Friday, June 8, 2012

The Big Apple vs. the Minneapple

I was reminded by a fellow writer of my two-day stint in New York back in 2007.  I had just spent a ten-day residence in France with the Spalding U writing program, (another story), and I decided to take a sample trip to Manhattan because I had never been there.  I only knew one person living in New York that I could visit, but ironically she was going to be back in Minnesota during the exact time that I was there.  As I was flying in to New York, I began to panic because I knew I'd be there in this big city all by myself, and if anything happened, there wouldn't be anyone around that I could call.  At the time, I had no cell phone and no laptop, and the only internet access I had was from a Palm Pilot.  My France roommate lived in upstate New York and gave me her number, saying that it would only take her about half an hour to get into the city from where she lived.  So, that made me feel a little better.

The New York subways were easy compared to Paris.  I loved the hotel I was at. I read about it in the Pioneer Press as an affordable place to stay in New York.  The Pod - an artdeco sort of place. Small rooms with a bed, desk, and sink. Bathrooms down the hall. The only thing I didn't like - the doors were so new that the locks were loud. You could hear everytime someone walked out to the hallway to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Studio room at the Pod
My first night there was 4th of July, and I walked to the end of a dead end street overlooking East River.  A small cluster of 15 was gathered, and there was a sign that said, "No standing allowed." I found out that it was actually a No Parking sign. After about an hour, the crowd grew.  I pretended like I was with this friendly older couple who had just come from England.  Everyone huddled in the poring rain and people opened up their umbrellas and shared. The guy next to me was a Godsend. He had a huge umbrella that he opened and about 10 people could fit under it. "It's like bringing my roof along," he said.
Lobby at the Pod

Over the next two days, I rode the subway a lot, (loved the underground wall art!) took the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, walked down Broadway, visited Ground Zero, walked through a tiny bit of Central Park, Washington Square, NYU, Battery Park and went up to the observation deck in the Rockefeller Center. 

I didn't have to walk far to get meals.  On the corner there was a place that reminded me of CafĂ© Latte (on Grand in St. Paul) with its two levels, but it also had a grocery store.  On my last night I decided to go out for a nice relaxed dinner. I didn't really want to eat by myself though.  I met this woman on the elevator in my hotel and then I walked around the block looking for a restaurant.  I ran into this woman again in front of a Thai restaurant on the other side of the block, and I told her I was looking for some place that was not a bar. She was doing the same. Since she was by herself I asked if she'd be willing to share a table with me. We had a great time.

Being in NY, even for two short days, I made some major discoveries:  Everything in New York is important. If there's a shop, a restaurant, a gig, or a street vendor, people know about it. They know what street it's on, what's nearby and which subway line to take to get there. Nothing is trifle, ambiguous or hidden. Everywhere I went, I found specific locations, restaurants or landmarks that I've heard of from songs, books, movies or television, and I don't even live there.

Another thing about New York is that people have a sense of pride – a good pride. From the suited businessman having a gourmet lunch in Battery Park to the guy with the thick accent behind the counter in Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd Street who called me Babe, everyone is important. Even the trash collectors seem to have a certain pride about where they live, who they are, and what they do. Of course this may be different than in the days before 911.

I keep thinking about my own Twin Cites, and I suppose in a way we have a little bit of that pride.  There's a lot of different cultures and many thriving arts communities although the flavor of it is somewhat different.  We don't have a subway, but we have a light rail, and supposedly we're #1 in the country for biking paths.  And sometimes I take the lakes for granted even though they attract mosquitoes.  

I'm wondering how the central corridor light rail will change the nature of the city.  The construction is a major inconvenience, but already there are several dance studios along University and the existing Raymond/University art crawl venue will probably expand.  Something to look forward to in the next couple of years.
Mosaic art on one of the subway walls

1 comment:

  1. Loved the use of photos with your blog.
    As the reader I felt more pulled into your blog.
    It was a bit like a Facebook experience but with more words/reading!