Jetlag Is A Thing
I almost forgot the three-hour time zone difference between Eastern and Pacific would wreak havoc on my inner biology. During my last visit, I took a redeye flight, landing at Newark Liberty just before dawn to enjoy the sunrise and join early commuters on their way to work on the NJ Transit train, but that afternoon I crashed hard.
This time around, I took an afternoon-evening flight and slept around 3-ish, playing with my niece (who had to go to school in the morning, yikes) and ended up beginning my day in earnest around 2 p.m.
I got to walk around the Upper West Side along Amsterdam Ave, making a personal errand for snacks and groceries at Key Food Supermarket on Amsterdam and 86th. Though not new, culture shock re-set in as I almost forgot how compact and dense the supermarket experience is in NYC: Relatively small store footprint, baskets, not carts, narrow aisles, shelves stacked high, yet you can still find pretty much everything you need here.
I also got to visit my “regular” Halal food cart on 86th and Broadway. Not The Halal Guys, but a relatively generic one found all over NYC. The chicken/lamb combo over rice is what I’ve been getting at this cart since 2015, so that functioned as my defacto lunch/dinner for the day.
Adventures In Babysitting
Later that evening, I got to babysit my niece as my sister and brother-in-law went to her school to attend a parents’ welcome dinner event. She was taking a nap when they left, which only meant she woke up to much tantruming when they were gone. So I did what this uncle did best, and tried to distract her by promising I’d take her to her parents to kill some time. One outside, she stopped crying and I carried her along the streets of the Upper West Side. At first I unsuccessfully tried to distract her with ice cream from the local Van Leeuwen, but she wasn’t into it. Then we walked around the corner and stopped into the Danish postmodern trinket store Flying Tiger on Columbus to provide massive distractions. But her parents left the dinner early and went home, and we headed back to the apartment. Walking a nearly five year-old up nine flights of stairs is no small feat.
The City That Never Sleeps (Mostly)
With the rest of the family asleep, I felt I had to venture out of the Upper West Side for a bit. So I took a brisk 11 p.m. walk down Broadway and passed the post-concert crowds leaving Lincoln Center. It was a relatively warm night, in the upper 60s. I took a light jacket with me, but later in my walk I ended up taking it off. I was also attracted to the sight of a new, extremely tall and narrow skyscraper being built in the distance, which gave me a spontaneous destination. I soon learned it’s called 111 West 57th Street, an 82-story, 1,428 foot-tall luxury supertall condo that, when completed next year, will be the 3rd tallest building in NYC. The development also incorporates Steinway Hall (yes, the same Steinway of piano maker fame) in its lower stories. Cater-corner to it is another legendary music venue – Carnegie Hall. And in the distance glowed the lights of Times Square, a place I haven’t visited since 2015. So, it beckoned as the next spontaneous destination.
New York is famously called “The City That Never Sleeps.” The connotation isn’t exactly true – the city actually does sleep, and even though state law allows bars to be open until 4 a.m., most of them actually close at midnight during weeknights. The 24-Hour City axiom, however, is true at Times Square, a location powered equally by electricity and tourist revenue. Stores and restaurants are open well past midnight. The farther one goes from Times Square, the earlier the activity ceases.
Although Times Square was not a new sight to me, I did walk up the now-iconic TKTS Red Steps in the middle of Times Square, a sort of de facto bleacher section for tourists to ogle at The So-Called “Crossroads Of The World” where various residents from different part of the world gather for selfies and even romantic moments. I took a sardonic selfie and posted it on Instagram. But then I realized that I can take pics and selfies here with no shame, as the Red Steps functioned as a safe space for tourists – and though I was not new to NYC, I was still one of them.
I also realized here that I already had a history in NYC. It was here in Times Square that I stayed at the Marriott Marquis Hotel during a family trip in 1991.
New York is famously called “The City That Never Sleeps.” The connotation isn’t exactly true – the city actually does sleep, and even though state law allows bars to be open until 4 a.m., most of them actually close at midnight during weeknights. The 24-Hour City axiom, however, is true at Times Square, a location powered equally by electricity and tourist revenue.
I continued to walk south until 43rd street or thereabouts, right at the foot of the location where the legendary ball drop happens every New Year’s. I ate a $3 bag of roasted candied cashews as a snack and decided to walk back uptown, passing the Ed Sullivan Theater where I had seen tapings of both David Letterman and Stephen Colbert’s Late Shows in 2015, and then elected to board the 1 train (at the base of the Tr*mp International Tower of all places) back to the Upper West Side instead of walking back all the way. I boarded a 2 train but realized after consulting a map that the 79th Street station only served the 1, so I got off at 66th Street and waited a few more minutes for the 1 to arrive. At 79th Street, after alighting my train, I saw a rare NYCTA Maintenance Of Way train speed by on the express track.
The Last Haul
As I walked back to the apartment, I noticed a NYC Sanitation trash truck picking up trash along Amsterdam. It was about 1:30 in the morning. I had no idea trash pickup happens late into the night.
So maybe this really is a city that never sleeps.