Last Saturday night, I went to a party in Corning that a friend of mine, Derrick, was throwing for his friend Serei, who was visiting from California. I no sooner walked in the door and set down the chips I had brought than Derrick asked if I wanted to go on a road trip to New York City sometime this week. I said yes, and three days later we were standing in Time Square.
Actually, it was a bit more complicated than that would suggest. We had been planning on going Monday, but that fell through when we lost Derrick's brother (and, consequently, his brother's car). By Wednesday a new car had been found, and we drove to Weehawkin, NJ with the intention of taking a ferry across the Hudson to Manhattan Island. We parked, stepped out of our car, and the Blue Angels flew over our heads. Yes, the Blue Angels.
Looking out toward the river, we saw there were dozens of giant, pre-steam-era looking sailboats going down the river accompanied by Coast Guard and Navy destroyers and fireboats––not to mention Ospreys and helicopters and the fighter jets flying in formation overhead. It was some kind of festival, and I thought we were pretty lucky to have come that morning. Then we got to the ferry docks and found out that maybe we weren't so lucky. The river was shut down for no-one knew how long, and the ferry company was going to bus us in through the Lincoln Tunnel instead.
That seemed reasonable. At, least until we had stood by the curb for twenty minutes watching three buses line up, get on, then get back off, complain about mechanical trouble, and drive away, leaving an an increasingly angry group of commuters on the sidewalk.
We finally made it across though, and in the end it was for the best as we were able to get our ticket refunded that evening before riding the ferry back.
I was surprised how pretty many of the streets were. I suppose they're all terribly expensive to live on, but for the first time ever, New York looked like a city I would actually enjoy living in.
After hiking up to 47th Street from Port Imperial where the bus dropped us, we headed into the city toward Time Square, stopping at a couple different pizzerias on the way.
When we finally made it into the square, we signed up for an open-top bus tour of the city. I was a little skeptical of it at first, but it ended up being a great time––especially considering we only had a relatively short time to spend there.
My favorite experience of the day came a bit unexpectedly when we got back to Time Square around six or seven and ordered hotdogs from one of those carts my Mom told me never to order hotdogs from. The guy working it was Middle Eastern looking, and I heard another worker speaking to him in Arabic. I ordered my hotdog, and he gave it to me kind of robotically without really making eye contact or anything. When he gave me my change though, I thanked him in Arabic and started walking away. At first he just responded like it was normal, but as I was about ten feet away, he did a double-take, smiled really big and yelled something like: "Hey, how you know 'shukran?'" I ended up talking to him for a while, trying to remember as much Arabic as I could. I learned that his name was Mohammed and he was from Egypt, which I think is cool. I explained I'd spent a few months in Lebanon, which he thought was cool. He asked what I was doing in New York and (in English at this point, I'd exhausted the tiny bit of Arabic I actually have) and I explained we were just visiting for the day, at which point we both lamented how expensive the city is.
After saying goodbye and wishing him peace in Arabic, we headed back to Port Imperial (well, there may have been one stop at a certain pizza place on the way) and found out that this time, we could actually ride the ferry. Looking back on the city in the slightly more diffused late-afternoon light was really beautiful, and it was hard to imagine that eleven years ago I was watching thousands of people getting evacuated across this same river––most likely on this same boat––on NBC the morning of 9/11. It's a crazy world.