I Heart NYC

What is there not to love about the bustling metropolis of New York City? You’re surrounded by the vastness of diverse cultures, incredible history and rich architecture of these massive skyscrapers at every turn, all while experiencing sensory overload as you fight your way through the crowd of locals and tourists hurrying to their next destination. The city is raw and gritty. One minute you could be getting honked at by an impatient cab driver, while the next you’re being hypnotized by the alluring aroma of cheese and pepperoni from the greasy pizza shop across the street. It’s a city united and you’ll never meet someone prouder of where they live than a New Yorker.

I had an internship for college in Manhattan and absolutely fell in love with the city. A minor influence might have been the fact that I could exchange awkward stares with Regis Philbin in the elevator, or that I had the opportunity to stalk John Travolta in the green room after his interview on “Live” that made my internship experience so amazing. But that story is for another time.

I will take any opportunity I can to return to New York and satisfy my craving for The Big Apple. My most recent visit occurred last year when I boarded a train to see a friend who currently resides in Astoria, Queens. I knew I was close to the city when the scenery changed from trees in the distance, to graffiti lined walls and debris surrounding the railroad tracks.

As soon as I emerged from the underground bubble of Penn Station I was instantaneously smacked in the face with the overwhelming stink of urine and car exhaust, while being shoved by strangers as the blaring echo of car horns rang in the distance.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” I thought to myself.

I knew my visit with Shannon would be nothing short of an adventure. As soon as we arrived at her apartment she was currently renting through an Airbnb, I knew I was out of my comfort zone. Coincidentally, the ceiling in the bathroom caved in from the upstairs tenant’s bathtub that morning, leaving the facilities slightly inhabitable. Her “bedroom” consisted of a bed in the middle of the living room while the tenant slept on a yoga mat in the room next door. I only discovered she had a cat when it was locked out of the room, pounced on my chest and continued to meow throughout the night, seeking its owner. I made it through to morning only to pack up my toiletries and catch the N train to Shannon’s gym where she snuck me in so I could use the facilities and try to wash away the grime from my previous travels. It was in that moment that I felt like a homeless runaway, not sure where I’d be sleeping that night or when I’d get another decent shower.

“Don’t you just love it here?” Shannon asked with excitement.

I laughed, but I admired her enthusiasm. She didn’t care what it took to be there, and saw this situation as another reason to appreciate the chaos that comes with being on your own in a big city.

We spent the day wandering and forgetting for a moment that my friend currently lived in squalor, even though she didn’t seem to mind it. We enjoyed a relaxing visit by the fountain in Washington Square Park, grabbed a burger in Tribeca and walked the crowded streets while catching up on old times.

The night began with me scurrying to find a hotel I could barely afford in Manhattan, while Shannon and I got dolled up for a dance showcase my friend Jonathan was in that evening. The show was amazing, and it was so great to see another friend in the city. We were invited to the dance studio downtown for an after party and that is where the real fun began. Shannon and I felt like royalty as we were taken on the dance floor by these professionals and twirled around the studio while the music played and the party lights reflected off the chandelier.

I had to pinch myself. “Is this real life?”

Once the ballroom lessons were over and the party came to an end, our energy levels had just heightened. Shannon and I hailed a cab and headed toward Greenwich Village. It was there that we danced in the basement of a club called “Cafe Wha?” and got the attention of the keyboard player from the band who invited us to an after party. Our night finally ended (at 5 o’clock in the morning) outside of a 7-Eleven while I was shown magic tricks by a guy dressed as a wizard and Shannon talked about life struggles with an ex-con sporting a lovely teardrop face tattoo. You know, just your typical Saturday night in the city.

The weekend fun continued the next day with bartering for scarves in Chinatown, catching a show on Broadway, and picnicking in Bryant Park like the locals while we laughed about the previous night’s adventures. I will be visiting the city again soon, and when I do, I know it will not disappoint.

To quote the great American author Tom Wolfe, “One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”

Never be afraid to step outside and explore the great wonders this world has to offer.