Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thoughts about New York city in summer

It’s never too early to start planning summer vacation. In fact, it’s smart to start around now because if you want to get together with people you need to check in with them now because they may not be around when you want to visit. Each year I plan a trip back to New York and usually I’ve been lucky—my good friends and family are around and we usually get together. I always look forward to going back to New York each year. I land at Newark airport and suddenly I feel at home. I know how to maneuver the NJ Turnpike, how to get into the city, what the quickest route is to get to Westchester—all those things. I have driven around the NYC metropolitan area for years. When I lived in NJ during the 1980s, I was always on the road, and was a pretty aggressive driver (just ask my family and friends). I have calmed down a lot, but that is mostly due to the fact that I don’t use my car here as often as I used it in NJ. It makes sense that the more you drive, the more stressful it is to drive. And in the NYC area it’s stressful to drive. There’s always a traffic jam of some sort to deal with. The worst road for traffic jams is the Long Island Expressway. I remember it used to be called the Long Island parking lot. There was never a reasonable explanation for why there was a traffic jam at any given time. The worst experience I can remember was driving a friend of mine to Kennedy airport so that she could get a flight to Germany. We made it with half an hour to spare. It was pre-9/11 so there were no real security delays. Nonetheless, it was not a pleasant experience. It took us four hours to get from midtown Manhattan to Kennedy, there was that much traffic. But somehow you deal with it and you even end up repeating the experience of driving out to the airport and hoping against hope that there will not be traffic. Hope springs eternal.

I usually fly direct from Oslo to Newark on Continental or SAS. Newark is a great airport, with its monorail that takes you from one terminal to another or to the car rental offices. It’s very efficiently set up and it makes dealing with the hassle of traveling a little easier. I take the monorail all the way to the end—to the Newark train station where I get a train into Manhattan if I don’t end up renting a car (I haven’t always done so the past few years). Every time I do this I think about how NYC functions. I mean, think about it. Over four million workers commute into and out of Manhattan each work day. That’s impressive. That is almost the entire population of Norway. It works, despite the traffic jams, crowds, delays, and aggression. Somehow it works. And when it doesn’t, it’s irritating but not chaotic. There is usually another way to get into NYC if the train doesn’t run. There is the bus, or a taxi, or a rental car, or a ferry. And when I am finally standing in midtown Manhattan, near the Grand Central train station, I take a look around me and soak in the NYC atmosphere, the NYC life. I love being in NYC in the summer time. It’s hot, noisy, and smelly; lots of people walk about, but there’s life around you. Life is always going on. It’s warm and humid. People pass you on the sidewalk, talking and laughing and having a good time—office workers on their lunch break. It’s nice to see them. It reminds me of when my brother worked in the World Trade Center; I would meet him for lunch and he would take me to a local restaurant where we would sit for an hour or two, then go to the river park and walk along the water. That was before 9/11. I haven’t been back to that area since except once, and that was to see Ground Zero, which was quite an emotional experience for me. My brother no longer works in that area, so there is not much reason to go there anymore. But it is a lovely area of the city and worth visiting if you have the chance. He and I visited Trinity Church once, which is in the Wall Street area. It is located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in downtown Manhattan. It is a lovely church and one of the oldest in NYC—the first church was built in 1698.

NYC is not an unfriendly place. No matter how often I’ve heard that or seen it portrayed as such on TV or in films, I’m here to tell you that it’s not like that. You will discover that people actually smile at you if you keep looking straight ahead and not down. I smile back. Sometimes I am the one who smiles first. I don’t feel lonely in NYC. I never did when I worked there. I feel free. There was always life, no matter the time of day. I remember taking the bus back to NJ (where I lived during the 1980s) at 2am and even though it felt a bit weird to be out walking on the streets at that time, there were still plenty of people out. That’s one of the reasons I love cities generally. NYC doesn’t ever really sleep. It is the city that never sleeps. I for one think that’s a good thing. You can always find an open restaurant or deli to get a coffee. I love going into Grand Central station and getting a train to Tarrytown where I grew up. How many times have I taken that train ride? Countless times. I love sitting near the train window, looking out at the Hudson River on my way to Tarrytown. I’ve written about this before. But it bears repeating. It’s a beautiful ride and a beautiful river.

So I am sitting here and starting to plan my summer trip and other trips as well. There may be some friends visiting Oslo this year, another friend and I are planning a trip in Europe, and my husband and I are also planning a trip in Europe. But there will also be time spent in Oslo, like last summer, and that’s always nice as well, because Oslo is another city that I enjoy spending time in during the summer months. 

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