I travelled to NYC with two of the best friends in the world. The trip would have been so different if I had gone with anyone else. Not good or bad. It just wouldn't have been the same.
These two lovely ladies liked to sleep in. I, however, was wide awake at 6:17 every morning. I couldn't even try to tell you why 6:17 was the magic number but that's what the clock said every morning when I decided to get up. I couldn't stomach the thought of lazing around the hotel for hours waiting for the day to start. Not when I was only there for 3 days and 4 nights. I was determined to squeeze as much out of the trip as possible.
My favourite thing to do when I travel is to make something of a routine or do something that would easily become a part of my routine if I lived in the place I'm visiting. In some small way it makes the strange more familiar and it's easier to submerse even further. A walk is such a good way to start. I took to the streets at 7:00 on a beautiful, hot, hazy early summer morning in Brooklyn.
It was brilliant. Do this. Do this by yourself in the early morning hours in a strange place. It's the time of day when people are going about their daily routines. It's the time of day when the chores are getting done and people are heading off to work. I imagine that it's a pretty important way to start the day when the possibilities that present themselves throughout the day and night in a place like this make it so that you wouldn't possibly want to forgo any of that to take out the trash.
It turns out that the neighbourhood we stayed in was achingly familiar to our neighbourhood in Toronto. I completely relaxed into my surroundings. Greenpoint is this incredible mix of industrial and residential with a main retail strip thrown in for good measure. I found a cat in fenced parking lot under the overpass. While I was taking a picture, a city worker who was driving past rolled down his window to ask if everything was okay. I met two older gentlemen sitting on the stoop (I've always wanted to use that phrase in regular conversation) having their morning banter when they threw in a "Good morning, beautiful" and then kept on where they left off. And just to my left the garbage men were picking up cans and dumping them in the truck while they discussed and argued about the sports events of the previous evening. The trees rustled and the flowers bobbed up and down to avoid the breeze. I could see water peeking through the holes in the chain link fences that border Greenpoint at the East River. I asked a man who seemed to be stuck in the days of editing copy for the high school paper if he knew how I could get to the edge of the water without hopping fences or breaking laws. He explained the way like I had been a resident of the neighbourhood my entire life. Something like, "just go down here, then around the corner, you should see it." There was no reference to street lights, block counts, left turns or right turns. He did mention the East River Ferry and there was signage for that. Good thing. Because as I followed the signs for the ferry I reflected on the directions from the man and I still couldn't make sense of what he told me.
The East River Ferry sits at the bottom of an industrial dead end. Stray cars, stray cats and stray garbage punctuated with well dressed people on a mission to catch the ferry and get to work. The salt water air was a little breath of heaven, a little breath of home. I took my time on the pier as the busy commuters were rushing past. Two men were fishing in their grubby t-shirts and worn out jeans. They were running off a different clock. One that was governed by the activity of the fish. When they stop biting, it's time to go home. They were as far apart from each other as they could be. They clearly didn't want to be associated with each other, each one convinced they had the magic spot. The man further out clearly won that competition when he hauled out a good sized fish and it lay flapping and bleeding on the wooden planks. The commuters were divided between shock and awe. One very well put together woman seemed horrified at the barbaric nature of the scene but then took out her cell phone, took a picture then took a few steps closer to get a better look. The snappy man in the bow tie seemed to genuinely enjoy the scene and was asking a lot of questions. In a flash it was all over. The ferry arrived, took the commuters away and all the commotion and excitement went with them. The fisherman from the losing spot took a casual saunter over to the man in the winning spot so he could gain some valuable information about how to change his game for next time. From the end of the pier I captured Brooklyn, the East River, New York City, the East River again and Queens. It took a few shots but I managed to squeeze it all in despite the haze.
This wasn't the entire morning walk. I could tell you about the cafe with the beautiful floor that seemed to just be organizing the beginning of a business or lamenting it's demise. It was hard to tell. I could tell you about the bridge I walked that took me to Queens where I had the most delicious sugar doughnut. Or about how unbelievably hot it was at 9:00 am and how the strawberry iced tea was what saved me from melting. Or about the gum ball machine that dispensed the sweetest little plastic rings and how I spent $1.50 at a quarter a pop just to get three different ones. But I think I've said enough. You probably need to get started on your chores so that you are ready for the possibilities that will present themselves to you later in the day. You don't want to be stuck taking out the trash instead.