What is that smell? That is indeed serious smog/pollution.
and on to the rest of the trip - the tourist thang...
Overwhelming humanity. There is so much to take in as there is no such thing as empty space.
Non-stop honking. The sound of horns is everywhere. It doesn't matter where you are, there is honking. Annoying at first but one does get used to it. The interesting thing is if someone has not honked their horn in 15 minutes, they will honk it at nothing. We were walking towards Central Park and a cabby was sitting there at the stopsign and there were no cars to be found anywhere since the Puerto Rican Day Parade had just ended and streets down there were just opening back up. He honked his horn. I looked around. Nothing there. Nervous habit I guess.
Why don't they clean the streets? There is litter everywhere. Trashcans are overflowing with trash and then piles start next to the trashcan. This is especially true in Chinatown and some other well travelled areas. But most streets have trash all along the curb. I guess the nightly trash pickups and twice a week street sweeping can't keep up with how many people live here and/or visit/work here.
Halaal food is everywhere! From restaurants to sidewalk stands.
Different accents and languages everywhere including many desi's with traditional garb...an unbelievable amount of their restaurants too.
Lastly - What an awesome city! I absolutely love the energy in the city. I would miss quiet and nature, but this city has everything. I would consider living here.
First day in, drove into the city from Newark. First thing I notice is looking at the skyline (which you can see from NJ) is how instantly you know where the WTC was. Weird for me since I've never really paid any attention to the skyline. But even so, you know where it was. Second, the traffic is insane. Mind you, it was Saturday and it was worse than any rush hour traffic I've ever seen.
You see odd things there too which I figured, but when you see it, it's just odd.
Odd things seen
* Buddhist people sitting on mats on the sidewalk meditating/praying East (I think.) Not a few, but a whole group of them side by side meditating on a very very busy street.
* Driving down the street and seeing a cruise ship that appeared to be floating through traffic. It was of course an optical illusion. It was a cruise ship but it was on the river - it looked as though it were actually cruising through the city. Imagine our surprise while driving between high skyscrapers and then seeing a cruiseship in the intersection.
* Leaving a Pakistani restaurant which deserves its own bloggage (will do) and walking down the street where a guy with a coat hanger is trying to break into his own car since he had locked his keys in it. He's cursing and sweating and then a black guy comes up to him and says "Man, let me show you how that's done." It actually made me laugh outloud because of the stereotype.
* 3,000 umbrellas in Battery Park (Statue of Liberty area...where all the immigrants landed way back) and how it was some artistic thing. Each umbrella had a Monarch Butterfly painted on it.
Found this great Pakistani restaurant with halaal food. The food I think burned a layer off of my tongue. That was some HOT stuff. What was really interesting about the place was its Muslimness. There's a bucket of prayer rugs, a sign on the wall pointing Qibla, and a Muslim shower bucket in the bathrooms (but keeping with that tradition, the women's bathroom of course had no toilet paper, or soap - typical as it's just like the mosque...most women's sections suck compared to the mens). Yes, that's a pet peeve of mine.
The rest of the day 1
Drove through Times Square
. Wow, what a massive number of people. Absolutely insane lighting and people. My eyes just couldn't take it all in. Massive billboards, lights flashing everywhere and an unbelievable amount of advertising/mind control...even McDonald's lights blink.
Walked around Wall Street
and saw the NYSE
- very ornate building and area. I had to see it having worked in the financial services industry for so long. The windy streets around it very interesting too with ornate buildings, halaal Paki/Indian restaurants and a very beautiful church that once laid in dust from the WTC.
From there wandered over to the WTC site
and this I found really odd. I felt nothing. When in Oklahoma City, I felt something, sadness...but here I didn't feel anything. It bothered me a bit that I didn't. I suppose it's because the wrath of what has come from it (multiple wars, racism, religion bigotry, too much media attention, don't know). It's amazing the space the towers once used and how the implosions damaged the buildings around the area.
