Sunday, September 19, 2010

International City

I exited the subway at Grand Central station and nearly steamrolled a 5-foot-tall lady selling Mexican flags. 'Of course,' I realized. 'Mexican Independence Day.' People like this woman were all over midtown chanting 'Bandera, bandera!' and waving flags for sale. Men, women and children were sporting green national soccer jerseys and waving flags.

Two blocks later, I'd walked into a Turkish street fair. Baklava, cured meats, and photos of Cappadocia, Istanbul, and Ephesus everywhere. Turkish music on the loudspeakers.

Five minutes after that, I was buying computer parts from a man in a yarmulke, in a long line of men wearing yarmulkes, comparing notes on the exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Israeli Shekel. After making my purchase, the attendant noticed the Seattle billing zip code.

"What brings you to New York?"

"I just moved here, actually."

"Really? Welcome to New York! This city will chew you up and spit you out again."

I grinned. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Those of you who already know me can skip this paragraph. I've traveled a bit in my relatively short lifetime. And by a bit, I mean around 70 countries, spread across all of the continents on the planet. Most of those came during a 19-month journey I took after I graduated from college. Except for a brief stay acting in my native Seattle, that was what I had been doing immediately before moving to New York.

I came to this city because, among other reasons, it seems like the most natural place for a world traveler to settle for a bit. Everyone from everywhere comes to New York if they can, and they always they bring a little of their home with them. So you can walk three blocks and cross a Mexican parade, a Turkish Street fair, and then emerge on the other end right onto Broadway. The one all the other "Broadway"s are named after. I can see echoes of the world everywhere in this town. It's like noticing an author hiding Easter Egg references to past books in a later story. A bonus for those who know the other parts.

But while I'm enjoying the throwbacks to everywhere else, I'm still having fun with the classic New York moments. Walking back from my free* yoga class, my first ever, I came up Broadway and saw that I was behind two very very drunk guys, straight out of a frat party. They staggered across a street against a red light. One was slightly ahead of the other, and a taxi coming up at speed honked at him.

The first guy kept going, but the second guy stepped in front of the cab, turned unsteadily to face it, and stopped. The taxi skidded to a halt about half a foot from his legs. The man looked the driver in the eye, then very slowly and deliberately bent over and kissed the hood. Then he walked away.

Maybe you can find that somewhere else, but I've only ever seen it here.
*and by free we mean $2 mat rental. Plus donation. (Plus, in my case, $2 extra because the route between the studio and my subway stop is intersected by The Strand bookstore's $1 book racks outside). Check it out: Yoga to the People. I wanted something cheap to correct my posture and make me more flexible. I think I just might become a regular.

This post cross-posted to Joel's Travel blog, JTrek.
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