Last Day

Knowing I had mere hours to see more of the city, I once again got up early, showered, then walked about three blocks to catch a bus to the ferry station so I could get some photos of the Statue of Liberty. I had another somewhat embarrassing moment when the bus driver informed me I needed a receipt as proof of purchase to ride that bus, as it was a special bus, regardless of the fact that I had an unlimited New York City transit card; he was nice enough to wait while I obliged. It also helped that there was someone else riding the bus, and he helped me to navigate the machine nearby so I could get the receipt I needed to board the bus. (My right knee was–and is–doing much better, and my feet held up as best they could, under the circumstances.)

I decided to take a ferry to Liberty Island so I could get a decent photo or two of the Statue of Liberty; I paid twenty bucks, then, along with the huge crowd there, went through self-described airport-like security; one of the officers pulled me aside so he could check my laptop for any dangerous materials, then let me go as soon as my laptop was cleared. It was worth it, though, because I got some decent photos of the Statue of Liberty and a portion of Liberty Island, as well as Ellis Island. I was only one of two people who did not get off the boat on either island, but instead returned to the mainland.

From Battery Park, I went straight to Times Square, where I got some photos, particularly of the Port Authority; to be honest, I don’t know what the big deal about Times Square is–other than the Port Authority, the theatres, and attractions such as Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, as well as the New York Times office, it’s just a collection of stores and businesses, particularly those people here in the First World can find practically anywhere in the First World, and I can’t understand why that’s the first place people hit when they come to New York City, when there are far more interesting places to go. (It helped me, though, that the first place I saw upon exiting the subway station was a Walgreens–my camera insisted it needed new batteries).

When I had had my fill of Times Square, I traipsed down 42nd Street in search of Grand Central Station; when I found it, I took photos of its exterior and interior, and located and exited out the station’s Lexington Avenue exit, thinking I could catch a bus to 50th Street from there. Little did I know there was a car-free spring celebration on Lexington Avenue, ergo I had to walk to 50th Street, to see, and get photos of, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. I found St. Patrick’s Cathedral easily enough; it’s under construction, but I still managed to get some decent photos (I didn’t go inside this time). I wandered around looking for Rockefeller Center, then finally decided it was in my best interest to ask one of the cops at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for directions–which one of them very nicely gave (he even let me know I addressed him correctly, as ‘officer’). It still took me a while to find Rockefeller Center, though, and I needed to use one of the city directories. But find it I did–and got some great photos.

After that, I decided to head to Greenwich Village; I located the New School and Union Square easily enough; at Union Square, I asked a couple of police officers to direct me to the Flatiron Building–one of them told me it was north of where we were, necessitating another subway ride north.  Before that, a gentleman guessed I was from Puerto Rico–I think he said San Juan in particular, but I don’t remember now; when I corrected him and told him I’m from Vancouver, he told he and some other people know it as ‘the purple city,’ because its skyline appears purple at night.

From Union Square, I soldiered on towards Washington Square and New York University; after consulting one of my maps several times, I found Washington Square Park, and photographed the buildings across the street which were affiliated with NYU before heading to the subway station. Upon exiting the 23rd Street subway station, I lost my sense of direction until I gained my senses and headed in the right direction of the Flatiron Building–which, if I’d been thinking, I would have seen, and thus photographed, on Tuesday, as I had been in the park across the street from it–Madison Square Park–then. Another live-and-learn moment.

I decided to hop on a bus after locating the Flatiron Building; the one I took went to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. I took some more photos of a couple of gems after getting off that bus–a portion of FDR Drive, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Square Park (which I saw on the cab ride to my hotel from LaGuardia Airport, and decided I wanted a permanent record of–now I have it); afterward, I stopped by a burger joint for a veggie burger, fries, and cola, then boarded a bus to Cooper Square to get pictures of Cooper Union and the Village Voice office; by then, it started to rain, and steadily, so I’m hoping those pictures turned out OK. Then it was one more photo–of an intersection I’d seen in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, which only yesterday I realized was mere blocks from my hotel, and not in Soho, like I thought it was–then it was back to my hotel to shower, take care of some business, and prepare for tomorrow, and my trip home.

Though I’m looking forward to going home, I had a great time here In New York City, and I can’t believe I have to leave, and so soon; I don’t want to leave. And not because there’s so much more to discover. Shit, I only covered Manhattan. But I’m determined I will return to New York City–it’s just a question of when.

Endeavouring to Persevere

I got caught in a thunder-and-lightning storm getting off the bus a block away from my hotel, so I don’t know how long I can stay here–and I still need to upload photos onto my Facebook page.

Despite my feet being sore from popped blisters, I managed to photograph almost all of Central Park, as well as parts of Harlem, Morningside Heights–including Columbia University–and The Cloisters; while I was looking for The Cloisters, I learned it’s actually in Fort Tryon Park, in Washington Heights. Unfortunately, I could only photograph the outside–I’m sure I didn’t have enough money to pay the admission, and still have money for the rest of my stay here in New York, and for my trip home.

