Posted by The Lam | Aug 4, 2008
Biting the Big Apple (Part 1 of 3): Observations and Misconceptions

Two weeks ago I went to New York City with a bunch of friends for some sightseeing, partying, shopping, and other touristy-type things. I have much to say about the six days I spent there, and I figure the best way is to split it up into 3 separate posts: observations and misconceptions, things we saw and did, and family.

As mentioned above this post is about my observations and misconceptions. The first thing that you geeks should know is that half my family resides in New York (and its surrounding areas). Basically the whole side of my mom's family lives and works in the City. Our family went to New York a lot during summers to spend pseudo-vacations there when I was younger; the last time I was in the City was about 11 years ago (unfortunately it was for my grandpa's funeral). Because these trips were always family trips my vision of New York was reduced to a small window. Simply, New York = Chinatown + my cousin's house. Yes, most of our time was spent at Chinatown in Manhattan (and the then smaller one in Brooklyn) as well as at my cousin's house. As I would soon learn, New York was a lot more than just Chinatown and my relative's house.

In preparing for our trip there, one of the things we tried to do ahead of time was to learn how the subway system worked ie. how and where transfer stations were, and how to get to places where we wanted to go. Confusion is the first word that came to mind when looking at the map provided by the MTO website. It looked like a multi-coloured spiderweb layered on to a city map... vastly different from the TTC subway grid of Toronto. There was a small sense of nervousness before we first stepped on to their trains, basically in fear that we'd get lost. THANKFULLY, their subway system was quite efficient and easy to understand once you get on the train. Inside the trains themselves are digital itinerary's depending on which subway line you were on. They displayed all the stops in a linear fashion (no spiderwebbing to be found) and a computerized voice would announce all the transfers that were at the station. This made for easy transportation. We never got lost.

New York is also a safer place than I had once thought. The media is to blame for this one. Growing up, movies and TV shows that I watched would depict New York as this dark, gothic, crime-laden city. On top of that, two years ago, my brother went with a group of friends, and on the first day while in Chinatown (of all places) his friend was pickpocketed. In reality, at least for this trip, I found New York to be really safe. I kept my wallet in my front pocket for the first day, but was comfortable enough to transfer it back to the back pocket afterwards. There were always policemen in cars or on foot patrolling all the areas I visited. I never once felt threatened or unsafe.

Now for a lightning round of observations:
  • it seemed like 9 out of 10 workers in retail were either hispanic or black.
  • the suckiest job I saw was people who would wear wooden signs on them to advertise a store. You know it sucks when your job could be replaced by a post. Sadly, all but one of these workers that I saw were middle-aged latino women.
  • don't always expect help when you're asking, even for something as simple as the direction of the subway station.
  • Americans are really patriotic to their country.
  • American portions are at least 1/3 larger than their Canadian counterparts (ie. McD's iced coffees).
  • the buildings were all tall (and beautiful)... but not tall enough for someone like Spider-Man to swing everywhere.
  • there were no public cigarette advertisements around the city (unlike when I was younger).
  • New Yorkers don't go to Times Square, only tourists do. Times Square was pretty nice to look at during the night though. Toronto is brainless to think that they could imitate this.
That's about it for now. Stay tuned for a post about the things we did (at least some of them). Later geeks!

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