A week from right now, I will be returning from Utah on the JetBlue redeye and I will be meeting my older brother, sister-in-law, and 17-year-old nephew in the JetBlue terminal (my favorite terminal at JFK, btw) at which point we will take a cab back to my apartment, drop off our luggage and set off on a fabulous New York tourist adventure.
I am very excited about this. I can’t wait to share my city with them. However, while thinking about them visiting (I don’t think my brother or nephew have ever been east of Denver), I’ve also started to worry about what they will think of this place that I have completely fallen in love with.
Because of the fam’s impending visit, I have a heightened awareness of just how crazy/dirty/crowded/smelly this city is. I was discussing this with a coworker today and he totally gets it. For instance, last week when I was heading to the gym early one morning, there was a guy passed out on the stoop in front of the building next to mine. He was still there when I returned. I wondered to myself if he might actually be dead so I stopped and watched for a moment to make sure I saw him breathe. When I left for work an hour or so later, he was finally gone. I didn’t think much of it. Just another day in New York. But then I think about my nephew who has spent his entire life in very suburban Arizona and, well, I think it’s going to be interesting.
And yesterday, as I was rushing down the stairs to the subway platform I realized there were no trains right there, so I slowed my pace a little. And then I smelled it. Well, him. And I went ahead and started rushing again just to get upwind from the stench and ensure I wasn’t in the same subway car. I’ve never smelled death, but I’m pretty sure that’s what rotting flesh smells like. Oh, and let’s not forget about the crazies on the subway who talk/sing/shout to/at no one in particular about who knows what (veganism, racism, Jesus…).
There are things that you just get used to. Homeless people sleeping in church doorways. Gum spots all over sidewalks. Watching your step for dog poo (at least I like to believe it’s dog poo). Rats on the subway tracks–or the sidewalk on trash day. The smell of urine.
I know those of you who have never been here or lived here are probably wondering why anyone ever chooses to live here, but until you do, you just can’t understand. It just becomes part of you. I just hope that my family will be able to see what I love about it, because guaranteed they are going to experience all of the craziness because that’s Murphy’s law.
On top of all of that, I have been thinking about all the helpful tips I want to share with them. Like the fact that walking in New York is like driving anywhere else. For any of those of you who have never been to New York, but may someday come, here’s a little tip. If you just follow the rules of driving when you’re walking, you will be fine. If you’re going slower, stay to the left. Don’t just stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Watch where you are walking or you’ll likely end up running into someone or something. When walking in a group, think about it like you’re caravanning in cars. Single file is ideal. Two by two is the max. If you want to stop and take a picture, look up at the Empire State Building, or anything else, pull over to the side of where ever you are. And for the love of everyone who is trying to get to work on time, subway turnstiles should be treated like toll plazas…your ticket should be out and ready to go so you don’t stop traffic. The one exception is jaywalking. Everyone jaywalks…just watch for bikes in addition to cars.
I seriously can’t wait for them to come. And really, I think it will be great. At least I hope it will be. In some ways, I feel like I’m in a relationship with New York and I’m finally letting part of my family meet my city and it’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I don’t need them to love my city, but I do need them to see why I do.