I’m finally back from my month long adventure in New York City. Even after five days Bryan and I still feel like we’re recovering. It’s a tough city to live in and one that’s constantly on the move. We found ourselves swept up in the perpetual rush…and spit out exhausted in the end (but not defeated!).
New York City pulses with life. Sewer exhaust billows from manholes and into the streets creating a mysterious atmosphere. Traffic jams are a symphony of aggressive, impatient drivers screeching their tires and laying on the horns. The streets are bustling with tourists and locals alike, bumping shoulders with the melting pot. The thrum of feet and clipping of heels on the sidewalk is drowned by the vibrations of the three to four stories of subways beneath.
In many ways New York City is like a foreign country. On a different planet. This post is about what I learned during my stay and includes a lot of helpful gems should you decide to visit.
During our stay Bryan and I watched a lot of the television show “How I Met Your Mother” as the story is set in the city and alludes to a lot of funny local references. The following clip declares what it takes to be a “Real New Yorker” (As a disclaimer, there is some mild language).
Subways were a much better mode of travel than taxis (which are absurdly expensive, although we did take one once, but that was after a red eye flight with an Oregon Trail’s load of luggage) or buses (erratic schedules). So I never stole a taxi from someone who needed it, although I’m sure I snagged a seat on the subway that someone needed more. And we didn’t see Woody Allen, but we did see a load of famous people…almost to the point of “Meh,” including stars from “Chuck,” “Smash,” “Ugly Betty,” and “White Collar (they filmed an episode of the show in the same building as the Grand Central Academy of Art where I had my workshop).” I did cry publicly at one point, although I’ll spare you the details. And I almost squashed a cockroach with my bare hand, but I stopped mid-squash. The way he was looking at me, waving his little antennae…he looked like the adorable little roach in Pixar’s “Wall-E.” So. With all of that in mind, I’ll let you decide whether or not I passed the “Real New Yorker” test.
What I Learned from Living In New York City (in no official order of awesomeness):
1. This is a walking city. Even with the extensive use of mass transit a lot of walking is involved. Expect blisters. And swelling. And pain. My lovely sister-in-law, Nicole, flew in for a weekend visit and recommended Band Aid’s Friction Stick. Put it on your feet like a stick of deodorant. It was a life saver. That and Ibuprofen.
2. During the summer in the city it is hot. The first few weeks of July were unbearable. High nineties with humidity in the city where there is no breeze amidst the maze of skyscrapers made Utah’s dry summer temps in the hundreds feel positively frigid. I read an article that said you need at least 140 degrees to cook an egg. The temperature of the sidewalks during an NYC summer reach above 145 degrees. Now imagine what it feels like below that sidewalk in the bowels of the subway system.
3. The subways are freaking awesome. Indeed, you are below ground in hot, wet, stagnant air surrounded by strangers who are miserable, surly, and sweating buckets and. Oh. The smell. However. The thrill of seeing your train pull in while you’re still at the top of a long flight of stairs. Running down the stairs, weaving through the traffic, the anticipation of whether or not you’re going to make it, and leaping triumphantly through the doors just as they close behind you. I have never felt more accomplished.
4. There are rats and cockroaches. Everywhere.
5. Speaking of rats and cockroaches, New York City is filled with rude people. I completely agree there are rude people wherever you go in the world, but NYC is especially congested. To be fair, we also met some of the kindest people we’ve ever encountered in our travels, but I’ve also never known the definition of rude until now. It’s not that New Yorkers are blunt, impatient, straightforward, and absolutely crazy (which they are. Even people who look totally normal. There was one nicely dressed guy who urinated in the subway station not twenty feet from where we were standing), it’s that they will forgo all manners and decency to get what they want. I have stories, but you’ll have to ask me to share them later. Just thinking about them now makes me boil. Ugh.
