Saturday, August 04, 2012

New York, Part 2 update

My second visit to New York was equally interesting to the first. My first visit was like visiting an alien world, or actually more like discovering that a fairy tale city that I only knew of from TV and books actually did exist. I was beyond glamour-struck at the subway and the skyscrapers and the lifestyle.

Probably because of the impression that initial visit made I've been back to big cities again and again in the following years. I love big cities and won't rest until I've been to them all.

And yet New York still found ways to surprise and amaze me.

High Line Park amazed me. A park above the city, how does that work? There were colorful flowers and amphitheatres, a walking path, food and art vendors, and some young people just out there chilling during the middle of the day. It seemed like a place that could easily not work, and yet it absolutely did. It's an oasis of peace above the big city.

I was excited to see the Statue of Liberty this time around, as tourist-y as that might sound. I'd never seen her green copper panels up close. I got photos of her from every angle, trying as well as I could to see the writing on the book she was holding (it says July 4, 1776).  Even by 2012 standards she is towering and impressive. She's an artistic as well as technological marvel. Did you know the copper on her surface is only two pennies thick, and her structure (designed by Eiffel Tower engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel) is similar to that of a skyscraper?

I wondered why there were so many foreign tourists at the Statue of Liberty. I guess you really can't say you've been to America unless you've taken a picture with the Statue of Liberty in the background. No other icon says "freedom" and "America" like the Statue of Liberty.

What else in New York amazed me? My sister took me to a Brazilian restaurant where I had one of the best meals I've ever eaten, a stew of sweet shrimp and perfect sauce made of yucca root. I savored every last grain of rice and scooped every last drop of the sauce I could with my fork. The second best meal was at a bagel shop in Queens. An egg on a sesame seed bagel and hot coffee, how New York is that? I could taste the freshness of the bagel. No place in El Paso could compare.

One thing I've discovered that I like about big cities is the stores. Not that I am much of a shopper, but the variety and quality of what you can get in a big city really exceeds anything you could get in middle America. Mood had endless rolls of silks and jerseys and chiffons, feathers, buttons of every kind, and even a dog.

And two independent bookstores, St. Mark's Bookshop and The Strand, fulfilled my literary fantasies. I bought two books and a copy of New York magazine at St. Mark's and picked up a free copy of the Village Voice. The Strand has three stories! I think my fantasy New York life is of the hyper-literary sort, hanging out at coffee shops and bookstores and finding an interesting crew to talk to about news and literature, writing a column called Books and the City :-).

During this visit to New York I really took notice of all the public art -- a mosaic in a subway tunnel, a stained glass window in a subway platform, fountains and sculptures in parks around the city. I was impressed because in my older age I'm more aware that it takes money and effort to have things like that. Yes, I would rather have a functional subway over a pretty-looking subway tunnel, but a mural did give me something to ponder on my way to the next platform. It sends a definite message -- art is important. Thank you, New York.

Subway station in Queens

At City Hall Park

Fountain at Central Park

Ketchup bottle at City Hall Park

New York is a place of greatness, of imagination, of fun. Could I be a New Yorker? Maybe. I think I had the same reaction coming home as I did after my last visit. New York = fast, El Paso = sloooow. Driving home on the uncrowded freeway on a Sunday I could feel my body relax taking in the bright sunshine and still, dry air, realizing I could take as long as I needed to get home. I drove by Downtown El Paso and compared to New York it seemed like a cute dollhouse version of a downtown. Not that I have anything against our Downtown, or a slower lifestyle. They are just different speeds on the machine. Sometimes I want things to be slow. Other times I yearn for excitement and something that wows -- a giant statue to marvel at, a park above the city, a beautiful sculpture in a public park, a ride on a subway, a three-story bookstore. I *heart* New York still.

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