Saturday, October 03, 2015

First day in the Big Apple

Lower Manhattan skyline
New Yorkers call Staten Island (population ~470,000) the "Forgotten Borough." After all, Staten Island has only a third of the 1.4 million people that live in the next smallest borough, the Bronx, and only one-fifth of Brooklyn's 2.5 million.

It is both humbling and intimidating to this Oregon-born, Portland resident, but the fact is that were we to transplant my beloved Rose City to New York, all of Portland --the Rose Quarter, downtown, inner Southeast, NoPo, Saint John's, Southwest, all of it--would comprise only an undersized borough in this great city.

New York: the greatest city in the United States, the financial hub of this country and the cultural hub of the entire western world.

Maty and I arrived at Newark International on Thursday evening and caught a taxi to Staten Island, where we're staying in a basement apartment right off the bus line that takes us to the Staten Island ferry and thence to Manhattan.

Heading to Manhattan
On Friday morning, we set out to see what we might see. The weather was god-awful: slashing rain and gusting winds. Nonetheless, we soldiered out into it and made it to the ferry. New York's public transportation system is a marvel. Buses run every 15 to 20 minutes and the Staten Island Ferry runs every hour, 24 hours a day.

We'd no sooner stepped off the ferry onto Manhattan Island than we were approached by a fellow who pitched us tickets for a tour of New York harbor. Thirty bucks each would get us on a tour boat that would take us around the harbor with good photo opportunities for Ellis Island, the financial district, and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. We accepted and set off on foot for Pier 15. The half-mile walk to the pier was an adventure in itself, with the howling wind and driving rain. Our umbrella availed us little. Our shoes were soaked. But we made it.

Exuberant Maty and the Lady of the Harbor
The boat tour, alas, was a bit of a disappointment. It lasted less than an hour and the weather was so miserable that we spent most of the time huddled in the enclosed deck, peering through fogged-up windows. But we did get some good photos of Liberty, so it wasn't a complete shut-out.

Once we got back on shore, we found the Wall Street subway station and went on down with no fixed destination in mind. It was warm and dry in the subway --a welcome respite. A river of humanity bustled in the labyrinthine passageways below the street. I was struck by all the faces, all the languages, all the purposes.

We decided to go to Times Square to see what we might see.

Times Square panorama

Steel and glass canyons. Bewildering displays on huge screens. A cacophony of blaring horns. Sidewalks filled to capacity and beyond. We wandered around, aimless, amid it all. I was surprised at the friendliness and patience of the people we encountered. At several points in our meanderings I worked up the gumption to ask for directions and invariably the persons I asked were helpful and friendly. One fellow, sharply dressed and groomed with an air of importance and professionalism, saw us huddling under our shared umbrella, and without a word, gave us an extra that he was carrying.
Times Square
The impressions were coming fast and furious and I quickly fell under the spell. We wandered around for a while and then, wet and tired but exhilarated, we made our way back by subway to the Staten Island ferry.

Short step shuffle onto the Staten Island Ferry
Our first day in New York was complete. As I write this, Maty is coming awake and we're getting ready to set out again. Let's see what the day will bring.

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