Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Land of Milk and Honey

As I posted yesterday, I'm in New York for the week. New York is a fascinating, disorienting place - I'm out of my comfort zone the moment I hit the baggage claim and limo drivers solicit passengers. It continues when I get to the subway platform and find out, from another passenger, that the subway line I want isn't running this weekend due to construction. It's not a friendly place for tourists much of the time.

This is my twelfth trip to New York. I've progressed from finding it scary, overwhelming, and impossible-to-get-my-mind-around to exciting, overwhelming, and impossible-to-get-my-mind-around. I've learned some of the city's ways, and have cracked some of the keys to getting around, getting great food, and not getting ripped off. Some of the credit is due to Yelp and Google Maps Transit, some is due to becoming older and more experienced with cities, and much is thanks to friends' personal recommendations.

I started enjoying cities a lot more after I lost weight. Cities are tiring to heavy, out of shape people. Cities require a lot of walking and stair climbing. Cities are hard on people who take up a lot of space. Cities are warm at awkward moments. Cities have a ton of fashionably dressed, attractive people - and when I was heavy, I was self conscious about being both fat and foreign.

New York is hard on me even after all these trips - I usually have no clue which way I'm going when I get off the subway. I hate cold shouldering people who try to hand or sell me things.For someone who grew up rurally, being constantly surrounded by masses of people may never become comfortable. I'm still somewhat on alert on the street.

New York has her wiles for pretty much everyone. Her charms for me include great speakeasies with great cocktails. Great theater. Great architecture. Great food. Great people watching. And I have a lot of friends who live here.

Walking around New York also piques my inner details nerd. The infrastructure required for housing and hosting ten million people is immense. I'm always amazed by the same things. I'm amazed the seemingly endless subway trains that show up every five minutes. I'm amazed that there are multiple train (not just subway) lines running under the city. I'm amazed by the network of food delivery services. I'm amazed by businesses squeezed downstairs on a side street. I'm amazed that it seems to work, day after day, without falling apart.

New York doesn't seem to be a place that encourages the lazy. It asks you to work for its charms - by handling the masses of humanity, by handling the challenges of navigating, by handling the immensity of options, by handling her special challenges, she'll show you her parks, her hole-in-the-wall gems, and her best. It's not an easy city, but it is an amazing one.

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