The Empire State of Mind

It hurts to pay $5.44 for a soy latte… and even more to inhale outdoors. It’s nerve-wracking to take the subway through Brooklyn to Manhattan then stand confused in the middle of Chinatown alone at night…and even scarier to wake up in the morning and realize that no one’s there. Yet it’s exhilarating to walk through Times Square for the first time and watch the sunset from the top of the Rockerfeller, powerwalk through all of Central Park then grace the steps of Apple‘s glass spiral staircase, even hop on a megabus at 1:30 in the morning (with a Halal food cart gyro in hand) for a spontaneous trip down to Boston, then wander around the MoMA for the last few hours before saying goodbye.

I did borrow a few couches (from high-class financial district’s to cozy Chinatown’s to college Cambridge’s) yet was blessed enough to have a friend by my side nearly at all times (thanks Alex). It also helps to be comfortably flexible and just use the Axe shower gel—”Brazilian mud with red dragonfruit extract”, to be exact. (I’m only grateful to smell like a man instead of puke and sweat.) When without a local, Yelp is there to suggest la Esquina tacos and Ippudo ramen; and when timid, someone’s there to make me try raw oysters and ultra rare steak…or convince me that I should walk three miles for black & white cookies or red velvet cupcakes. And when without a tourist plan, Toys “R” Us is equipped with endless pleasures, like wave street surfboards and child-sized bikes. (And you thought I’d just go clubbing, which I didn’t do.)

Alicia‘s right. New York truly is a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”, where “big lights” really do inspire. The first night, I went to my friend’s startup party at Trattoria Trecolori and met a guy from Turkey who’s slept at the airport and subway stations (and now lives in Astoria). “I came here because there are just so many opportunities, and I’ve been here for one year already,” he told me in accented English. He takes business classes purely for the sake of having a student visa, freelances websites, and hopes to launch his own startup in two weeks. My friend who co-founded Postabon is delaying his Harvard education to move to New York. And then there’s the Chinese lady sitting in front of the MoMA, weaving straw animals for sale; the Ethiopian(?) men selling “Gucci! Prada!” handbags in front of Battery Park; the Italian chefs in Little Italy inviting us inside for “Pasta! Pizza!”; and of course, the Jewish lawyers walking around in black suits and top hats with such determined looks on their faces. In New York, anyone will try to make it—even the man selling Obama condoms, “The ultimate stimulus package…for hard times.”

New York, I like you.