I live about three hours from New York City, the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple, the concrete jungle, the center of a metropolitan area that sprawls across three states. Home to millions of people.
I do not often venture into the city, and rarely drive. Driving can be a nightmare. Traffic ranges from bad to worse to impossibly jammed up with no one going anywhere anytime soon. Add the cost of gas, tolls, and parking and the ka-ching, ka-ching becomes daunting.
Yet the city entices. So Wednesday (matinee day) I boarded a Greyhound bus at 7:40 a.m.
The bus rolled north along the Garden State Parkway. Trees line both sides of the road, and some still boast fall colors. As we neared the city the landscape transformed into an ugly panorama of warehouses, commercial structures and power plants spewing smoke and I don’t want to know what else. Traffic intensified. I was thrilled NOT to be behind the wheel of a car crawling through the congestion, dwarfed between BFT’s (big f**king trucks) and buses.
The bus pulled into the basement of Manhattan’s Port Authority terminal, I grabbed my things and headed out into a clear, cold sunny day.
The mass of humanity assailed me immediately, wide sidewalks packed with people, everyone in a hurry. People congregated at street corners waiting anxiously for the walk icon on the traffic light. A few folks dodged vehicles and walked across the street while a red hand indicated do not walk!
New Yorkers are renown for impatience. And bravado.
I walked over to Broadway and strolled through Times Square. Sesame Street and Super hero characters solicited people for pictures, expecting a gratuity. If out-of-town visitors are clueless to this custom, signs explain costumed creatures expect a tip when posing for photos. Other individuals hand out fliers advertising shows and restaurants. Groups of tourists walk around, stopping to snap pictures and stare at the high-rises and huge signs dominating the Times Square area.
Cheap is in my genes. City prices can shock those venturing in from the burbs and hinterlands. But as infrequently as I hob nob with the theater crowd I can splurge. The food was good although not memorable. Our waitress seemed disengaged and annoyed when we asked for anything – water, an extra plate, coffee.
My friends and I enjoyed the Broadway play Waitress, a musical about a woman in an unhappy marriage who finds herself (surprisingly) pregnant. She has an affair with her gynecologist, her two friends/coworkers indulge their own love interests, and of course all ends well. The band remains on stage throughout the show. Waitress happened to be our third choice (the first two shows closed before our trip).
On the walk back to the bus terminal I detoured into Dean & Deluca, an upscale chain offering, according to the store’s website, the world’s best epicurean treats for cooking, eating and entertaining. I purchased a pastry for hub – to assuage a bit of guilt over leaving him home – and an iced coffee for the road, or rather the bus.
When arrangements were made for the trip my calendar was empty, but during the ensuing weeks events requiring my presence arose. I was not going to cancel my travel plans, so instead sent a substitute.
Hub, and he did a fine job!
The bus home half-empty, I stretched across two seats. Finally home, I entered the house tired but glad for the opportunity to reunite with old friends, relax and catch up over a leisurely lunch, take in a Broadway play, experience the vitality and ambience of a great city, and breathe New York’s foul air. I am not sure how contaminated the city’s air actually is, but the aromas were closer to unpleasant than pleasing.
My New York experience summarized:
Savored good but not great pricey food served by curt waitresses who want to be somewhere else doing anything but serving the theater crowd.
Saw a Broadway show with superbly talented actors at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a magnificent playhouse built in 1926.
Inhaled the smells of the city – food from street vendors, coffee shops and restaurants…the nastier odors of car and bus exhausts…a variety of aromas from the multitudes surrounding me.
Heard the sounds of audience laughter and applause, car horns, hawkers advertising their wares, sirens, whistles, shouting.
Viewed the sights – skyscrapers, billboards, shop and theater signs, window displays of food, clothes, souvenirs. The unceasing street scene swirling by – cars, buses, taxis, carriages, bicycles. People everywhere. And lines - lines for the theater, lines for the ladies room, lines to the cashier, lines for the bus. I hate lines.
I look forward to my next New York City experience.