Shout outs to: “Ninja” and Rob
Day 2: We open in Time Square, New York. This morning I am on my own without a travel companion and I love it! It’s so much easier to invest in feeling the city when you are only introspective. I have my headphones in and my life track of music blaring in my ears. I’m wearing a flowing and backless pants suit that is making the light breeze feel like compassion. I am learning city facts that I never expected and still struggle to believe. Everyone is smiling. Not a block passes that someone doesn’t flag me over and motion for me to remove my headphones, either to compliment me or ask me for directions. And, as it would prove over the next three hours, construction crew cat calls in New York are not just a thing of the movies.
I duck into a local coffee shop that I heard about from a local friend and am immediately enamored. The staff is outward joy and the espresso is superb. FIKA coffee could be on every corner and I would stop every time. After a quick look over the territory and subway map I head out.
Every time I travel I try and dedicate a minimum of one day to service. This is harder then one might initially think. All the volunteer organizations want you to sign up in advance, volunteer reservations if you will. Lucky me I surround myself with other hearts like my own so the next hour was spent with a local friend helping the homeless.
The population of street dwellers in this town is heart consuming. How do they get this far? The beggars in the subway are the most striking to me. I would assume that it is incredibly humbling to beg in the first place. These people are trapped inside a train with demanded eye contact and no immediate escape plan. All I can think is how this must chip away at the soul and the worth. I instinctively feel compelled to comfort….especially via exhortation. I could easily write an entire blog on how gut wrenching and soul moving this epidemic was for me….and knowing me I’m reserving the right because I still very well may.
After my opportunity to serve we grab a quick matcha tea at another local coffee shop and talk over my buddies newest book of choice which, as usual, I despised but adopted. (Love you always and anyway “Ninja.”) The locals in the cafe jumped in on our conversation and created an impromptu book club. It was heavenly. The smells of coffee and street side cigarettes filled the air. The vibrato of our laughter was contagious enough to bring others over off the street for intermittent moments of shared joy and I could have easily made a lifestyle of this moment. Alas, schedules prevail and we said our goodbyes…for now. *Photo to prove to “Ninja” that I didn’t throw it away immediately.*
Leaving the coffee shop to reconnect with my travel partner I take a few more brief moments to myself, stealing pieces of the city for my heart. I see the New York Times building and jump into the USO to bring the working guards some decent coffee. It’s always fun to reminisce about my service time but even more fun for me to appreciate them and all of their current and continued sacrifice. It takes me a back that my time in country (2004) is now the year they refer to as, “the rough year.” My time in service has always felt like another life but the way today’s boys reference it I’m starting to feel old. *chuckles*
Once I finally applied myself to finding my associate we met up and we’re off for more on foot exploring. A fast Siri search for food would point us in the direction of “Meatballs” the restaurant who serves exactly what you’d anticipate but with a sort of make your own chart of meatballs, sauce and….whisky?!!! Make your own meat and whisky combos for lunch?!!! New York loves me searchers! The red and white awning leaned out over the steamy sidewalk that was hiding under a red carpet. The wall stood no risk of falling as it rested comfortably under the female maitre d’. The wooden tables gave way to the feeling of a family picnic and the mixed drinks complimented the relaxed vibe while elevating it the degree it needed to be more than another drop in lunch spot. As with every spot we attempt on this trip we were extraordinarily pleased with both the food as well as the staff. It may be me but attitude seems to have a direct correlation to well being and joy…just an observation. *insert smug smirk emoji here*
Following lunch we wandered the overpass (which is far more beautiful than it sounds) to see the overgrown greenery that is so aptly placed in this city. All the while enjoying the little bits of street market and the never ending table of community eating. I absolutely admire the idea of the combined common wealth dining. The table stretches over 25 feet long and the crowds of strangers laugh and snort heartily at each others witty banter being shouted across the table and market Square. If time would allow, and I hadn’t been eating since the second I opened my eyes, I could easily be enticed to sit and share the day away.
Continuing my ramblings I turned my attentions to happy hour and whisky bars. Those of you that know me intimately know that I have a someday dream of finding a place that I love enough to grow into and start a coffee/sports bar combo. So this was research and yes, you can feel free to read in and apply my sarcasm to that statement.But in all sincerity, I crave the location that feels like home enough that I could plant roots and grow into a business that allows me to share my laughter, sarcasm and ease of life with the locals. I desire that constant input and output of their wisdom engaging my discernment and visa versa.
The first whisky bar of the day was a cigar AND whisky bar?!!! Could New York get any better?!! There was a monkey hanging in the tree out front. The inside smelled of; leather, age, books and stale cigar. It was incredible. I ordered my specialty whisky cocktail and took in the book lined wall while enjoying the secondhand Monte Cristo. I couldn’t help but recognize the floor up happiness springing out of the bartender who must realize that he has the best job in the entire world. The last sip of that whisky was definitely bitter sweet.
Farther down the road we would find the previous whisky bar’s rival. A swanky whisky bar that could easily have been a train car in its past life. It was full of people who were there to be socially accepted and not sure why their liquor was the one of choice but that didn’t bother me any because I was about to consume a victorious Pappy VanWinkle for a glorious wager win. Still, I may have come out the loser of our wager. The debt may be settled but now I know what I’ve been missing in the extremely hard to find Pappy. Time to keep an eye on that impossible market.
Whisky bar number two left me in dire need of water and a walk so we headed to the One World Observatory where we would head to the top for a completely obstructed view….maybe next time. The employees here are equally as amazing as the rest in the city and they rescheduled our tickets without any great difficulty or inconvenience. And we filed out with the rest to explore a little more night life. *photo from subsequent trip*
Based on a friend’s recommendation, THANK YOU Rob, we head to an oyster bar by the empire where we sample the Eastern and Western oysters. They are beyond belief. This was my first experience with oysters and my friend’s second. So we are by no means connoisseurs but the taste was light, the texture smooth and the sauce is complementing. The two tiny television screens that were broadcasting the game could have been better but then again so could have the actual game. The rest of dinner was delicious and the wait staff was consistent in its acknowledgment of our experience and it’s objective of perfection. All and all the experiencing was a good one and I intend to consume many more oysters in my future.
We would attempt one more, in-cognitively filthy, college street bar as our closing act. Not surprisingly I would be all but accosted by the regular, “Where you headed sweet girl?” And “Come on baby I don’t bite.” And who are we kidding? In a bar like that, in the darker section of New York, I would have felt like I had missed a city experience if they hadn’t sized the attack. Seedy bar, check.
I wrapped the night with some of the quintessential art markers of the city and a few monumental building markers. I would finally shut off the lights after a hot shower just after midnight. Truly the city that never sleeps and I’m in love.
*As usually I enjoy journeying with you and hearing your feedback. Like, follow, comment and share. And of course head to searchingnotlost Instagram for more photos. *