Monday, January 13, 2014

Concrete Jungle

At first glance, Boston is like the preppy older brother and New York is the glamorous sister who secretly loves punk rock.  Well honestly, I haven’t seen much beyond that side of Boston and I’m not sure I’m quite into it—the faces of Boston remind me too much of the boarding school “bros” and made up sorority girls that sling Longchamp totes on their arms.  But maybe that’s every upper-middle class of affluent cities?  See, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in medieval French cities, and the hectic development of Chinese ones, but I hardly know about metropolitan U.S. (and anything beyond the east coast, but that’s worthy of another post).

So goes my two day sprint in New York: I rolled in Monday night on a Greyhound bus from Boston.  I stayed at Equity Point Hostel one block from Port Authority bus terminal and right around the corner from Times Square.  The hostel room was modest but a terrific price at $35 a bed per night, right across from the subway and the flashy showcasing of Midtown (known to natives as "the armpit" of New York, but for visitation purposes I wasn't arguing).  Long, dark bus rides make me shaky and hungry, so using my direly helpful Urbanspoon app, I found falafel right around the corner at a tiny vegetarian shop (my next post will cover my eating grounds).  Satiated, I researched companies and places to eat a bit more, then passed out in my horrendously cold room.  The A/C was running, couldn't be shut off, and my toes felt frostbitten under three blankets and my fur-lined eskimo coat.  
After attempting to sleep until 9:30, I prepared myself for the arctic, requested that the heating in my room be checked out (the ended up taking out the entire A/C and cranking the thermostat to 80 degrees F-- that was nice to return to), and ventured into Manhattan!  

For once, living in the North Country paid off because I was prepared to dress for single-digit temperatures: tights under jeans, Smart Wool socks, cowboy boots, a tunic, chunky sweater, a long scarf, elbow gloves, my terrifically orange knit hat, topped off with my navy eskimo coat from Zara.  The way the wind cut between the skyscrapers was no joke, forcing me to take respite every few hours in a café or store, but I trucked on.  The billowing smokestacks, dancing light on the buildings, crystal blue skies, and the fact that there is no choice to but for everyone to keep going invigorated my venture.  Cliche as this sounds, I couldn't help but have Alicia Keys bellowing "New Yorrrrrk, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do!" in the back of my mind as I briskly wandered from one end of Manhattan to the other.  Craning my neck upwards while tugging my pashima scarf over my nose, I was constantly dazzled at the enormity of what we have constructed an the pure energy of people, places, machines, and ideas that throttle the city.    

I walked from Midtown through the Flatiron District, through Little Italy, to Chinatown, down Fulton Street into the South Street Seaport, around to the Battery, then back up edging along Soho, Tribeca, and Chelsea (apologies if I listed those neighborhoods incorrectly).  I wanted to see as much of the city from ground-level in the blindingly sunny daylight, and ended up walking over nine miles!  Stops in between included lunch (in my next post), Starbucks (gift card and sketching to warm up), Zara (there was mad sales, and I scored new pants for my interviews~!), then back to my hostel before sunset.  I picked up again and met my best friend's boyfriend from the Bronx out in Williamsburg for dinner and drinks, which was a great way to calm my nerves before the career fair.
*My camera died the first half hour in, so these are all from my iPhone 5.

Dancing light on beautiful skyscrapers and buildings from the Beaux-Arts Classicism styles.
The Flatiron, built in 1902 and remains an iconic landmark of NYC today.
Views of the City Hall form the edge of Chinatown.
Views of Brooklyn from the South Street Seaport.
The belly of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Takeoffs and landings to the Manhattan Bridge (and no, they didn't crap on my face).
"City of New York Parks & Recreation" in the Battery Park.
This is the first time I've set eyes on Lady Liberty!  As seen from The Battery.
Statues, art, and lighting installations in the Lower Manhattan financial district.
Subway culture in New York means you'll encounter entertainers from all walks of life, such as these blue grass men from Virginia, pickin' away on their banjos and fiddles.  I was thrilled!
The following day was spent in a conference center six blocks north my hostel.  Not too much adventure to recount there, though it was nice to run into several classmates from St. Lawrence.  The career fair was better-organized than Boston, yet felt more intense and frantic.  Regardless of the job outcome for me, I'm grateful for this opportunity to practice marketing, networking, and grasping what I need to do to "make it" in the conventional sense (as a side note, I'd like to write a post about unconventional paths of living).

 After the career fair, I was mentally exhausted.  I pulled myself together to meet my incredible friend, Caroline, who I met while studying Shanghai last year.  She rode a train in from New Jersey and we caught up over dinner in Hell's Kitchen (also in the next post), then a cinnamon bun and rushed send-off in Penn Station.  Early the next morning, I checked out, hopped on the subway, and rode to LaGuardia for about $5.  That brings me to here, in Florida.

Two days in New York (and more so one because I spent all of Wednesday’s daylight in the conference center) is hardly anything, but I am crossing my fingers, sending in all the applications, weighing out any offers, and spending all of the saving money to live here more permanently someday soon.
Goood morning, New York!  On my way to the career fair in Times Square.
The subway moves above ground in Astoria, Queens, as seen on my way to LaGuardia Ariport.
Growing up mostly in the middle of nowhere, I have a deep appreciation for the wild solitude of fields and forests.  At the end of the summer and then reaffirmed with this brief trip, I realized that for this next decade of my life, I want to live in cities.  Now is the time (/post-graduation) because I’m in my physical prime and yearning to absorb the pulsating culture and life of metropolitan cores.  Either that, or I want to move abroad again; it comes down to exposing myself to new ways of life.

Building on cliches, I know this sounds like the “small town girl” syndrome-- and perhaps it is.  Yet, ever since I began travelling in high school, my desire to expand the boundaries of what I think I know is insatiable.  I fear stagnation and discontent, and I don’t want to lead a life that I’m constantly seeking to escape; which is entirely different from wanting to take a vacation.  I would be satisfied living and working for a time in mid-sized cities, but I truly want to be thrust into the global crossroads of diversity, disjuncture, and dynamism.  In a city like New York, I know that it’s possible to be consumed and destroyed, but I am confident I can take it on.

Listening: "Fires" by Band of Skulls

1 comment:

Allison said...

It's so selfish, but I totally hope that you do end up moving to the city so we can do brunch and stuff :) I'm amazed that you braved the cold - the rest of us were staying inside! ;) You also covered a ton of ground, and a lot of very non-touristy areas, so good for you :)
I'm so proud of all your goals and accomplishments, love.