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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
 
How I am a Big-City Boy Big Pussy
I’ve always had a strange relationship with New York City. Kind-of like a guy might have with an intelligent supermodel. Y’know, first he might not be very aware of what to expect exactly . . . not really consciously aware of her at all. And then he meets her and is very overwhelmed. All interaction from that point forward makes the guy feel very inadequate and confused. That’s me in New York.

My first visit to the Big City was when I was 15. I was visiting my grandparents in Norwalk, CT (where I was born). I didn’t have this enormous desire to go to the City, but I think my grandparents were trying to come up with something to entertain their apathetic grandson. So, we caught the commuter train into Grand Central. I still have the map where my grandmother marked our journey. Mostly, we walked around midtown near Grand Central and took a bus to the Intrepid and back to midtown. I spent a great deal of time looking up. And noting all of the anonymous camera stores (seemingly on every corner). For several months after my visit, I wanted to move to the City and become a bicycle courier. (I hadn’t even seen Quicksilver.)

After Michelle and I moved to Albany in early 1997, we kept talking about a trip down to the City, but it didn’t happen until her parents came to visit the next year. There was no real planning, outside of booking a hotel room in the Upper East Side for the night. We caught the train in Poughkeepsie and then a taxi from the station to the hotel. From that point on, we walked almost everywhere (after an aborted foray into the subway). At one point, we walked from the Met all the way midtown (to eat) and then caught a taxi back to the hotel. We did eat at a nice Moroccan restaurant for dinner. The next day, I don’t think we got anything productive done and ended up leaving on an early train.

It was around this time that I came to the realization that perhaps New York City was too big for me.

Later that same year (the weekend before Christmas, actually), we commissioned our more-seasoned friend J/G (who, coincidentally, we stayed with on our just-completed trip) to show us the Big City ropes. So, the three of us took a daytrip, first driving to Seacaucus and then catching a bus into the City. We walked some, rode the subway some, went to the Village, ate a couple decent meals, went to the top of the Empire State Building, checked out Rockefeller Center. We squeezed much more into seven or eight hours than we would’ve done left to our own devices.

Infused with our newfound City knowledge, we planned for Michelle’s parent’s next visit, which was a year later. I put together an ambitious three-day itinerary, including round-trip train rides from Albany. I reserved rooms at the Marriot Marquis. I made reservations at Tavern on the Green (lunch) and The View (dinner). I booked the four of us on a two-day (plus a night) bus tour. I planned out several other places to go, things to do. Everything was going along swimmingly until we began our bus tour on the first day. And it started raining. The rain continued for much of our trip. We kept our reservations and replaced a lot of the sightseeing with shopping. We got to see the World Trade Center almost exactly two years before it was destroyed. We even managed to ride the subway without getting lost (or mugged). All in all it was a good trip.

I know in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t ever live in New York City. Especially not with a child to worry about. You wanna know what a big ol’ pussy I am? As soon as we parked our car this weekend and started walking towards Broadway / The Village, I started worrying about Mia. (What if we lose her? What if someone tries to take her? What if we let her out of the stroller and she gets away from us and runs out into traffic?) I had this sense of impending doom as I was pushing her down the sidewalk, across each street and avenue. J/G had to make me feel more comfortable when we left Mia with Michelle and J/G’s girlfriend while they shopped and we wandered (aimlessly, it would seem) through Lower Manhattan. We were supposed to meet them at the lower end of Central Park, and they were an hour late. Lemme tell you how big a hug I gave our Mia when I saw her again.

Deep down, I know that New York City is just like any other city . . . except a lot bigger. Look, I’m not a small-town guy, but I guess I’m not that metropolitan, either. Maybe I’m a mid-sized-city guy. If we could get some culture in this Dead City, and definitely something approaching a change of seasons, maybe this would be big enough for me.

And that’s just sad.