The man on my right keeps jabbing my thigh with his briefcase. I am hot. Tired. Dirty. Soaked with sweat. The ground beneath my aching feet begins to tremble and shake. A subway train comes roaring out from the blackness like an ancient monster, washing the crowd with a hot wind gust that almost hurts as it hits the skin.
We jostle and shove in the most orderly fashion. Filing onto the train while lightly bouncing off each other. No one says, "excuse me" or "sorry."
Air conditioning. My skin goes clammy and cold. Instantly, I miss the heat.
The train barrels down a track strewn with water bottles, dropped children's text books and trash bags filled with God only knows. All around me are four-mile-an-hour people hurtling along at 50 while the cars above inch along at half-speed.
I emerge across town, an entirely new place than I was mere moments before. A sneeze tickles my nose in the glaring sunlight and the sound of a thousand foreign voices mixed with taxi traffic assaults my ears.
The heat, the noise, the smells, the masses of people. The incredible vibrancy of a living, breathing city.
This is good.
New York City in the Summer is everything I could have hoped. We land in suffocatingly humid Newark, NJ on Father's Day. After a celebratory fist-pumping, we hop a train to NYC and haul our luggage up the steps of Penn Station with the 500,000 others who pass through it each day.
Our hotel, the NYMA, is located in K-town, New York's Korean business district. It's all I can do to get out of there each day without stopping for kimchi.
It's now 8:30 pm. Infamous time-wasters that we are, Mom and I drop our baggage at the hotel and run over to the Empire State Building to watch the sunset. Afterward, we wander Times Square and explore our new home for the week.
That was Sunday, here's a little bit of Monday
It was closing up shop by the time we got there, but we did get a chance to see human foosball. No photos, sadly.
Monday night we meet up with Matt at Stanton Social for dinner and drinks. The highlight of the meal is most definitely the red velvet twinkie. I love it so much I have zero reaction when Matt points out Joseph Gorden-Levitt from 3rd Rock from the Sun sitting next to us.
The ride back to the hotel is my first time in a cab, I prefer public transit or my own two feet. I guess I'm just traditional that way.
Some Tuesday for ya:
But here's the thing: All this stuff is real. That's real armor, worn by real knights, a real long time ago. The pyramid at the MET is an honest-to-god, real pyramid. Deconstructed in Egypt and carefully reconstructed in NYC. That's real awesomeness.
Wednesday is free day at the zoo. It's also free day at the Botanical Gardens, but we give up hope upon discovering that the train doesn't go there. Take a bus?! That's for losers.
The Chip Shop would have never been graced with my presence had it not been for Kelly from Brooklyn, who works at city hall and just might be the nicest lady in New York. She walked me six blocks, in the opposite direction I was headed, to deliver me safely to beer and the best fried mac and cheese I have ever had.
Thursday is Broadway and a glittering waterfall in the settling darkness. We catch Promises Promises, featuring Kristen Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. On the way to the theater we come across a courtyard with gorgeous trees and bistro tables against the backdrop of a cascading wall of water.
The next courtyard is even better; it has this:
Promises, Promises (you all know what I mean)
I didn't buy you anything, but I got a great photo
The Rose Center
The Natural History Museum Thanks to Devon for pointing out the old dude doing the robot.
Friday brings us to Coney Island. The Atlantic Ocean is flowing between my toes once again. It's slipping sands pulling away with each outward wave, sucking out from under my arches, leaving my feet balanced on tiny stilts of sediment that hold for mere seconds, then lightly collapse back down into familiar earth.
Although I haven't been on a roller coaster in years, I opted to ride the Cyclone at Coney Island. It fits in with my, "If not now, then when?" approach to life lately. And you know what? It was rad.
After Coney Island we return to Manhattan to seek out dinner. Mom is hot and tired and cranky. Everything is, "Horrible! Crapy! A waste!" Finally, we come across a Turkish man with a guarantee: "You like it or it's free."
"Even her?" I ask, pointing to my stubborn and impossible to please older-self.
"Of course!" He snorts.
And he's right. For possibly the first time on any vacation EVER, my mother is not complaining. She has been tamed by kebabs.
That night I take the train to 2 Ave, a route that's become familiar. My sexy shoes are packed in my purse, waiting for the switch from serious to frivolous. While I lean against the outer wall of Katz's Deli trading walking shoes for something less practical (three-inch stiletto heels in bright, aquatic teal, that tie behind the ankle. Not just impractical, but loud about it too), two female tourists pass and give me a fascinated once-over. "I could never live here," says one to the other, "I'm not trendy enough."
Standing on a corner at 2 am waiting to cross the street. I am on fire. This is what I've been waiting to feel. Here I am, 26, in the best shape of my life, pretty as I'll ever be, and feeling invincible.
They always say that teenagers feel "10-feet-tall and bulletproof." Never in my life have I felt that way, until this moment.
I gaze at the flashing 'don't walk' sign and turn just in time to receive a high five from a stranger. "Very nice," he says, fading into the crowd behind me and slipping away forever.