Thursday, October 29, 2009

This is New York

(A response to this)

You exit my apartment.

Walk south to the end of this block and the next, hang a right, walk two more short blocks and find yourself in the heart of the Bronx's own Little Italy.

You could get yourself a thick crust slice at Full Moon, to stay or to go, or you can sit down for a full meal at Zero Otto Nove.

You can sample fresh seafood at the outdoor clam bar next to Umberto's or buy a fresh baked loaf of olive bread at Madonia brothers.

This is New York.

You hop the D train up by Fordham Road.

While you're riding it past 161st and River, a Mariachi band--complete with accordion--boards and somehow, even though you really hate accordions and you want to resist, you still find yourself drumming along to the music.

You get out at Columbus Circle.

You contemplate going to the Park. Sure, it's splendid in the sun, and brilliant in the winter snow, but it's this proposal in the rain that'll get you every time.

You contemplate turning west, towards Lincoln Center, but it's not quite Nutcracker season just yet. You contemplate walking just a little bit further, to where you could get cheap Chinese food at Ollie's, and you smile. Ollie's Noodle Bar, this is where you came this summer, after every afternoon win, a tradition between you and one of your best friends. He always gets the fried rice, you the steamed fish. The food comes so fast that you have time to eat and digest your meal and not miss a single firework on the Fourth of July.

Your stomach, however, is full from that slice at Full Moon, so instead you turn east along Central Park South, and you walk until you reach the Plaza hotel.

Across from the hotel where you once stayed as a kid the same night the Toronto Raptors were in town--you were in the elevator with Tracy McGrady, only you didn't realize it at the time, not till you read the name on the gym bag later--there's the Apple Store, which exists all underground, where you got your brand-spanking new computer four months ago, and there's FAO Schwartz, where you duck in just because they've got candy and you've got one hell of a sweet tooth.

This is New York.

You continue to walk along Fifth Avenue. You pass St. Patrick's Cathedral, where you step inside and light a taper for a Catholic friend who is in a really bad spot, and you pass by stores ranging from the ultra upscale Bergdorf Goodman to the NBA Store where you remind yourself that your brother's birthday is in two months and you haven't gotten him a gift yet.

You were here, you remember, on St. Patrick's Day, when all the world seemed to be one giant college party and you found yourself longing for your undergraduate days. You can still hear the sound of the bagpipes, a reminder of the city's Irish heritage even as you contemplate getting sushi in SoHo for dinner.

You walk past 42nd street--Times Square is to the west, and you remember spending your New Year's there, just that once, just to be able to say that, yes, you were there, that you braved the nearly 0 F temperatures and did so without gloves and somehow did not get frostbitten.

You continue, you walk past the back side of the Empire State building, so tall that you can crane your neck and still not see all of it, and you reach 34th street--Penn Station, from where you've taken trains to your parents in Jersey, to your family in Long Island, to Shea in its last year and Citifield in it's first, and the Amtrak to Boston last Christmas.

This is the same place as Madison Square Garden--and though the Jersey fan in you can't stand the Rangers and remains indifferent to the Knicks, the annual Big East tournament is a source of pride. You're not sure which you enjoyed more: winning it all in 2006, the wins against Cincinnati, hated UConn and Georgetown all coming on last second shots or that game in 2009, six overtimes against that same UConn, that game that wouldn't end, that seemed destined to continue for all eternity, and you smile.

Foley's isn't too far from here, either--this is where you met with other bloggers, most of whom you read religiously or follow on Twitter--and this is where you had lunch with the folks who are still trying to save Gate 2 from the old Yankee Stadium, and where Nick Swisher has made an appearance a few times this season, too.

This is New York.

You walk down some more, and at 23rd street you think about walking west a few blocks--here is where your other brother lives, with his wife and your sixth month old nephew. He's getting so big now, your nephew, that he can no longer fit into the Yankee baby clothes you bought for him the day he was born, if only because you were at the Stadium that day, and the opportunity presented itself.

Your brother and sister-in-law are still at work, however, so you instead continue, following Fifth Ave, until it ends abruptly at Washington Square Park and the NYU campus. You remember the last time you walked through Washington Square Park with your boyfriend, where he bumped into an acquaintance of his, nothing more at work here than two people in the right place at the right time.

