Hao and me did a lot of walking today. Starting at 20th Street and walked uptown, all the way to 86th Street, making a lot of stops on the way, without ever getting in a line. Just my policy; Never ever get in a line for anything. Possibly except fast-food. Anyway, I came to the Empire State Building early enough that I didn't have to wait in line to get a ticket. Before going to the elevator, I visited the Guiness Museum of Records in the basement of ESB, which really was very bad, boring and without any interest to me. Oh well. Don't go there. Trust me, you don't want to.
I kinda suspect that you don't want to spend time to get to the top of Empire State Building either. It wasn't that special, and the giant ape really isn't that giant. Just slightly taller than me, actually. And it really annoys you in the elevator, doing everything to make you take a picture of it. And to avoid spending time in line waiting to get to the top, you have to be there so early in the morning that it will still be misty, so that you can't really see very far from the top. I would suggest going out of the city to some state forest or park and climb a mountain or at least a decent-sized hill. The view will be much better from there, and I guarantee you it will be way less crowded. On the other hand, if you really enjoy looking at enormous amounts of concrete and glass, while thinking of all the strange people that actually live in this city, you might want to do it. I, for one, liked standing at the base of the buildings and look up more than being on top and look down. Go figure.
Just a bit further north is the Rockefeller Center, with a puny substitute for a waterfall outside. I am really amazed at how much money is spent on things to impress people you don't really care for anyway in this city. And they were making NBC Today inside the building, just as I walked by. I really felt special. And so did the people with the banners I think, jumping up and down, hoping to be filmed or something.
Times Square and the seediness surrounding it is somehow interesting. They have movie theatres there that actually allow couples. For some reason. My observation was that most of the couples attending these movie theatres consisted of one older man and one young lady. For some reason.
From here it wasn't that far to Central Park, hence that was where I went. It is impressive how this huge, green lung has survived, certainly not without help from people but also being stressed by people, in the middle of this very dense urban jungle. The contents of it are not that impressive, it is a lot vegetation, but most of it is a monotonous mass of tired-looking trees. And the rest of it is mainly paved paths and roads, making this place a heaven for rollerbladers, skateboarders and people that enjoy looking at these rolling humans. Having seen this museum I didn't need to see more dead animals for the whole trip, apart from the roadkill. Uhm... And a few cockroaches, of course.
After having walked through this park, I arrived at the entrance of the National Museum of Natural History. This is a huuuuuge museum, and a very good one, if I am to judge it. Inside you will find eskimoes, dinosaurs, african art, a 4-story movie theatre and a lot more. This includes a hall where fullscale models of whales are hanging from the ceiling. Even if the people look a bit sceptically at you, do move some tables and chairs away to make room for yourself to lie down under the blue whale and get a new perspective on the world.
4 hours later I had seen half the museum and was starving. So, we went outside and started looking for a place to eat, in this city where you probably could eat somewhere new each meal for the rest of your life. Still, we were able to spend 40 minutes walking around without finding one of these places, ending up at a small Italian establishment. Ordering a steakburger I was not sure what to expect, but when it arrived I was happy for my decision. It was some 350 grams of meat rolled into a ball, grilled and put into some bread and vegetables, supposed to imitate a hamburger. It didn't look a lot like it, but it made a great meal.
Not really having an idea about what I wanted to do, we went to a movie theatre and saw Species. Not a remarkable movie, but I didn't feel like walking more at that moment, having walked close to 70 streets and a big museum without really stopping.
The movie ended, and we headed for Central Park again. It was getting dark, and at least I didn't know where I was, really. Then suddenly my greatest experience in New York City just appeared. We walked into this large clearing in the woods, the Great Lawn. There must have been close to a hundred thousand people there, the atmosphere being one of excited buzzing. At the same time I got to see fireflies for the first time of my life. They were everywhere, showing off their glowing butts to the whole world. A thunderstorm was building up in the east, showing off incredible power through bright lightening. No sound... You never hear the thunderstorms in New York City, I believe. It has too much competition from other sources of noise. Rain in the air, but not quite there either. The moment was magic. This was the best way I can think of for attending one of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's free Concerts in the Park. I lost track of time as Bernstein's "On the Town" and Mendelssohn, "Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op.90" came to me. I wish you were there.
Coming back to reality, we left for the subway quickly, as the rain started to become more apparent. We went downtown, heading for New York University. Doing a convincing performance telling the guard I was a foreign student who had not got my ID card yet, I actually gained access to a terminal that let me connect to my Norwegian account, so that I could do some called for e-mailing. I got my next stop, Boston, confirmed, so everything was good and I could walk back to the hostel with a good feeling. I said goodbye and thank you to Hao, who really made my visit in New York an interesting one.
At the hostel I found two of the three previously vacant beds in MY room being occupied by Germans. I showed no hard feelings on behalf of my ancestors, so we went out together to see what the neighbourhood could offer. We were pleasantly surprised by finding a church with rather loud rock music emerging from it. After having walked through a metal detector, we could enter Limelight, a discotheque at 666 6th Street, basing its activity on drinks a la Dracula and a very special kind of people. Personally, I am convinced most of the women in the refurnished church was men, but I made no effort to find out for sure. If you go to New York and want to see a special dance club, try this one! Oh, but leave your guns at home. They don't accept them indoors.
Next morning I got up really early and walked to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which includes the Greyhound headquarters of the east coast. The atmosphere in this building was very special. I will steal Joseph Heller's description from the book "Closing Time", the sequel to the oh-so-much-better novel "Catch 22":
"Loafing voices echoed mellifluously from above. The stairway was practically empty, the floor almost tidy. But the odors in this civilization were strong, the air reeking of smoke and unwashed bodies and their waste, a stench of rot and degradation that was violently disgusting and vilely intolerable to all but the mass producing it daily. By midnight there was scarcely a charmed body with enough living space to be free of another body more dissipated and fetid tumbled against it. People squabbled. There were shouts, quarrels, stabbings, burns, sex, drugs, drinking, and breaking glass; by morning there were casualties and an accumulation of filth of all sorts save industrial waste. There was no water or toilet. Garbage was not collected until morning, when the locals roused and took themselves to the sinks and the toilets in the rest rooms in sanitary preparation for the day's work ahead, and, despite posted bans, to bathe and do laundry in the washbasins.
I got my ticket initiated and got on the bus to Boston, after having visited THE most scary public toilet in the US.
Summing up my thoughts about New York... I don't think much of it. Okay, I made it through three days here without losing anything but a bottle of Wash'n Go shampoo, and that was my own fault, forgetting it in the shower for a whole day. Still, this city has so many bad things, so much hostility... I could never live here. Sure, it's an ok place to visit as long as you stay in a very limited area and have got a lot of money, but you're never more than a hundred meters away from a bad part of the city, where human tragedies can be seen all the time. These things easily puts a shadow over the many exotic, attractive, beautiful things the city has to offer, to me. It is too bad you have to come here to see the most famous and beautiful pieces of European art history.
(C) 1995 BC Tørrissen