While I enjoyed spending time in New York City, I didn't fall in love with it the way I did with Paris. Part of that might be that I didn't get to see a whole lot of the city. Didn't make it to Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake, didn't see the Statue of Liberty, didn't get to see Spider-Man web-slinging his way through the streets. Part of it, too, might be the fact that I speak the language there, and that always takes away a bit of the charm . . . When I was in Paris, if someone had said, "Hey, you're not allowed back to Michigan, you're going to have to stay here," I would've smiled, ordered a celebratory crème brulee and then made arrangements to have my cat mailed to me. While I liked visiting New York, I wasn't quite ready to move there.
Some people fall head-over-heels for NYC. And while I can see why they would, it just didn't happen to me. If I had found one in a shop, I would have bought a t-shirt that said: "I Like But Am Not Sure I'm Ready To Commit To NY." Paris was love at first sight, NYC was someone I'd like to date for a while and see what develops.
That being said, there's no other place like NYC.
Times Square was awesome. I just love being in a place where people are actually fighting to get theatre tickets. And there are literally dozens of shows to choose from. I happened to see "The Drowsy Chaperone" on the night before Broadway virtually shut down because of the stage hand's strike. There's no way I can describe "The Drowsy Chaperone" without it sounding really lame (including the fact that Bob Saget was headlining) so I won't even try, except to say that I had a blast. And there was a song about a monkey-- which was worth the price of admission alone.
I love the restaurants in New York, too. There was a choice of vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of the hostel I was staying in. In Grand Rapids, I have to create my own burrito in order to have something on the menu that I can eat; in New York there were options . . . loads and loads of options. We went to a vegetarian pizza place called 'Cafe Viva' a couple of times. The food there was brilliant. As were the spinach and feta croissants from the little bagel shop across the street which was run by an adorably brusk group of people of indeterminate ethnic background.
While we didn't get to spend nearly enough time at either, we did manage to hit the MoMA (which I'm told stands for "Museum of something something") and the Natural History Museum.
The MoMA had a special exhibition of George Seurat sketches and paintings. And while they were really cool to see, it did mean that I had "Sunday in the Park with George" stuck in my head for the rest of the day. They also happen to have Andy Warhol's soup cans, Van Gogh's Starry Night and a whole shit load of other stuff you've seen on posters in college dorms and young hipster's apartments. There was one Jackson Pollock painting that I've seen reproduced a number of times, but until I was right up next to it, I had no idea that beneath the paint is a whole mess of thumb tacks, keys, cigarettes and other folderol. So cool. One of the highlights for me, though, has got to be the series of photos that Edward Muybridge took of a horse running. These photos (cool as they are in and of themselves) and the technological advances Muybridge had to make to take them, were a major step on the road to the creation of movies. What can I say? I'm a big dork.
Natural History Museum is one place where I definitely need to spend more time next time I'm in NYC. What a treasure trove that place is. I mean, narwhal skeletons hang from the ceiling. Freaking narwhals! And we didn't even get to check out the Hayden Planetarium which almost certainly would have made me squeal with delight.
The hostel we stayed in was nice. We were on the fifth floor with no elevator. The beds were uncomfortable, the room was balmy, there was an almost complete lack of functioning electrical outlets and the pillows were about as thick and fluffy as my stomach is tanned and muscled. Having never lived in a dorm or been in the military, I couldn't say how the experience of sharing a room with eleven other co-ed virtual strangers and only one bathroom compares, but I imagine there are more similarities than there are differences. And yet, it wasn't bad. Kind of neat, actually. Now, had I been staying there another few days or had the bed above mine been occupied (yeah extra pillow) my memories of it might not have been quite so pleasant, but I mostly had a good time in the hostel.
I feel like I've done 'city' now. Like going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, city-ing is one more thing I can check off my list of things to do before I die.
NYC is the paragon of city-ness and now that I've done it, every other city will just be a pale imitation. I love Chicago, but it doesn't have the same level of city-ness. It's a nice try-- still leagues ahead of Grand Rapids-- but it lacks that singular experience of "I'm in the city" that New York has to offer. I'm a little disappointed, actually, I feel like I peaked too early . . . I haven't done Vegas or L.A. or, I don't know, St. Louis or Seattle*. Not that I expect to be disappointed by those places now, I'm just saying that for whatever else they have to offer, they won't be able to compete in their level of city-ness.
New York has got 'city' covered. Try as they might, no one else is ever going to be able to compete.
*Cities outside North America don't really count-- their city-ness is entirely different. They aren't all aspiring to be New York City, they seem content to just be what they are.