Seeing America Great Again. New York*
*originally posted on my Medium
Spoiler alert! I didn’t really fall in love with New York.
But nuh-uh! Don’t you close this read too fast, NYC lover. I mean, New York is AWESOME. It’s the city of hundreds of opportunities and the trillions of crashed dreams. I think, the reason for all that dissatisfaction with New York for me, specifically, might be in the simple fact that I had a chance to visit San Francisco first and it won my heart from that first glance, once and for good.
San Fran and New York are very different, but also alike, you know, both have that charisma. It’s like they’re actually twins. But as Drake sings to Rihanna “ If you had a twin, I would still choose you”. I’d sing that line to San Fran :)
But back to New York.
A visit to New York was the last one on my US trip. I had a flight back to Ukraine from JFK airport so I’ve thought of it as a good reason to stay for a little bit more than 3 hours, exactly put — 2 days, and explore “the city of my dreams”. Yes, I have always dreamt to see this “capital of the world” that New York is being often called. And you know, New York was all of the following at once — big, different, hot, dirty, stinky, crowded, empty, green, dangerous, romantic, weird, expensive, cheap, original, fake, modern, vintage, classy, hipster, freak, complicated, tolerant, racist and very very very DIFFERENT. Neither right, nor wrong, you know. Just different.
I have arrived to LaGuardia airport on Monday. It’s one of the three airports one can arrive at while traveling to New York. I don’t think that this airport is used as much for the international flights as JFK is cause everyone in the airport looked pretty local or at least American (if the “American” features can be even defined since it’s just a mix of everything lol).
Anyway, I ran out of money on my bank card, so catching uber car was not an option, and I headed straight to the taxi area. Boy, was there a long line of people waiting for a taxi! I was really surprised cause hey — I’m Ukrainian, and I know about such thing as uber which is cheaper in most cases (if you take Uber X or Uber Pool, then def cheaper) and well, just more convenient and flexible. I mean, at least 50 people were standing in the line waiting to be seated by a guy, who was sort of deciding on who gets in which car and stuff. One word — WEIRD. So I joined the line being 51st of something, blaming myself for not being genius enough to put more money on my card so I could take uber anytime I wanted. On the other hand — taking a legendary yellow cab in New York was such a great experience to go through! So I was excited.
The taxis in New York are, by the way, different from those in San Fran. In San Fran the taxi I used looked like a regular car inside with the only difference — there was a meter to tell the price for the ride. In New York — yours and the driver’s side of the car are very much “opposed” to each other, I shall say. Like there is this plastic partition between the back seats and the front seats. In the passenger side, there is a terminal for those who want to use a bank card, a small TV screen with the same 5-minute long piece always in rotation, probably taken from some local TV channels featuring mostly commercials and the cut-outs from some TV shows. So unlike the taxi driver from San Francisco, the one from New York didn’t try to start a conversation with me, which, well, was quite comfortable.
The place of my destination was in Brooklyn, somewhere close to Williamsburg. A week before my arrival to New York I booked a pretty-looking room on Airbnb for the extremely low price (because usually this is a price I’d pay in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Kyiv is like ten times cheaper, I guess). So I was just one lucky cheapster :) It took me 20 minutes and 35 dollars (including the tax and the tip for the driver) to get there.
I had a hard time figuring out how to get into the building first. The landlord warned she wouldn’t be home, so she just gave me the address, left the key under the doormat and wrote the code to get into the building. The machine that was supposed to let me in didn’t have any written clues on where or how I should put the code in. 20 minutes later — I got in anyway. That was “exactly” after the 30th combination of dialing the code, the #, the * and (my bad) swearing. For the smarty pants who would like to ask me now — “why didn’t you just call the landlord?”. Thank you very much - I did and her phone was sending me to the voice mail. So I had to apply some logical thinking on sight. My piece of advice for the future travelers, though, — always ask the landlord all the questions and inquire about the tiniest details, so you do not get stuck at the front door for 20 minutes like I was.
After I left all my baggage in the room, I went to look for the nearest subway station to go to Times Square. Subway tickets cost $3 per single ride and are valid within two hours since the purchase. Within those two hours, you cannot get out of subway and get back in, though. So you can just ride wherever you want within those two hours.
Subway trains arrive quite frequently. It took me about 30 minutes to get to the Times Square. The train was almost empty, it was noon.
What can I say about Times Square? It’s big. I mean BIG and full of the electronic screens and advertising billboards. It’s sort of the face of the world’s advertising industry.
However, it was so hot that day in New York that instead of walking and enjoying I was just trying to hide in every possible store for 10 to 30 minutes so that I wouldn’t die. It was hard to breath, literally. No surprise a huge thunderstorm stroke the whole city within a few hours when I headed to the Central Park.
Talking about the Central Park, it must be a really beautiful piece of land, but I was unlucky enough to be caught by the rain in the middle of my walk there :( The beauty of the Central Park seems to be even more tremendous when you find out that it’s a masterpiece built by the people, it’s not a natural park. And yet it is very beautiful. If I lived in New York, this would be my favorite place to go to every weekend. Just cause it’s so calm and green and again — VERY beautiful.
