New York, New York
I've heard there are three kinds of travelers: the Tourist (everybody hates a tourist), the Infiltrator (it's fun to pretend, but watch out when it all falls apart), and the Business traveler, which seems to be the only kind of travel I do.
I actually think I prefer business travel best -- it's somewhere between tourism and infiltrating, which means I get to play tourist and see the "boring" bits of a city. I put "boring" in quotes because I think the day-to-day stuff is what life is all about; if you just see all the big sights, you miss the real city.
I'm the guy who finds the interesting underbelly of Orlando; this was my first trip to New York City which is a city that's interesting from any angle, and it didn't disappoint.
I got into JFK at about 5 in the afternoon. They were so busy there wasn't a gate available so we deboarded right onto the tarmac -- this must happen a lot as they had busses waiting, but I have to say the only other time I've gone directly outside from a jet was in the Arcata airport; I don't expect it from one of the biggest cities in the world.
Getting from JFK to @adbroad's place in the upper west side at that time of day sort of requires taking the subway, unless you want to sit in traffic for three hours. Unlike most cities, a lot of New York can be seen in the subway, and I don't mean outside the cars.
My first vision of New York was of two girls in colorful Indian garb on the drab subway. No one gives you a second look in New York, no matter what. I love the contrast of the color and joy of the two girls with the bored New Yorker dozing next to them. I took the photo surreptitiously with my phone on my knee, and ifyou look carefully over the shoulder of the girl in yellow, you can just make out my reflection in the window.
Near Columbia University there is a Mexican restaurant with a rooftop bar. I personally think it's a mean trick to put a bar at the top of a four story building with long flights of stairs, but they told me people rarely get drunk and fall down them. Rarely...
I wasn't expecting much from East Coast Mexican fare, but I was surprised with a Portobello Fajita Quesadilla and a passable margarita made with some tequila I had never heard of.
I went to New York for meetings with Hill and Knowlton and the UN Foundation to discuss the United Against Malaria website. The H&K offices are in midtown, so I took the subway down to 59th and walked the five or six blocks across town.
Everyone says there's nothing going on in midtown, and they're pretty much right. I mean, if you like non-descript 1970s architecture, you'll have a great sightseeing trip -- it sort of looks like they took one building out of every city in America and dropped it into the middle of Manhattan for filler.
After meetings were done, Helen suggested a play; I know nothing about what to see in New York, so we met at the tckts building in Times Square.
The heat and the rain were a remarkable combination, keeping some of the throngs of tourists away. They seem to have taken every Disney film ever made and turned it into a Broadway musical (although I didn't see Herbie Rides Again, I wouldn't have been surprised).
We chose Our Town, which everyone has seen so many times it seems amazing that I somehow haven't. The show was in a couple hours, so Helen suggested a "quirky New York thing" -- Chinese massage.
Onto the subway up to 76th street, through a small, poorly marked door, into a room divided by curtains. I knew my muscles were a mess from stress and injury, but, wow, that woman found knots I didn't know existed. She didn't speak English beyond "okay" and "too hard?"
Then back on the subway, down to the West Village, where the play was amazing. Minimalistic, until the very end, when they relive a day in life with amazing detail. Words won't do it, you'll just have to go to New York and get a ticket.
After the play, we went to a Japanese/Peruvian restuarant and were served by Korean hipster girl in the sidewalk cafe seating. Dinner consisted of duck comfit gyoza, an amazing roll of lobster and tuna, and a dessert that was layered with a whipped milk meringue, chopped mango, caramel ice cream and sake jelly. I'm not sure I want to know how they jellify sake, but it was amaing.
I had to get up and head back to the airport the next morning, wishing I had gotten photos of the Australian bride, in a short white dress on the curb, using her bouquet to hail a cab, reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty or of the Mariachi band in their Mexican cowboy outfits playing on the subway, but I guess these are the images you see all the time in New York.
My final hour in New York was frantic as I had written the time down wrong for my flight, and only had half an hour when I got there. People are surprisingly accommodating when you're obviously pressed to get to your flight, and I managed to get to the head of the line at the ticket counter, get my boarding pass, get through security and walk onto the plane.
As much as I enjoyed New York, I really didn't want to spend an extra 8 hours there until the next flight back to Portland...