Twenty Hours in New York City
Only a few places in the world can make me feel the way New York City does. Every time I visit this exuberant and vivacious metropolitan city, I get an inexplicable feeling of belonging and familiarity. The streets, the buildings, the subways, the sounds, and even the city itself all hold vestiges of the naive but precocious girl I used to be.
My love affair with New York City began several years ago when I was in my early twenties. Thirsty for meaning and hungry for adventure, I dropped everything and went to Manhattan to escape the everyday monotony of the city I lived in. My father was in the United States Army so our family moved around often. Every three years we would pack up and start all over again, but when I was nine years old my father decided to pursue a different career path and our family settled in the west Texas city of El Paso. Being a Filipino American and growing up in a city completely devoid of diversity made me feel like I didn’t belong. The feeling of not fitting in combined with my adventurous spirit was what fueled me to go to the Big Apple. It was not the easiest thing to do, but something I felt I had to undertake. New York City was where I eventually found myself, and since then it has always been a special place to me.
On October 2010 my husband had a twenty hour layover in New York City so I decided to tag along. I woke up at five thirty in the morning, gathered all my belongings, and headed to the airport to catch the earliest flight to La Guardia. There are several Delta flights to New York from O’Hare so I didn’t have to fly to Minneapolis or Atlanta to connect. I know that a lot of people, mostly those unfamiliar with standby travel, often think that family of airline employees can just catch a flight on any airline but that’s not always the case. We have benefits on only the airline that the relative works for and any other airline affiliated with it such as the regionals.
Upon arrival at La Guardia Airport I had to wait for my husband’s flight since the aircraft he was piloting wasn’t due to land for another hour. I took a seat on one of the cushioned chairs at a nearby gate and started browsing online to see when and where his airplane would land. I found out that The Captain would be landing at a different terminal than the one I was in. The flight I took was operated by Delta Shuttle, a specialized service connecting New York to the metro areas of Chicago, Boston, and Washington DC. Unbeknownst to me, however, Delta Shuttle aircraft have their own gates at the Marine Air Terminal, which was segregated from the rest of the airport. The husband’s airplane was going to land at the Delta Terminal on the opposite end, and since I had no idea how to get there I decided to stay where I was. Once the Captain landed and found out my location he decided to take the hotel shuttle with his crew and pick me up at the area right across the parking lot.
Two and a half hours later we were walking the streets of the Upper East Side on our way to Central Park. The Upper East Side is an affluent neighborhood located east of Central Park and west of the East River in the borough of Manhattan. It is an upscale neighborhood often associated with high society. The Captain and I waved at doormen, admired the magnificent architecture, and hiding our cameras we facetiously pretended to be Upper East Siders. One doorman even opened the door for us so it must have worked! After a quick glance at the building’s regal interior it took some will power to resist the temptation of going inside. Instead we just smiled and went on our way.
Central Park is undeniably beautiful all year round. The seasons seem to further enhance it’s beauty – during winter it is transformed into an exquisite wonderland complete with crisp, sparkly, white snow; in the spring and summer the park, now a majestic green, comes alive with the fragrant scent of cherry trees, magnolias, and crabapples; and during the autumn months it’s foliage changes into vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow. Autumn has always been my favorite season and the Captain and I arrived in New York City at the perfect time. Between late October and early November is the peak times to see the leaves change color. We strolled through the park hand in hand, marveling at the splendid views and stopping briefly to take photographs. My husband and I passed by several sculptures (Alice in Wonderland, Hans Christian Andersen, Romeo and Juliet, King Jagiello, etc.), the Conservatory Water, The Obelisk, Harlem Meer, and Belvedere Castle. Since the park is so vast we took occasional breaks by sitting on benches that had inscriptions. Central Park has a program called Adopt-A-Bench where you can help sustain the park by donating money. At $25,000 USD you can get a bench with a personalized plaque. It was quite inspiring reading all of the various inscriptions on the plaques. There were some that honored loved ones, marriage proposals, etc. My very favorite was about a married couple who traveled the world together.
There are so many attractions in Central Park that it is impossible to see everything in one trip. The husband and I didn’t really make plans but we did want to go to Loeb Boathouse to rent a row boat, but by the time we got there it was already closed. Slightly disappointed we walked around a little bit more before heading to the subway station. We decided to go to the East Village, which happens to be my old neighborhood, for pizza. The East Village is located in lower Manhattan and is known for it’s art and music scene. Bohemians, punk rockers, and artists reside in this neighborhood.
As we stepped out of the subway station and headed up the stairs, the feeling of familiarity hit me. Looking around at my old neighborhood made me feel like I just stepped out of a time machine. Everything was still where it was and looked the same way it did years ago when I first arrived. Wandering the streets of the East Village in the present day holding my husband’s hand felt surreal. As we got closer to the old building where I used to live, I almost expected to see my old self step out the door and walk by us. Seeing the excitement on my face the Captain flashed a warm smile and let me lead the way.
On my very first night in New York City I had dinner at East Village Pizza, so naturally, this is where I took the Captain. We ordered pepperoni pizza and ice cold Coca Cola and sat by a table near the window. Throughout dinner I regaled him with stories from my past as a model in New York and showed him my old haunts when we finished. I can’t describe how wonderful it felt walking around with my beloved in a place that was once a big part of my life. After stopping for gelato, we hailed a taxi cab to take us back to the hotel.
Although our trip to New York City was brief, it was still a delightful and unforgettable experience. Even as I sit here reminiscing about our trip to New York the same feelings of familiarity flood me. A week later we returned to the City That Never Sleeps and checked out more sites such as The United Nations but I will save that story for another time.