We arrived in Manhattan late on a Wednesday evening. Matt’s friend from Yale Danny and his roommate Sam were saints for letting us stay in their “cozy” Stuyvesant Town apartment – not to mention Danny was in the midst of a med school application death march. We are eternally grateful. Our first night was rather uneventful and we rested and relished in our ability to watch a live A’s broadcast against the Mets.
After a nice run along the East River to the Willemsburg Bridge the following morning, we met up with the one and only Maria Pestana. Living in Brooklyn now, she shared stories with us about city life and New York culture. She loved the up-front nature of New Yorkers who, while quick to tell you off if you deserve, are just as quick to tell you to keep doing what you’re doing. We enjoyed brunch at The Smith before parting ways and hoping on the Stanton Island Ferry.
The ferry caught us off guard in a couple of ways. First off, it’s free. On this trip we’ve discovered that nothing, except parking in Cleveland, is free. We staggered into the ferry building confused, searching for a ticket station. When we were informed it was free, we hopped into the line that was naturally taking shape in front of the doors. As we got closer to launch, we noticed an inordinate number of cutters and thought, “Classic – rude New Yorkers.” Wrong again! The ferry practices a strict, no line policy and standing in line with our cameras around our necks we came to terms with our tourist ways. On the island, we set out for interviews. Will and I found some luck with some skateboarders who talked about the stigma against unsanctioned sports. They argued that there are just as many kids getting into trouble on the football teams but because they play for the school, they are championed. Given all the NFL news lately – this insight seems especially keen. Our time on the island was short and we hopped back on the ferry – there is something so pleasant about being on the water on a sunny day.
Back in Manhattan, we started making our way towards ground zero. The walk along Broadway is an busy one and a steady stream of tourists, suits, and millennial truth seekers make their way up and down the road, past the Charging Bull, past Wall Street (conveniently located across from Trinity Church – you know, for confession), and onto the 9/11 Memorial. If you’re ever in New York for one day, go here. The tribute is stunning and emotional and beautifully immortalizes the memory of those that were lost on that infamous day. September 11, 2001 is part of the shared historical consciousness of all millennials and how we tackle the far flung ramifications of the tragedy will undoubtedly be part of our generations legacy.
After a brief rendezvous at the apartment, we headed to Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn for a comedy / improv showcase at Glasslands. The show was $8 and there were no chairs – a risky move with fickle comedy fans. But the performers were excellent and the evening culminated in a routine by Ted Alexandro (look him up, he’s hilarious). We finished the evening enjoying a beer on Bedford Avenue. Of the many talents that the city of New York attracts, comedians and their consciousness raising routines may be the most important.
The next morning we once again met with Maria who served as our local tour guide at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply, “The Met”. The is a phenomenal museum and operates under the “recommended price of admission” model – perfect for cheapskates like ourselves. We proceeded to enter the enormous museum that rests on the East side of central park around 82nd street. The museum is in-consumable in an afternoon but we tried our best. One of the most interesting rooms outlined the development of weaponry throughout history and included a suit of armor that was designed as guns were becoming increasingly popular. The armor had dents from musket shots that were left by the blacksmith to display the durability of the armor. Malc and I enjoyed imagining the roles that our distant ancestors played navigating these violent and dangerous times – were they blacksmiths or swordsmen or chefs or peasants in the field? Gah! If only they had Instagrams…
We explored the museum for several more hours before “museum overload” kicked in and the reading of small display panels was no longer possible. After a gyro, Maria mistakenly signed up for an interview before heading back to her life and we ventured deeper into the park to explore and track down some more millennials.
That evening we headed to the greatest bar in America – McSorely’s Old Ale House. Legend has it that Honest Abe himself spent time at what is one of the longest continually operating pubs in the country. You enter the establishment through an unimposing doorway under a sign that states, “Established 1854”. To your right, the long wooden bar sits twelve. To your left, three simple wooden tables seat six to eight people a piece. At your feet, sawdust covers the plain wooden floor. We walked to the back room with seating and tables for another thirty or so. Will, Malcolm, and I took a seat at a round table and ordered two lights, and two darks (which equates to eight small mugs of beer). Soon enough, another group of four was plopped down at our table. The walls are adorned from floor to ceiling with plenty to ideally discuss – old, faded portraits and newspaper clippings, a proclamation by former Mayor Bloomberg establishing McSorely’s historical significance. Inevitably however, the circular nature of the tables forces the different groups, brought together by any number of external and internal stimuli, to actually look at each other. The stalemate always breaks. Pretty soon we were deep in discussion with this other group of bar goers. And when they left, another group of elevator industry employees – fresh from an elevator conference together – joined us. Stories and laughs were shared by all and the generous bunch insisted on paying our tab. So we left, spirits lifted by the community atmosphere that McSorely’s fosters.
The next day we left for Brooklyn to stay with another one of Matt’s gracious friends, Pat. Pat lives in an old brink apartment building not far from Prospect Park. The beautiful thing about New York is the convenience of transportation so once we found a parking space, old Homer never needed to move again. There is something so liberating about navigating the subway system and walking everywhere you need to go.
We returned to Manhattan that evening to explore some of the hip night life. We went to a speakeasy which required that we make a reservation at three in the afternoon. When it was time for our reservation, we entered a hot dog joint. Inside said joint, there was a telephone booth and Malcolm picked up the phone and dialed one to confirm our reservation. Then, the wall to his left slid open and we entered the bar on through the trap door. Manhattan is chalk full of bars like this – in a saturated bar market, the creativity comes to the forefront.
The next day we went out to a musical entirely written, produced, and acted by Yale students. It was delightful and fun to see some of Matt’s buddies that we had met along the way preform and conduct the orchestra for such an impressive display of the creativity, ingenuity, and talent. After the show, we made our way to Katz’s Deli for some famous New York pastrami sandwiches. While there was a bit of a sense that the deli was the victim of its own success and had succumb to tourist catering at the expense of making great sandwiches for the people of New York, the sandwiches are still delicious. At $20 a pop however, they should require purging to finish.
That evening, we made our way to the High Line – a park on the Lower West Side of Manhattan that is a converted train track. The track used to ship raw materials into and out of Manhattan’s warehouses and factories. Opened in the 1930s and eventually abandoned by the 1980s, the railway lay in disrepair for years – although residents of the area would explore it and durable grasses and trees began springing up along the tracks. Plans to demolish the track in the 1990s were eventually canceled due to the persistence of a grassroots campaign and the area was re-purposed into open space park running above the hustle and bustle of the city streets below. It’s very romantic and Malc and I enjoyed an enjoyable stroll past countless couples – personally, I wished to be with my girl back home.
This was our last night in town and Malc and I slunk our way over to a local dive for some billiards before meeting up with the other two boys who were meeting up with friends. We met some locals around the pool table and they talked about growing up in the area around the High Line and exploring the abandoned tracks as kids. They also talked about the gentrification of Manhattan into a millionaires playground and how most New Yorkers live in one of the other burrows. Another conversation later that evening with a young real estate professional also discussed the high end clientele that his company caters to. While New York City has been an international city for a long time, I hope Manhattan maintains some room for working class people.
We retired that evening with our sights set on Philadelphia – the nation’s first capital and birthplace of the Constitution.