A trip to the City of Dreams
I took a five-day trip to New York City last weekend, just for the fun of it. It seemed bad timing to take an impromptu vacation, amidst the hurricane of final essays and studying for exams. Yet, even so, I packed my bags, turned in assignments early, and headed for the Big Apple.
When I brought up my trip to New York to friends and professors, many of them sparked the NYC vs. Chicago debate. One side claiming New York City was dirty, busy and the people were rude and the other saying the city was exciting and full of opportunities.
I had never been to New York. My father has a aviophobia, a fear of flying in airplanes, and as a child, we never made the time to drive 12 hours to visit. And over the years, I developed a general idea and fascination of the city from its vast presence in media. I drew up future goals for myself when I was a younger student and becoming a writer living in NYC was atop the list.
My boyfriend and I sat uncomfortably and waited for our flight to get called in the airport. The television played recycled hourly news reports. “Potential ISIS threat on New York City, officials believe,” the clean-cut news reporter stated, then stated again and again. I grew nervous, my father’s aviophobia coming forth, my first flight and trip without my parents’ care. I looked around at the other passengers waiting to board the plane to New York and none seemed bothered or to care about the potential threat. I followed suit. “Are you okay?” My boyfriend asked me. “Yeah. I’m okay. I’m excited,” I reassured him.
When we finally arrived safe and sound to LaGuardia Airport and headed to our AirBnB (rental unit) in Brooklyn, I developed an understanding of the importance of traveling, of getting away for a short period of time. My head was glued to the window of our Uber as we drove next the skyline, my eyes widened, the atmosphere of New York City was so foreign compared to Chicago, a place I have been so used to, and that enthralled me.
New York City made Chicago favor the small suburb I came from. The clusters of houses and apartments, the art, the neighborhoods that were so culturally dense and the gentrification that tried to halt it, the grand mixture of ethnicities, the sidewalks that inclined, the hoards and hoards of residents and tourists, visiting NYC felt like I was placed in the middle of an action movie. And I loved it.
That movie, so to say, began feeling never ending, especially during the first two days we toured Manhattan. The streets were overcrowded and designed for constant money spending. “How do people do this every day?” my boyfriend asked. It was overwhelming at times, specifically when we had to use the bathroom or stop to refer to Google Maps to figure out the MTA, their subway system. Manhattan was the atypical New York I was used to that had been referred to in television shows, movies and songs. I began to understand Woody Allen’s obsession with the city. Yes, it’s dirty and busy and filled with people, but it’s dynamic in a sense that there’s a story being told. That story, of course, you must write yourself.
Some of the cool places I visited in Manhattan:
Times Square and Central Park– Typical tourist stop. I have never been around that many people in my entire life. The screens, neon signs, and skyscrapers resemble a supreme technological advanced society of the future. I felt as if I was in Blade Runner. My boyfriend begged me not to make us go back.
SoHo/Nolita- The Gold Coast of NYC, filled with shops and cafes. We found a $2 pizza place over here, too, called Ben’s Pizzeria.
Canal Street/Chinatown- Blocks long flea markets, usually filled with fake purses and cologne and vendors trying them sell it to you. If you look hard enough, though, you could find a buried treasure for an inexpensive price!
After we spent more money than we should have on clothes and food, we decided to spend the last days continuing our New York story touring Brooklyn. The Brooklyn borough holds more residents than the entire city of Chicago. Unlike Manhattan, some areas Brooklyn felt like natural and native New York. It was easy to tell that some residents had been living in the same apartment for 30 years, that art is important and creates a sense of community, and that most food places hold cultural importance to certain neighborhoods. I fell in love and my vacation started feeling less like a vacation and more like a place I would like to live one day. I found myself stopping into local coffee shops every morning to write. This was place was truly inspiring.
Some of the cool things I did in Brooklyn:
East Side River Park: Best view of Manhattan, ever.
Brooklyn Bridge: Long yet fulfilling.
Momofuku Milk Bar: Located in Williamsburg and houses the greatest cereal ice cream and milkshakes I have ever tasted.
Williamsburg/Bushwick: Resembled Wicker Park and Logan Square in Chicago. The gentrification impact was apparent. The hipsters there were less annoying, though.
Beacon’s Closet/Monk’s Vintage: Awesome vintage apparel shops for affordable prices!
BedStuy: The neighborhood centralized in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.
BedStuy/Greenpointe: A sense of native New York living.
I realized that I may have been in over my head taking such a short trip to New York City. There must be a sequel. I didn’t get a chance to visit Harlem, or Queens, or certain neighborhoods of Manhattan like West Village, it’s simply too deep to do so in a short amount of time.
I concluded as we drove back to LaGuardia for a flight back to Chicago, that traveling, even when impromptu, reveals similarities and differences in comparison to one’s native city. Although I love Chicago, there are neighborhoods that are less diverse than others and those of New York City and the art community can be more interconnected as it is in NYC. Yet, Chicago is cleaner and more affordable and family friendly.
I suggest that when you have time and the financial means get out of the city you are used to.
There’s a reason they refer to New York City as the City of Dreams. Most people fly there to explore opportunities and become someone amidst the adventure, and residents dream of the place before the gentrification and the commercialism. Either way, what separates New York City from the rest is the story you create while experiencing the story being told. I figured I’d be back for more.