After I was caught by the rain at the park and got wet like the rat in the water pipes, my mood for any further walking got destroyed so I found the nearest subway station and went to my rented apartment to get some rest.
The next day I woke up early, mainly because of a constant state of jetlag (I changed timezones 4 times within a week), but also because I planned to go see the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty is this huge and magnificent sculpture that is located on a separate from New York piece of land. For a tourist like me there were two options to get there: 1) pay $18 for a ferry with lots of tourists; 2) go there for free on a ferry that runs from Staten Ferry island to New York and back every 30 minutes for all New Yorkers and Staten Ferry’ers (how should they be called?). I chose the second option o b v i o u s l y.
It is a really funny experience — the ride on the ferry. It takes about 20 minutes, so during the first 10 minutes there is a fierce competition between all the tourists to get outside on the highest floor of the ferry and make several good snaps of the Statue as well as the financial district of New York that is well seen from the ferry when it gets close to the island. While the tourists stick out of all possible open places, definitely daring to fall out of the ferry, the locals stay inside probably thinking “God, those tourists are so annoyingly stupid. Please, Jesus, let them fall out”. At the end of the ride, most of the tourists get tired, lose all the thrill about the Statue and even start yawning. My advice for all the future travelers to New York who will go to ride the free ferry to see the Statue — DO NOT join the rush to get a pic of the Statue on the way to the Staten Island. The trick is — when you are coming back from the Island, all the tourists get much more calm and less excited, so you’ll have a plenty of space and time to make a billion of pics of that greenish woman that symbolizes freedom and democracy of all times and nations. No need to thank me.
But you’re welcome:)
After the Statue of Liberty my plan was to wonder around the financial district, so I did and did some snaps of New York Stock Exchange, the Orange-haired Sick Man Who Hates Everyone (Trump) Building, the most famous store of Tiffany&Co, the building where George Washington became the president, the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.
The last one, to be honest, is a very heart-striking place. The waterfall in the middle of it symbolizes all the lost lives. The lives that went away into oblivion. When you see all the names carved out on the memorial, only then you realize how big that tragedy actually was. Sad place it was indeed, but I’m glad I got to see it and I would recommend everyone to see it too. It just reminded me of how hostile our world is and how important it is to never let anything like that happen again and try to be kinder and more tolerant than we are in most cases.
After the memorial I went to see Chinatown and gosh there was some horrible stench. Chinatown itself is a very neat place and for a moment it seems like you got teleported to China (although, I’ve never been there, but the huge amounts of Chinese in a square meter of Chinatown make that impression).
The core reason why that stench persists there, as I could figure out later, was lots of garbage bags on streets. The bags that should have been taken away days ago, but they weren’t. Chinatown, though, seems to be a great place to buy all sorts of strange food and it’s generally cheap in there. Especially, if you compare the prices of the souvenirs in Chinatown and Times Square .
New York is also a unique place for one simple fact that it makes China and Italy very close neighbors. “Little Italy”, another cute district of New York borders with Chinatown. It starts on a parallel street. Next time I come to New York, I’ll hopefully bring much more money to be able to sit down in one of those fancy little restaurants of Little Italy for some Italian-American Chicken Alfredo and a glass of white Italian wine.
Where Little Italy ends, up-north, starts SoHo. SoHo has some pretty charismatic buildings with lots of ultra-expensive stores in them. If I was a Russian or Ukrainian oligarch’s daughter, I’d live there. But I’m not, so I just took some pics and moved on.
Where did I move on? To Brooklyn! And how? Across the Brooklyn Bridge!
Brooklyn Bridge, guys, is gorgeous. It is one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever seen. Sorry, Golden Gate.
My primary advice, though, is to never walk across the bridge when the heat outside gets closer to 40°C above zero. I thought I was getting sunstroke by the point I reached the end of the bridge on the Brooklyn side. It was really exhausting. One can take a bike, though, and this way it must be easier. My “luck” was to never find the place where I could rent a bike close to the bridge, so I suffered.
In the end of the day I was so tired of walking the whole day, that the only thing I could think of was a bed in that creepy district where I rented the room. And yes, the district seemed really creepy, many Spanish-speaking guys looking very weird trying to tell me something in Spanish, so I just tried to pretend I have no clue where I am and what they want from me and continued walking past them veeeery fast.
The next day I had a flight and since there were lots of issues with it due to the strike of the flight attendants (advice: don’t use AirFrance), I didn’t really enjoy that half of the day. It was a day full of bad luck. I couldn’t buy me a coffee and a sandwich in two Starbucks shops and Dunkin Donuts too, cause they didn’t have change for $100 bill. I was really pissed off and started swearing right in the middle of the street, so some random guy that was passing by yelled “I feel ya girl” with a cheerful hand gesture. That, sort of, made me feel less miserable, and even though I had more time to enjoy the city, I felt that I was done with it. I didn’t want to see more. I was ready to leave as soon as possible.
So now you can see why, sadly but true, I couldn’t enjoy New York to its fullest. It is, nevertheless, an unbelievably amazing city I’d love to visit once more sometime just to make sure I’ve gotten a wrong first impression about it.
Would I like to live in it? Probably, not. But who the hell am I to decide? We’ll see ;)
All pics in the story are MINE. Don’t use w/o a credit, pls.
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