I must admit. The more I am away from New York the more of a New Yorker I become. We are a special breed of survivalists; an innate yearning to be leaders and do things our way.
It’s true -whether alone or with people I cross in the middle of the street and I never wait for the light to turn red. I hail cabs (yeah, New Yorkers don’t really say taxis) in random spots and pretty much look like a lunatic jumping in front of them. When I see someone else who is brazen enough to step in front of me to hail the same cab I really go ballistic. This only inspires me to dart down the street just so I can take the cab before them. Sometimes this becomes a game – the battle of street corners.
In the winter time the smell of chestnuts and pretzels burn my nose, but I inhale as deeply as humanly possible especially on those blustery dark days when the aroma inspires me to continue battling cold wind gusts on street corners. It doesn’t matter that the chestnuts have burned my lips before they even reach my mouth – I savor the taste.
We eat falafels and gyros from street vendors and randomly sit on the closest building steps we can find. We know passersby will step around us and not on us.
We have the sixth sense of knowing when someone behind us is trying to gallop ahead of us as we feel their breath on our necks and so we move aside instinctively – just the way Moses parted the Red Sea.
We have a blueprint plan in our minds knowing exactly which train connects to the express stop at a particular station and can pretty much get anywhere within a short time. We’re entertained with quirky street performers and unique panhandlers and remember when we’ve seen the same ones before. We’re fascinated with parts of the subway system that have been abandoned for decades built a century ago. What ghosts lie beneath? This also reminds me to visit the location of where Marilyn Monroe’s skirt blows up – over the sidewalk grate in the Seven Year Itch.
We’re lazy -we have groceries ordered and delivered, wine selected and delivered, dry cleaning picked up and delivered -basically everything can be delivered. You see, we really don’t need to leave the house.
We go to the West Village or Little Italy in the Bronx to buy homemade buffalo mozzarella and fennel-flavored sausages from our favorite Italian butcher. Chelsea Markets is another favorite from produce to meats to fish – an endless supply and often the destination for Food Network chefs.
Practically every street has a Chinese nail salon so we just walk in and don’t need to make appointments. If the technician isn’t finished with our mani and pedi in forty-five minutes we become stressed. We’re just so used to efficiency. We know there are at least ten nail salons in a one mile radius – all with the same name – My Nail or Mai Nail.
We have all types of bizarre and unique hobbies and activities – we can take puppet making classes, sword and fencing, dumpster diving, attend a NY Philharmonic rehearsal, go mushroom hunting, look for bats in Central Park normally found in early evening, take an astronomy class, and believe it or not – go whale watching. I like attending auctions such as Christie’s where rare antiques and invaluable art are within reach for a few precious hours or days. Such exhilaration to see those paddles flying up!
New York houses some of the best museums in the world – everything from the Museum of Natural History to the Guggenheim, MOMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art. For those looking for more unusual museums there’s the Sony Wonder Technology Lab, Museum of the American Gangster, Museum of Sex, New York Food Museum, Troll Museum and so forth.
The best time to go to NY is all the time. Each season has a decidedly distinct yet delicious vibe. In the summer there are outdoor concert series and Shakespeare in the Park where you may catch my favorite New Yorker Al Pacino performing. Starting on Friday afternoons the streets are quiet which is really the most pleasant time to indulge in leisurely walks and secure reservations to highly coveted restaurants which normally require a three month waitlist. It’s also a great time to wander down to the South Street seaport and check out some after work happy hour places with great views. The best time to catch the Manhattan Solstice is end of May to early July – a heavenly view when the sun is directly in line with the cross streets.
I love early weekend mornings when the city is sleeping and you can be the first in line to grab a bag of H&H bagels with smears of cream cheese in every imaginable flavor. I enjoy roaming the streets of Soho and Tribeca ducking into delightful little galleries and pop up shops offering random things like crafted beer and luxury custom-made scarves and neckties.
Autumn is glorious with the changing of the leaves. Foliage is magnificent and it’s a delightful time to visit upstate New York or the Hamptons which at that time is no longer crowded. Autumn also signals the start of the opera season at the MET as well as the New York City Ballet. For sports enthusiasts we have the New York City Marathon – a time in which all of NY seems to gather and celebrate like an open air house party. Sidewalk cafes are brimming with people celebrating runner, life, and each other. Central Park is alive as always with street vendors and spectators.
What better way to usher in the holiday season than with the Thanksgiving day parade. Winter is really in effect with the annual polar bear plunge in Coney Island – quite a festive crowd gathers and a sense of unity is felt. Winter conjures up ice skating in my favorite park – Wollman Rink – though there are plenty of options from Rockefeller Center -home of the tree lighting ceremony for Christmas and Bryant Park – kind of the cool and hip kid that is a quiet trendy spot for young and old. Nothing like sipping cocoa and grabbing a bag of those smoked chestnuts. I’m still a kid because I can’t help but stand at the window displays of Lord and Taylor, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf, and Macys. I see magic in each vignette that only Santa Claus could be responsible for. Ornate decorations and colorful bejeweled designs set a tone and story filled with characters, dolls, and mannequins. Given the vast lines it’s always a treat to be there during the week or late evening when the crowds have somewhat dissipated. This is the same magic I find what I look at our city’s skyline as magnificent buildings such as the Empire State building, Chrysler Building and Times Square are illuminated.
Spring ushers in Tango in the Park held from the first Saturday in June until the beginning of September. I walk slowly down residential streets – East and West Sides – gazing at historic landmarks – brownstones and limestones. I visit the last standing sugar house window built in the 1700s and take a nostalgic look at colonial history with a visit to Trinity church (the oldest tombstone dates back to the late 1600s). I visit a roof house – the only one of its kind and let’s not forget about the last gaslight lamppost dating back to mid-19th century. I like finding tiny little parks such as ones with waterfalls and tiny nooks in Central Park – romantic and idyllic and great for marriage proposals or simple solitude. I’m off to explore my next great discovery – something not even locals would necessarily know about. I just love my New York.