Tag Archives: new york city

The Best Things in Life Are Free

I met a friend visiting from the west coast for drinks tonight at the Campbell Apartment. It was a lot of fun to catch up and finally see her on my coast, for a change. As the evening began to wind down, I asked her what her older daughter was doing for the summer. “She’ll be living in New York, actually,” said my friend. “And interning a bit with a friend’s father’s company.” We began talking about all the things her daughter should see and do while she’s in town. I mentioned how many free things there are to do and take advantage of. I was met with an interesting, candid response, “Well,” said my friend, “these girls are affluent, so I doubt they’ll be doing anything like that.” She wasn’t wrong with what she said, and it wasn’t said offensively, simply stated as a fact. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much that sucks in a way. As great as it is to see New York from a position of wealth, it’s also fun (though sometimes difficult) to see it when you don’t have a ton of money, especially when you’re young. I could wax on poetically, but because it’s late, and I’m tired, here’s a list of the things one could miss if they didn’t take advantage of a “free” New York:

Walking through Central Park (vs. whizzing through in a cab)
Navigating the subways (and subway performers)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walking Washington Square Park, Gramercy Park, Union Square, Times Square, Cooper Square, Battery Park, etc.
Grand Army Plaza
The New York Public Library
The Performing Arts Library
Hanging out at Lincoln Center
Watching artists paint pictures of restaurants and buildings on Cornelia Street
Encountering tourists — everywhere!
Barney’s window displays
Discovering Minetta Lane
Downtown theaters
St. Mark’s Place
Observing the characters at fashion week at Bryant Park

sunset_over_new_york_city_1932

Granted, all of these things could be experienced from town cars, taxis and perhaps even on their own two feet. But sometimes when

the experience comes easily, it doesn’t mean as much or feel as rewarding. Like coming into a warm, cozy apartment after walking ten blocks from the freezing cold subway, to finding a way to get drinks for free, or getting into an event when you don’t have tickets. Those things just feel so good. And, I’m sure there are experiences that these girls will have that most New Yorkers never will in their lifetime. But, more than anything, in New York it’s the possibility of what you may encounter and the unexpected that you do encounter that makes this city so fascinating. The trick is do it all, the free, the not-so-free and the down-right expensive. Open yourself up to it all, as much as you can, and hold on tight.

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Wonderful Town

This sweltering Sunday found me in the middle of Times Square with my three favorite musical theater hopefuls checking out our fellow college alumni perform for Broadway on Broadway. If you’re a cheap New Yorker (like me) this is the perfect way to get a taste of the upcoming — and current — Broadway shows for free as they hit a stage set up in Times Square and perform a song. We stood surrounded by our fellow New Yorkers and tourists listening to performances from Billy Elliot and Gypsy to Avenue Q[title of show],In the HeightsXanadu, and saw our friends rock their roles in Mary PoppinsThe Little Mermaid and Legally Blonde.

B’way on B’way was hot, and I mean that in the literal sense. As soon as our last friend-related performance ended, we headed out in search of an air conditioned cafe. I split with my friends and made a pit stop at the bank where I was subsequently locked inside the ATM facility for 15 minutes with another bank patron. As we were banging on the glass to get ANYONE’s attention, I felt a sting on my arm and saw a bee drop to the floor. I’m not allergic to bees to the point where I need to carry an epi-pen, but am allergic enough that my arm immediately began to swell to the size of an egg. Luckily a passing police officer saw our distress, swiped his ATM card, and released the door, setting us free. Hot, tired from the sun and slightly paniking about the ever-growing size of the egg on my arm, I hailed a cab home (not before grabbing an iced coffee from Starbucks first, which they gave me for free!)

Sitting here now freshly showered, minus one bee’s stinger, I realized my day was helped along by various New Yorkers: the B’way on B’way staff that lead us to our special “artists’ guest” area, the performers, the man in blue and his ATM card, the Starbucks barista and even my sympathetic cab driver, who waited in front of the grocery store (with the meter off) while I grabbed some miso paste for my sting — an old trick for decreasing swelling. For all the times this city tears us apart, swallows us whole and spits us out, it truly is our fellow New Yorkers that make Manhattan a wonderful town.

City Sidewalks and Childhood Dreams

Living downtown, I have seasonal walking routes. In the dead of winter I like to walk by storefronts to window shop and because I know they will be shoveled and salted to near perfection. In the spring, I’ll take any route that has me walking by the Chelsea flower market. Even when it’s still early spring, it’s nice to smell and see the promise of summer in all of the beautiful flowers and small trees. Summer brings me back to the storefronts, hoping I’ll time my passing correctly with that of a customer entering/leaving the store — a cold blast of air-conditioned air hits the spot during a humid day. But my favorite walk has to be past the Bleecker Street Playground. A decently-sized island of childhood bliss, the park boasts sandboxes, swings, playground equipment and, sprinklers!!! The playground’s happy hour is right after the 3:00 school bell. Moms, nannies, babysitters and (more & more) Dads stand around and chat pleasantly with other parents while their children play at complicated imaginary games.

As a 20-something with no immediate thoughts of motherhood, you would think the idea of passing a gaggle of post-school children would irritate me, interfering with the music coming from my iPod, but the writer in me takes over as I watch them play and I’m fascinated by what they create. Their imaginations are so strong and their visual sense so acute, I think they might make better authors of fiction than their adult counterparts — if not for nap times interfering with their workday.

Walking by the playground is a bit like listening to a pit orchestra warming up before a show. A few high squeaks, low moans and whines, and the clank of the wrought iron gate greeting the latest entrants into the park. The sense of electricity and excitement cannot be denied. Bleecker Street playground has a particular smell to it as well. Unlike the flowers that dot the nearby corner market, the park yields the sweet scent of child perspiration, the fragrant green leaf and bark mix of trees, and the light spritz of NYC water mixed with a rusty odor from the hundred-year-old pipes.

Chaos ensues when Mr. Softee pulls up alongside the curb. Children screech with delight — so excited are they to see the promise of sugar, that they run, wet from the sprinklers and shoe-less, onto the city sidewalk (I have to admit it makes me squeamish to think of all the germs their innocent little feet are picking up). But no matter, these children are oblivious to grit and grime and focused on how to get their adult in charge to fork over ice cream money. You can aways tell the parents from the nannies: parents carry wholesome snacks, while the nannies have already attempted feeding their charges the health food, only to be denied. Ice cream offers those caretakers the promise of ending their day without anymore (ahem) meltdowns.

While passing the park gives me joy, it’s also mixed with a little bit of melancholy. Because after all, who doesn’t want to be that young again? If not for just one afternoon.