I had a hard time finding Columbia University, but only because I had royally confused myself whenever I looked at the map in one of my New York City guidebooks; as I once again consulted the map in said guidebook, a complete stranger offered me assistance (which looks like it could be a recurring theme here), and pointed out Columbia University was right across the street from where I was consulting my map!  It turns out Columbia University takes up four city blocks, if not more, in Morningside Heights.  Needless to say, thanks to that stranger who helped me, I got some great photos.

While strolling, as best as I could on aching feet and sore right knee, along Central Park North, a couple of streets along that stretch taught me Central Park North borders Central Park and Harlem; but I guess that should have registered with me this morning, when I should have noticed better than I did that, immediately after Central Park North, Central Park West turns into Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which stretches along Harlem. So it’s too bad I only noticed Central Park North borders Central Park and Harlem when I noticed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Malcolm X Boulevards–which I saw in Harlem earlier today when I was looking for Marcus Garvey Park–went as far as Central Park North. Live and learn, I guess.

I had a Becky Bloomwood-esque moment getting on the bus at Fifth Avenue and 109th Street (I’m going by memory here, so please bear with me) so I could see, and get photos of, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Obelisk, and the fare receiver noted I had no money on my fare card, but the driver was nice enough to wave me on to the bus. After getting some fabulous (if I do say so myself) photos of the Met, and the best photo I could get of the Obelisk (which had scaffolding around it), I walked until I found the closest subway station, and attempted to refill my transit card via machine, which wouldn’t cooperate, so I went to the attendant, who informed me, because I had gotten unlimited time on my card (smart move on my part, now that I’m recalling this), and it won’t expire until Sunday, it doesn’t matter if I have no more money on my card. Bullet dodged. After that, though, my feet and right knee decided it was time for me to call it a day–but not before I grabbed a bite to eat.

So, here I am, nice and dry in my hotel room–though my shoes, socks, jeans, shirts, and jacket are thoroughly soaked–and I’m going to give my feet and knee some hours to rest before tomorrow’s sightseeing adventure.

Out and About, Day Two: Getting Lost, A Missed Opportunity, and Sick Feet

I decided to check out Central Park today. What an undertaking that turned out to be; I needed to refer to directories interspersed throughout the park several times, and I still missed some spots–Mineral Springs, Belvedere Castle, Cherry Hill. After losing my way a few times, I decided to throw in the towel, and just get a map from The Dairy Visitor Center and Gift Shop; with help from the map, I actually managed to locate the Central Park Zoo and the Tisch Children’s Zoo (which are both in the Central Park Wildlife Center)–but not before my feet decided to remind me they’re blister-prone, and how, necessitating in me purchasing a box of bandages and taking a rest before trying again to locate the zoos. (I view zoos as a moral grey area, by the way). I should add that I unknowingly got off the bus ten stops before I was supposed to, but, if I hadn’t, I would have missed a couple of gems, one of them being Carnegie Hall.

After seeing a third of Central Park, I went to an event suggested by a local humanist group (on their web site), different from the one who hosted last night’s meeting; I had to pay to get in, but I definitely didn’t get my money’s worth, as I was hoping to meet some people from this group, but instead had to endure speeches interrupted by the occasional musical act. It was a worthwhile event–commemorating the life and legacy of folk musician and progressive political activist Pete Seeger–but would a period of socializing before the event been too much to ask? I ended up leaving before the event was over–mostly because one of the performers of a musical act decided to give yet another speech before he and his band performed. I don’t mind speeches per se, but they shouldn’t be a preamble to musical acts or literary readings, nor should they be very long–five minutes, tops.

I’m going to give my feet several hours of rest, then I’m going to get up early tomorrow, and do some more sightseeing–and see if I can’t tackle the rest of Central Park, map in tow. I have only two days left here in New York City, after all, and I need to see everything I can before I begin my trip home.

P.S.:  My cell phone is now operating on New York City time–for now.  And I’m roaming, for now.

Out and About, Day One–And Some Comparisons

I got up at 7:00 this morning–though my iPod Touch and cellphone insist on staying on Vancouver time, and thus insist it was 4:00 AM–to get in some exploring time (I must say, though, my iPod has become my best friend at this point, though I’ve only used it as an alarm clock once). I decided to start with South Street Seaport and the Financial District, as those areas were closest to my hotel, which is on Bowery–though it did take me long enough to find South Street Seaport, and then the 9/11 memorial. But I’m here to explore, right? I think it may be tourist season here–I had such a hard time getting a photo of the Charging Bull sculpture in Battery without anyone posing with it, crowding around it, or climbing over or hanging off of it; a lady, who I surmise was a tourist, had to step in and ask everyone to hold off on rushing to the sculpture until she, and I, had a chance to take photos of just the bull (though one of the other tourists got a little overly eager while I was taking my photo–my photo shows her rushing towards the bull).  About the Financial District:  it could easily be New York City’s version of Yaletown in Vancouver–the streets are so narrow. After lunch, I headed to a subway station on Broadway to purchase a Metro card, so I can use transit while I’m here (I got the seven-day pass).

