I love Manhattan. The exhilaration as you feel as the cars go rushing by on the streets, honking and expelling bouts of smoke into your face. The shouts and screams of families, tourists, couples, and city-goers trying to walk to their destination. The pedaling and recession of the bicycle wheels that greet you along the side of the road, with their colorful blurs as they rush away into the distance. The magnificent cityscape of towering skyscrapers that almost touch the heavens, their spindly antennae-like spires literally reaching for the clouds as their gleaming windows shine like newly polished brass. The adoring crowds that gather around street performers, cheering on random strangers who happen to have some free time on their hands and a need for a bit of cash. The little children rushing out of line from a sweetly tinkling ice cream truck as their parents furtively push bills into their wallets behind. The changing of the pedestrian crossing signals, ignored by many jaywalkers who seek convenience over laws and thrill over monotony. The tourists who carry maps, sitting on city benches, just wondering where, when, and why they are lounging around when the rest of the city is up and about. The delicious aromas wafting off the delicately perched lines of food vendors, their greasy paper hats like playful crowns dotting the crowds as they whip up glorious entrees from juicy hotdogs to spicy kebabs and fresh and tangy chicken gyros. The old Chinese man who sits on a park bench dropping bread crumbs in front of him to curious pigeons.
Need I say more? There's a reason I have this undying love for the city, and it has nothing to do with how I happen to change my mood very often. Despite being a suburban girl, I pretty much lived my life in Queens, with my grandparents. Because my siblings and I were born so close together, my parents had little time between our family, work, and the other adult business that they had to attend to at the time. Thus, when I was a toddler, the easy solution was to leave me with my grandparents for weeks at a time until their business was finished. If this seems rough, it's nothing compared to my baby brother, who lived with my aunt and grandparents in their apartment in Queens until he was about four-years-old and about to attend school. Just to illustrate how much of his early childhood had been spent in the city, he attended preschool at a nearby daycare in Flushing.
Nevertheless, even with all of the wonderful aspects of the Big Apple, their schools have not been hailed as the epitome of education. Though the private schools may be some of the best in the country, not all parents can afford to send their kids off to preppy schools that charge exorbitant tuition rates. To say the least, my parents were probably not willing to ditch their comfortable home in the suburbs either, especially without a good reason. My dad worked in the city, however, and many of my relatives resided around the Flushing area, so it became second-nature to associate New York City as our second home.
While my friends would go to China, Taiwan, or Japan to visit their relatives, I relished in the fact that our family reunions took place "right next door," in the city. Early on, I learned that this was a sort of anomaly, since most people -- as much as they loved Chinatown -- weren't frequent flyers to the area. It became a secret life for me, these outings to the big city, only dreamed of by my more suburban friends and neighbors.
That's why it shames me so much that I really don't know the city as well as I think. I've always told myself that there was so much I had in common with the average Manhattanite -- knowing how and where to get the best dollar slice, being able to block out the annoying racket on a subway, knowing how to ride a subway. Turns out, there's more to being a city-goer than I'd ever thought.
It's a bit late, though, and I'll post more about my adventures tomorrow. In the meantime, here's my menu for the day:
Breakfast: Red bean bun, melons
Lunch: Falafel sandwich from Sam's Falafel (not fast food, and pretty healthy!)
Dinner: Rice, steamed fish, longan, cauliflower
Snack: Cherries, blueberries, melon