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New York

New York

July 5, 2022

July 12, 2022

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This blog will chronicle my first-ever visit to New York City.

OK, OK, I know. What's with the captions on my New York pictures? Sorry, I'm a Chicago guy now. You know, Second City. I could not help myself.

Day 1: I am staying at an Air B&B near Connecticut. They are hosting another Canadian who, like me, has spent most of her adult life in The United States. I took the train to Grand Central Station and then walked to a ferry tour around Manhattan. On the way, I saw:

1. Several people having wonderful conversations; with themselves. No, they were not Bluetooth phone conversations.
2. An eight-foot human driving a bicycle.
3. A guy at 42nd and 5th with a microphone and speaker having one-way conversations with pedestrians.
4. A woman who seemed to be wearing pajamas.
5. Spiderman and The Hulk having a conversation.
6. A very old man walking down 42nd Street with his pants down. One young woman shrieked when she almost walked into him.

A successful first (ever) day in NYC!

Day 2: This was Central Park Day. The most interesting scene was the one from within the park while looking at the shining skyscrapers of the city. It is a fantastic contrast. As I walked, I encountered a young gentleman, Ruben De Escapedo, sitting at a small table with a 1950s-style typewriter. His sign read, “Select the topic, get a poem.” So, I sat on a nearby bench to think of a topic. Then the epiphany. New York City. As he was writing, I thought of another topic. Jennifer, my daughter. He wrote two poems for me that day for whatever donation I wanted to make. I gave him $30. And we had a great, extended conversation. Later, it was on to surrealistic Times Square (where I saw the Naked Cowgirl as, apparently, The Naked Cowboy was taking a day off) as I walked back to Grand Central Station. I saw her from behind at a distance and took a picture before noticing it read “Naked Cowgirl” on her behind. I then walked to a better vantage point to verify. And, no, they are not entirely naked. Along the way, I dropped into the New York Historical Society, where I talked to a gentleman about my project. He found it fascinating. We will see if anything develops as it did in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Day 3: I walked across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to the offices of StoryCorps in the hopes of meeting the founder, David Isay. I was not lucky. I left my card and will follow up with a phone call later. I then took the subway from Brooklyn to Wall Street in Manhattan and returned to Grand Central Station with one detour to Rockefeller Center.

But the real story of the day was about my encounter with a young gentleman in The Subway sandwich shop. As I waited at the cash register with my water, the young man gave final instructions for his sandwich. When he got to the register, he told the clerk that he would pay for my water. As we walked into the streets, I introduced myself and told him about my project. He seemed genuinely interested, so we chatted more at an intersection. He is of Albanian descent and told me I needed to go there someday. I informed him that I was on my way to Ground Zero. He said, “Let me walk you there.” It was about 200 meters. As we walked, he told me about his two uncles, whose names are engraved on the Memorial. They were in Tower 2.

I will never forget Elion and his wonderful demeanor, which seemed a tad more pensive as we stood at the Memorial. As he left to return to work at the hotel, he uttered, “That’s the best water I ever bought.” An absolute class act. Later that day, searching for a way to pay it forward, a young writer approached me, offering to sell me his book, a play he had written. And so, I bought “Positive Forces” from Olushola Adekola, a Nigerian writer in New York. It turned out to be a fundraiser. As we parted, Olushola wished me “peace.”

I think New Yorkers might actually be very friendly.

Day 4: I went to Central Park today with my sign for a few hours. It did not yield much, except I did have an interesting conversation with a young couple from Israel. Interestingly, as I sat beside my sign propped up on the tripod, I noticed that most people who passed spoke in a language other than English. Just an observation. On the way to Central Park from Grand Central Station, I walked the Avenue of the Americas, blocked off for street vendors selling their wares and food. On my way back, I once again stopped by Times Square. It was crazy. The Naked Cowboy was there playing his guitar and singing. Also adding to the pandemonium were multiple Spiderman’s, mostly naked women strategically painted, street entertainers, the free elbow bump guy (I bumped, I guess he is the former free hug guy), and a guy with a sign that read, “need money for weed, why lie.” I gave him five dollars after conferring with him about him being an honest man.

Day 5: Today was a rest day from NYC, but I did conduct an interview and met a Reverend of a small church in Pound Ridge. I expect to hear from him again. He blessed my journey. In the evening, I relaxed and enjoyed a barbeque with my Air B&B hosts and a new guest, a self-described philosopher and writer.

Day 6: This is my last day in New York. So, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Ground Zero Museum. The latter fulfilled my promise to Elion, whom I had met on Day 3. I saw the pictures of his two uncles. I also took a last walk through Times Square. Finally, I dropped in on The New York Times and will send them a 52-year-old story that has nothing to do with my project. Met Steve there, too. Great guy.

So, as a seasoned NYC traveler, here are my observations.

1. Buy a hat with NYC on it. People will assume you are a local and start asking you for directions. It happened to me more than once.
2. Look utterly disinterested in the human race when on the subway.
3. Keep your head looking straight ahead when walking the streets. If it’s on a swivel, even if you have an appropriate hat on your head, they will recognize you as a charlatan.

That’s it for New York City. A city unlike any other.

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