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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Every Country, One City

USA | Thursday, 29 November 2018 | Views [177]

Welcome to the city of all cities: New York City. People from all corners of the globe dream of coming here, whether it's for a better opportunity, the pulsating vibe, shopping for a new handbag, to have the bragging rights of being here, or even just a weekend of partying. No city in the world has more diversity than New York.

Having been to places like North Korea, Antarctica, and Ethiopia, I've long had a disdain for the mainstream. In fact, I've always joked that I'm a globetrotter who has never been to Harlem. Last night I hitchhiked from Easton with a Haitian lady who works at the hospital in Westchester, located about 15 miles north of Manhattan and from there I was on the train to Grand Central Terminal. I should quickly note there is no such place as "Grand Central Station;" a station is where a train stops whereas a terminal is the final stop on a train line. Dozens of countries, seven continents, and many years of travel later, I'm finally in Manhattan with the hustle and bustle to go with it. I should have known not to arrive at quarter after 5, as it isn't just rush hour but "crush hour." Gathering some info for a geocache a guy was yelling at me because he wanted a photo in front of a large sculpture and even had the nerve to get the police and have them move me on. Seriously, I'm just minding my own business and somebody has to do that. This is the sculpture:

Am I staying at a hotel? Absolutely not! Where am I staying? The projects of East Harlem with a lovely CSer named Amelia. Born to parents from St. Lucia and Barbados, she's ghetto to the core on one hand and just the opposite on the other. Living in the projects and having bought her pet albino rabbit with food stamps, in her words she "uses what the government gives us to keep apart to bring people together." Last night I made it a point to walk all the way from Grand Central Terminal to East Harlem, and you can clearly see how Manhattan changes so quickly between the "haves" and "have-nots." 

Practically every country in the world has a foothold in New York City: look around and you can find bagels, gyros, pad thai, pupusas, pizza, matzo ball soup, sushi, curry, injera, or whatever. Food carts selling kebabs, tacos, hot dogs, and all sorts of other things dot practically every corner of Manhattan. Last night I settled on a couple slices of pizza since I was too tired to really make anything. Today I met up with and had pad thai with my friend Elly, whom I met nearly 10 years ago in New Zealand. She's the daughter of Steve, the owner of the farm I've spent time at in Whitianga, and she joins the list of friends whom I've met up with in three countries. 

My time in NYC is short and after meeting up with Elly in Bushwick, I took the subway and made a B-line for the 9/11 Memorial. It's the only sight (it'd be disrespectful to call it a "tourist" sight) I really have an interest in seeing. More than 3,000 people lost their lives here that day, so it's impossible to smile.

No disrespect to the conspiracy theorists, but I largely believe the official version of what happened. Nearly everybody remembers where they were on 11 September, 2001. My mother woke me up that morning and said "Chris, wake up, the World Trade Center, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center." My first question was "what happened, did the plane run out of gas?" and she said "they don't know, being such a clear day." On live TV the second plane hit, and on the school bus on the way to school, both towers collapsed and the Pentagon was attacked. Shaking and fearing for my life, I was afraid a nuclear holocaust was next! I had to take my mind off of the current moment by thinking of basketball. Every country and nearly every person was impacted that day, regardless if they had a loved one involved or not. The impact is still felt to this day as white roses are placed by the names of victims on their birthday. 

From there it was time for Times Square. New Years always has a huge turnout but it, from what I hear, is often cold, wet, and windy. I'd rather spend New Years in Sydney. The 9/11 Memorial and Times Square are free to visit but visiting most sights attracts a huge cost: $38 for the World Trade Center observation deck, $36 for the Empire State Building, $36 for the Statue of Liberty (to go up into the crown, you must book months ahead), and $37 for the Rockefeller Centre. There's no way to get that stunning view of New York free of charge, and I stored Juliette (my drone) at my sister's house. Regardless, I woulnd't even think of flying her in Manhattan. Entrance to the 9/11 Museum is a whopping $24; the most expensive museum I've ever observed. Heading back to Amelia's place I did my best to avoid "crush hour" by walking through Central Park. 

After my first bite of the Big Apple, I have a lot more to see and do. Rucker Park is atop my list. 

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