eNewsChannels COLUMN: On a recent trip to the east coast to watch my granddaughter graduate from Cornell, I had to drive through NYC to get to Kennedy International Airport. I had been to 48 states in the US, but never to New York, so this seemed like a perfect time to explore. I just never had a burning desire to go there despite the overwhelming imagery and glitz of the city splashed across movies, and TV shows over the years. Not even the draw of the ever present NYC logo, constantly trumpeting, I Love NY! Well, you guessed it, still no sale.
That said, the logo made an early impression in my life. I first remember seeing it when I worked at NIMH in Oklahoma City, during the early 80‘s. The University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center hired me as an associate researcher for their Depression Research & Treatment Program, but I actually worked for the National Institute for Mental Health, NIMH, in some kind of collaborative effort to study depression. During that time I became acquainted with many wonderful Oklahoman’s who worked for the university, but like me, one woman hailed from elsewhere. I was from the bay area, and she was from New York City. We had an immediate bond by being a transplant in a seemingly foreign land. Every morning she would breeze through and greet us carrying her coffee cup around with her, which gave me my first glimpse of the now famous logo, I “heart” NY. As the university’s trainer, she moved around campus unchained by trappings of her office, no cubes in those days. Perky and chatty, she tried to convince the “docs” and whomever else she could encourage to attend one of her regular education seminars.
During her outings to the units, she never failed to promote her home state of NY, to anyone that would listen to her. Although she talked fondly of NY, she still imparted little tidbits of the many undesirable features of the city. We New Yorkers never wear white, you know, the dirty streets, forget a ‘bout it, she’d say with a wave of her hand. I got a daily dose of NY that stayed with me for a lifetime. She said nothing outrageously negative, just little bits and pieces of a place, much like a puzzle, forming a picture that really didn’t attract me.
One day I asked her why she was in OKC, when NYC seemed to be where she wanted to be. She looked at me rather stunned and clearly puzzled as she shrugged the comment away with a tentative smile. My guess was that she was like other young people, in that the grass is always greener. Nevertheless, it was no time at all that she announced her departure, back to NY to work for another well-known hospital, now Bellevue Medical Center. Her only comment to me as she left smiling was, “So what if I can’t wear white there, I still love NY!”
Well, after many years of thinking that some day I would have to go to NY to close the loop on the 49th state, the opportunity presented itself and I went with absolutely no expectations. However, I came back with an awesome experience that I felt I had to share. My expectations didn’t fit any of the stereotypes that I came to NY with as I visited all but one borough, Staten Island. I came away amazed with many aspects of the city and the people. I especially didn’t expect the people to be as friendly, helpful, considerate, and warm as they were. The city alone was cleaner, prettier, and much greener, with a rhythm within a rhythm that took me a few days to figure out.
During the visit, I took a lot of open-air bus tours in order to get the full benefit of the history of the boroughs. During this time, I was above the action of the city, which gave me a unique perspective on her. The tourists seem to be the “rushing motor” pushing and passing energy, flying by at lightening speed. In corners of the city, there were clusters of locals, police, UPS deliver people, and many others, cutting up, telling stories, joking around, laughing, and living their lives at a slower pace. Whenever we stopped anyone, they were very willing to share, help and talk. Even in the financial district, Wall Street honestly didn’t seem much different then California or Market Street, in San Francisco. Those coming home, looked tired, just wanting to get home as we all do at the end of the day.
Central Park was stunning, the most beautiful park I have ever seen, including Golden Gate Park, Balboa, and many others. Although they do have their own charm, the difference seemed to be that there was an abundance of well manicured, very green lawns, amazing large old rock formations, a generous mix of large, old hard wood trees and of course, many lakes. The food was wonderful, and yes, as Richard Gere said in the movie Runaway Bride, “When we New Yorkers can’t hail a cab, we walk.” Walk we did, which led to another surprise, I felt safe at all times, whether we were in the quiet late night streets of Queens, or NYC. We took a lot of subways during our stay, another unexpected plus, what an experience!
Well yes, the subway boarding platforms were not the cleanest, but the trains were easy to use and very clean. The other thing is that the subways connect to every part of the city, and all of the boroughs; therefore, you can get anywhere you want to go by subway, for just a few dollars. Were there unique characters on board? Yes again, but not the kind you would expect. There were people trying to make a living, like all of us, however, possibly doing more of what they love. There was the guy that played some wonderful jazz piece with his clarinet during one train ride, and an artist that never missed a beat on a rocking train, while he sketched 3 men in about 15 minutes flat.
My favorite was the woman who belted out, John Lennon’s, Imagine, thanked everyone and got off the train, without asking for a dime. Perfectly fitting for a perspective of NY that I didn’t expect, “Imagine all the people living life in peace…You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…I hope some day you’ll join us…And the world will be as One….”
You say I am viewing NYC with rose colored glasses? Really, I came in with no expectation and I didn’t get what I thought I would or did I?