The next day we got up early enough to explore. The summer in Chicago had been a rainy nightmare for all of June, and so I was thrilled to awaken to a beautiful, warm, and sunny Friday. It was actually a bit hot in the sun, but the towering skyscrapers seemed to provide perfect shade. My first impressions of NYC had been walking the seedy streets late the night before. At times it seemed like a dark and foreboding place. But now in the daytime it was a completely different world. The city was bustling with energy. It was flowing down every street. It was coming from every corner. It was everywhere. There were an extreme variety of people of every shape, size, age, color, and background. There was so much happening everywhere we looked.
Our conversations quickly began to turn towards the idea of us moving to New York City. And the more we walked around, the more I loved this idea. My brain kept imagining the endless possibilities! The types of people I would meet. The places I could see. The things that could happen. The stories I could tell when I was older about the time I lived in NYC. Today we were only tourists, but even then I could feel the potential with every step we took. As tourists, there was so much happening all around us. I couldn’t imagine how much more could happen if I lived here! Think of the stories!
We went to an organic restaurant called The Organic Grill. The food was amazing and it looked like art! Omnia got free sangria for checking in online. The restaurant had an awesome quaint vibe. I assumed high nerd status when I interrupted the table next to us about their Organic Chemistry conversations. Once food was in us, my energy levels began to rise, and I was ready for a day of exploring this amazing city.
Our goal for the day was to head further south and explore downtown Manhattan, so we made our way down to the financial district. This was an exciting place to be for sure. The energy was even higher here than by our hotel area. There was so much to see.
Together Omnia and I spent the sunny day wandering the streets of Manhattan for hours. We explored art stores and neighborhoods. We went through bars and clothing stores. I took endless pictures and watched with boundless curiousity the incredible variety of people that were constantly passing us by in a ceaseless stream. We saw the Statue of Liberty from afar but the boat was full. It was hard for me to comprehend that was the same statue I vividly remember seeing as a 3 year old. We walked by the Wall Street area. We stopped at the memorial for the twin towers. It was unsettling for me to realize that most of the kids who were there on guided tours and field trips weren’t even alive yet when 9/11 happened.
Hours went by. We had been exploring the city and walking all day in the heat. By the time early evening began creeping in, Omnia and I were both exhausted. But the adventures were still just beginning. When planning our vacation to New York, we had coordinated to meet our old friend TJ. He had lived by us in Chicago once upon a time, but had moved to the East Coast many years ago. Neither of us had seen him since he moved, and so we were both excited at the chance of a long overdue reunion here in NYC. TJ is a very excitable person in general, and I could tell he was even more excited than usual. He had been texting us throughout the day as his bus got closer, and so after spending the day exploring, Omnia and I made our way back to the hotel for his arrival. It was perfect because it gave us some time to rest and recharge ourselves before he showed up. After spending most of last night, and all of today, wandering around and exploring, we were both exhausted!
I must say, it was pretty exciting when TJ arrived. TJ has always been a bit over the top, and so I shouldn’t have been surprised when he turned the corner wearing a gopro on his head! Neither of us had seen him almost five years, and so when he turned the corner of the hotel hallway it was an exciting, loud, and hugtastic reunion. Omnia and I had been tired from walking the streets all day, but TJs high energy and excitement were contagious, and suddenly we were both ready for the second part of our day. He put his bags down in our room, and the first stop was to find a place to eat.
After some amazing pizza hit the spot, our night adventure began. Even though we hadn’t seen TJ in years, it was like no time had passed between us. Eager, energetic, and excited, the three of us began to walk the streets of NYC for hours. It was Friday night and the energy was higher than ever. There was a noticable difference between the streets yesterday and today We spent hours exploring the area around Times Square.
There were so many people everywhere, there was so much happening. Everywhere we went there were new people, new places, new stories. We walked up and down, back and forth. New York expanded before me into a city of infinite stories. Every person in front of me had an incredible elaborate story of their life and experiences in this city. All the thousands of stories were interconnected, fitting together like a complex but perfectly created puzzle. And only through seeing the combinations of the millions of stories of New York City could you begin to get a sense of what this city truly was.New York City amazed me with its multiplicity, with the tireless shining lights and glowing screens, with the energy that continuously pulsed through the endless grids of streets like a heartbeat. There were so many people, there were so many stories. How many stories were happening in this city tonight? How many different complex, intricately connected stories were all unwinding between the warren of skyscrapers in Manhattan tonight?
