“WORLD’S BIGGEST STORE,” proclaims what probably is the world’s biggest billboard on a store (that’s an exaggeration; if I thought this sign was obnoxious, it was only because it was the first one I saw). The massive sign graces the side of Macy’s Department Store in Herald Square- ten floors of overwhelming everything. ‘Overwhelming’ actually defines my entire day. Believe it or not, as much as I love to travel, I had never truly explored Manhattan- or any of NYC for that matter (except for my 20 minute excursion between the airport and Grand Central last November if that counts). So when my friend Katy asked a few weeks ago if I wanted to travel to the city with her and our friend Jen to celebrate her 20th birthday, of course I excitedly said yes.
My day began at 4 a.m. I still have no idea how I actually managed to wake myself up, but I was determined to disprove my reputation for always being late- and, of course, I wanted to eat a full breakfast, make tea, do some yoga, and shower all before arriving at Katy’s house at 6 a.m. Somehow, I was successful. I’m not going to lie, it was actually wonderfully refreshing to be up and driving as the sun rose in the sky.
After a brief delay of waiting for Katy to get dressed (I was ready before her!) and a slight detour to pick up Jen from her house down the street, we hit the road to NY shortly after 6:30 a.m (!!!) to embark on the four hour trek down I-95S, the road that I hate and love so much at the same time. Thanks to my kamiyaya papaya oolong tea blend, I surprisingly didn’t sleep on the way down. I guess excitement probably had a little bit to do with it too.
Anyways, Katy and Jen have this obsession with the ‘Cake Boss’ show on TLC. I admit, I had never heard of it, and I certainly had never heard of ‘Carlos’ Bakery,’ which apparently is the bakery owned by the guy on the show. Relevance: the bakery is in Hoboken, NJ, which, conveniently, is located just over the Hudson River by the train station to NYC! Our first stop, then, would be the bakery. In retrospect, I now wonder why it never occurred to anyone that, if we were stupid enough to travel all the way from Massachusetts to go to this bakery, other people might be too. It was just before 11 a.m. when we arrived, and the line already spread across the entire block and around the corner. Absolutely no way I was waiting in the sun, in dirty Jersey, to go to some bakery. Fortunately, Katy and Jen agreed, but only because they wanted to catch the 11:15 a.m. train. Whatever, it worked in my favor.
After paying $20 to park for the day in some sketchy lot, we boarded the ‘PATH,’ one of the many subways into NYC. Our stop was the very last one- 33rd street- but the ride only lasted about twenty minutes. It really wasn’t bad at all, but I was glad to escape into the fresh air when we finally arrived at our destination. Except, I quickly found out, there is no fresh air in NYC. There’s lots of noise and people and cars and buildings and billboards and tourists and everything else you could possibly imagine, but no air. Everywhere I looked there was color and brightness. Everything was larger than life. It was unreal.
We were joined by Katy’s friend from school, Lani, and then started our day in the city by attempting to shop. First at Herald Square and later Times Square, classic stores sat on nearly every corner: GAP, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, H&M, etc. Except, here, every single one was twenty times bigger and brighter and grander than any store needs to be. How is one supposed to find anything on three floors of H&M when every floor is as big as the entire mall back home?! (also an exaggeration, but still). Everywhere, each store proclaimed to be the biggest and best of its kind: the M&M store (yes the CANDY) was two floors- WHY do you need two floors for a single candy? There was a ferris wheel INSIDE Toys R Us! Actually, in defense of Toys R Us though, it was by far THE highlight of my trip- there was giant TRex and the worlds largest Nerf gun display! Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like waiting in the world’s longest line to buy anything, but I did get to meet and hug Spiderman, my idol, so the venture wasn’t completely for naught.
Anyways, a few hours of shopping/attempting to navigate around the (dirty, airless) streets of the city quickly wore us out. Thank God there is a Starbucks every ten feet in the city- that’s one thing I will say I actually liked about NY, that and the fact that I found Jamba Juice for the first time since leaving campus last month. We grabbed some drinks to go and headed over to Central Park, which we never would have been able to find without Lani’s expertise as a native. With its rolling green grass fields and welcoming shady trees, Central Park was a tremendous relief from the trials of the city streets. For the first time all day, I felt a little relaxed; although, there were still people EVERYWHERE. As far as parks go, it certainly wasn’t the most beautiful or the most tranquil, but as far as NYC goes, it certainly was a true escape. We basked in the hot sun for about fifteen minutes- me: catching up with my crackberry, everyone else: planning our departure.
Next thing I knew, we were back on the busy streets, rushing by street vendors, newsstands, artists, and (my favorite) penny cabs. Then we were boarding the subway (55th street, 42nd street, 34th street, that’s us!), and then we were sprinting down the block to catch the 4:15 train (it was 4:11). Note: no NYC trip is complete without a we-have-to-catch-this-train! sprint. Just saying.
Panting, as the doors closed behind us, we began the looooooooooong trip home. PATH to Hoboken, Hoboken to I-95N, stop and go traffic, dirty NY air, and four hours later, the MASSACHUSETTS WELCOMES YOU! sign on I-95N maintained its reputation as the greatest symbol of hope and joy in my entire life. Returning home was very much a celebration.
Now, I know I probably sound extremely ignorant, or at least, closed-minded throughout this piece, so let me just explain myself. My trip to NYC was definitely an experience unlike any I had ever had before; I saw so many new things in such a short amount of time. It was, as I mentioned before, overwhelming. For a person like me who thrives running down the beach or biking in the mountains, the crowdedness of the city was stifling; I felt trapped. Yet, that’s not to say I did not have fun during the trip, nor do I regret making the venture. With its reputation as the illustration of American culture, I really do believe that NYC is a must-make voyage for every US citizen. But the city just isn’t for me, I guess. Unless of course, it’s Boston, with its history, small size, and beautiful fresh ocean breeze- the greatest city on Earth =) After yesterday, let’s just say that I am THAT much prouder of my city. GO SOX!