An Open Letter to Tourists Visiting NYC

First, welcome to our city!  We not only love showing off our city to outsiders, the money you spend while visiting is very important to our economy.  Many New Yorkers enjoy employment because of you.  Thank you!

Sadly, we often hate you just as much as we need you.  You actually make it impossible for us to enjoy areas of our own city.  There are many of you and you all clump up in the same places.  (This is a curse and a blessing, since we at least we know what to avoid.  I would like to visit Rockefeller Center again someday…or Times Square…or a museum even.)

Also sadly, many of you will return to your homes thinking New Yorkers are mean or rude or ___, because you had a less-than-stellar experience with one or more of us.  On the contrary, we are quite nice and helpful.  We just don’t tolerate some things very well, particularly your complete oblivion to the way we live.

This man was probably an awesome tourist who didn't do anything I mention in my letter.

Here are some helpful hints that could make your visit to New York City more pleasant for all of us.

1)  On sidewalks:  Please NEVER STOP IN THE MIDDLE.  Would you stand in the middle of a highway?  If the answer is no, then you have no business stopping and standing in the middle of a NYC sidewalk.  Remember:  the vast majority of us do not drive.  The sidewalk is what we use to get to work and run our errands.  When you stop, particularly if you are part of a group, you essentially bring our traffic to a halt and disrupt our day.  Likewise, if you are part of a group, don’t walk more than two abreast and please keep moving at a moderate pace.  Again, clumping up and meandering creates sidewalk traffic jams and ill will. (sidewalk = highway)

2)  In bike lanes:  If you are not on a bicycle, don’t be in a bike lane.  Again, we use our bicycles as vehicles.  Bike lanes are for pleasure riding, but they are also important to commuters to get to and from work and home.  If you are on a bicycle, please pay attention to what you are doing and do not try to take pictures from your bike.  Also, DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BIKE LANE.  (bike lane = highway)

3)  On the subway: You have about two seconds to enter or exit the train–please move quickly!   If you are standing, make sure your backpack or bags aren’t hitting anyone around you.  If you are sitting, try to take up as little space as possible and don’t spread out over two or more seats.  If you aren’t sure where you’re going or if the conductor makes an announcement and you don’t know what he’s talking about, please do ask.  People will help you.  We all know that the subway can be confusing, particularly after hours and on weekends.

4)  On the Brooklyn Bridge:  There are two lanes clearly marked, one for bicycles and one for pedestrians.  Please see number 2.  And please also see number 1.  The Brooklyn Bridge does not span the East River for you to marvel at; it spans the East River to allow New Yorkers to travel back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn.  (Please continue to ignore the Manhattan, Williamsburg, and other bridges.)

5)  On escalators: if you don’t plan to climb, keep to the right, single file.  Many of us do not want to waste time riding up or down.  We actually climb the escalator.  We are hindered when you take up the entire step.

6)  At Ground Zero:  Please stop taking your picture smiling in front of what’s left of the WTC.  It’s creepy and inappropriate.

7)  And finally, when you are busy looking up, remember that you are looking at our homes.  We live everywhere.  You are never not going to be in our neighborhood.  Please conduct yourself the way you would want us to conduct ourselves if we were standing in your front yard.

Thank you for reading my letter.  I hope you enjoy your next visit to New York City–or any other large city.  Happy travels!

NYC Trip–August 2008, Part 3

Thursday was Norma’s big day on the town! Well, more like couple of hours on the town… nevertheless, Mike and I left Tom’s about 10:00. I was headed to Manhattan; he was headed to Queens and parts beyond. I was going to “Broadway in Bryant Park”; he was going to a job interview.

Anywho, we found ourselves riding the D train ride with NERVOUS GUY. This guy was pretty young, dark-skinned, bald with a goatee. He was also wearing very dirty clothes—very dirty clothes! But he was obviously quite interested in his appearance. Sometimes you get a subway car that has shiny walls at each end. We were in one of those and the guy couldn’t stop looking at the wall, rubbing his head, straightening his collar, pulling up his pants, etc. He also made some strange hand gestures and talked to himself a bit. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I got the distinct impression that he was going to a job interview and was afraid he wouldn’t get the job. I kind of think he probably didn’t get it, but who knows? After a few stops he went to the other end of the car and did the same thing down there. Good luck to him.

I had decided that the shoes I brought on the trip were too small and trust me, you cannot walk around New York in shoes that are too small. (Unless you have a high tolerance for pain and don’t care whether you lose your toenails.) After Mike switched trains, I was contemplating said shoes and I decided I needed new ones. There are lots of Payless stores, but I couldn’t think where one was, so I decided to hit up the K-Mart in Astor Place. It was a bust. If you typically shop at a K-Mart, let me encourage you to take a trip to your nearest Target or Wal-Mart before you buy their crappy shoes. You’ll get a better selection and much better quality!!!

I went ahead and had breakfast at one of the 5,000 Starbucks franchises in Astor Place, then I got a wild hair and decided to walk over to Washington Square Park to watch some chess. There were guys with their boards set up, but no one was playing, so pfft.

