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15 June 2011

The Obligatory Second Day in New York

Day 25: Tuesday, 14 June 2011

New York City. I have a hard time making sense of the place. What you hear about the city is, to a large extent, true: it's a monstrosity of a city, and it has way too many people crammed into too small a place. The only way that traffic (and people) can even get by is if others get out of the way. So you have to be constantly aware of everything around you. And everyone's rushing to get from here to there. You could easily just stand on any sidewalk and watch people all day and find no lack of entertainment. Everyone here is driven and has a purpose. No one (except the tourists, myself included) seems to be in New York just to enjoy the city itself. Yet I was most struck by how helpful and approachable people were. No one seemed to be annoyed that I was asking them for help; everyone seemed to have the attitude that camaraderie, that we're all in this insane city together, so we should help each other out if we can.

Anyway, our second day in New York city got off to a late start. After our exhausting itinerary on Monday, and staying up late with beers in the jacuzzi, Ueli and I slept in until about 11:30am. Which was weird because on this whole trip, I'd always wake up at 8 or 9 regardless of how late I was up.  So Ueli and I quickly got ready and scarfed down some breakfast. We had planned to meet up with Christian for lunch, but it didn't look like we'd be able to make it. But we were lucky to be dropped off at (what we thought was) the bus stop. Turns out it was wrong, and we waited for about 20 minutes with no bus. And then, I saw the bus coming the other direction, so I got the driver's attention and started waving furiously. He saw me and pointed down the street to where we should have been waiting. He then looped around the mall, and 5 minutes later he picked us up, somewhat between stops. As we boarded, he was very friendly, giving us round trip tickets and giving us change.

It was close to 2pm when we arrived in the city. We walked from the bus terminal through a bit of midtown, down 8th Ave to 34th street. This side of the city was very crowded and gritty. We walked to Macy's and went through. I was a little more well dressed today, wearing a button-down shirt and long jeans (the weather was finally getting cooler), so some people actually mistaked me for local and asked me for directions :) We then walked past the Empire State Building and continued east, past Park Avenue all the way to the United Nations. The UN building was being renovated it looks like, several of the floors had been taken out. We then walked up 2nd Avenue all the way to 62nd street or so. This side of the city was much nicer, with lots of good looking bars and restaurants and nice apartment flats, not too fancy but still very livable - it's the kind of New York  you see on Friends or How I Met Your Mother. we saw the Roosevelt Island cable car taking off as we snacked on an apple each.

I miss my longer hair. Random I know, but my sunglasses have been slipping off my head frequently, and I just don't feel the saw without my head full of curls! Ok, sorry for the interjection - now back to our story…

We crossed into Central Park, right by the zoo. The weather had turned chilly and dark, and rain began sprinkling from the sky. Still, we were tired and so sat on a bench for a little bit and sipped on a Pepsi. We were headed across the park to meet Ueli's next travel partner, a girl from Couchsurfing who was in New York too, visiting the Natural HIstory Museum. We explored the park, walking along the lake, where we saw ducks, turtles, paddle boats, and a couple taking their wedding photos. It felt a lot like London's Hyde Park. (I'm really surprised by how much New York reminds me of London - it's making me very eager to get back to the UK). I asked Ueli to choose a path to take, and he couldn't. So I persisted until he decided that we climb a small mound of rocks. Fair enough. The rain was beginning to pick up in intensity, but we were already at the museum, so we sat in the lobby and waited for Ellen to meet us. It took a while for her to find us, but she soon did, arriving with her grungy-looking tattooed friend Jeremy, who is an experienced hitchhiker himself. We walked to a nearby bench and sat and got to know each other. Ellen and Jeremy are from Virginia, and Ellen's just planning to travel across the country during the summer. She's an artsy/hippie type herself, but this will be her first time hitchhiking, but Jeremy has been giving her lots of tips. It felt weird for me to meet them, because it's a sign that the end of this (US) trip is near and that Ueli and I will soon be parting!

On every trip, you reach a point when the excitement starts to wear off and you just want to rest and do nothing for a day or two. And I think I may have reached that point. New York is as exciting a place as you can get, but I was just ready to go back to the house and sleep with no worries.

We said bye, Ellen and Jeremy taking the subway back to Brooklyn while Ueli and I walked over to Lincoln Center. We explored the center; there were plenty of people waiting to see tonight's opera performance. The rain began to come down more heavily, so after watching the center's fountains put on a show, I decided that we should take the subway back to the bus terminal. The subway was quick and easy; we just went one stop, made a transfer, and got on a express train that got us to the terminal in less than 10 minutes total! We didn't spend more than 1 minute waiting for each train (I guess that's one upside to living in such a crowded city - there are always trains coming). It costs $2.25 for a one-way journey, more than anywhere else I can recall. Since we had round-trip bus tickets, we just walked confidently up to our bus stop and boarded the bus, which arrived just as we got there (again with the good timing!). I had my camera fully charged and ready to capture another spectacular sunset over the city, but it was raining :(

The bus driver was friendly. Near our destination, there were only four of us left in the bus, and the woman was complaining that the bus's new route takes an unnecessary detour around the mall. The driver offered to cut out the detour for her, as long as it was okay for us to be dropped off on the street, which I was totally fine with, and so that's what happened. I can't believe such small-town friendliness exists anywhere, let alone on a bus from Manhattan to New Jersey!

Back at the house, we rested and caught up with emails and photos. My host tita ordered Chinese food for us to have for dinner - I chose tofu and chow mien. But the chow mein was weird - no noodles and all just sauteed cabbage and onions! Oh well, I needed veggies anyway so I ate it gladly. Darren was working on his friend's car into the night too, helping install a new suspension system. Ueli didn't want to have any more beer, so we just continued catching up with online business into the night. I slept around midnight, while Ueli stayed up and fell asleep on the couch before moving back to bed around 5-6am.

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