I got lost on my way back to the hotel when I was done in the Financial District; a very nice gentleman tried to help me–and even gave me two guidebooks with maps–but I still wandered quite a bit, and had to use directories dispersed through the streets to help me find my way back. I did find some gems during my back-to-my-hotel wanderings, including City Hall, which has a park surrounding it (I’ll have to check out the area surrounding Vancouver City Hall when I get home). I stayed at my hotel only long enough to shower, then I got on the bus to do some more sightseeing before attending a meeting of a New York City secular-humanist group, which involved watching a lecture on DVD about the DAWN mission to study two asteroids, named Vesta and Ceres. After the DVD lecture, one of the people at the meeting welcomed me to ‘America,’ as he phrased it, and gave me a suggestion of where to go before I return to Vancouver.

Now for a couple of comparisons between New York City and Vancouver.  There’s constant horn-honking in New York City, as there are also constant traffic snarls and what Christopher diCarlo calls ‘undulating idiots’; I wonder if Professor diCarlo’s idea regarding traffic control–that motorists be no more than two feet in front of or behind other drivers (as I recall it–Professor diCarlo, if you ever read this, you can correct me if I’m wrong)–would work here in New York, even if the person presenting the idea isn’t a native New Yorker; there are traffic snarls and horn-honking in Vancouver, but not as much as here in New York, and, in Vancouver, it’s all chiefly limited to rush hour; though I can’t promise I won’t even mentally bitch about Vancouver traffic anymore, I will try to remember New York City traffic whenever I feel like Vancouver traffic is trying my patience. Also, on the first bus I boarded, I noticed the driver was encased in a glass cage, to protect him from potentially belligerent passengers; buses in Vancouver don’t have glass cages for drivers–I’m guessing the New York City transit system doesn’t have the honour system that TransLink in Vancouver does.  One similarity I’ve noticed between New York City and Vancouver is that no one feels they can rely on the transit system. That’s all I can think of for now, but maybe I’ll see more similarities and contrasts between Vancouver and New York as I traverse the city for the next two days. For right now, all I can say is, though I’ve only seen a portion of New York City, I have a feeling Vancouver is going to feel like a small town when I return.

First Things First

I’m now in my hotel room–tiny, cramped, and windowless–in New York City; I’ve already had a shower, and I’m looking to sleep off whatever jet lag I have left before embarking on my great adventure of discovery and fulfilling a long-time dream.

Oh, the things we creative types do for our creative pursuits.

But I can’t believe I’m here. In New York City. And that I was able to come on my drastically limited funds. For right now, though, I’m going to get some sleep–I don’t want jet lag interfering with my exploring and research.

One Hurdle (Barely) Cleared

I’m at Seattle Tacoma International Airport now, waiting for a midnight flight to Houston, Texas, on the second leg of my trip to New York City, where I’m going to spend a few days checking the city out and doing research for my entry into this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

I almost didn’t make it this far, though. When the bus I was on got to the Pacific border crossing in–or near–Blaine, Washington, the first guard to process everyone who was on the bus ushered me to the side so he could talk to me, after I admitted to him I’m currently unemployed. He was courteous and patient, and didn’t raise his voice–even when I took longer than I should have to register, at one point, that he was asking for my home address in Vancouver. He searched my bags–the only thing he did I didn’t like was stack two of my spiral notebooks on top of each other with the spirals facing the same way–then he let me proceed. I, for my part, didn’t lash out, but sucked up the situation, and honestly answered his questions.  The ladies checking luggage were quite gracious, waiting patiently for me to fumble with, and then close, my knapsack before placing it on the conveyor belt for them to survey.

At least I was allowed to continue on to Seattle.

When we arrived at the Amtrak station, I was disappointed to find there were no staff around for me to ask if I would be catching my train back to Vancouver from that same station, so I’ll have to assume it is. So I just hailed a cab outside of the station, and we headed to the airport. The cab driver was friendly; we had some good conversation, and he very politely corrected my pronunciation of Mount Rainier; I pronounced Rainier the French way (my dad’s side of the family tree is French Canadian), but it turns out, here in Washington State, it’s actually pronounce raehn-YEER. Well, you learn something new every day.

Please allow me a digression here: I’m absolutely amazed at how big Seattle is in comparison to Vancouver, whose council seems to be focused on growing upward instead of outward. It took so long to get from the King Street Station to the airport, and the ride cost me just under $40 US. Given the distance between the bus/train station and the airport, I honestly didn’t think I was going to get off that cheaply.

And now I’m waiting to continue my trip.  I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to getting on an airplane again, now for the first time in over ten years.