Home Sweet Home (Be It Ever So Humble)

I know I should be sleeping off my jet lag right now, but I guess I got too eager to get on with things. Besides, I can take naps throughout the day.

I got up at 4:30 AM New York City time (1:30 AM Vancouver time) yesterday, so I could catch a cab to LaGuardia Airport and thus be on time to catch a 7:00 AM flight. Not having access to a printer before I arrived at the airport, I printed my boarding passes at the airline kiosk, but forgot to check my suitcase, so one of the clerks helped me. Upon leaving the scanner and gathering my things in the security area, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young woman get arrested. From then on, it was smooth sailing–or, in this case, smooth flying.

Until I got to Seattle.

At Seattle-Tacoma Airport, I tried calling the station where I was dropped off last Monday to see if I was to catch my train home there, but nobody answered. I wandered around until I found an information booth, and there learned about Seattle’s LINK Light Rail, and thus took that downtown; I’m pretty sure if I’d known about LINK Light Rail when I first arrived in Seattle, I could have saved myself some money on cab fare, and some worry in New York about how I was going to scrounge up cab fare from Sea-Tac. Once in downtown Seattle, I asked a couple of police officers to direct me to the train station–which was indeed where the bus from Canada dropped me off last Monday–where I sat it out for the next five hours–and had some empty calories to ward off hunger pangs. But then, how was I to know they would serve food on the train, and I could get what actually passed for a meal (a veggie burger and a cola)?

My train got caught behind a freight train some time along the journey, and apparently the freight train moving faster than it did (molasses, I’m sure, would have moved faster) was too much to ask, because the train I was on was basically on stop-and-go (slowly; though it did gather speed at some points along the journey, only to have to stop again). Couple that with the time I spent at the border checkpoint–which, by the way, is at the Pacific Central Station here in Vancouver (something else completely new to me)–and it was after midnight this morning when I finally got home and fell asleep. Oh, and I caused myself some embarrassment on my declaration card, when I initially overestimated the monetary value of the goods I had purchased in New York which I was bringing back into Canada, and added that value to the amount of money (US) I still had on me. So many lessons to learn for next time.

I love New York City, though I’ve only been there once, and I have every intention of returning, hopefully sooner than later. But Vancouver has its charm, too, and, like I’ve said to so many people over the years, I’m in no hurry to leave. And it feels so good to be home.

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.

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.