Sunday, September 28, 2008

New York Moments: Part Three

Two weeks after our first visit, we stopped again in New York, to rest, visit and take in another show. This time, I was not going to be intimidated. The super shuttle had clear directions and we were not getting off at the wrong place. Except, this time we were at a different place.

Two passengers in the bus began an animated conversation that drowned everybody else. The older woman would stop just long enough to question the driver on his choices of streets. He calmly explained how he had to navigate and drop each of us off but certain circuitous moves were necessary because many streets were blocked.

And it didn't take us long to figure out that with the United Nations holding conferences that week, and numerous diplomats zipping with their entourages brought the city to a halt, we were in for numerous delays. Two and a half hours later we were deposited on 42nd Street at the Hilton Times Square. Good thing that the driver actually knew the place was a hotel. It had no apparent sign that I could see. It is built above a multiplex theater, from the 23rd story up. A kind doorman guided us through to the right elevator.

Later,we left the hotel to find food and were smack in Times Square with its walls of illuminated billboards blaring above us. Feeling like Alice in Wonderland, lost in Television Space, we stared at the billboards, catching the bits of news, rotating bits of English reminding us that we were in a bubble world where fantasy and artifice mix and thrive. People all around us seemed happy to be pushed along, part of the throb and the blood of the city.

We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe having our picture taken in that hallow place as first timers to Disneyland. The evening ended at "Mamma Mia" where we joined the packed theater singing along to ABBA's music. New York is both "cheesy" and "pushy".

You can't observe and digest what you see. You are force fed, stuffed like a sausage and swept in the city's fast pace.

The next morning, we took a taxi to Central Park and visited the Metropolitan Museum, a true restful, thoughtful pace for weary feet and jambled nerves. Then , we visited the Park appreciating the trees and the water and the calming atmosphere of children and nannies enjoying a perfect day. We were tempted to row a boat at the boathouse, rent a bike, take a carriage ride. But we walked slowly, sat down often, admired the many seating places, the clean paths, the manicured lawns, the constant presence of a helpful police force constantly assisting tourists make sense of the city.

Walking miles and miles toward Times Square, we could spot the entourage of diplomats going to lunch, cars, police, streets suddenly unavailable to other motorists, dozens of security on the street. New York is always ready, I thought. Ready for the pace to get quicker and tougher.

We left the hotel at three, got to the airport at seven, with minutes to get through baggage check and ticketing. The trip this time was aggravated by closed streets, an accident that our driver did not cause but was involved in, lively discussions with the police who took the report and gave him a ticket, a frustrated driver who kept making one mistake after another, trying to save time. After all that, the plane was delayed for another two hours due to changing weather patterns and rerouting.

By the time the winds and floods hit the East Coast, we were safe back in Portland.

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