How is it possible for someone with Ithaca bragging rights to avoid the Big City?
My only excuse is that I was focused on academics and the kids were little during my Cornell days.
Riding the train to Penn Station, my honey and I ventured from the New Jersey beach towns to the Big City. I found the ticket conductors crusty around the edges, perhaps hardened by years of scolding the passengers.
One of the conductors asked a young Asian traveler to explain the stickers pasted on her hard-shelled suitcase.
“Do you know who this is?” the conductor asked. “Do you know? That’s Betty Boop. Boop-boop-be-doo.”
We saw a New Jersey group—six in all—waving their arms and laughing about housing prices and sharing family stories. Turns out the arm-waving accompanied effortless mixing of English with Italian.
We also saw women wrapped in spandex leopard-print leggings, snapping chewing gum and applying their lipstick with manicured nails.
Two women slept on each other in the booth next to us, and we discovered one of their bare feet announced three words in cursive tattoo: Explore. Dream. Discover.
When we arrived at the station, we boarded the subway. I felt we had stepped into an episode of Seinfeld. The setting was familiar, like the underground in London or Washington DC or Paris or St. Louis.
A troupe of school kids in yellow button-down starched shirts with matching suspenders holding up black trousers climbed aboard with their teacher, who admonished them to say, “Excuse me,” and act respectfully in the car.
The kids were giddy and chatty; their ethnicity unknown blends of East Indian, African and North American.
My honey and I explored the neighborhoods of Morningside Heights near Columbia University and walked to the meat packing district through Chelsea to investigate High Line Park.
The park is actually a reclaimed elevated train track that’s reminiscent of the Chicago L trains (L is for elevated). Walk up the stairs from Gansevoort Street and a truly urban park unfolds, tastefully landscaped with cement and greenery.
The wide paths allow couples pushing strollers and white-haired denizens to greet one another. We saw a small wedding party—groom in dark suit and bride in a light strapless dress—having their photo taken.
We passed Sarah Sze’s outdoor sculpture, a haven for birds and other wildlife, where we found orange segments stuck within the spokes of the artwork.
We found our journey delightful, and, for me, long overdue.
[Photo courtesy http://www.demotix.com/news/high-line-park%5D