What an interesting area and they are right next to each other. Chinatown is massive. Little winding streets, people selling illegal DVD's - for instance, one can buy Shrek 2 although it only came out in theatres a few weeks ago. I, of course, would never buy such bootlegged items. Okay, so maybe I did - $5 for Shrek 2 - who could refuse? Got some lychees which i love...yum!
Little Italy is a little less hustle and bustle. The accents were awesome. Straight of the Godfather. We think we saw the Godfather sitting in his tinted windowed town car. Great restaurants open out onto the streets for the weekend and people end up having a parking meter next to their head while eating. Very cool area. Awesome gelato too.
Spent day 2 driving around the areas...Times Square, 42nd street, Theatre district, Park Ave, Grenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, Diamond district (90% of diamonds that go through the US go through here...and 95% of the stores in the Diamond District are Jewish owned - I wonder how much of that goes to Israel), went near Harlem too. I'm sure there's many more neighborhoods we saw, but I'm not recalling them right now. And this is what i found particularly shocking. The whole area we drove was only a portion of Manhattan. About 1/3 of it. We didn't hit the other buroughs. So in total we saw about 1/15th of NYC. Crazy.
Got around Central Park and found throngs of police all over. I've never seen so many police in one place. At one point there were about 40 on one corner of the sidewalk. We found out it was for Puerto Rican Day. Thousands of Puerto Ricans were waving their flags from cars and wearing the flag of Puerto Rico. There are more Puerto Ricans in NYC than there are in Puerto Rico if you can believe that.
From there we went to wander Central Park. That's their only nature area from what i can tell. I was wondering if they had any. You still can't really escape the sounds of the city, but what a great park. There's two big lakes and all kinds of other stuff. We only walked through a couple parts of it. Spent about an hour trying to find Strawberry Fields (a section of the park)...named after the John Lennon song and the mosaic of "imagine" in honor of his song...one of my favorites. Finally found it as we were leaving the park (already night). It made me happy that co-searcher spotted it though. I was beginning to pout and as those who know me, this isn't a good thing.
Found a halaal Afghan restaurant to eat at and yum... great food. Oh and check this out. On the way out...stopped into a little corner store for water and behind the counter was the price of cigarettes. Get this smokers: $6.40 per pack. Yikes!
Day 3 - New Jawsey
Now New Jawsians have an odd accent. It sounds like everyone is an old Jewish grandma. Even teenage girls. Grumbly and odd. Took some getting used to. When leaving the hotel, I asked if there was a shuttle to go shopping. The lady told me to ask the concierge and I could get a ride and a ride is what I got. I stepped into a limo, sunk in the plush Cartier interior, and looked out dark windows feeling like a superstar. :-/ First limo ride for me. I have to admit, it was cool. Although I hate extravagance for most things, I sucked up and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When in Rome right? Went shopping as a reward for me going over a week without cigarettes...yes, I've given up the nasty habit. Week 1 is a success.
Anyhow, went into some highscale stores (just for fun) and it was interesting because some actually had live jazz bands and one had a piano dude. Too funny. Bought a few things and some spa like items to treat myself to later. Quitting was hard dang it. I deserved reward.
Got a call for an interview at a music company so made plans to interview when I get back. Sounds like a cool job.
After, I called the hotel and got another limo ride back feeling like a princess. Went to the mall later and explored the lovely world of Tiffany and Co...a girl can dream can't she?
Got some good ice cream and called it a night.
Flight delayed many times before finally leaving ground. Finally got home and realized exactly what humidity was. It feels like someone is suffocating you with a plastic bag full of hot air. How am I going to make it through the summer?
All in all it was an awesome trip. Loved every minute of it. Even the crazy driving and the especially rude driving. It really is Darwinstic. I can't wait to wear my $4 dollar shirt that says "I (heart) NY". :-)
Pictures will be uploaded soon insh'Allah.