Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Touring New York

On Monday, after a nice weekend of family gatherings, I visited New York City.  

I had thought about going to a museum, but then I decided that I did not want the experience of being in a museum.  I wanted the experience of being in New York City.  And I never even considered any of the main tourist landmarks; those things are almost always a waste of time.

I arrived via train in Penn Station around 10:30 AM, and then walked up 7th avenue to Central Park, looking at the city and its residents.  Along the way I saw a lot of people doing Yoga in Times Square.  After spending a little time in Central Park, I walked to East Midtown for lunch.  

My plan, guided in part by my uncle's advice, was to wander around until surrounded by office buildings and lots of restaurants, look for a restaurant selling some kind of cuisine not available in my hometown, and then order something exotic from the menu.  I was trusting both my adventurous palate and the selection pressure of a hyper-competitive business climate.  My uncle had told me "They are all good.  They have to be good.  If they are not good, they go out of business in months."

I spotted a tiny restaurant in a basement selling Middle Eastern food.  The clientele was split about evenly between middle easterners and men in suits on lunch break, which looked like a good sign.  I ordered a 'Kefta Kebab Wrap' made with lamb meat.  It was very, very good.  The proprietor of the restaurant, who occasionally emerged from the kitchen, was a gnomish middle eastern man, short and stooped but full of energy.  Every time I saw him I wondered about his life history.  There was one waitress, but a swarm of delivery men kept entering and leaving. It was, in short, a very typical and very good New York eatery.

After this, I wandered back to Central Park for a siesta.  As I lay in the grass, I thought, "If you sold the patch of grass I am lying on, it would probably sell for more money than I would make in my entire life.  This bit of turf is worth more than I am."  I later calculated that this was not accurate; the land in Central Park is valued at about $14,440 per square foot and I was occupying about 24 square feet, so my resting spot was actually worth about $350,000.  Still, that is one expensive resting place.

After my siesta, I wandered around Central Park a bit more.  Near the theater, I saw a statue of Romeo and Juliet.  The statue portrayed them both as horribly thin and anorexic.  This was not some kind of artistic caricature; it was meant to look realistic, and it seemed to be a glorification of that body type.

There was a woman singing opera on top of a little hill, and at the bottom of that hill a group of bohemian-looking Japanese were filming a movie, with a Japanese actor and actress playing a romantic scene while laying on a blanket in the grass.  I am almost certain that these were unrelated; the filmmakers were probably only after the image. Every so often a woman would scurry out from behind the camera to fix the blanket or the actress's hair.

After seeing most of Central Park, I then walked up 'Museum Avenue', then west on 'Cathedral Street' to meet my cousin for dinner.  We ate in a 'Malaysian Grill' that was decent, but not as good as where I had lunch.

After dinner, I walked down Broadway back toward Penn Station.  That part of New York is a grid, but Broadway cuts diagonally across the grid, and where it splits from West End Avenue there is a little triangular park.  In that park there was a man performing what I could only describe as 'drum kata'.  He was wearing white tabi boots and playing a large drum mounted horizontally on a wooden stand, and his movements and use of the drumsticks had an obvious resemblance to the martial arts moves I am familiar with.

He was really good, both with the drumming and the movement.  After he finished, a group of musicians moved the drum, added more drums, and started a group performance.  It too was excellent.  Almost everyone who walked by stopped to listen and watch, and soon the park was filled with spectators.  Several little children started dancing to the drums.

I watched them perform from 7:00 to 8:00.  When it was done, they made no effort to talk about who they were; it was only by looking at the back of someone's shirt that I saw the name of the group: Soh Daiko.  They accepted compliments gracefully.  There was a drum case with a 'tips' sign ( I tossed in a $5 bill ) but nobody asked for anything and this was quickly packed up with everything else.

After that, I walked down Broadway towards the bus terminal.  The sights and people were again very impressive, and a good experience, but there was nothing specific to write about, except that there were a lot more panhandlers at night than there were during the day.

I got a 10:20 PM bus ticket back to my uncle's beach condo in New Jersey.  It was a good day but an exhausting one, much like my backpacking trips through European cities.

1 comment:

1400 characters said...

I'm glad you found such an interesting way to experience the great city -- your approach and observations illustrate wisdom beyond your years. Your stamina is also impressive -- I'm glad you didn't fall asleep on the bus and miss your stop. New York City and the Jersey Shore welcome you back!