I got back on the train to head to Bryant Park and found myself in a car with about 30 kids from the Flatbush YMCA. I’m guessing they ranged in age from 5-10 and they were attended by two very harried 20-somethings. The guy was trying to keep the boys seated; the woman was trying to keep a little girl from eating her lunch. God bless them. I did feel sorry for them, but I was also amused. I have no idea where they were going, but one little girl was talking about Times Square. You couldn’t pay me enough to take five kids to Times Square, much less 30.

So I finally got off at 42nd Street and made my way to Bryant Park. (Me and 10,000 other people.)

Bryant Park is a small park at the back of the New York Public Library—the branch with the big lions out front. It’s really pretty and it has a lot of rules about when you can go there and what you can do. It does have a big lawn, so they have events all the time—like movie nights and performances. It’s where Good Morning America does their summer concert series. (In fact, there were little girls lined up around the perimeter when I got there, waiting for the Jonas Brothers Concert the next morning. I had to look up the Jonas Brothers to see who they were. Ha ha)

It was kind of hot and I got there a little bit early, so I walked around a bit and then found a place over on the side in the shade. There were performers from five shows that day: Spring Awakening, Gypsy, Xanadu, Mary Poppins and Wicked. I’m wasn’t familiar with Spring Awakening, and I’m still not, but I was really excited because I’m familiar with the songs from the rest. All of the performers were awesome, except I was really disappointed in the selections from Gypsy. They only did two songs, while everyone else did three. They did “If Momma Was Married” and a song with the farmboys (yawn) and that was it. Where’s MAMA ROSE? If Patti Lupone didn’t want to show up, they could have at least sent her understudy. You can’t have selections from Gypsy and not have “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” or “Rose’s Turn!” At least give us the freakin’ strippers!!!

Okay, I’m done ranting now.

After that was over, I darted into the library to go to the bathroom and headed off to kill a little time and look for a Payless. The library is kind of a pain, because they check your bags when you go in and when you come out and it’s not like any library you’re thinking of, I promise you. If you want a book, you’ll not find one easily at this branch. Still, when you gotta go, you gotta go…and it’s a cool building. I walked a big circle and found a Payless on right by Grand Central Station. (I also found Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse. I didn’t even know he had one.) I traded in my too small shoes for just right ones and I was good to go. As I left the store, there came half a dozen or so NYPD cars, running lights and sirens. Wonder where they were going?

NYC Trip–August 2008, Part 2

While perusing apartments on Craig’s List, I came across a listing from Rapid Realty. It looked intriguing to me because it appeared the agents help renters find housing. I went to their website and poked around and decided we should at least go by their office and talk to someone. The agents there deal solely with rentals in Brooklyn, so they know all about the area and they have relationships with all kinds of landlords. They had some suggested documentation that potential clients should have on hand, so I printed out a bunch of stuff before we left Amarillo. We arrived at the office, told the woman at the front desk who we were and what we wanted. She introduced us to Cal.

Cal is now our agent. He showed us three apartments that day, one of which we liked. We filled out a bunch of paperwork and handed over all the financial documents I brought for us and there you go. We left after being told we might have a meeting with the landlord the next day.

We felt like we had accomplished something, so we took a walk around our possible new neighborhood…up the hill to Green-Wood Cemetery, then over to Prospect Park.

The park was awesome because there were dozens of runners! I wanted to run, too. They have concrete paths and dirt trails running alongside–so cool! But alas, the neighborhood is hilly and we were tired and ready to relax. Where better to relax than Coney Island?!! (Someone will laugh when they read that, I’m positive.)

We took the train back to Coney Island, walked around, walked down to the water. They have the hugest, most ginormous seagulls ever at Coney Island! I swear, they are probably two feet tall and FAT. You can walk right up to them; I’m sure they’re sure you’re going to feed them. Blech. Gross birds. I can’t decide what’s grosser, though: seagulls or pigeons. When we got really really tired, we took the train back to Bensonhurst, grabbed some McD’s and went back to Tom’s.

We ate and watched him clean out the cabinet under his kitchen sink. As we prepare to move to NY, he’s preparing to move away. [sniff] Tom is an old old old friend of mine from college. He is very generous and very funny.

After that, bed. Just…bed.

NYC Trip–August 2008, Part 1

The trip began smoothly enough, albeit at 5:00 in the morning. When you tell Mike you want an early flight, I promise you will get an early flight!

Landing at JFK around noon, we hired a cab to take us to Bensonhurst, to Tom’s house–the friend we were staying with. The cab driver claimed not to know how to get to the address. This was the second cab I’ve ever taken in NYC and the other time the exact same thing happened. Seems to me you would know your way around if you were being paid to drive people to and fro. Sometimes optimism and logic get the better of me.

Mike got frustrated and finally had the cabbie let us off near Coney Island. That led to the taking of a wrong train and a delay in getting to Tom’s, but eventually we made it there–tired, hungry, cranky. I was more cranky when I found out that Mike’s description of Tom’s house (“just a couple of blocks from the train”) was actually about eight blocks from the train. Eight blocks is far enough, but when you’ve been up a long time with no food, it seems more like 20.

Anywho…we got our stuff dropped off and found food and felt better. Tom had suggested Lenny’s, which is right next to the 20th Ave. train station and was featured in a scene from Saturday Night Fever, but I was not in the mood for pizza so we went to an Asian restaurant across the street. Ah! We felt so much better after eating! In a much better frame of mind, we headed over to Rapid Realty.