Observations from visiting NYC in September

by Heidi Obermeyer

While I was in Connecticut, before leaving for Bath, I took a couple trips into the enormous jungle that is New York City. I’ve wandered Munich’s Altstadt, I’ve biked through Berlin Mitte, Paris and I have spent time together, and San Francisco is one of my favorite places, but as far as big cities go NYC and I are like two strangers who have mutual friends. Everyone keeps talking about us to each other but I had yet to have formally met the big apple.

My intentions going to the city this time were twofold- first, I wanted to explore the city with my uncle, who has spent a lot of time there and knows it well, and second, I wanted to see how my impressions had changed from several years ago when I came to the city for day trips that left me frustrated, turned around, and generally wondering what the heck the big deal was.

Fast forward 5 years and a couple years of more urban living under my belt, and New York has a totally different meaning for me than it did as when I was a teen. I feel so much more connected to it now, even never having lived there- I read the New York Times, which in and of itself gives one an inflated sense of NYC’s importance in the world- but also follow quite a few blogs written by people living the dream in one of the five boroughs. Getting more involved in- or rather, becoming a more keen observer of- the political realm piqued my curiosity as well. A surprising (to me) amount of political stuff goes on in New York in addition to Washington, and it seems like many politicians have spent some time working there before going on to bigger and better things in D.C. In sum, I figured that if I ever wanted to be a political big-wig, I better check out one of the other major cities on the East Coast to see if I could maybe hack living there.

I spent two full days in the city, one with my uncle and one with one of my brothers who lives there. I wasn’t on any particular mission, so things I wanted to see became the mission- and the list of things I wanted to see basically included all of the cool loved-by-Heidi stuff the city has to offer. It was fun! Some highlights for you in a listy format:

  • Rockefeller Center- “Top of the Rock” (aka the observation deck, pictured above) and a Rockefeller Center tour, which included history and art and everything in between- highly recommended! This of course meant we walked by Radio City and Magnolia Bakery, as well as the building where Mad Men is supposed to take place.
  • The Flatiron Building- beautiful, of course.
  • Mood Fabric (where Project Runway contestants get their game on)
  • Grand Central
  • Walking across the Williamsburg Bridge
  • Soho wandering
  • Uniqlo (I am a changed woman for that discovery, let me tell you!)
  • Purl Soho, whose knitting/sewing blog is the bee’s knees.
  • Artichoke Basil Pizzeria
  • Blue Bottle Coffee in Brooklyn
  • And some restaurant in Brooklyn where we saw one of the cast members of Orange is the New Black. That was pretty cool.

I will probably laugh at myself in 10 years (when I have a jetsetting lifestyle that has made me more familiar with New York) for having made this list, but for now it’s still exciting and new. Another contributing influence on my desire to my visit was that almost every single European you talk to has either been to New York or would give a kidney to get to go, which besides being frustrating for anyone who isn’t from there (uhhh… almost every American) is also vaguely amusing as you see America’s dreamy cultural awesomeness float across their faces. Europeans can keep up the air of disdain for America’s uglier habits pretty well, but when it comes to New York they generally cannot hide their excitement. New York is awesome, don’t get me wrong- but I don’t feel like visiting the city is representative of visiting America. It’s just such a bubble of intense human activity- it’s city identity circumvents its country identity in a lot of ways, so even though it’s fun to visit and there’s so much happening, you don’t really get a look at average Americans. Obviously you need to check out the ‘burbs for that.

What also sort of bothered me about New York was how on top of each other everyone is. For a lot of people I think that’s a reason to move there, but hearing crazy stories about what New Yorkers have to do to accomplish basic tasks, like checking out a library book or signing their kids up for sports, I just felt exhausted for them. Call me an old lady, but I have to imagine that sacrificing living in the center of the universe to have a park that’s not teeming with people to enjoy might be worth the trade off. Just a thought.

Anyway, I don’t mean to complain too much- New York is cool! The kazillion things there are to do there means I’m certain I’ll be back, and I hope that next time more museums and more delicious food will be on the to-do list ๐Ÿ˜‰ For now it’s back to the daily grind- just 2 more weeks of lectures and then the 1-month countdown of leaving England begins!