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New York, NY

I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.

Last week – because, well, it’s vacation season – I hit the road. Actually, the train tracks – an Amtrak train, from Niagara Falls, NY, all the way to the Big Apple.

That’s right. New York City. With my wife and daughter, the 3 of us headed to the biggest, busiest, wackiest city in our part of the world. My wife, a veteran of 4 trips, acted as tour guide. My daughter and myself were first timers; ‘tourist’ stamped on our foreheads. We spent 2 full days, and parts of 2 others, on an exploration.

Here, as random as my brain functions, are my thoughts on New York.

Traffic. Take a generous helping of cars, add a million or so cabs (all of which are painted exactly the same), throw in some delivery trucks, tour buses, emergency vehicles, and pedestrians, and mix. The result? The most amazing thing ever.

You would have to be insane to drive in New York. Yet many people do. If you do, you better know where you are going, because when the light changes, someone will blow their horn within one nanosecond if you stutter on the gas. Not that it matters, because some vehicle is stranded in the middle of the intersection, since yellow lights and green lights both mean ‘proceed’.  Walkers, most of whom are either looking up (tourist) or down (everyone else) cross pretty much whenever they like. I almost got smoked by a car backing up down a one way street; I looked left, like my momma taught me, but wasn’t anticipating anyone coming the wrong way. Thank God for a warning yell.

Shopping. In a city with millions of people, and millions of tourists, it should come as no surprise that there are millions of places to shop. Of these, the funkiest was Canal St., at the intersection of Chinatown and the Wild West. Apparently, every person on the street sells purses, which they must grow like mushrooms, in the dark below street level somewhere. Tell ‘em what you want, they disappear down some stairs, and, ‘Voila!’ a lovely purse, handsomely wrapped in a plain plastic bag. If purses aren’t your thing, there are sunglasses, perfumes, and assorted trinkets readily available to the discerning shopper. Over and over and over.

If you are one of the fortunate ones whose lottery numbers have come in, you can shop at upscale stores like Tiffany’s. If you haven’t won yet, no worries; it is your right, as a tourist, to wander into places like this. It is also the right of the clerks and security personnel to look down their noses at you, since you are, well, a tourist. Apparently, you have to be psychic to shop here, since there are no prices on anything (which would probably send most tourists screaming for the exits anyway).

Dining. From street meat to Wolfgang Puck, the city is gastronomical delight. On Ninth Ave. alone, there are literally hundreds of restaurants. Small in scale, perhaps a bit large in price, from pubs to Indian to Italian to, well, name it. And here, it helps to have friends who have visited, since they will have done the leg work necessary to find the gems.

Architecture. It’s hard to not look like a nerdy tourist, since the buildings and architecture are so cool. And tall. So, since I am a photographer, and I was surrounded by other nerdy tourists, I happily pointed my camera skyward and snapped away. There’s strength in numbers.

Housing. Even bigger than the Caramilk secret, is how anyone can afford to live in Manhattan. Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment? Try $3500 a month. A cruise through local listings shows nothing under $2000/month, with most units (which are about the size of an SUV) going for hundreds, or thousands, of dollars more. Who can afford this? Seriously?

Yet somehow, it all works. Every day a busy mass of humanity moves through their days, interacting on many levels. Each morning, the controlled chaos started well before we hit the streets, and continued long after we had retired to our hotel. In our short time, we barely scratched the surface.

It is unique.

It is New York.