Thursday, September 1, 2016

[MANHATTAN] Manhattan State of Mind

I haven’t been to the East Coast, and I’ve heard both great things as well as bad rep for New York. Some people say that if you make it there, you can make it anywhere. Some people say that New Yorkers are a stuck-up bunch. The best way to do it is to go there and see for yourself. Findings, then? Well, it’s been all good, and New York just jumped on top of my all-time favorite cities list, toppling Los Angeles. But there is no rivalry here. I love both cities. I just think that they differ in many ways. Good ways.

JFK is the hub of JetBlue, which means you are not that far away from cheap flights, even though I’ve noticed that prices rarely differ compared to legacy airlines when you book close to the flight date. As for me, I chose to land there instead of Newark because my Airbnb place was in Brooklyn. Travel time was still around an hour from Terminal 5 but transfers were not that complicated. New York’s public transportation is dependable enough if you plan your routes well. Google Maps is your friend.

What I regret about this trip is not being able to see a Broadway musical, which was on top of my to-do list before coming here. Life just happens, you know. I only had two nights to spare. My first night was free, but The Book of Mormon no longer had available seats because I tried to book too late. They still had free seats for my second night but I had a shift at 8 PM. The evening show starts at 7 PM. Life is about tradeoffs, people. In cases like this, it’s not rocket science. We prioritize our bread and butter.

What I immediately liked about New York was the cultural diversity. I suppose the neighborhood I stayed in Brooklyn was the Jewish quarter given the abundance of Hebrew signs everywhere I went. The Chinese place I frequented for food, China Pavilion, obviously had staff using Mandarin as their lingua franca. The main clientele was a mix of Spanish-speaking Mexicans and Haitian creole speakers. Los Angeles is also diverse, but the population is mainly Chinese and Latino. In New York, it’s as if everyone’s here.

Buy an MTA card. The one I bought is valid for a year. The metro, trains, and buses usually charge USD 3 if you pay by cash, and most of them only accept coins. If you have the card, you get a discount and pay only USD 2.75, plus, you don’t have to worry about bringing enough coins all the time. The card is rechargeable in many stations and some machines accept bills as well as credit cards. The only caveat with the credit card is that the machine asks for a postal code. Since mine is a Philippine zip code, it was deemed invalid.

In any case, I found moving around New York via public transportation quite easy. The travel time is usually long and it took around 40 minutes from Brooklyn to Manhattan each time, but I think that adds more to the experience. There’s really something appealing about trying to get around as if you legit reside there. And yeah, I wouldn’t mind living here at all. Work might be hard to come by but if you’re a student, NYU and Columbia are both in Manhattan. Maybe it’s time for a post-grad degree!

I went to Broadway anyway. Central Park was on my list too, but given the vast real estate I had to walk through, I begged off. See you next time, Central Park! I hopped off #3 just as the sun was setting. A relaxed early dinner at McDonalds meant that it was already dark when I stepped out. Wait, scrap that. Manhattan is never dark. Broadway is always lit up and is a spectacle in itself. I roamed the streets and found out that there were several WiFi hotspots I could connect to for free. I turned my GPS on.

Google Maps pointed my exact location and I was uploading pictures on Photobucket LIVE. Wow, New York. I’m impressed. I can get used to this! I was still a bit frustrated seeing all the Broadway shows just within reach. So near yet so far! I guess it sucks when you are in such an awesome place and your pre-trip planning let you down big time. It’s fine. This won’t be my last time here and I’m going to make sure that the next time I'm in town, every night will be a Broadway showstopper.

Times Square is not that hard to find. Just follow the crowd! They are all headed there anyway. There are two or three pedestrian islands there where camwhores converge for the stereotypical Times Square selfie. This area is rather bright and always lively. It was so fun recognizing those steps featured in the fight scene between Spider-Man and Electro. Heck, I think most images of New York in my mind came from those Spider-Man movies! And now I’m here. I was even looking for Captain America in Brooklyn!

Overall, I guess it was a good decision after all to transit here on my way back to Manila. I always did it in California but the East Coast also has a lot to offer, not to mention New York is something you should definitely experience even just once in this lifetime. It’s vibrant. It’s multicultural. It’s like the freakin’ United Nations! And Manhattan’s skyline is love. I feel like I can stay here for months and yet still have something new to explore every day. I’m raving. I’ve defected to the eastern seaboard, SoCal friends! XD

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