I’m facing east. Perfect! I cross 7th on 33rd confident I’m going in the right direction. There’s a Halal stand with Gyro’s. I almost stop. Then a hotdog stand. Damn! I SOOO want a hotdog! Then I see Avenue of the Americas (or 6th Ave) in front of me and give a huge grin. mostly because I never faltered and was headed right where I wanted to go. Just like a New Yorker.

Immediately after 6th I cross Broadway. I see the Empire State Building looming in front. All of a sudden I feel like Oskar Schell in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. Am I looking for what this key will unlock? I try to imagine being 10 years old and searching New York for the mystery of the key. But tonight I have another goal: Rattle and Hum. It’s between 5th and Madison so I know I’m getting close. I cross 5th and can see Madison ahead of me and slow down. There’s a Duane Reade, the Chicago Mercantile, a porno with live nude dancers, a lingerie shop and Foley’s Irish Pub. I barely feel the snow hitting my face. It’s the thrill and excitement of New York.
I see 5th Ave. in front of me so I know I’m on the right block. I stop. Paused, I slowly turn to survey the street. A cab flies by me. I hear a siren not too far away, moving downtown. Someone lies on their horn. There’s a furniture store, an optical store, a chinese restaurant. Then I see it; directly across from me. I can barely make out the name through with its red and green lettering: Rattle and Hum. I’m here!

I meet with my friends. We have a few beers, down some wings and catch up. Why don’t I feel like a tourist? Maybe because now I’m not. The city is in my blood. We have a great time reminiscing then, as all good New Yorkers, who are bound by the schedule of the trains, we each head our separate ways.

I retrace my steps back up 33rd to Penn Station, make my way to the 1 Uptown (no, not the 1 uptown, it’s an express to Harlem at this hour) and wait by the platform for the train. This is one of my favorite NY experiences: the platform. I love the feel, and sound and vibration of the approaching trains. You can feel the air thrum, you can feel the wind pick up, feel the platform vibrate! You sense the train long before you see its light!

I left the bar at 9:40 and in 15 minutes I’m back at the Port Authority, in line at gate 320 for the 10:05 back to Secaucus. What used to feel like a daunting task, even intimidating is now almost routine. Yes it’s still exciting.

My friends and I made plans to do this every Wednesday as long as I’m in NJ. I can’t wait. I love this town!

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