A Day in New York (part 1)

“You look lost.”

A kind and rather flamboyant flight attendant who spoke with a lisp said to me, as I looked at a map of the New York transit system rather confused. He was one of the stewards on my American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York. We were standing on the platform of the AirTrain at JFK airport.

“It’s my first time in New York,” I said.
“Oh, where are you going?”
“Umm, I’ve booked a hotel on the Upper West Side on Broadway and 101.”
“I’m heading in that direction, but getting off two stops ahead of you, so you can just follow me.”

I did just that. I followed him on the AirTrain, bedazzled by the suburbs of New York City, watching the rapid transition from “gritty” to “green” and to “concrete jungle.”

At a subway station, he showed me how to purchase which tickets for which prices and what would give me the best value for my money.

On the way to my hotel, he revealed to me that he’d been a flight attendant for “some decades” (he looked young-ish) and that he’s lived everywhere including LA, but “while it was a nice time in West Hollywood, I am a die hard New Yorker.”

He wished me the best of luck on my travels as he stepped off his exit and as he left my company, forward came a Puerto Rican gentleman with very rough-looking hands (likely a construction worker or something that involved being out in the sun and physical labor). He’d apparently been eavesdropping on our conversation.

He took a seat next to me and spoke with a heavy accent and a breath that indicated he may have drank his lunch.

“You’re going to Broadway and 101?” he huffed.
(Ohmygodyourbreathstinks) I’m uh, headed in that direction,” I faked a smile.

I’m not sure how much of the conversation he’d heard, but the last thing I wanted was for this gentleman to know exactly where I was staying, in case it was already clear that I am a solo, female traveler on her first adventure.

“Follow me. I know a MUCH faster a way. I’m getting off at the next stop,” he slurred, while looking up and down my tanktop and shorts.

Man, this sounds like a recipe for rape.

I scanned the car for other passengers who would bear witness to either this man harassing me or me pummeling his face relentlessly. There were but a few people.

“Oh, no, that’s quite alright,” I said. “I’m quite comfortable with my current route.” Sweat, sweat.
“Are you sure? It’s much faster the way I’m going,” he waved his hands.

Much faster to me being BURIED UNDER YOUR FLOORBOARDS.

He persisted and recited a route that did not align with a “much faster” route according to the map of New York City I’d memorized in my head.

“No, really; it’s fine.” Fists clenched. “I appreciate your help though.”
“Okay, but you’re going to have a long, hot walk.”

The gentleman finally alighted the subway and out of my sight.

I emerged at Times Square and somehow missed the connection to the subway that would take me to the Upper West Side and decided to walk around before finding my way again.

I could only stomach Times Square for just a couple of minutes.

For a weirdo, introvert such as myself, I’d found Times Square to be an odd mix of drab and overwhelming. Sensory overload as it were.

I quickly made my way back into the subway station and headed north (after getting lost twice more and watching some kitschy, underground subway performances) until I got to my final destination and poked around a much calmer neighborhood of New York: UPPER WEST SIDE!

I was parched. Trudging about a mile or two in a tanktop, shorts, and a 30 pound backpack, I didn’t realize how hot and humid August would be in New York. But what a nice walk it was: these great brownstone buildings, awnings, the whole street lined with trees. It gave me a flash of a New Order music video (“Confusion”) that was filmed in a similar looking neighborhood in New York. I hummed the song and gently rocked my head side to side in rhythm with the song that played in my head.

I dipped into the first Starbucks I saw to grab a much coveted Trenta Passion Iced Tea Lemonade.

“Sorry. We’re out of lemonade.”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. WHY GOD WHY??

I scoffed. The passion tea on its own tastes like oversteeped garbage — but this really is a first world problem, isn’t it?

“Ugh. Okay. I’ll take a regular passion tea with four extra pumps of classic,” I ordered while producing my Starbucks partner card (I was a barista at the time).
“Oh, cool; where do you work?”
“Beverly Hills.” (I left out the “adjacent” part)

We talked about the nature of work at our respective stores while my eyes fixated on the “free for anyone to grab” soy milk carafe on the counter.

Me: Ha! That is NOT a thing in LA.
Barista: What, the soy milk?
Me: We charge extra and blablabla health code or something.
Barista: Oh. Yeah, it’s free for anyone to grab.
Me: I am in total awe of this place called New York.

I took my drink and walked another block before finally arriving at my hotel.

It was a hotel and hostel combination that was a mere $175 per night (cheap by New York standards) with a rickety, old-timey elevator and with an interior that was painted in bright, haphazard colors.

It wasn’t great, it wasn’t horrible, and had its charm in many ways.

The front desk person, who looked as though he did not want to be there, made me sign a few things before handing over the keys, mumbling which direction my room was.

I must have spent a good six minutes fumbling with the keys, jamming it into a lock that clearly had not been changed nor fixed in quite some time.

A young man with unkempt hair (hipster or homeless?) whom I did not know walked by and stopped in my line of sight as I dropped my keys to the floor.

“Need help?”
“Uhhhh… no, I’m fine, I’m just uhhh… looking for my phone.”
“You sure? I’m pretty good with locks,” he chuckled.
“Um, no, I’m finemyboyfriendwillbehereanymomentnow.” Sweat, sweat.
“OK!”

What the fuck, New York?

I finally made it into my room, locking all four locks on the door behind me. Yes, four. FOUR LOCKS.

I slammed my backpack down, took a shower, and a much needed nap for a couple hours before dinnertime.

After getting up at 3 AM to catch my 6 AM flight and walking all over the madness that was NYC, I was officially exhausted.