What do you want to do in New York?’
G- ‘Hang out with you and Claire? I really haven’t thought of anything else.’
I went to New York with zero expectations. It was my second time there and the first time in 2012 Claire and I had covered a fair bit of tourist territory.
Like frantic sponges we ran around for a week soaking up experiences – We cycled through central park on a summer day so hot that we finished by running through sprinklers to cool down. We took windswept pictures at the top of the empire state building and jostled with other visitors for a space at the rails of the ferry as we chugged past the statue of Liberty. We burnt the tops of ours mouths on pizza slices so large they could have fed a family. We got lost for hours inside top shop or forever 21 or some other huge chain store and we spent a crazy night amongst alphabet city bars with vague recollections the next morning of having ended the night on some guys rooftop, drinking beer overlooking the blink and glitter of the lights of the city that never sleeps.
I was happy with my first visit, I didn’t have a yearning to return and complete anything I thought I had missed.
But then Claire moved to Brooklyn last year and I started thinking about visiting her (it is SO much closer than Sydney) and the stars lined up and finally I was able to send the message ‘Clear your calendar, I’ll be there in a month!’
I had a month to think of all the things I wanted to do and see and I thought of Jason, Matt and Anni. Friends from University last seen in 2012. Messages were sent, priorities made and no further thoughts were given to ‘what to do whilst in NY.’
When I sat down to breakfast with Claire and Cam on my first day and he posed the question of what I wanted to do, I couldn’t answer him. I would have been equally as happy staying indoors, listening to music and laughing over wine for the whole week (which we did do for just one day) as I would be jumping from place to place. As long as we could all have fun together.
What ended up happening was one of the crusiest sight-seeing weeks I’ve ever taken. Each day we woke up late, had brunch and coffee out and constructed the rest of the day out of vague interests and warmth and wine seeking.
We had photo shoots on the Brooklyn Bridge, watched the launch of Jimmy Fallon’s figures at Madame Tussauds, drank hot cider at the local farmers markets whilst snow was catching in our hair and gained an education in music at the MET. We shopped for record players and vintage clothes as well as checking out the local real estate along the way.
The bars we went to were almost all in the Prospect and Willamsburg areas, walking distance from Claire’s house or at least an easy train ride. They were dark and patronised by baseball cap, flannelette and boot wearing men or, by curly haired, cat-eye glasses wearing hipster girls.
Some were filled with arcade games, 25cents a go, and some had boardgames sticky with an age of drinks spilt on them.
In some we perched high on barstools that wobbled when I moved to lean on the bar and ask the history of its name from the bar tender and in others we slumped in to couches worn and soft with time and in an out of the way corner where we could conduct our catch-ups in private.
One was entirely themed around Dr Who and another was Hawaiian themed, the serving girls in outrageously short dresses had more interest in serving the men than the women.
Over my 5 days in New York I got a laid back more local view of it. Less rushing around and ticking things off lists always improves a holiday and I knew my priorities this time were purely to be experiencing the NY that my girl claire lives in and calls her new home. I think I really got that. I was part of the busy and complicated subway system and the hum in the local bar. I ducked into the supermarkets in the streets and saw the different suburbs and people that go in to making up such a huge and cosmopolitan city. I felt like I saw the locals New York and I loved it.
Now this time leaving I already feel the pull to return and to find a new neighborhood to dive into. But possibly only if friends are showing me around.