How to Spend 2-1/2 Hours in New York City

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Ever want to do something just to do it?  Its not practical or useful, but you just need that fix?

Recently on a whim my 21-year old son Paul and I decided to have lunch in New York City.  Nothing else.  Just lunch.  I studied Zagat’s guide, picking out Vitae Restaurant on 46th Street, not far from Grand Central Terminal.

One of the perks of living in Connecticut’s Fairfield County is we can do that sort of thing — just decide on a lark to zip into this cool, exciting city.  Except we don’t do it often because it’s not always easy and life gets in the way and New York can be expensive.  But today we decided to go for it.

It was a perfect summer day.  Paul and I took the 10:18 a.m., arriving in Grand Central a little before noon.  As usual the Main Concourse teemed with people.  I watched three women greet each other at the Information booth, all hugs and excited hellos. A group of Asian tourists stood in the center, pointing up toward the zodiac mural on the ceiling.  One of them shook her head, whispering, “Wow.”

We exited onto Lexington Avenue.  Shoppers, workers, mothers with baby strollers, and men in suits hustled by. The air was a swirl of accents and languages.  The city smelled like exhaust, perfume and hot pretzels.  A few blocks later,  we turned left onto 46th Street.

An older chef in a starched white coat stood in front of a restaurant smoking with two waiters, speaking Italian.  A tall, blond woman emerged from a nail salon, talking in Russian on her cell phone.  Two Hispanic whip-thin bike messengers pull up alongside each other, joking in Spanish.   I hear Chinese, Japanese, French and Persian. Yellow cabs and trucks and buses honk and compete for position on the congested streets.

Paul and I arrive at Vitae.  The waiter is tall and thin with a ponytail.  He has the polished bearing of an actor.  I wonder if he waits tables between auditions.  We’re early and get the first seat by the window. I can’t believe my youngest is 21 and looks so adult with his goatee and moustache.  Where did my little boy go with that velvety skin?

We talk and people-watch.  Our food arrives.  I eat my seafood crepe and give my usual sigh.  “I’d love to live here,” I say for the hundredth time in my life.  Paul takes a bite of his burger.  “You’d miss the country.”

I think about this.  My son is smart.  Still, I give my usual retort.  “I’d still love to try.”

By now, the restaurant has filled with business people, ladies who lunch, and retirees.  A middle-aged man and woman sip martinis at the bar, looking into each other’s eyes.  I wonder if this is a midday rendezvous.

Paul and I share a strawberry tart, consider seeing a movie, but decide to make this a true surgical strike.

We take the long way back to Grand Central, returning along Fifth Avenue.  I’m transfixed by the rail-thin women in dark dresses.  Men hurry by with blue-tooth phones in their ears, talking loud and fast.  The pace is frenetic.  I bump into someone, not quite into the city’s rhythm.  They push past.  I wonder what it would be like, always having strangers around, always on alert.  New York is aggressive.

Back at Grand Central, Paul and I have five minutes to catch our train.  We hurry our way through the crowds and pass a group of older tourists pointing to the ceiling. I hear British accents.  We jump onboard and a few minutes later the train pulls away, through the grimy tunnels of Grand Central, finally into sunlight.

Outside Harlem glides by with its aging brownstones and bodegas.

An hour later, Paul and I arrive back at our station.  From door to door, this lunch trip took almost six hours, hardly a jaunt to the local deli, but that’s the price of adventure.  And yet as we drive home, I realize something.

My son’s right.  I would miss Connecticut’s lush trees, red barns, and windy roads.  There’s room to breathe here.  The pace is slower.

But I also need New York City.  I need to visit a place that’s always changing and moving.  Where the waiter might be an actor.  Where tourists look up and whisper, “Wow.”  Where every language is spoken.

Yes, Connecticut is home.

But New York is the place I must return to…even if its for 2 ½ hours.

 

(This post was originally published in August, 2014 and edited).

Do you ever get that urge to do something?  Treat yourself?  Scratch that itch?  Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share.  Thank you!

20 Comments

  1. Hi Laurie, I love your descriptions of all the types, voices, and languages swirling around you from the moment you reach NY. You create the sensation of that bustle of activity beautifully! XO

  2. I used to enjoy going into New York City with your husband Randy back when we were in our very early 20's. We would get a cab from Grand Central down to Bleecker Bob's House of Oldies record store (now R.I.P.) in Greenwich Village to score a bunch of import punk rock 45s we couldn't find in the Nutmeg State.

  3. My dearest friend in the universe left Manhattan for Connecticut over a decade ago.
    Each time she tells me: I’m just going to go to the city for the day – – I am filled with jealousy 🙂 and she’s also so very much aware she’s made the right decision for her. It is as you say the best of both worlds

  4. I love all of this. Particularly your date with your son. I grew up in Boston. My husband grew up in the country. Together we started rural and have become more urban. Now we live in Denver. I miss the country. He wants the city. Irony and compromise…the story of marriage.

    • Laurie Stone

      Hi Anna, I’d love to see Denver. Hear its great. Yes, alas, compromise is the story of marriage. Thanks so much for reading.

    • Laurie Stone

      Haralee, Love Boston so much! Its an Amtrak ride away but don’t do it often enough. Thanks so much for reading.

  5. We’re in central MA, but we often go into NY for the day or even the afternoon into the evening. We take the train in from New Haven or Stamford. It’s easy and it’s a nice way to see an exhibit at the Met or MOMA or the Guggenheim or any of the museums. I like to stock up on a few things at the Chelsea Market too. I understand. The burbs are home, but the city satisfies the fire in my belly on occasion.

    • Laurie Stone

      Kelly, Yes, having New York so close is hard to resist. I also love the museums and Chelsea Market. Thanks so much for reading.

  6. Shelley

    Love this! I live in NC now but am from CT and used to take the Milford train into the city often. My daughter in law is from AZ and we traveled from NC to CT to go with family into NYC so she could see her first play on Broadway. (Wicked!) Everyone should go to NYC at least once in their life; there is nothing like it.
    I also love to get off the train at home and stretch my arms without bumping anyone and embrace the quiet.

    Hmmm, now I feel like I need to plan another trip….Maybe Rockefeller Center and the Rockettes at Christmas time?

    • Laurie Stone

      Shelley, I think you should definitely do NYC at Christmas time. Its crowded but super fun. Thanks so much for reading!

  7. I’ve never been to NYC, or even that part of the country, but it sounds like it’d be an interesting place to visit. Your description is very cosmopolitan, I guess that’s why some New Yorkers claim it’s the center of the universe.

    • Laurie Stone

      Dave, NYC isn’t the center of the universe? Get me some smelling salts! I hope you come visit sometime. Its wonderful.

  8. I enjoyed your vivid description of your visit, Laurie. I think your son is right, though. I’d say you have a pretty good arrangement: life in the countryside, but near enough the city for day-trips. 🙂

    • Laurie Stone

      Bun, The older I get, the more I realize you’re right. Living in CT, we have the best of all worlds. Still love my trips to NYC and so grateful to have it close.

  9. This is the best city in the world to spend 2 hours, two days, or 2 weeks. I miss the hustle and bustle of city life, but am comfortable in Delaware where there is peace and quiet.

    • Laurie Stone

      Antoinette, I agree NYC is the best. I used to think I could live there, but like you, need the quiet of the country. How wonderful to get to visit here and there.

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