We turned a corner and suddenly were face to face with “McGee’s”, the How I met Your Mother bar from the night before. Omnia and I had told TJ about this place, and we eagerly started to walk in when a tall black guy in a suit approached us from far to the side. Something seemed strange about this guy as he asked us for our IDs. He asked us if we had ever been here before, as he stared at our IDs. Omnia and I said that we were here last night. Suddenly he made some weird explanation saying that we couldn’t go to the bar, but could only go in if we ate. He said he could tell we had been drinking, even though we hadn’t been drinking. Then he turned us away. We were halfway down the street before we realized that something strange had just happened. Who was that guy? He hadn’t been there the night before. Why couldn’t we drink at a bar. Did he even really work there? Why did he make up some bs reason to not let us in? Omnia and I were stunned, and TJ helped us focus on other things and move forward in the night instead of dwelling on the weirdness that was McGees. We found another bar, relaxed for a while, and had some great conversations that I will never forget in my life.We resumed our explorations of the busy street, and eventually decided that it was 2AM and we should go to Brooklyn. Excited and restless, we continued down the streets of Manhattan towards the subway. TJ was ecstatic at the prospect of riding the subway. He apparently had a huge obsession with the NYC Subway. Omnia and I never quite figured out this obsession. But we all got on train.
I remember it felt like 100 degrees under there. I remember seeing crowds of people even at 2 AM. And i was keenly observing each one of them. Every person was a story. Every person was a collection of stories. New York was no longer a physical place to me, it was so much more. It was a collection of millions of stories, all wound together and tightly interconnected.
We rode the subway for a while before realizing that it was getting late, and by the time we actually got to Brooklyn, nothing would be open. So we got out at a random stop and wandered lost through the streets of Manhattan looking for open bars. But our search was not successful. Why was it suddenly so difficult to find a single open bar on a Friday night in New York City? Where were we even going, what random subway stop had we gotten off at? We were growing increasingly frustrated, when somebody in a group behind us exclaimed “How the fuck did we end up in Chinatown!”
Yup. Chinatown. We were in Chinatown. The guy behind us had articulated it perfectly. How the fuck did we end up in Chinatown?
This was not nearly as awesome as Brooklyn was supposed to be. The streets seemed hectic and confusing. All we knew was that Brooklyn wasn’t going to happen, and there were no bars in Chinatown worth finding. So we abandoned the maze of city streets for the subterranean maze of underground subway lines. There are too many weird experiences that happened in 4AM subway ride to write about, but after what seemed like days, we made it out of there.
After getting lost in Chinatown, and then our endless subway journey, I was so happy to be back in the crowded busy area of Times Square. We got food from a corner stand, sat down, and regrouped our energy before realizing the sun was on its way up. The sky was beginning to change colors.
As we walked back to our hotel, I was trying to process my conflicting impressions of the city. Everything seemed filthy through the filter of 4AM. There was garbage stacked all over the streets and sidewalks. There were lots of people still awake, but they seemed like junkies and derranged people. People were sleeping and sitting everywhere, passed out on the street, in groups or alone, most looked strung out.
The daytime had shown NYC to be a bustling enterprise of potential and excitement. It seemed so inviting and exciting, such a fun place to live. I was now getting to view a different side of NYC. This was a city that could eat people alive and spit them out. This city was merciless. It didn’t care who you were, if you weren’t strong enough to handle it, you were doomed. It was dirty, it was chaotic, it was dangerous. We began to discuss whether we really still wanted to still live here.
We were exhausted. By the time we were back at the hotel, the sun was up and the sky was bright. I could barely walk, or think, but it had been an amazing night, full of adventures and experiences that I will never forget, with incredible friends. I laid down and began to really reflect on my impressions of the night.
New York City is amazing. It is not like any other place I have ever been. It never sleeps. It is always awake. Even at 3 in the morning there are crowds of people wandering and exploring. NYC is huge and impossible to know. We wandered around for hours, explored as much as we could, but I couldn’t shake the sense that we never even scratched the surface. There were always a billion things happening all around us.Once again I wondered about all the different stories that happen to all the different people. We had barely scratched the surface. We hadn’t even seen the tip of the iceberg. What if I lived there? What would it be like to explore more than the simple surface of the city? It was such an amazing place. There was a constant juxtaposition of opposite extremes wherever we went. The Endless energy and brilliant skyscrapers were contrasted simultaneously with depraved late night junkies and dirty garbage on the streets. The sense of boundless opportunity and adventure were impeded by an awareness of danger. There were extravagent rich businesses surrounded by bums sleeping in the street. The city could raise some people to incredible heights, and eat others just to spit them out. How many different stories happened just that night? How many amazing stories happen every night in NYC? How interconnected, how tightly and perfectly woven were these thousands and thousands of stories? How big was this place really? I realized that nobody could ever really know the city, the best anyone could do is experience a sliver of it, by creating their own story, one sentence in the infinite novel that is New York City.