New York – Bright Lights, Big City (Part 2 of 2)

As I stated in the previous post in this series, my impression of New York had grown from a caracature of all the worst of city life to some interest in what the city was about.

Then there was September 11th. Everybodies hearts poured out to the city. We got to know the people of the city and their pride for it free from much of the bravado that seemed to accompany it before. Plus I became educated more about the layout of the city and all the aspects of it. We’ve all heard all the place names before, but actually knowing where they are and how they relate to one another begins to make it more real. Even if you haven’t been to a place.

After moving to Montréal, I finally made some real visits to the city. I had been there a couple times before during stopovers, but never made it out of the airport. In 2003, we drove through the city on the way up the coast to Boston. Although we did not set foot out of the car, we did drive the length of the island from north to south, then headed back north to make our way to Boston. I had a blast driving through the streets. It was traffic, but the type that keeps you alert of everything going on around you. I was amazed at the density of the city. Whereas in Chicago, it does not take long for buildings to transition from multi-story buildings to two-story residential buildings. In New York it seemed that there was nothing shorter than five-stories tall over the length of the island. You quickly realize how so many people can live in one place.

Living full time on the east coast also sensitized me to the New York mindset. Although Montreal is no where near as big and has it’s own unique character, there were still aspects that seemed to relate to this time zone. One is the actual time difference. Another is the pace of life. It may sound odd since Montréal is not necessarily a fast-paced city, but there is just some nuance to life that I still have not been able to put my finger on.

But it was my next visit that really got me in tune with the city. I flew in early from Montreal. I had some time before I needed to meet someone for an evaluation of a store in Soho. So I had the cab take me down to Ground Zero. From there I made a point of walking to the store in order to see some of the city and the streets. Most of the day was spent working, but I do remember seeing the city pass by during a lunch at a corner restaurant. The hotel was off of Times Square, so it was a good location for seeing sites within walking distance. The area had more of business/entertainment district so I didn’t feel I had experienced anything like what it would be like to live there.

This photo by Leanne (ifotog) really captures what I remember about the density of the city. This is about halfway between the two major concentrations of high-rises and yet the buildings are still at least five stories tall.

But the next morning before I had to catch a cab, I wandered around looking for a place to grab breakfast. I stumbled upon an old diner. It was such an interesting scene. The decor was quite bare, but still had a slight 60’s aire to it. It had the dinge and discoloration of something from that era. It was probably about 5 or 5:30am. Only a handfull of people populated the place. The morning rush was still to come. There were a couple older people toward the back. One of them a balding white-haired overweight man reading the newspaper. A sharp dressed business man was seated at the counter. He was eating his breakfast and also reading the paper. Apparently enjoying some calm before his busy day began. The cook shuffled behind the counter. Taking care of my order along with preparations for the soon to be arriving masses. A delivery man came in, spent some time bantering with the cook, then left for the rest of his route. There were a couple others with nothing that really made them noticable. It was quite an fascinating scene and somewhere I would find quite interesting to frequent if I were a resident.

Our most recent visit was earlier this year. We did not go to Manhattan, but spent our time in Queens. After having seen the center city it was interesting to see what the outlying areas looked like. Again it was denser and had a character similar to other cities I’ve seen along the east coast. I could even compare it to the neighborhood where I grew up, except each building is 30% taller and a few feet closer to each other. There’s the bustle and the diversity. But I didn’t encounter any obnoxiousness or rudeness. It was only an overnight stay, but it did have an effect on how I view the city.

Now I’m very interested in going back to see the city. I really haven’t seen it like a tourist yet. Plus it would be great to spend a week or two in order to also experience it at a leisurely pace. Get a better grasp of what it is like to be a resident. If I had another lifetime or two, I would have gone to live there for about five years to truly experience the city. Actually I would circle the globe like that hopping from city to city.

It has been quite a journey from detesting it with a passion to being intrigued about experiencing it like a resident. It is the only city where my impression of it has changed that dramatically.


~ by Frank on June 24, 2007.

One Response to “New York – Bright Lights, Big City (Part 2 of 2)”

  1. […] Part 2 […]

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