The journey to New York City from Harrisburg isn't that different from my weekly return trips to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore. Both take about 5 hours, with monotonous sights along the way. Passengers consist of many ethnics, mostly looking minutely into their watches, sighing and hoping that the journey will end soon. And there are those that, like me, doze off into the first hour of the ride.
We were at New Jersey, about to cross the Lincoln Tunnel when I was awakened by the blinding sun. And Manhattan looked stunning from across the Hudson River. I could just imagine the fun weekend there - circling in the maze of famous skyscrapers, in the company of colourful New Yorkers (and visitors).
The crossing was slowed down by the many vehicles making their way into Manhattan. The good thing was that the Port Authority Bus Terminal, along the Eight Avenue, was not too far from the tunnel's exit.
New York has an interesting coordinate system in locating a particular address. Seventh Avenue, 42nd Street (pretty cool, isn't it?) for example, is where the perpetually crowded Times Square is located. This is a happy place, where tourists come to immerse in the vibrancy that is New York. Not forgetting other icons such as Central Park, the Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, Wall street, Fifth Avenue, Broadway, Chinatown, Radio City Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, etc. Stretching further, we find the Ellis and Liberty Islands. I'm sure we've heard about at least a dozen of these names from the movies.
Many sang about NYC - Frank Sinatra, Christopher Cross, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, John Mayer, Tom Waits, Fleetwood Mac, The Strokes, Bruce Springsteen, etc. There must be something that makes this place so incredibly inspiring, right?
New York City, such a beautiful disease (New York City, Norah Jones).
At the hotel's frontdesk, I asked of the subway's schedule. The subways run 24 hours, said the kind receptionist.
Coming from my part of the world, diversity is nothing new but here in NYC, I've met more Hispanic and African Americans than I had in the last 30 years. Diversity is a gift and I can't think of a better way to celebrate that than to laugh at ourselves (and others) at the many stand-up comedy clubs, a staple entertainment here. Many had cautioned me of the rowdiness of certain groups and high crime rate but I guess the trend is similar given any big city in the world. In fact, I felt safer here than in some European cities that I'd visited in the past.
On a Saturday night, at the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, I witnessed the spectacular, quiet skyline. After a while at the observatory, a saxophonist (a weekend special) began rendering soothing melodies that best accompany the night and that, to me, represents the sophisticated Manhattan that I'd always imagined...complete with the cooling summer breeze.
It's not easy to summarize NYC in mere few words. There's always something worth mentioning as you walk down the street; the quirky people, the latest gadgets, the food, the towering buildings, the music and the enclaves of different ethnics that form this city. And all these reminded me that anything's possible in this delicious big apple.
You can never take away the resilience and determination of the New Yorkers. Despite the melancholy that surrounds Ground Zero, there brims hope that NYC will once again, emerge stronger than ever.
I came to NYC to just have a moment in one of the best cities in the world and left energized and inspired. There are only a few cities that I wish to be a part of. This is definitely one of them. New York, you rock!