I returned from school on a Thursday in August; the following Thursday I flew to New York City, visiting for the first time since I was three. Of that trip, I remember only walking on a city street in search of Fred Braun’s shop, which my mother wanted to visit, and I thought I could recall seeing the Statue of Liberty. My father says we did take the ferry to Staten Island, so that must be a real memory, one of my earliest.
It was extremely thrilling when Manhattan came into view from the plane window. The plane landed at LaGuardia, where I was fetched by my esteemed relative Lucy and her fiancé, Ricky, whom I was meeting for the first time, and who I feel is an excellent addition to our family. I really liked him.
Ricky and Lucy dropped me off at Leo House, a Catholic guesthouse in Chelsea where anyone can stay. I was really happy with this place. It cost just $170 a night—it would have been less if I hadn’t chosen a room with its own bathroom—and was clean, old-fashioned and charming. Some of the Yelp reviews said the front desk people were rude, so I made a point of being extra nice to all of them, and they were all very friendly in return.
That evening, which was warm and balmy, I walked to Greenwich Village (I’m in Greenwich Village!) and had dinner at a diner. The next morning, I had breakfast at Chelsea Square Restaurant, half a block from Leo House, and took the subway (I’m on the subway!) to 51st and Park Avenue to have lunch with my old friend Frank. We went to a French café for salads. After lunch, I walked to Central Park. (I’m in … you get the idea). En route, I passed by Fox News. I sat for a while in the park—it was a very hot and rather humid afternoon—and then took the subway to Chinatown and the Bowery. In the evening, Lucy and I walked through Times Square and had dinner at a Thai restaurant near Leo House.
I hadn’t thought I would visit the 9/11 memorial, but when I realized how quick and easy it would be to get to, I decided to go. The next morning, I took the subway there and Lucy and I met in the Oculus. I was staggered by the memorial, which I realized I had never even seen a picture of before. I thought it perfectly balanced extreme somberness with life and energy. Lucy was very kind about pausing often during the day while I took photographs. After the memorial, we walked past the New York Stock Exchange and saw the place where George Washington took the oath of office and also the Charging Bull, or at least the people standing around it.
Then we took the ferry to Staten Island, which does afford an excellent view of the Statue of Liberty. We thought we would have lunch on Staten Island and were both surprised when we disembarked and found—nothing, basically. There were some handsome old buildings now used for municipal purposes, but not the bustling commercial strip with ten restaurants to choose from we assumed we would find. (We learned later that the neighborhood near the ferry landing is considered to be a bad one.) We went a few blocks down the street and visited a grocery store, and then walked back to the ferry.
Back in Manhattan, we found Ricky parked in their car right outside the ferry terminal. He graciously drove us around for the next several hours, though Harlem and all over the Bronx, preceded by lunch in Brooklyn and a spin through DUMBO. Coming back from the Bronx, we drove along Fifth Avenue and passed the Museum of Modern Art and the Plaza Hotel (where Eloise lives!). We passed the handsome dwellings of the one percent. One of them had an orchid in his or her window. (We also passed Trump Tower; I took a photo. My mother said later that I shouldn’t have done that: “Every time someone takes a picture of it, he gets an email saying he’s great.”) And thus I saw all five boroughs in three days!
When Ricky and Lucy dropped me off that evening, Ricky said he had enjoyed the afternoon and that whatever I wanted to do on future visits, he would be happy to participate. He added, “School starts in a week and a half, so if your next visit was before that, that would be convenient for me.” (He is in graduate school, pursuant to being a high school teacher in the Bronx.) I felt sad when they drove away, and hope to see them again yearly. I really appreciate their spending so much time with me and making sure I saw so many things, and I really loved New York City. What a splendid place.