Manhattan New York – If these two words were the only ones I would leave here, everyone would already have the image of the metropolis and my work would be done. It’s been almost fifteen years since I ended up in Manhattan New York, from the smallest village in Romania right in the oppressive abyss of Broadway. There I was, working for 3 months in Freehold, New Jersey, in a Work & Travel program and visiting New York for the third time, now by myself.
It’s a strange feeling landing inside this huge Lego world made of steel and glass, and cement and sweat and blinking lights and ear busting horns. The first time, I truly felt like being stranded in the future, where everyone seems to know where they are going and the rush never ceases, day and night, summer or winter. I’d imagine some people even experiencing vertigo or at least some twisted neck pains for the first minutes of only looking up. I visited Manhattan New York three times, the third time all by myself so that I’d have time to explore the city on my own terms, blending in the thousands of tourists walking like zombies through the urban canyons. If you have a map, it’s easy to get around and if you can bear the pains of walking and the constant heat of summer, New York can even be explored on foot. I only took the subway two times during my three visits and still managed to see the most important points of interest.
“You can’t go to New York and not visit the Statue of Liberty”, anyone would say. “You certainly can!” I could argue…and I visited it twice. Probably the high point of the visit is the trip itself, lining in never-ending rows of travelers anxious to have their picture taken in front of the lady. I personally enjoyed more the short boat trip and the skyline of Manhattan looking back than constantly looking up to the statue on the island. You will most probably hear at least ten different languages during the trip, like a miniature reconstitution of the great immigration, but in the opposite direction. You can also stop for an hour on Ellis Island for some history lesson on the mirage of Manhattan, New York. Back in Manhattan, I also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art…twice. Not because I am a dedicated art connoisseur, but just because I also wanted to see everything by myself, so I spent a few hours browsing between ancient Chinese pottery, Egyptian sarcophagi and Renaissance paintings. As I said, I wish I knew more about art in order to better appreciate the marvels I often stare at in museums, but nevertheless, I think I have a pretty decent idea on what is beautiful and pleasant for the eyes. Right off the stairs of the museum, like a tank in a medieval battle, some guys were putting together a street act for the general entertainment and their caps quickly filling with singles and quarters.
The third stop, complete random chronology, was the Empire State Building, the epiphany of The “New York Experience”. Sure, there is a wonderful history behind the building and it is big…not as big as it was 30 or 20 or 10 years ago, but in the end, it’s just a building and a symbol of the Manhattan skyline. The huge line that stretches along 33rd street at most times can hinder many from even trying to get inside, but it could be worth it, depending on the expectations. The first impression upon exiting at 86th floor definitely packs a punch, leaving anyone breathless, especially those with fear of heights. The skyscrapers below look like tiny cardboard boxes perfectly arranged in a warehouse, a crossword puzzle of tiny pieces. The world is at your trembling feet as you approach the prison like cages, most likely set up after some would have tried to go down in style. Rick from Pawn Stars on the History Channel once said that the pointy spire top of the ESB was designed like this to dock zeppelins, which is pretty cool. Imagine a huge Montgolfier floating above Manhattan…
The green beating heart of Manhattan New York, is definitely Central Park, a nice pleasant natural area, with shaded alleys and chariots passing by, but in the end, it’s just a park, a huge one, but it will not blow your mind. It makes for a well-deserved break from the constant mental pressure that the city bestows upon its guests. Closely, where Broadway Boulevard meets the 7th, Times Square is like a gigantic billboard aggregator, so I guess you could sit for a while and try to focus on just one blinking panel, at least until you get dizzy. During the third visits, I also checked some of the other “touristy” sites, just to add them to the list, including Wall Street and its brass bull, the Twin Towers memorial site at that time (today One World Trade Center), United Nations Building, the Intrepid Air Sea Space Museum, Rockefeller Center and several other. Sure, there were many other places to and things to do in Manhattan, but a day was never enough to go everywhere. When the evening starts turning into night, in the magical golden hour, Manhattan and turns into something different, a beast of modernity, made of neon and headlights, sirens and screams, making you feel more like a video game or part of an overwhelming Matrix.
I cannot say that I loved or hated Manhattan New York; it’s hard to do any of them completely. Sure, I would have been much poorer spiritually having not discovered this concrete jungle and experienced it’s almost crushing power. I never felt a connection with the place, I did not fall in love with its cold heart, I would never be able to survive Manhattan for too long, but I would definitely return. I would go back any time for a day or two, dragging my feet up its neatly numbered streets and staring mindlessly at every corner. I’d imagine it has changed a lot in ten years, or maybe New York can never change, it is just an illusion.