Tourists In New York

Recently, a high school classmate came to visit New York City. She’s been living in Europe and this was her first time in Manhattan. Days later, I saw posts on Facebook that a distant cousin was also visiting New York for the first time. She works for an airline company and has seen pretty much the world all over. When I saw their posts on Facebook, all showing the usual spots that are quintessentially New York City in any film setting, I noticed one thing in common: their excitement to be here.

And a sad realization dawned on me: how come I don’t share the same enthusiasm? Why can’t I be like that? Now that I think about it, I don’t remember the last time I was that excited to be in New York. Is it because I live here now?

I mean, I see people on Facebook post things like, “5 years ago, I moved to New York and I’m glad I made that decision.” I don’t remember when I moved here. I wish I did. It kind of happened in blurred phases. One day I was interning at Ann Taylor and sleeping over my boyfriend’s apartment on the weekends, next thing I knew I was signing my first lease.

I work in the Empire State Building. I walk by Herald Square all the time. I can walk through Times Square, Bryant Park, and Rockefeller Center everyday if I wanted to. But I don’t. I walk to work through throngs of tourists and tour guides, and can’t be bothered to look up from where I’m standing because I’m running late to work.

Is that what it is? Is it because I live and work here that it doesn’t seem so exciting anymore?

Instead of seeing the illuminated “Crossroads of the World” that is Times Square, I see hideous ads, overpriced restaurant chains, and a throng of comedians selling tickets to shows in a restaurant basement for a minimum price of two drinks.

Instead of seeing the beautiful Empire State Building’s Art Deco architecture, I see a whole lot of tour guides, hacking their tickets for a view from the top while giving me an occasional cat call in the morning.

Instead of seeing iconic yellow taxis, I see cab drivers who may or may not want to take me to uptown Manhattan or worst, Brooklyn when it’s in the middle of a shift change even though it’s technically their job to take me anywhere as long as the meter is running.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that living in this city is like being in a relationship.

New York and I are currently in a long-term relationship and we’ve definitely moved past the honeymoon stage. I’m now seeing a lot of her faults which include the smell of hot piss in the summer, the horrid process of finding a decent apartment without having to sell my soul, and the fact that Cronuts exist & I probably won’t ever get to taste one because ain’t nobody got time to stand in line for that. I pay too much for cocktails (among other things), I don’t know how to drive anymore (I literally forgot how to), and I’ve become so jaded that when I see people who are overly enthusiastic about being in midtown Manhattan, I cringe. In contrast, first-time visitors are in something akin to a nice first date. Everything is new, beautiful, and exciting. Bright lights in the big city.

As in all relationships, I realize that I’ve also taken some great things for granted. The Filipino Festival. Walking around Broome street and spotting cool people like Alexander Wang (or Alan Cumming). Brunch. Central Park when the temperature reaches 75 degrees and above. Ice Skating at Bryant Park in the Wintertime. The Jazz Age Lawn Party. Seeing Broadway shows like A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and All The Way for a bargain on Time Out New York; and then finding out that both won Tony’s for their respective genres. The cast and crew of Law & Order filming right outside of my apartment building. Summer Solstice celebrations at the Gallow Green. The vibrant, and equally harrowing weekend scene in Alphabet City. Yankee Games and being surrounded by a sea of navy blue & pinstripe shirts. Oyster happy hours. Events like the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. Being around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden during a Rangers Game and seeing all the generations of fans who have been cheering (or booing) the team since the time their parents bought them their first jerseys. The Met rooftop installations, and the Met in general. A combo plate from the 53rd & 6th Halal cart at 3 am. The exciting, and equally intimidating bar scene on Dyckman street.All across Manhattan the scene and vibe changes more often than the seasons. Much like a romantic partner, she could be so wonderful and giving one day, and so spiteful the next. Have you ever had a truly great day in this city? I have. It leaves you in wonder at how lucky you are to be alive and present to experience that exact moment you’re in. In contrast, having bad days here can leave a person really dangerously close to murderous; the occasional bad days I have sometimes feel like the whole universe conspired to make me feel like I shouldn’t have gotten up from bed that day. And while her beautiful, enchanting, glossy side is so prevalent to strangers, first-timers, and tourists alike, I see her for all that she is – flaws and all.

Yes, I’m in a relationship with New York much like every soul that has ever occupied this swarming city. And even though it took stranger’s accounts for me to realize how wonderful she is, I’m happy for it. Because every relationship needs work. And for me to be happiest here, I need to look up once in a while and try to see everything from a tourist’s point of view.


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