Tag Archives: New York

The Tin Man seeks a heart

Tin Man
Tin Man

I read a story this week about a woman who moved to Portland, Oregon from New York city and found herself incredibly lonely. Like dangerously lonely.

The better part of my life has been spent pursuing the opposite of loneliness. One of the reasons I moved to Chicago was because I believed that a city with eight million people would be the antidote to loneliness.

At first it is.

You’re surrounded by the cacophony of this human hive. It fairly roars with the constant sound of movement. You can’t look around and not see humans walking somewhere quickly. Nobody meanders in Chicago.

Continue reading The Tin Man seeks a heart

NYC 3: A birds-eye view and a good long walk –

I explored many options when I knew I’d be going to New York for a three-day business trip. 

Food, ferries and freebies. Well, not all freebies, but the good ones. 

I had to try a slice of New York Pizza. I never did. 

I wanted to see Lady Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. I did not.

Wanted to spend a few moments in silence at Ground Zero and the 9/11 memorial. Nope. 

Spend a leisurely day walking through one of the great New York museums. Uh, uh. 

The options are too may, the time-frame too tight. 

It is at these times that I fall back on two very trusted personal convictions. 

When you come to a new place, scope it out from the heights. See what it looks like from above. Very few things will give you perspective like the view from thousands of feet above it. 

Second, I like to take a walk in the open spaces. A great indication of the intelligence, grace and poise of a particular place can be found in how it treats its open spaces. 

So on Saturday I woke up, wrote myself a few notes, enjoyed a breakfast crepe in a small restaurant near the hotel and then jumped on the subway to Midtown. 

TriBeCa may be full of nannies pushing strollers, and the Yelp reviews are pretty good about naming restaurants and coffeeshops to avoid if this isn’t your scene. But the rest of New York has its fair share of nannies with Maclarens, Bugaboos, Stokke, Baby Jogger, Balmoral Prams and Kid Kustoms, strollers that can cost more than a car in some cases. 

The difference between the almost serene bustle of TriBeCa, with its downtown grownups living out their lives in an urban equivalent of suburban petrification and Midtown, with its Babel-like mix of languages, eye-assaulting advertising and live-while-the-living’s-good hustle, is more like two different cities a continent apart and not 7 or 8 subway stops. 

I found Times Square and plopped myself on a concrete island between Broadway and 7th Avenue and just sat and tried to absorb it all. The police did not like that I was not actively participating in the general ebb and flow of tourists and workers. Especially when I put my GoPro camera on a light pole and just stood there watching people go by. 

They edged closer to me and finally asked what I was doing.

“Just documenting what it’s like to be in the middle of Times Square.”

I left and walked down 8th Avenue to check in at the New York Times building. 

There was a time when seeing this building would have meant everything to me. Its physicality was the embodiment of my dream to work for the greatest newspaper in the world. 

But the building, like newspapers in general, have lost their luster in the last few years as they continue to struggle for relevance in an increasingly digital world. 

I stayed a while to try and feel something under the great metal facade of the building. The lobby was bereft of life except for a very bored-looking attendant sitting at a desk watching me look in. 

I marched on toward Uptown electing to walk in the canyons and valleys of Manhattan rather than ride in the bowels of the city. 

It’s interesting to arrive at a new location a few blocks away and be blown away by sights and sounds. It’s something else to slowly absorb the changes as you walk block by block. 

The smell of roasting chestnuts overwhelmed the smell of hotdogs and Halal foods at street vendors, sending out a holiday vibe I haven’t really smelled since I was a child growing up in Europe. 

The closer I walked to New York’s vaunted shopping districts, the more moms and daughters I saw racing from Juicy Couture to Prada to Aeropostale as if the Mayans are going to be right about the apocalypse starting in a few weeks. 

That New York is a destination for mothers and daughters is no surprise to me. It’s a logical place for that matrilineal relationship to develop. For a man walking along trying to soak up as much of the experience as possible in a short amount of time, their presence had a disquieting effect on me. And that is merely an observation of a feeling I had and in no way a complaint at the vast numbers of them prowling the streets just as I was. 

I walked toward Rockefeller Center to see what I would see. 

A $25 trip to the Top of the Rock is not anything I would normally do, but the blue skies above me compelled me to want to see the city from some great height. With no mountains nearby nor a helicopter at my disposal, I opted to take the high-speed elevator to the top with the other tourists being too cheap to do the more romantic trip to the top of the Empire State Building. 

