We’ve been living near Manhattan for a little over three years now. Not in it, but close enough to visit often and we’ve done that many times. When we first arrived, we’d go in nearly every weekend. We were enamored by this gritty lady, Manhattan.
Manhattan is a dichotomy, a contradiction. Stars are born here. The best and the brightest of the arts and sciences (and everything in between) hail from and/or settle here. That old saying, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” I agree because you really have to prove your mettle here and you’re just one of millions trying to do the same.
It’s the crux of the financial industry, maybe the world. It also houses some of the poorest population and you see those two things — the jarring juxtaposition of that in nearly every neighborhood. They (the indigent) don’t live in those tony neighborhoods or zillion-dollar condos, but you see them there along the same streets as the uber wealthy. Peddling their wares or hunched over begging for money. Playing their instruments. Most go unnoticed.
And yes, this happens and exists in every city. But Manhattan is huge. Delightful and disconcerting. I know there are those of you who grew up here so I certainly don’t claim to know everything there is about this incredible city. This perspective is from someone who grew up in a place so polar opposite of this, it’s overwhelming at times.
Penn Station Into the City
I’ve written about Penn Station before and those of you who use it as much as I do know that it’s not the prettiest place. It smells. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There’s not enough seating or bathrooms for the hundreds of people that commute in and out of it. That’s probably why, at some point, you smell urine (or worse). It’s dirty and crowded. That’s maddening.
But at any given time, you’ll see musicians singing their hearts out. Some great and some not so great. People from everywhere all over the world, waiting on their train, to take them somewhere, stop and listen. That’s marvelous and you don’t see that in other train stations in the country.
This Past Weekend — Restaurants, Bars and Such
Hubby and I went into the city this past weekend. I had a writers’ group meeting and he took a day off so we could explore after our group finished up. We met at a diner near the station. There’s thousands of diners and this one’s okay. They have a particular problem with separate checks — not sure why — but the wait staff just does not like to do it. They act as if they’re doing you a favor to serve you watered-down coffee and dry muffins.
We encountered the same service with a restaurant on Grande Street later. It wasn’t busy but the wait staff ignored us for over ten minutes. Plus they only take cash. Can someone please explain to me why a city like New York has so places that doesn’t take credit cards? We left and walked to find another restaurant — not because of the cash thing, but the ignoring, rude thing. Maddening.
Then, you’ll run into a seasoned New Yorker who goes out of their way to give you directions, advise you of the best place to do this or that. Marvelous.
Trattoria on Bleeker Street in the West Village is a great place to eat. We’ve been there several times and love it. We’ve dined at Cafe Boulud on the Upper East Side and Del Posto near the Meatpacking District. Both are phenomenal and they serve you several courses of delicious elf food, but Trattoria is like those little, homey Italian eateries you see in the movies — intimate, delicious and filled with character.
We visited the White Horse Tavern near Greenwich Village and had a glass of wine (which we promptly sweated out once we left). It’s the place where Dylan Thomas had his last drinks before falling ill and dying. Jack Kerouac and several other famous artists/actors/musicians hung out here. It’s touristy now, but still worth a visit. Marvelous.
We’ve walked the High Line, a park in Chelsea that was the idea of some Chelsea residents in the mid-1980s, three times now. This was once an elevated freight train structure and it was slotted to be destroyed. Instead these forward-thinking Manhattanites decided to turn it into an elevated park. There’s towering multi-million dollar condos and graffiti-ridden buildings surrounding it. There’s festivals and live music there and from time to time, you’ll see photo shoots going on.
What’s maddening about it is every time we’ve been, it’s crowded and there’s really no trees that shield you from the sun on those grimy, humid summer days. The walkways that meander throughout sometimes narrow down to the point where it’s impossible to walk past those in front of you. And those in front of you at times, walk three or four people abreast and STOP to gaze up at the buildings. Maddening.
Pics of the High Line:
Central Park and Bryant Park are great. I prefer expansive, green spaces with trees. There’s always people out running, walking, biking and sun-bathing. You can bring a quilt and relax and people watch — one of my favorite things. Marvelous!
Something for Everyone
Despite all the “maddening” aspects of the city, it’s still quite marvelous in the way each neighborhood is distinct. Each one has a personality. I love the Village and the Upper West Side. The Upper East Side looks like quaint European villages. Soho is eclectic and cool with some sweet shopping. Hell’s Kitchen (realtors have tried to rename it, Clinton) but most people still call it Hell’s Kitchen is near the Theater District. We haven’t explored all of them, but we’re working on it.
Wherever you walk, you may stumble upon some camera crews filming an episode of some movie or television program or emaciated models posing for a magazine spread. They’re very, very tall and thin. Where do these people come from?
You’ll see shopping that’s ridiculously expensive and a few blocks down (or over) you’ll see a vendor with a table-full of tchotchkes that I’ve not seen since the 1980s. Where do they get this stuff and who buys it?
I’ve learned an important lesson about the city. Wear comfortable shoes. I see fashion-conscious ladies striding around and many of them don’t appear to be in the best of moods. It’s their shoes, I know that’s it.
Here’s a recommendation: When you do decide to go in, go in the fall, spring or early winter. Trust me, it’s not so marvelous in the summer, but you’ll lose about five pounds or so of water weight walking around, so there’s that.
(And yeah, I know this post is wayyyyy too long, kind of maddening, huh?)