There is nowhere in the world quite like New York. Period.
It's not just the insanely tall buildings or how every aspect of public life is larger-than-life. The money, the h, the city in geographical terms. No, those are periphery factors. It's that New York is a world in itself. And once within it's five boroughs, it ensures you understand that. Allow the world to fade away into oblivion, it whispers in your ear. And although the tone is gentle, you know it's an order. So you obey and allow the outside world to slip away. Because it's when you allow New York to flow through you, do you regain control.
Or something to that effect.
New York is wonderful, in every sense of the word. Stare down the aisle of a crowded subway car mid-afternoon and you're likely to see people of atleast six ethnicities. It's anyone's guess what the landscape of your surroundings will be when you step off the next subway station. I've been told that there are so many restaurants in the city that even if you were to eat out for all three meals in a day for an entire year, you wouldn't be able to cover all. And new ones are constantly opening.
Get the picture?
This time in New York, I got off at Penn Station at headed to Columbia. G was in class so I read The Wall Street Journal at the student center until she came and picked me up with a big smile and a warm hug. We headed to dinner with two more friends, uber nice people I hope I meet soon again.
Seated at a Chinese restaurant close to campus, we chatted over noodles in chicken. Mine were unlike anything I had eaten before. The noodles were dumpling-like. Good stuff. And then we shared coconut ice cream flambe. Baked goodness encasing a cool creamy inside.
On the way back I saw a Bombay frankie place. The wave of nostalgia rose and I was ordering the Masala Unda (yes, that is how New Yorkers like to spell it) before I had digested my dinner. But totally worth it. The even cook it the same way. An open stove on which they crack open an egg, flip a chapati (Indian flatbread) and generously sprinkle spices on the cooking egg. Wrap it up and we're good to go.
We passed by a pub called 'Pour House.' I thought that was hilarious and the name so apt because the beer there is only 1$. It's not uncommon to find inebriated undergrads there, soaking up the affordable elixir, I'm told.
I spent most of the next day on my own on the subway system. I got lost a couple of times, would have been doomed without google maps but eventually found my way to my destination. The Channel Thirteen Tower by Penn Station. The tower also houses the Associated Press office. My appointment was with Maria Hinojosa. Incidentally, I ended up bumping into her in the restroom before the interview. She was dressed in a white shirt and blue jeans, her clear skin comlimenting the outfit quite nicely. She just laughed at my suprise and said, "It's okay, everyone does it. I'll see you in my office." I spoke with her and also had a chance-meeting or 'chat' with David Brancaccio of PBS. I came out of the office with a big smile on my face.
I finally managed to find my way back to the Morningside campus, exhausted and hungry. So G took me to a lovely Italian restaurant closeby. Camille's is cool and somewhat dark inside, but not in a creepy way. I ordered the Lemon Chicken that was the most heavenly poultry preperation I've had in a while. The flavors came together to create a smooth, creamy dish of succulent meat and a side of salad. In the evening, G and one of the friends I had met the first time headed to The Living Room on the lower east side. I sipped on a large orange juice, complete with lemon wedge, and listened to some really great music. We ate pizza and headed home.
The next morning, G took me out to brunch at The Kitchenette. I had a turkey omelette and cheese grits (cornmeal). It was so fantastic and filling, that became my only meal for the day. I made a mad dash for Penn Station to catch my bus only to learn that it had been delayed by a half hour and my gut-wrenching cramps were in vain. It could have been worse though.
The Bolt Bus is an extremely convenient and affordable way to travel the north-east. There's plenty of legroom, it's really clean and the drivers are the nicest. Did I mention it also has free Wi-Fi on board for people married to their iPods/laptops and other passengers are curteous? I met a history of science graduate student at Harvard on my way to NYC and a prospective international relations graduate student at Tufts on the way back. Nothing like good conversation to keep restlessness at bay on a long drive.
New York is close enough to Boston, a four-hour road trip. It allows me to sample the city every few months while running back to the Bay State, where I feel a little safer. A little less vulnerable. But my appetite more piqued than before. Always craving more.
I've had my fill of The Big Apple for the moment. But I have a feeling that won't last long.