NYC 1: First Impressions –

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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.


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