Monday, August 11, 2014

What was missing from my 'Big Apple' visit

A recent article on graffiti in NYC made me think back to my one-and-only trip to NYC.

It was late 1994 and I was excited I had an invitation to accompany a friend to NYC. She was going to see a medical specialist and she asked if I would travel with her.
I thought the trip would be fun with some sightseeing and shopping. I was in need of a change of pace and something fun and different to do, so off we flew to JFK.

Our taxi from the airport was driven by a man wearing a turban. We gave him the address to our hotel and we held on in the back seat during the exciting, fast drive from the airport to the heart of Manhattan.  I don't remember seeing a checker cab, but there's a sea of taxi cabs on duty in the city.



And I'm glad I had bought a new coat with a liner. It was November and people were wearing fur
and leather coats and jackets.

The air was brisk. Christmas decorations were on display. The neon lights and taxis were never still, even during the early morning hours.  I know because I gazed out our window in the wee hours of the morning. There were maybe a dozen less taxi cabs but delivery trucks and people galore were moving about on the streets.

From our hotel room near the Rockefeller Center, we walked along 5th Avenue, Park Avenue and visited the top floor of the Empire State Building. We peeked into the foyer of Trump Tower and went into Macy's and took the wooden escalators up and down a few floors. At Times Square I watched Brandy perform. Her debut album was out that year. She was cute singing and dancing in her winter white hat, vest, leggings and  boots. We even took a short carriage ride through Central Park, browsed in FAO Schwarz. We decided to not go in the glitzy Plaza Hotel.

We rode past the old World Trade Center buildings in a double-decker bus. I remember thinking those buildings were a solid city block massive at their bases. The support under those building had to be strong and steady for all that mass that reached way up into the sky.

One WTC construction is in progress. Totally amazing on the construction engineering of such tall, huge buildings. I bet none of the workers are afraid of heights. I wonder what their hourly pay is? View this special beam installation.

We ate at the famous  Stage Deli, now closed, where I got hooked on NY cheesecake. We had breakfast at some small joint. Food was served fast. Leisure eating is frowned upon. In
the Big Apple there's no such thing as leisurely eating. In a New York minute you're served, you eat, you pay and be on your way so the next customers in line can be seated.
I did go back to the Stage Deli for a cheese cake to bring home.

I saw only one grocery store and it had a parking lot in front of it.

There were street vendors selling all sorts of merchandise and food. Just about every block there were small grocery stores you walked into to pick up enough groceries or necessities to carry or put in a cart. In front of many of these stores were beautiful cut flower displays which added to still multiple bursts of color along the street accompanied by the moving bursts of vehicles and people.

The city had a vibration I could feel. It's alive with palpable, tangible, visible and smellable energy. There's lots of concrete and little natural growing greenery other than in Central Park and maybe a very small plot of green grass with a few trees here and there. In between all the buildings one after another, with no space in between, I caught a glimpse or two of the sky. Good thing the island has a strong underlying bedrock to support all the man-made structures.

Construction is going under the street level.

What I didn't see was graffiti.

I wanted to see the sights of NYC to say I've seen them, and one of the sights I wanted to see was graffiti.

When it was time to take the subway to get to my friend's doctor's office, I remember being a bit apprehensive going underground. At first I didn't spot where the subway entrances were. At ground level you see these inconspicuous rails over to the side on sidewalks. When I went up to them, there were steps descending down below the street. I had never been underground, so I was a little nervous.
I had seen movies about gangs and muggings on subway cars. I wasn't into experiencing any of that but I did want to see subway graffiti.

This is how I envisioned but also a bit afraid of how the inside of a subway car might look.
I  wanted to see the graffiti art.

I imagine Manhattan was kept graffiti-free for the tourists, so I was hoping the subway would be my chance to see up close and personal some real NYC graffiti.

The closest I'd been to seeing graffiti looks like a big blur on railway cars going too fast for me to gaze at the words and art.

The underground subway station surprisingly was well lit, bright, open and clean. No graffiti on the walls. There were turnstiles and lots of people. It was quiet and I my nervousness was eased. My friend had been to NYC before so she knew her way around. Our subway came, we got on and sat down.

On the subway train, people were quiet. There is no eye contact, no chit chat, no smiling, just other people going about their business. Nothing exciting to see. We came back the same way. My subway adventure was uneventful and graffiti-free.

I saw no graffiti. This article explains what happened to graffiti and graffiti artists.
Today, subway car windows are scratch-proof and the walls of the cars are replaceable.

Painting on subway cars is a crime.

Spray can art is bright and vivid. No paint brushes needed. I wish I'd seen this artist in action. He doesn't spray on public buildings or subway cars. Considering all the spray paint he has to buy and the canvas, he sells his art at a very reasonable price.




NYC is crammed like sardines with buildings, taxi cabs, vehicles and people. There's plenty of good food to be eaten fast. I don't think any chef would have any difficult time finding employment. I wonder if people do a lot of cooking at home or is the norm to stop for a quick bite to eat and keep moving?  I didn't see any who looked overweight. I did hear a lot of foreign language being spoken that I almost thought I was in a foreign country. There are plenty of places of spend your money just walking along the streets in Manhattan and be entertained for free by looking at the people and sights as it's in constant motion 24 hours a day.

I asked our taxi driver if he'd drive through Harlem on the way back to the airport. He seemed puzzled why I'd want to go there. I thought he could drive by the Apollo Theater. He granted my request and drove one block into Harlem and one block out. 

We were gone almost three days and I'd go back to the Big Apple just for the food. It was all marvelous and scrumptious! Generous portions, tasty and served quickly. My pretzel from a street vendor was big and warm. I want one right now. And I'd go back to visit more sights. There was so much I didn't get to see, e.g., museums, Brooklyn, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, and more).

Perhaps I'll be fortunate and get another chance for an adventure to visit the sights in and around NYC in this lifetime. With a pass I could tour some underground tunnels, (since I'm now okay to be underground ) and other interesting sights.

And, one of these days I've got to catch American Graffiti.