Into the Wild of New York City

Our plane, landed at La Guardia for a four day visit to New York City, Labor Day weekend, 2015. I quickly realized I’d gone into the wild, a different kind of wild, but the wild no less. Current wisdom says that it’s good to get out of our comfort zone and that’s what I did. Of the nine in my group, everyone but me was an experienced traveler who’d been to New York many times. I was nervous but excited to be doing something I’d always wanted to do; I had no idea what I was getting into.

For what little comfort I had, our plane might as well as been a helicopter dropping us on an Alaska glacier. Or, our hired van, whisking us through the city to our near Broadway and Times Square hotel, could have been a rickety wagon leaving us in a foreign village in the outback.

I’d just finished reading Into the Wild, the story of a young man (Alex Supertramp he’d named himself) who wanted to commune with nature and find solace by going into the wild, into the bush. Then I’d read Wild, the story of a young woman (Cheryl Strayer) who hiked the Pacific Crescent Trail in order to find herself after significant losses and disturbing life changes.

They both bought into the magical appeal of nature and were sure this experience would change their lives. Alex and Cheryl were naïve and ill prepared for what they were undertaking. Cheryl found herself and published a well-regarded memoir. Tragically, Alex lost his life. I’m not saying that my recent trip to New York City bears any resemblance to Alex and Cheryl’s ominous journeys but my expedition was certainly portentous in other ways. Urban wild can be as exhilarating as the wild of remote places.

A couple of pairings within my small group had extensive pre-planned itineraries; my humble goals were to see a Broadway play, take a carriage ride through Central Park and see a certain piece of art that had been featured in a recent movie. Due to my physical limitations, I was just happy to be able to visit New York and planned to see and take in as much as I could.

jluie 006jluie 007My hotel room on the twenty-first floor had two windows, one that faced 46th street and the other 8th Avenue with a view of the Hudson River off in the distance and Times Square two blocks away. Late at night I stood, leaned toward the window to look down at the jumble of lights, traffic, shops, theaters and hear the clatter in the street below. You’d have thought it was high noon.

Each morning, the quiet of the elevator as it dropped down to the lobby came to an abrupt halt as the door opened to a din of voices, chatter, laughter. That’s the last quiet I’d have until re-entering the elevator at night to return to my high in the sky hotel room.

New York is best known for Broadway and Times Square and it was just as depicted on TV. People in Disney and other cartoon character costumes expecting tips when they pose for a picture with a child. The very tall person in a Statue of Liberty costume. The old and wrinkly woman wearing ragged and worn jean shorts that revealed most of her bottom and a halter that revealed most of her top. Her look was completed with a scraggly straw hat. Was she part of Times Square entertainment, a regular New Yorker or a tourist just wanting to fit in? Who knows.

It’s not possible to walk but a few steps without being accosted by someone shoving a pamphlet or brochure into your face. Bargain tickets. Discount shows. Most of these young people, I’m told, are extras or minor cast members in Broadway productions. Moonlighting on a higher level. The bleachers on Times Square must be for serious people-watching or for rest as long lines form near the kiosk known for cheap same day tickets to a Broadway play.

Walking down 44nd Street with the colorful and bright marques of one theater after another. The Lion King. The Book of Mormon. Hamilton, all in a row. Sometimes next door to each other. And some people actually drive their car here, even though its $17.75 for one hour of parking in automat-style boxes that jluie 003elevate up and down into the ground and into the air.

Scan0015I quickly became accustomed to the $15.00 cocktail and the $20.00 sandwich. Location, location, location. Before the theater, we went to Sardi’s and in their bar I had an appetizer (grilled shrimp) and a cocktail. $40.00. I began to think of shrimp as my signature NYC dish and ordered it many times in many places for lots of money. At the top of the Marriott Marque’s View, the only revolving restaurant, one drink cost $15.00. At least they didn’t rush us as we waited for the New York skyline sunset.

It’s an international community where I was often the only English speaking white woman in sight. French. Asian. Italian. At the hotel coffee shop I watched a group from the UK signing in for a cake decorating convention. I had my picture taken with Jimmie Fallon. Not the real one. Madam Tussaud.IMG_20150907_135151717

 

 

 

 

Each day was non-stop. Morning to dusk. Once home, it took two weeks for me to finally feel rested. My only regret was missing the piece of art due to long, long lines. And not having a hot dog from a NYC street vender.

Now, my heart begins palpitating each night when Stephen Colbert begins his Late Night show with NYC scenes playing on the screen at his back. It’s also great fun to follow along with the designers of Project Runway as they cavort through NYC’s fashion district. I giggle as I mentally return to those streets. To that flash. I was there, I walked down that street, I know how that feels.

 

 

 

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