I’m terrified of cities. Something about the tallness of the buildings makes me feel claustrophobic. Then there’s all the dirt. And the taxis. And the birds. And the muggers. And the homeless people who might pee on me for no reason other than because they can. I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to avoid large cities unless I am running through them, since running a marathon with a crowd of other people means my chances of being attacked are significantly reduced. However, when I mentioned the idea of roadtripping to the Delaware Marathon with AJ, he immediately responded with “great, we can go to New York City and Tom will show us around!” Stupendous.
So the plan was hatched. I would run the marathon in the morning and we would drive up to New Jersey, where AJ was born and where Tom still lives, and then catch a train into the city, walk around for a bit, and have dinner. Fortunately, I felt decent enough after the race. A little tired, naturally, but mostly hungry and weak, so we stopped at the greatest of all food emporiums – Wawa. AJ had never been to one, so since he was introducing me to NYC, I figured I would introduce him to the wonders of Wawa, where they make your sub and pretty much any other type of food you can imagine by hand with the quality of
Subway a fine restaurant…all with the convenience of a gas station. As you can see, Wawa is equal to NYC in importance.
We met Tom at the hospital where he works so we could park to catch the train. There was a train station right across the street…but it was obviously not for the train we needed to be on. That train was more like a mile away, but what’s one more mile really? We eventually got on and of course, there was nowhere to sit, so my marathon legs got to stand the whole ride in. The train was much crappier than the Metro in DC, and Tom assured me that the train we were on was much nicer than the actual subway in New York, which was disturbing. I will say, the train was quite the melting pot, with all different languages and cultures represented. No one peed on me. However, within minutes of entering the city, I tried and failed to cross the street. Tom had already crossed, and AJ and I had waited. I saw a break in the cars and tried to cross, nearly hitting a biker who had come out of absolutely nowhere at blazing speeds. “Traffic flow!” she shouted. Whatever that means. T-Rexs are not made for city life. We finally got into a cab and headed over to the 9-11 memorial. I think I would have been better off walking the entire way.
Riding in a cab in NYC was pretty much one of the most terrifying things that has ever happened to me. There seemed to be no such thing as a speed between absolutely flooring it and slamming on the breaks. It was either one or the other. And can we discuss the fact that there are crazy people biking on the streets with these lunatics? Holy crap. I couldn’t look. I did appreciate that you could pay with a credit card, though. That makes life much easier.
Tom had reserved tickets for us to go to the 9-11 memorial at 6pm. The tickets are free, but you have to have them to get in. Let me tell you, they do not stint when it comes to having a ticket. First of all, we again walked about another mile from where the cab dropped us off to the place to pick up the tickets. It was kind of hot, but we trekked on. I observed that gay men in New York dress exactly like fratty southerners, which was extremely awkward. We eventually got the tickets and got in line for the memorial. It was a huge process to get in. There are literally 6 different check points where you have to show them your ticket. Not ID, just your ticket, which I found weird. There was an x-ray scanner just like at the airport. It was intense.
One of the best things about the memorial was how many different cultures and groups of people were there. It was great seeing everyone come together and remember the tragedy that took place. It is clearly a day that affected the entire world.
Everyone was starving by that point, so we hopped in another cab and headed to Little Italy for some authentic New York pizza. Cab #2 was by far the most terrifying experience of all. I think even Tom was scared, and he goes there all the time. I was tempted to ask all of our cab drivers where they were from, just out of curiosity, but it occurred to me that their attention might be better focused on the road. We somehow made it in one piece to Little Italy, which is pretty much just like you imagine it to be, except I didn’t see any mob hits take place.
We were headed to Lombardi’s, which bills itself as America’s first pizzeria. I have never had real New York pizza before, so I was pretty excited since everyone talks about how it is soooooo superior.
When the pizza came, I was a bit…perplexed. There was not that much cheese on it – just sort of odd splotches where it looked like they had dropped a round of mozzarella or something. This saddened me because I love cheese. Honestly, at that point I was so hungry that a homeless person could have peed on that pizza and I would have eaten it anyway, so it didn’t really matter. It ended up being quite tasty, although I’m not yet convinced NYC pizza is soooo much better.
Next on the list was Chinatown, which was just a short walk away. I was sooooo not prepared for Chinatown. First of all, unlike Little Italy, which is one big melting pot, the people in Chinatown are actually…Chinese. Like, there’s Asian people everywhere. Approximately 60 Asian women offered to give me a massage. No thank you – I know what “Asian massage” means and I am not currently in need of one, thankyouverymuch.
I had been warned about the smell in Chinatown, but I had not been warned about the sights. There were fish and slabs of meat just out on tables along the sidewalk. I was wearing flip flops and there was dirty water everywhere. I made a silent vow to burn those flip flops as soon as I got home. Flies were all over the fish and meat and I just could not handle it. I will take frozen food any day of the week. Still, it was pretty cool to feel like you were entirely submerged in a different culture. We’re not in South Carolina anymore, y’all!
We finally made our way down some street where they sell a lot of fake purses and sunglasses. I want to say it was called Canal street. The sidewalks seemed impossibly narrow, but maybe that’s because they were lined with people trying to shove merchandise in your face. Oddly enough, there was an entire contingency of men from West Africa mixed in with the Asian crowd, and they were extremely pushy. I did not buy any fake Coach, although I have to say, the replicas were outstanding. We eventually caught another cab back to the train, a journey that obviously involved me seeing my life flash before my eyes no less than 5 times. After the walk back to the car, we headed over to the riverfront area in Hoboken to check out the view of the city at night. By this point I had probably walked another 5 miles on top of the marathon I ran that day, so I was pretty wiped out, but the view was beautiful.
So, I successfully spent 4 total hours in New York City and accomplished the following:
- I did not get mugged.
- No homeless people peed on me.
- I avoided buying an “I <3 NY” shirt.
- I saw the 9-11 memorial.
- I ate New York pizza.
- I survived not one, but three cab rides.
- My feet got so covered in dirt that the bottoms were black when we got back to Tom’s house.
- I purchased precisely zero counterfeit purses or sunglasses.
- My hair smelled like fish for a solid 12 hours.
- No birds attacked me except for one pigeon who I made AJ scare away after he made some questionable pecking motions in my direction.
All in all, a pretty successful trip. I was a bit overwhelmed, so I think 4 hours was the perfect amount of time. I am sure I will go back again someday, but I don’t want to push my luck with the whole not being peed on thing. Sometimes you have to quit while you’re ahead. Exceptions made for entry into the NYC marathon, of course.
Leave a comment and tell me your favorite thing about New York! Hint: mine is not the cabs.