From here, you know you could walk through Greenwich Village, and past that venue where you and a friend once saw the Daily Show's John Oliver in a stand up performance. You could continue down to Soho, walking past Houston and along Sullivan till you wind up at Purl, your favorite yarn store, where you think that they have to be sick of you by now.

You could continue much further south and you'll find yourself in the Financial District, and near the 9/11 memorial site, where you wish they'd hurry up already and build something there, where every year those lights still go up, and you still remember.

Instead, though, you get back on the D train and take it all the way to the end, all the way to Coney Island in Brooklyn. You get off the subway, walk past the site of the famous Nathan's Hot Dog contest (it's always the skinny guy, the Chestnut or the Kobyashi) and towards the pier. You stop short of the pier, however, as you pass by where the Cyclones play, and the field next to it, where you remember that on one August night, here is where you hurt your shoulder because you thought that there could not possibly be any harm in throwing too many pitches to your friend, the only ones to reach his mitt being knuckle-ball types. You remember how after you decided you absolutely had to test out the fast pitch, and registered at 30 miles an hour.

As bad as the thirty was, you laugh, it was still better than the 22 mph you threw when you went to Trenton, although that had consequences of its own.

From the pier you can see the amusement park, and just for a moment you wish you were a little bit less wimpy, hated roller coasters just a little bit less...

Against the sunset, you decide it's time to head back, so you get on the subway again (and damn, you think, that unlimited card comes in handy), and you ride all the way up.

You pass by 145th street, where you'd get off and switch to the A to visit that same friend on 173rd, the one that urged you to throw those knuckleballs, who lives in the way-too-much maligned neighborhood of Washington Heights, that same place where Manny grew up. You can literally see the George Washington Bridge from his apartment, and it glitters in the moonlight. You keep thinking about all the baseball games you went to this year--the game the day your nephew was born, that loss against the Nationals back in June, the walk-off on July fourth, the game that didn't start till 9.30 on July 23rd because of rain, that same game that saw the kids from Camp Sundown, that game the day after Derek Jeter broke that record, the very first game of the postseason, and now one more--the second game of the World Series. Not to mention the Staten Island, Brooklyn, Trenton and Scranton games you went to, improvising transportation and going just because you love baseball, and no other reason.

You think about the nights you spent in that apartment--once without even working electricity--because it was too late to go all the way back. You think about how when there was no roommate you could sleep on the spare bed, but now that there is one you sleep on the futon that's never really been pulled out, and how badly your back hurts in the morning, and how much you just don't care.

As you pass by the Stadium, you think about this.

You think about how you were there that first exhibition game against the Cubs, the night before you had to be at a conference at 8.30 AM but you still wouldn't have missed it for the world, about the ALCS game three viewing, where you sat in the expensive seats for free and about how you were totally fooled by the Johnny Damon lookalike sitting two rows behind you.

You realize you've been to so many games this year that you've lost count. Sure, you were lucky enough to sit in the expensive seats a few times, but your favorite memories are when you got the tickets the day before, sitting in the 400s or the bleachers, and that sense of are a Yankee fan. That itself is enough.

It takes a while, but the subway reaches Fordham Road again.

You exit along E 188th, and walk downhill, past the markets, the Indian or Pakistani woman on the street selling children's books, the community health center, the pediatrician and the weight loss clinic. You walk past the stairway to nowhere (well, that's what you call it, anyway), the Chinese take out, Dominican barber shop, brand new bar and the fried chicken joint on Webster. Along the way a tall, strong, imposing man stops you--asks you, because of your hat, if you're a Yankee fan. He asks how the Yankees will do, and without even thinking about it, you tell him,

"They're going all the way."

You bump fists.

You continue, past the playground and the basketball courts--oh, how you wish a recruiter would stop by, discover the next LeBron--and play with fate herself as you cross 3rd Ave.

You walk those last few blocks, past Arthur Ave again, and end up right back where you started.

You are exhausted, but you don't care. The City teems with life and you love every bit of it.

The kicker, though, is that you know, you know more than anyone because you've lived here, that you still ain't seen nothing yet.