Macon County News reporter travels to the Big Apple.
My historical tour of New York extended well beyond the city's most well known monuments, but encompassed a sense of ambiguity toward the purpose of our visit.
Although Andrew and I have both been to the city multiple times, we still opted to do the typical tourist things like visit Central Park. Now, I was born and raised in Western North Carolina. I grew up barefoot and dirty in these mountains and couldn't imagine living anywhere else in the world. So to just climb on the rocks or lay in the grass of Central Park, seemed like I was getting the short end of the stick. It is inconceivable for me to think that for so many people in Manhattan, the only bit of escape to nature that people have is the acre or so of grass spread beneath the trunks of a few sparse trees. Don't get me wrong, to kick off my flip flops and lay back with my eyes shut, hands behind my head and enjoy the sun beaming through the leaves of an oak tree was therapeutic, but with the faint sound of horns honking and the shuffle of everyday life, it just can't compare to any back yard in Western North Carolina.
From interpretive dance, to a simple drum circle, to crafts made out of grass, to “I'll tell you a joke for a dollar guy,” the street performers in Central Park reminded me of the state of our economy and that while I was enjoying my vacation, people who lived there were doing whatever they could just to make ends meet.
Just a few blocks away from Central Park, I found myself emerged in the hustle and bustle of Times Square and struggling to hear my own thoughts over the pool of foreign languages from passers-by and the piercing sound of honking horns and the deafening sound of movement through the city. Although I prefer the small town life, being just a speck in a mecca of culture, in a centerpoint of our nation's identity, had a humbling effect.
Day two of my New York adventure involved going off the grid a little bit. While Andrew was working, I prepared myself to navigate the city's subway to meet Shannon in Greenwich Village, the neighborhood she and her friends frequent. I had never made a subway trip alone and always had someone to do the navigating for me, so to have to venture into the depths of the station all by my lonesome was terrifying. We barely have public transportation here, and I often get scared having to fight rush hour traffic in Asheville by myself, so to be forced beneath the city, with no cell phone service and put on a steel cart, I felt like I was a piece of flesh in a tuna can fighting for my life. Afraid to look too out of place or speak and let someone here my accent, which undoubtedly comes off as intensely Southern, I avoided eye contact and prayed for the best. Luckily, after Andrew gave me directions before sending me on my way, I made it to my destination and if I wasn't such a germ-a-phobe, could have landed on my knees and kissed the pavement after exiting the subway unscathed.
Shannon took me to her favorite diner in Greenwich, a cute, could-barely-seat-20-people hole in the wall place called Daddy-O's. Already a change from the wall-towall packed places in Time Square, I was pleasantly surprised with the diner's community feel. On the bottom of the menu, there was a “We support our community” section, which featured a list of all the local markets the restaurant uses to compile their menu. It was so nice to see that even in a place that I consider to be a big city, they still place such a strong emphasis on supporting the local economy. Regardless of what restaurant I ate at while up north, the one thing I just could not get used to was not having ranch dressing to put on ... well everything! Don't they know that’s our ketchup?
After lunch, Shannon took me to what she referred to as, “where the normal people hang out.” Far away from the noise of the city, we meandered along the Hudson River for drinks. Once again I was reminded of Franklin as we walked along the bike/jogging path that followed the Hudson. The completely concrete surface ran parallel between the river and the road and was their own Greenway, minus the greenery of course. I couldn't help but think of how fortunate I was to have something like the Greenway to allow me to go a little further off the grid, while there, those people happily dodged taxi cabs and fought the heat to get in a workout.
Shannon lead me to a fourstory boat called the Lightship “Frying Pan,” and little did I know that amidst the view, which was a remarkable scene of the new World Trade Center and even the Statue of Liberty on one side and the New Jersey sky-line on the other, I was on yet another piece of New York history. This time, it tied into my home state of North Carolina.
The Lightship "Frying Pan," which is listed on both the New York State and Federal Registers of Historic Places, was built in 1929 and is one of 13 lightships remaining from more than 100 built. The U.S. Coast Guard used lightships as floating lighthouses to guard other ships from running aground on shoals or submerged rocks that were too far from land to be served by a lighthouse on shore. Many were also used to mark the entrances to harbors.
The Lightship #115 "Frying Pan" guarded its namesake, Frying Pan Shoals, 30 miles off of Cape Fear, N.C., from 1930 to 1965. The ship turned Bar and Grill, has a rich history all its own. After being abandoned for than 10 years while docked at an old oyster cannery in the Chesapeake Bay, broken pipe and remained underwater for three years before being raised by salvors. Instead of going to the scrapyard, the ship was sold to its present owners and after tons of silt and shells were removed from the hull, the ship was outfitted with a new engine and, in 1989, was sailed to New York City. Frying Pan is now docked at Pier 66 Maritime which is located on Pier 66a in the Hudson River Park at West 26th Street and 12th Ave. in Manhattan, N.Y. While the outside of the ship has been restored to her original appearance, the inside retains the barnacle-encrusted, sunken-ship motif that acknowledges her storied past.
After drinks at the pier, Shannon and I made our way to Brooklyn for an evening at Yankee Stadium. Meeting Andrew, and Shannon's boyfriend, AJ, and friend Kasey, we watched as The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Yankees 8-7 in extra innings, a victory I was happy to watch considering I am a diehard Atlanta Braves fan and wasn't thrilled to be in enemy territory in the first place.
Our historical journey throughout the city continued the following day as Andrew and I enjoyed lunch at the world famous Carnegie Deli.
Opening in 1937, the family owned and operated business is a true New York City landmark situated in Midtown on 7th Avenue at 55th Street. With the walls lined with photos of celebrities, dignitaries, athletes and politicians, there is no question why millions of people flock to the deli each year to enjoy the generous portions (all with at least one pound of meat) and delectable desserts. With all of their meats being smoked and cured in their own plant, and fresh baked cheesecake and other desserts, the Carnegie Deli is an overall experience, and a must on anyone's to-do list while in the city.
With delicious pickles as their famous appetizer, Carnegie Deli provided us with a meal neither Andrew or I could even begin to contemplate finishing. More than six inches high between two pieces of withering wheat toast, Andrew and I split a monstrous bacon and turkey sandwich. With more than a pound of meat overpowering a few pitiful looking pieces of lettuce and tomato, that sandwich was one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life, and an excellent way to wrap up my bigger than life trip to the city.
All in all, my week in New York City was historic, romantic, educational, and surprisingly relaxing. Even with all that my trip and the city are, the inspiration of the culture and diversity of New York is still not even close to comparable to my home and family here in Western North Carolina, and it sure is good to be back.