I think the reason I like to go to the top of a building and look down on a city is for the same reason I spent a good portion of my Thursday night staring at Google maps on my iPad. It offers that sense of orientation that one needs to easily navigate a place without getting hopelessly lost. 

I stood there in the sunshine 850-feet above the crowded cacophony below and breathed in the view. I know that sounds funny, but when you are on a mountain and the air is rarified, lacking in oxygen, and the view takes your breath away, you slowly breathe it all back in. 

At 70-stories above the city, it has somewhat the same feel as being on a mountain top overlooking a pristine valley. Only this one is complex and filled with an array of life unlike anywhere else. You can’t see it happening, but you can feel it rising up at you. 

As you travel around the top of the GE building, you can see the entire city, its bridges, its confines and its combustion. 

And then you see this vast strip of green in the middle of it all like an oasis. Except today it’s rusted and yellowed out giving up its life for the oncoming winter. 

Still, it looks inviting. 

Satisfied and aware of the lay of the land, I made my way down the tall building and out into the canyons once again. After a few blocks of orienting myself to the street signs and knowing which ones run north to south and east to west, I stumbled out onto Broadway again and inched my way west toward the park.

Feeling the pressure of time as it relates to airport checkins and hailing taxi cabs, I wanted to give myself some time to walk in the sunshine and just feel what Central Park is all about. 

Unlike crowded city streets that funnel people into ever narrower confines and move people from point A to point B, open spaces done well can disperse a million people into hills and valleys behind trees and on water so that while you can feel their presence, you do not have to interact if you don’t want to. 

As an observer of life, this appeals greatly to me. 

Entering the park from the northeast corner, there is a picturesque pond with a rock bridge forming an arch at one end. It made people pause to take a picture to capture the way the sun played on red-leaf trees and calm waters. 

Three fathers and their children stood near me and after lowering their cameras, they just stood there. I was watching them watching the scene before us. 

I wandered further into the park and saw a woman just laying on the grass with her eyes closed inviting the sunshine in.

Everyone meandered. And even though runners ran and horses clopped a brisk pace pulling their buggies of tourists, the pace did not take away from the general sense of meandering around the great park. 

I lost track of time in the warmth of the late-autumn sun and found myself watching a group of women playing chess outside under an arbor with withered vines. 

And then haplessly following an Italian family as they gazed up into the big elm trees.

I bought, shelled and ate a half-dozen roasted chestnuts, the bag of them warming my hands in the shadowy parts of the park.  

I stayed for a street performer show because it seemed so natural, then I bent down and put a few dollars in their big white bucket so I could keep meandering without feeling compelled to watch them until the end of their performance. 

At the fountain near the head of The Lake, around Terrace Drive, something shook me from the spell of the park, and I glanced at my phone’s battery, which was nearly dead. I had just enough time to find a map to the nearest subway stop, and I was well over my allotted time to explore and still get back to the hotel to retrieve my bags and catch a cab to LaGuardia. 

I was a little sad to go back underground again after enjoying perhaps one of the most wonderful things New York has to offer, a fine walk in Central Park on a day so beautiful you cringe at the thought of being inside. 

But I had no regrets about what I did and didn’t do in New York. There is far too much to try to experience in a few days. 

As I get older, I realize that to really experience and to remember something, you have to live it for a while and not just visit. 

Visiting a place is like a little salt to entice you further in to the texture and the flavors within. 

And so I find myself wanting to see a place from above to learn its intricate transportation structures and orientation and to explore its cultural institutions and especially the wide opens spaces to get a sense for what the people value collectively. 

And as someone who always thought they would love New York. I now know that I do indeed love New York. 

TA

A Walk in Manhattan from Tim Akimoff on Vimeo.

NYC 2: From the inside –

New York is like hot sauce in the morning. There is a subtle but noticeable trace of vinegar  and a lot of spice. 

I tried to hit Starbucks for a cup of green tea before heading to the training at WNYC, but I stood on the corner watching life go by a few minutes too long and missed my window. 

I ran for the subway, the number 1 to Houston, pronounced HOWston. I learned this the hard way. 

WNYC sits proudly at the corner of Varick and Charlton streets, a beacon-station, I’m told, for many reporters. 

I joined a group of public radio reporters from around the country gathering to talk about transportation and all the issues surrounding it. No better place to do this than in New York city. 

I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that you definitely rely on the facts they gather and the voices they use to explain things. They get you home on time. Or close to it. 

I watched New York go by through the big windows of the performance studio where the training was held. 

