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New York lessons


In the eight years since I'd visited last, New York City had shrunken in my memory until it was a city, manageable, with a set number of people and locales.

I had the same images everyone else did -- the ones you see in movies as well as the horrific images ingrained in news coverage almost two years ago.

The NYC in my head was a place where a few people I know live. Their huge personalities seemed to dwarf the city. I could see them in my mind's eye, walking down the street, greeted by everyday New Yawkers.

"Hey Sars, can I get you a fresh bowl of mazzo soup?" the sidewalk vendor would yell as she passed every afternoon on her way to Central Park.

The newspaper guy would have djb's Times ready when he came out of his perfect brownstone and the boy on the corner in the Roscoe hat would be ready to administer a good shoe shine.

I couldn't imagine them not being recognized in their city, not being celebrated and part of a community.

Then I went.

Off the plane, into the city by cab, the first feeling I had was one of extreme insignificance. I shrank, until I was the size of the lint in some three-piece suited Wall Street guy's pocket. I could feel myself diminishing in relevance, my voice quieting, my mass in a sea of bodies becoming irrelevant: It was an overwhelming sense of smallness that I can only compare to staring too hard at a dark sky's bright stars. So many people, cars, cabs, buildings, streets, hotels, stores, restaurants, signs, lights. You wonder that there's enough air to breathe.

Then a day later, the subway system navigated, a Broadway show watched, friends contacted, it was just a city. Manageable and embracing. I was in its clutches.

The other things I learned in New York:

If you're there for more than two days, get the week-long Metro pass. It's a bargain.

With the help of a guidebook or two, asking around a bit and a sense of adventure, it's possible to have the best cheeseburger, best slice of cheesecake and best Cuban food you've ever eaten, all on the same day.

Comfortable shoes. Or you'll be applying painkilling gel and Band-Aids to your feet.

Conan O' Brien is as funny helping with the pre-show warm-up as he is on the air. And he sings a song at the end of the closing credits that always gets cut from the broadcast.

The Metropolitan Museum will fill you with a sense of awe and wonder. You will find yourself staring at a work of art and boggling at its age.

Don't try to buy a New York Times at 11 p.m. on a Friday night in Times Square. All the newsstands are sold out.

Baz Luhrman may have oversimplified La Boheme, but he sure can stage a pretty scene change. Also, if you memorized Rent, say in college, it's kind of cool to follow along with the story.

Sex and the City has created a boom in knockoff purses sold around town. Also, you may find a midnight shoe sale at a shady store on your way back from dinner.

Try the cheesecake. Seriously.

The view from behind

Some very historical guys had something to do with the Statue of Liberty. I'm not really sure what. Oh, but check it out: it used to be copper. They never taught us that in school! It was copper, then it turned funky green after about 30 years. How pissed would you be if the French gave you a statue and you put it out in the harbor to greet people coming to your country, and the shit turned green? And then we restored it, right? And we restored it GREEN!! What the fuck? Why didn't we restore it to a non-green-turning copper?

Historical Statue of Liberty guy.

This guy wrote a poem for the Statue. Pussy.

The Hobe is in love with my black shoes.

Despite its reputation, you can read the Village Voice in about 15 minutes, cover-to-cover. There's a lot less to read in it than I would have thought.

The number of musical acts to choose from on any given weekend in NYC is awe-inspiring. Just looking at the lineup that weekend, I was filled with sadness at how little time I actually had to go out and do stuff.

The Lion King is worth every dollar of admission. And it's a lot of dollars.

"I (heart) NY" shirts? Much cheaper than you'd expect.

Ditto a shoe shine. I got a shoe shine at Rockerfeller Center and I thought I was going to have to get money Western Unioned to me. It turns out you can get a good shine and pay 100 percent tip and it's still cheaper than a slice of cheesecake. (Again with the cheesecake, I know. But it was really good!) You wonder if the economy hasn't caught up to the shoe shine industry. They must read the paper at some point. Maybe it's because they have to stare at the front page and never get to read the financials.

New Yorkers are not in love with eye contact. Which is a shame because it's a great city for people-watching.

Get a guide book with a subway route map. It will save your life.

At some point, you'll run into a group of loud tourists and they'll take great pleasure in announcing one-by-one where they're from. They'll want to know where you're from, too, and if you've been to Ground Zero. Best to just answer their questions.

People will complain about all the rain, but if you're coming from 90 degree heat, you won't mind it so much.

White Castle burgers? A little overrated. If I had the money, I'd build a Whataburger in Times Square. I'd be one rich Donald Trumpin' muthafucka.

The Ameritania hotel is rife with Europeans. If you're into Scandinavians, you should stay there and chill at the bar.

Ground Zero: you can't prepare for it in any way, but the fact that it looks like a huge construction site now maybe helps. Still, you feel silence come over you and when you leave, you feel you have no words.

Half-priced show tickets booth at Times Square: Surprisingly good options even if you go stand in line late.

Belgian fries: worth a try.

The subway is cleaner than you'd expect, but you still want to wash those hands after touching the metal pole.

Did I mention comfortable shoes? Because, ow, fuck, blisters.



Big pimpin'

There's really not much for me to pimp given that Bloggystyle is one big frequently-updated pimp-o-rama, but here's one that you probably already know about.

The new Harry Potter. I just got it. I'm 50 pages in. It's brilliant. I'm hooked.

Which is all to say that after all the stuff I've read online about it and all the analysis and amateur prognosticating, I'm just glad I can enjoy the damn book. I'm glad that I can sink into it like a favorite familiar blanket, and fall deeply and completely into that world. I'm glad I can feel six years old when I read it and not give a shit that I do.

I'm glad I don't overanalyze it as I read or nitpick things within it the way I may do with a movie or a newspaper article. I'm glad that when I'm reading the book, I'm simply a reader absorbing what J.K. Rowling has written. That I can see it cleary in my mind and enjoy it and not be pulled back from it by whatever my adult mind feels it needs to do to process the book on terms other than that of the imagination.

I hope that I can do that with the other two books when they arrive. Because I'd hate to lose this feeling of complete immersion. It would be like having a small, but significant piece of me die.



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