Journal 2 - September 28, 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen... » Go Back

New York
You are about to leave your comfort zone. This was my primary thought as my flight left San Francisco just over a week ago. As I sat next to my in-flight neighbor Jean-Claude, the journey began. Jean-Claude was my neighbor for the duration of the flight, but if you're picturing some stinky French guy in a black beret, or an Anglo Bruce Lee wannabe, you're wrong. Jean-Claude did speak French, but he was a Chinese National born in Bora Bora, no beret, no Bruce Lee. So began my trip, sitting next to an Asian guy with a French accent on his way to Amsterdam. New York here I come.

Just as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," so too did the little voice in my head say to me, "Justin, I've a feeling we're not in Santa Barbara anymore" as I began to navigate my way around the Big Apple. New York is a non-stop blur of lights, food, art, cigarette smoke, amazing smells, beautiful women and sirens. What a place. For those of you who have been to New York, you know what I mean, for those who haven't, book your flights now. This place is amazing. Beaches, yoga, mountain bikes, Santa Barbara, what's all that? New York made me forget it all in a hurry. Thanks to my cousin and her boyfriend's generous family I began my trip in a beautiful apartment on the Upper East Side, which probably helped me forget Santa Barbara that must faster. We'll see if I'm singing the same tune after my fist night in a dirty hostel. But thanks to Kay, Max and Day in the mean time.

When you're in New York you walk, and you look around, and you walk some more. All the New Yorkers are serious, and they're in a hurry, so they all do their New York speed-walk. You figure it out quickly, it's a Darwinian thing, if you don't figure it out you get run over by a taxi, bus, or speed-walking grandma. At the crosswalks people don't wait for the lights to change, they're too busy to even wait on the sidewalk; they all stand on the street and immediately start inching their way towards the other side. In the mean time the cars and busses still need to get past, so a narrow passageway is created for vehicles to pass through As soon as there are no cars, everyone starts crossing, most without looking, which can be hazardous when people leave early and the rest follow like sheep, only discover thanks to a blaring horn that there is a oncoming bus or car.

Another thing about the people on the sidewalks, nobody looks you in the eye, and fewer than that will take the time to smile at you. Maybe one in ten people that made eye contact with me actually returned my smile with a smile of their own. Making eye contact is too much of a commitment on the streets of New York, and these people don't have time for commitments. There's too much risk involved, especially when it comes to making eye contact with a total stranger. The risk is that the stranger could turn out to be a freak, scammer, or worse. Along with the freaks I was pleased to discover there are plenty of normal people in the city, normal working young people, wearing T-shirts and flip flops among the Armani's and DKNY, which was refreshing for a traveling guy like me.

I could go on for a while, but I won't, and I haven't even touched the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Wall Street, Central Park, The Museums, Yankee Stadium, Brooklyn, and everything else I saw. For now it's off to the hallowed halls of Yale University, then off to Boston before making my way back to New York.

Hope you're all doing well.