6. This observation came from my sister-in-law. She said that she had expected more beautiful people in the city. I understand what she meant. It’s not that people here aren’t attractive, it’s that they look so haggard. It’s impossible to keep up with the city’s pace without it affecting your health. The excessive smoking (not us) and coffee binges (maybe a little) certainly don’t help either. NYC is the place to claw your way to the top, but at what cost? I will say I thought it was very commendable that many of the women I observed in the city didn’t wear a lot of makeup, if any. Such confidence I wish I had.
7. The city is dirty. Before visiting I thought this meant I would be ankle deep in garbage just walking down the street. While that happens occasionally from people digging though the trash bags looking for recyclables, this dirty comes in the form of a black grime that settles on your skin and into your eyes and nose. Moist towelettes, tissues, and hand sanitizer are invaluable. Wear dark clothing.
8. The food! NYC is a Mecca for foodies. There are the city’s must tries like the cheesecake (check out Magnolia’s Bakery) and pizza (there are lots of options here, although I will claim that the best pizza is in the most unlikely of places…Provo, Utah’s Slab Pizza. Soo good.). Don’t fear the food carts. It’s an integral part of the NYC experience. The trick is to look for the long lines. Our favorite was The Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. There are a lot of carts posing with the same name, so be sure to steer towards this location. Try the falafel. And when they say the hot sauce is very hot, it’s very hot. Bryan suffered for a few days. Katz’s Delicatessen, New York’s oldest deli, is also a must try. They are best known for their melt in your mouth pastrami. I think my favorite place, however, was Ess-a-Bagel. After experiencing my first authentic NYC style bagel, slathered in homemade strawberry cream cheese (with fresh chunks of strawberry), I am ashamed to think I’ve ever eaten a store bought bagel which, in comparison, is like sawdust in your mouth. I’m also too ashamed to admit how many bagels Bryan and I consumed during our stay.
9. This tidbit is for the travelers. Try not to dress or act like a tourist. This includes wearing a camera around your neck, taking pictures of squirrels (you wouldn’t believe how common this is), adorning your entire family in matching I Heart NYC tees, openly carrying a guidebook, and standing confusedly in the midst of sidewalk traffic (which is comparative to standing in the middle of a freeway) to open a large map. Rather, if you’re lost, move over off the sidewalk and whip out the smartphone map, NYC Subway App or TripAdvisor App (way more discreet). Also, if you’re in Times Square you’re automatically targeted a tourist. Visiting NYC you’ll encounter a lot of people trying to hand you advertisements for shows, attractions, and who knows what else. Learn to be assertive and ignore them. At first you’ll feel a little guilty for being rude, but it happens so often it’ll become much easier very quickly.
10. NYC is saturated with memorials, museums, parks, and culture. Some of our favorite places included Bryant Park, the MoMA and the Rain Room, The Frick Collection, The Morgan Library, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, the Brooklyn Museum, The Cloisters, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is also the largest art museum in the world with two million square feet! Bryan had a little more time on his hands than I did and visited the Met once or twice a week. After his tenth visit he finally saw everything (but that was rushing through a lot of the rooms). This isn’t well known, but the Met’s admission is pay as you wish. We witnessed one museum goer ahead of us in line really struggle with this concept. Admission is recommended $25 per person. We watched as he opened his wallet and counted the few meager dollars he had in cash. He changed his mind and reached for his credit card. “Is $15 okay?” The attendant, rather bored, said it was fine. After the guy left with his receipt we walked up and promptly laid twenty cents on the counter. A lot of the museums in the city will also offer a free or pay as you wish day. There are a lot of incredible free summer events too. Like the Metropolitan Opera performing (for free!) in the city parks. Our absolute favorite was Shakespeare in the Park, which has a history of featuring renowned actors. The ticket line could begin at 6 AM but tickets wouldn’t be handed out until noon. It was so worth it, though. We were lucky enough to see the show twice. Believe it or not there was no pushing, craziness, or rudeness in the ticket line either. Much.