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Daily Thoughts

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

I figured I would write another entry since it had been awhile since my last.  I have two hours to get one out as I am sitting on the bus from Detroit to East Lansing then on to Lansing, MI.

My daily thoughts for today were inspired while I was reading a thread from a forum on my favorite website

If anyone needs any information on where to go, what to do in a particular place, airfare, hotels, hostels, car rentals etc, check this site out its awesome!

But getting back to my daily thoughts for today, I’m not sure how many of you who read this blog live near or in a big city (I’m talking millions or close to), but I do.  I live near New York City on long island, and one day I got thinking, “am I a tourist in my own city?”  I mean sure I have been in the city many, many times, I have seen some of the sites (there are too many to it “most”), statue of liberty, ellis island etc…But this question particularly struck me while I was sitting on the subway going to my friends apartment in Brooklyn New Year’s Eve.  I was looking around, you know people watching, and it’s really amazing.  I thought to myself “I wonder how many people in this car don’t live in New York or the surrounding area?”  “How many are visiting for the first time, second time or twentieth time?”  Did I just hear German?  Oh man that guy has a camera around his neck, beep beep beep tourist alert.  OK, who has the subway map or travel guide out?  Any rough guides or lonely planets?  And then you have the complete opposite, the ones doing the cross-word puzzle from the times, the iPods, the books, people sleeping on their hour subway ride back to brooklyn.  I personally feel that the sleepers are the epitome of not a tourist.  If you can sleep on the subway and know when to awake just in time to get off, you are a seasoned pro and a good one at it.  Second place are the book and magazine readers, third are the iPod and music player listeners and fourth would be someone like me; check the cell phone from time to time, re-grip on the handle bars (if standing), and hoping that someone will get off at the next stop so I can sit down.
It’s funny because I try not to think of myself as “visiting” New York City; tourists visit, travelers see the city, and backpackers live it, but for myself, what am I when I come?  I mean technically I don’t live in New York City.  I am a stone’s throw away living in Great Neck, so I’m pretty close.  It’s not like people from “Boston” who say they live in “Boston” when in reality they are from Waltham, Newton, Haverhill or some other suburb that is 15-45 minutes away.  I mean I am literally a two minute drive to Queens, which is part of the city.  Again Manhattan is not the only Borough of New York City.

Even though I have to take the train to the city when I go in (I could drive but it is a nightmare if you don’t go at the perfect time), I don’t think deep down I consider myself a tourist in my own city.  I know my way around (OK for the most part), I take the subways when I can and usually avoid cabs (very touristy thing to do), or walk.  I don’t go to Times Square to eat dinner, or the South Street Seaport, or walk up and down 5th avenue staring at all the stores that I can’t afford to buy anything in like most visitors find themselves doing.  OK so I do go to canal street once in a blue moon if I need something cheap, crappy, that will break by the time it gets home (or fake cologne, don’t be fooled, buyer’s beware they are crap and make you want to choke).

Nonetheless, from time to time I do find myself gazing up at the tall skyscrapers, and when I get out of the subway tunnel and finally exhale after holding my breath from the terrible stench they emit (especially in the summer), I do take a second to look around, get my bearings, take a deep breath and prepare myself for the city.  Unless you have lived in Manhattan for an extended time (more than three years), I can’t help think that others would have similar experiences when they go in to the city.  I mean again I have been there many, many times, but I guess it’s not the same unless you have lived it.

In the end though, I still don’t consider myself I tourist in my own city.  I mean I don’t have the camera hanging from my neck, I don’t have the subway map all folded out, looking feverishly at where I should get off.  Am I on the express train, local, does the subway stop here late at night, how often does it come?

I’m sure one day I will find myself living in the city, in the heart of it all, waking up to noisy taxi cabs, fire trucks, or police sirens, but until that day comes, I will still have to take a deep breath coming out of the train at Penn Station or out of a subway tunnel wherever that may be.

Thanks, those are my daily thoughts for today.