This spring Hilary gave me a store gift card for my birthday. Nothing out of the ordinary, it happens to millions of people every day on a variety of occasions. But the cheekiness of the store location made this one different. Century 21 is a New York City based store.
It was a not-so-subtle attempt to get the big mother-daughter trip to New York off the drawing board and into the real world of plane tickets and a hotel reservation. She also offered to take the gift card off my hands if I wasn’t ever going to use it. What a sport.
Once I agreed that this was the year, she included her dad in the plans. His first answer was no way. Then, with harvest and the local municipal election off his plate, he agreed. We left the search for the best flights and a decent, affordable hotel room to Hilary. She’s been there several times, alone or with others, so we trusted her judgment and experience.
As the reigning queen of rationalization I didn’t need much justification for the trip. First, in August we celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary and intended to take a trip?somewhere. Second, we had worked incredibly hard, without respite, for nearly a year and sorely needed the break. Third, this was a “bucket list” type of adventure.
So, off we went for seven days. Never before had I done so little planning, preparation, or research. We trusted Hilary to tell us what to do and when to do it. Mostly, That’s exactly what happened. And we’re grateful.
And while a week is merely a blink of an eye, it was long enough to dispel some of the myths about the city I’ve carried for a lifetime. Are my newfound impressions any truer than my misconceptions? Not likely. Truth is an elusive beast taking a lifetime to ascertain, and even then, It’s filtered (and flawed) by our biases and life experiences.
Here’s what I know:
1. I felt safer on the streets of Manhattan than I have in parts of Edmonton. Safety in numbers, perhaps? I saw more panhandlers last Friday in Edmonton than I did all week in the Big Apple.
2. The subway is the only smart and affordable way to move that many people around efficiently. I just needed to mentally delete all the scary subway scenes I watched in movies or read about in novels.
3. The city is not overrun with rats. I missed my family’s one sighting of them along the subway tracks, thank God.
4. People are no ruder or more impatient there than anywhere else. Nor is their driving worse. Though, I must say, the honking is as portrayed in the movies?cacophonous. Jaywalking is an art form and we mastered it on day one.
5. You need a level of stamina for the miles you walk and the flights of stairs you climb.
6. One visit isn’t enough, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.