A New York Kinda Day

Today was the day I felt a bit like a New Yorker. Living in a city filled with tourists, there is a clear distinction between those who live here and people who visit. For most of our first year, I felt more like a visitor than a dweller: more things in day were new to me than were familiar. So much so, some of my first year’s memories are captured on the days I felt could navigate and blend in to this crazy magnificent city.

It is the everyday, most mundane tasks that help me feel like I’m starting to have a better sense of the flow of the city. Not being a lifer, and coming from another country at that, means I am more in-tune with the subtle shift as I’m upgrading to residence status, yet my newness lets me see the humor and uniqueness in these distinct NYC  moments.

Today, my particular sense of accomplishment comes from a lineup of very simple events. Navigating NYC is its own very particular type of exercise, so much so that I usually feel that I’ve done well to accomplish one task at a time. In practical terms, this means I can go from point A to point B and back, but adding an unexpected point C or even a point D is unlikely, if not impossible. In other words, it has taken me a long time to connect the dots and amalgamate the different bits and pieces of the city.

I connected the dots today. The day began with me needing to go to the Social Security Office  to apply for my card, a place I’d been before and one I knew I could get to by taking the 2nd Avenue bus. The bus didn’t come for a very long time. The comic relief was provided by a disgusted older man who would flip the bird at the Express buses as they drove right by (three times)  and from another guy who was weirdly smiling at everyone (my NYC friends laugh at me when I smile at people too much). When I finally got to where I was supposed to go (and the exact place I had been about a month ago), the office had changed location to Fulton Street, almost as far downtown as possible.

So, I gave up temporarily, took another bus to Kevin’s school and then walked the last two blocks to a meeting there. After the meeting, I walked to Union Square with a friend, got on the train to go to Fulton Street. Got off the train in search of Williams Street and the Social Security Office only to be greeted by the craziness of the Financial District with police and construction everywhere and the chanting of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I went to the Office, got my card, took the train home, walked to meet Scott at school, jumped in our car, picked up a team-mate, this time without driving in circles for 20 minutes in an attempt to drive in the right direction down the one-way street.

In between, the most stunning moment of the day came as I was headed down Fulton Street in full view of the new World Trade Centre. From this perspective, its magnitude and sheer presence was almost overwhelming. I could see how it towers over the financial district and the 9-11 memorial in the most protective, “I’m here” way. Not yet completed, it is already stunning.

All that “knowing how to get where I needed to go” later, I can’t say I’ll be walking down the street eating a slice anytime soon and I’m probably still going to wave thank you after I cut someone off in traffic (a Canadian thing). I still have many moments when I shake my head and realize that I actually live it New York City and I’m beginning to get what that means. By the way, one of the most puffed-out moments of the day came as I wrote most of this blog post on the train. home. Ohhh yaaeh! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

More than a Walk in the Park!

I walked more miles (kilometers), covering more ground in Central Park in the last 10 days than the entire last year. I’d say easily, but my tired legs at the end of the day told me that my walk-til-you drop NY leg muscles were not what they were before I went on summer holidays.

Central Park is one of my favorite places in all of New York City. You can feel its elegance and playfulness as the sun rises first thing in the morning, shines brightly in the middle of the day, and glows magnificently with city lights as dusk turns to darkness.

No two visits feel the same.

Last week, Kevin and I met his friends at the boathouse. Anywhere near the boathouse, you can’t help but watch the people rowing the boats in the pond, somehow the ones who seem not to have ever rowed a boat before based on their attempts to coordinate the oars. On the way to a must stop a the carousel, we came across the bubble man. With some sticks, string and a bottle of dish soap, the bubble man quietly entertains those who care to linger with bubbles of all shapes and sizes, colors and hues.

Off to the carousel to experience that iconic twirl on the merry-go-round, as the kids scheme to pick the perfect painted horse, wait for that special music to begin and hope that this up and down around and around is the longest one of the day. Our ride always seems longer than the last one, part of the magic I think of being the lucky ones to ride with Kevin and his friends.

Our path takes us to an obligatory stop at one of many playgrounds in the park, where we were welcomed with the loudest buzz of children swinging and sliding and not wanting to leave. We stopped at the big swings, which led to a long swing for Kevin and his friends and even a quick swing for the moms, symbolic of our own youthful park days.

No Central Park kid’s tour is complete without a nod to the zoo. A quick visit to the Children’s zoo (where the nice bathrooms are) confirms that cow, goats, and ducks are all well. Stopping to see whether Martie and his Madagascar crew are back will wait for another day, as will the need of my children to repeat the movie’s most famous line (at least at our house), “if you’ve got poop, fling it now!”

My adult-only days in the park that followed the next week were completely different adventures. They merit their own tribute another day. For now, I smile as I think of some of my own memories of the days as a kid in the park and at having created some new ones at the grand-daddy park of them all — Central Park. It’s a Sharmed Life!

Out the Back Door

The odd red maple tree branch peeking out of the trees at the cottage tells me that summer is almost over. Today is the last day. Despite a last summer project that involved painting the Canadian flag on the floating dock, there is no denying the fact that today is clean-up day. Our summer this year has been full of cottage time, New York parks and adventures, visitors and family, and making the most of having Sarah and Matt with us for three months that came and went so quickly.

At the cottage, one of the constant sounds is the endless slap, slap, SLAP of the screen door as each of us go in and out at least 50 times a day. When we lived in Manor Park, the in-and-out pattern was no different. Now that we live in an apartment in New York, I realize popping out the back door is a way of life for us and probably for most Canadians.
Besides summer’s end, this post marks the end of our first year living in New York City. If I was to think back on some of my observations about it, I would comment that certain ways of life for New Yorkers hit me out of the blue. As I try to take in this unique way of living, there are certain “I get in now” moments.

Working at home for the past year, I often get up from my desk to stretch and look out one of the windows of our apartment. What I usually see on our block is doormen hailing cabs, and people walking their dogs, taking kids to the park, carrying takeout to eat lunch at the park, with chairs, towels and books. It all looks completely effortless, so much so that I finally realized that the ease of this activity comes with it being a way of life. For New Yorkers, going to the park is our equivalent of popping out the back door. Because most New Yorkers, including us, live in apartments, all the beautiful parks around the city become everyone’s back yard. These parks are enjoyed by millions in a way I wouldn’t have understood before living there.

With Sarah and Matt, Kevin and Scott, we spent our fair share of time in the park this summer. Nobody logs more hours in our “own” backyard, Carl Schurz park, as Kevin. Besides loving to see the tug boats, the kids and dogs playing, this summer he enjoyed arts and crafts and music programs. While we missed the outdoor movie (one of my defining New York scenes from a movie), I liked hearing the big band and our friends commented on the hearing the jazz ensemble as they headed out one day.

Our Central Park memories include walking through the park and around the reservoir, talking a break on the Great Lawn while watching a random baseball game and Sarah and Matt in running races. Around us sat a group of teens hanging out and what seemed like thousands of people throwing balls and frisbees and having picnics. A blast from the past one day included a stop at an ad-hoc roller derby rink on a very hot day, where some of the moves were impressive and others were just part of the fun.

Another nice memory came on the day we all walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and then relaxed in the park on the other side. After the mandatory lounge on the soft green grass under the bridge, Kevin and Scott had a ride on the carousel and we all loved the ferry back to Manhattan.

As we trek back to NYC tomorrow after we drop Sarah off in Kingston, the happy summer 2012 memories  and photos will have to last us until next time. It’s a Sharmed life…!