New York City, NY – Friday 2nd September
Terminal A – Pick-Up A, LaGuardia Airport
TRIP TIME 00:35:57
FARE BREAKDOWN Trip fare 44.14
Driver – Moises
Ribbons of high cloud frame the view from my window as the plane banks before dropping into La Guardia airport. From here l can survey lower Manhattan, across Brooklyn and Queens, like a Lego city replete with bridges and boats speeding along the Hudson River. This is my second visit to New York City and I know that I will be this excited every time I visit.
New York City is much more than a collection of buildings on an island. It is a beast of mythical status, representing limitless opportunity and ultimate possibility. Some decry that the real city is dying, its grit and grime too polished by the tourist dollar. Skyrocketing rent is pricing the average Joe out of the city. Too many Starbucks, too many drinks in jars and kale chips. Hospitality workers have to live in Jersey even when they work in Manhattan. Locals aren’t dining with the throngs of tourists at The Olive Garden in Times Square.
What does it mean to be a local in a place like New York City? Does it mean being born there? If that’s the case, how many residents are local? The places that are meaningful to locals are going to be different to those that matter to tourists. But places change. Businesses close and new ones open. 1970s New York City is always going to be fundamentally different to the city of 2016. Even more so, the Lenape tribe would struggle to recognise their hilly island or Manahatta. Luckily, New York really is a state of mind. Thanks Billy Joel.
We meet our Uber driver, Moises, at pick up point A at La Guardia airport. Friday afternoon traffic into Manhattan is not as bad as I thought. I can’t even begin to imagine trying to get into Manhattan on the subway with luggage. Travelling is tiring as it is, I’m happy to spring for an air conditioned lift to our next Air BnB. Our host is an ex model for Mills and Boons book covers. She has offered to shout us a drink at the bar she’s recently opened around the corner from her apartment.
I figured we would drop our bags at the apartment then head out. That was easier said than done. With cleaning still underway, we had to wait downstairs at the Irish pub. Bags pushed to the wall, we take up a couple of the many empty spots. Friday afternoons clearly are not their peak time.
‘While we’re here . . .’ I say cocking my head towards the bar.
Examining the taps for an acceptable option, Steve finally settles on a Samuel Adams lager. Fake wood panelling on the walls, worn linoleum floor, I lean forward on the solid wood bar, hands raised to avoid the damp green bar mat. From here, I turn my head to the right away from the only two other patrons absorbed in their beers. Peering into a vacant kitchen, the fryer stands quiet. Minutes pass and I turn back to look at Steve who is deep in his phone.
He looks up, after a few moments realises the oddity of the situation and shrugs his shoulders. Up on my toes, I try to peer further into the back as though will have any effect on customer service. Finally, a woman with tight grey blonde curls saunters out from a side door under the stairs I hadn’t noticed until now. Her faded red knit top just meets her navy knee length skirt. It is not until she is behind the bar that she meets my eye.
‘Two Samuel Adams,’ I order.
Without a word, she slowly pours then pushes them towards me, dregs soaking into the bar mat. I hand over a 20 dollar note and deliver the beer to our table before returning for the change. In the two visits we make to this conveniently located bar, I never hear her speak.
An hour later with bags half unpacked, showered and refreshed we head out into late afternoon Manhattan. It’s warm and sunny with plenty of people on the street. Construction scaffolding abounds and we weave through it on our wandering uptown. With only nibbles on the plane so far today, we soon stop at the first restaurant that appeals.
New York City is my city. I do appreciate having an organised partner who makes spreadsheets for the entire trip and then broken down by city. Possible attractions cross-matched with their opening hours on the days we are in town is a very helpful modus operandi. It’s just not how I personally roll. I enjoy the happy accidents that happen on holiday. It’s probably just about the attitude people have when they’re on vacation, being open to possibilities. So while Steve has organised every other city, I said that I would look after NYC. And I have.
By looking after, I do mean I have done no pre-reading or scoping out of possible destinations. Neither Zagats, Tripadvisor, Forbes or any other website has been consulted for this trip. I have had informal conversations with people about this trip and possible destinations. I would like to visit Central Park as I feel that I’ve only touched the surface of such a grand place. I want to visit the newly formed Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) which is located in Brooklyn. We’ve also been recommended to visit the Museum of Sex. Sure, why not. Mostly, I just want to wander the streets and follow my inclinations.
‘How about here?’ I ask Steve as I pause at an Italian restaurant, pointing to the outdoor seating. Opposite is a church behind which the sun is disappearing. Small tables, tightly packed in against the front window, service is swift and perky. We order a range of salumi made in house, some asiago cheese, a bean salad and some vino. I’m in my happy place. We’ve left behind a Melbourne winter and here we are seating in the sun in New York City enjoying a delicious meal.