In North America, a 16th birthday is of notable importance as a symbolic ‘coming of age’ event; therefore, with it being my first birthday in North America, I celebrated my sweet sixteen in style:
The only problem is, my birthday is in January and January = cold. In fact it was so cold that an incoming blizzard shortened what was to be a weekend long trip, thanks to delayed flights. This gave my parents and I an estimated 32 hours in NYC to accomplish all that was on our list: challenge accepted.
We arrived at JFK Airport in the early hours of the morning – there was no time for sleep, sleep is for the weak. My initial observations were of the accents (‘I’m walking here!’ springs to mind) and taxis. Taxis, taxis everywhere!
The weather was still against us as we walked to our first destination, the Empire State Building. Clouds suffocated the city in a thick, dense fog so much so that the tower peak was hidden from view. In quick response, the decision was made to ascend Rockefeller Center, a far better choice in hindsight. Here, the infamous New York skyline can be enjoyed with the iconic Empire State Building included! From above, the city streets told a story of chaos and congestion. I enjoyed the comic misfortune of two taxi drivers sharing a heated conversation after a near-miss collision. The exaggerated hand gestures deemed words unnecessary.
Unfortunately, the clock was ticking and after a fitting Starbucks snack, we hurried along to do some shopping. Of course, I purchased a ‘I <3 NY’ t-shirt – this goes without question. By the evening, we were fed, watered and sitting in a crowded theater on Broadway. As the lights dimmed and the curtains opened for the beginning of Monty Python’s Spamalot, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dreamlike disbelief. Suddenly, New York City, The Big Apple, the most heavily exhibited city in world media, didn’t seem so far away. I was on Broadway, wow! This thought distracted me for the otherwise enjoyable evening. Once back at the hotel for a quick catnap, my mother made an interesting remark: ‘It’s strange how safe you feel walking around in the dark, even though you are aware of how many people probably have guns in their pocket’. Being from England, where even the police do not carry firearms, guns are a largely unfamiliar concept.
As we woke the next morning, we visited Strawberry Fields where John Lennon’s memorial lay (which, to this day is covered with an endless supply of fresh flowers). Although I never felt endangered myself, before me stood a symbol of love, honoring
a the figurehead of peace who himself was a victim of gun violence. For the rest of my time in New York, I walked with a sense of awareness and mourning.
Regardless, ‘I <3 NY’ could not be a truer statement. When our 32 hours drew to a close, I was able to evaluate if we had successfully accomplished all on our itinerary; and what do you know, we had! On the flight back to Canada, I sat with a smug smile on my newly 16 year old face.
Take that blizzard! Wellsteads 1: Winter 0.