When I wasn’t completely immersed in some detail of the national transportation story, I’d drift outside to the cars heading toward the Holland Tunnel. 

The rush starts early, but then it is a Friday, and I can imagine people are anxious to get back to their homes in Jersey. 

When the workshop wound up, a group of reporters walked over to the Arctic, a bar a few blocks from the station. We curled up around a few drinks and talked shop, which if not our favorite thing to do as reporters, definitely comes in a close second, especially with a drink in hand and a boisterous atmosphere. 

We told war stories, shared technology secrets and marveled at how other shops conduct their business. 

After drinks, we made our way to The Ear, which used to mark the water line on a much narrower Manhattan. If you stand at the side of the bar and look south, you see rows and rows of buildings on what used to be river. 

The Ear has been around for a long, long time. I believe it’s called the oldest working bar in Manhattan. 

It was built for a James Brown, an aid to George Washington though, not the Godfather of soul.

It’s been a home to sailors and salty New York patrons ever since. 

Kind of perfect for a bunch of journalist types to hang out in and talk about ghosts. 

The folks from the national show “Marketplace” met us there and regaled us with more stories and pictures of spouses and kids. They even picked up the tab. Nice folks. 

I pitched a story to one of the editors. They liked it. 

Now I get to say I pitched a story in New York, even though John Haas works in Los Angeles. 

New York factored into our discussions all day. I didn’t get to wander aimlessly around taking pictures today. In some ways we explored New York from the inside, looking at the way people get around and the structures that allow them to live their lives. 

Sometimes I think journalists are the best people to hang out with. Their view of the world may be skeptical, but they see through many of the layers of this life better than the average Joe. That’s why we need them.  

On the way back to the Cosmopolitan Hotel in TriBeCa, we talked about 1 World Trade Center and how you have tickets to get in to the 9/11 Memorial. I think I’ll do that another time.  

We laughed at funny traffic control signs, especially when one of them flew us the bird. 

After parting ways at the elevator, I briefly thought about trying to find the well-known Weather Up bar a few blocks from the hotel. But getting to know New York from the inside is a lot to digest in one day. I decided to let it all sink in over a good night’s sleep. 

I’ve got a lot of city to see on Saturday and not a lot of time to do it in. 

TA

NYC 1: First Impressions –

New York is a lot of what I expected after getting to know it the past 30-some years on television, word-of-mouth and general reputation as America’s largest city.

I walked a good bit of yesterday, flew over it and cabbed through it.

Vistas are a nice way to gain perspective on a places’ general look and feel. You have to experience a place to really get to know it.

This is not one of those kinds of trips.

The first big difference that I noted was the grittiness of New York. Just walk around TriBeCa, and you’ll notice a lot of grime and stains on things. At first I couldn’t tell if it was just the city recovering from the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, after all, much of the street-level stuff was under water from the storm surge, or if it was just an old city being an old city.

Turns out it’s a little of both. Chicago is definitely a much cleaner city. New York feels old and gritty and built up on top of its even older self.

The walls of buildings don’t glisten and shine or reflect as much as they whisper old things. One feels they need to get close to hear them or to read the illegible writing you feel must surely be there.

New York is a bustling place. When I hear the word bustling, this is forever what I’ll think of. Everything is fast-paced here. When you step out onto a sidewalk, it’s as if you are turning into traffic. Slow down, stop or make sudden turns, and you’ll get the bird or a good tongue lashing.

The subway trains are filled with busy people. The streets have beggars and construction people who yell a lot. Traffic police are everywhere, the sounds of whistles shrill and constant.

Even in the late evening on a Thursday, there is a tempo that is unlike other places I’ve visited.

These are just first impressions based on what I saw in a 24-hour period. Some of it is based on what you see and feel, more of it, I fear, is based on what I’ve always thought about New York.

Nothing counts until you experience it.

I spent the evening chatting with an old friend who works at the Wall Street Journal. We talked politics, news and living in Brooklyn.

I asked him if the adage is true: “Live in New York, but leave before it makes you hard.”

He sort of shrugged it off. And I don’t blame him.

If there is a hardness in New York, it’s in the water or the way in which the city seems to live atop its old ghosts. It’s just a fact of life living around 8.2 million other human beings.

Last night I fell asleep to the sounds of TriBeCa outside my window.

I dreamt of the images of New York ever in my mind with snippets of songs creating a soundtrack that I couldn’t quite remember upon waking, but he melodies are running through my head this morning as the horns blare and the construction men below me yell out orders.

I like this city.

TA