Saturday, July 2, 2011

Touristy Travels

My camera certainly got a workout today!
When I first heard about the possibility of heading to a street fair, I immediately decided to go to that instead of the Bronx zoo trip I had planned on going to, and which I will still do but at a later date (more on that next week!).
Ciarรกn (my camera; yes, naming objects is silly, but hey, he's got a personality) was happy to be out and about; as we waited for the train at Columbia, I snapped a few test shots to get the settings where I wanted them to be at, and one of the test-photos actually turned out quite well! For those of you at home, if you've always had a irresistible curiosity as to what the New York subway tunnels look like, search no more and just scroll down a bit.

So, now you know what the subway looks like!

Columbia's station is remarkably clean (meaning there aren't rats scampering about on the tracks), especially compared to some of the... more lived-in downtown stations.
But! Moving on to the main event: the street fair! The minute we got into the crowd around the street fair that stretched more than 10 blocks down Sixth Street, I felt completely at home. Despite the heat, despite the traffic noise, despite the incredibly tall buildings looming overhead, despite the "I Love NY" tees in every other stall, I felt completely comfortable, as if I was in a familiar place, almost like strolling down Telegraph Avenue when the vendors are out on the street on a sunny day. Milani agreed with me when I mentioned it: this felt like home. It was a great feeling, especially after a hectic week of up-rooting and adjustment. The shopping was great, inexpensive even by my non-New York standards. I grabbed more than a few cheap pairs of earrings and even bought a fitted sheet for my mattress (note to future Columbia-bound students: they don't give you any fitted sheets in the linen package, so bring some from home!) Everyone seemed like they were having fun, sipping on remarkably delicious one dollar lemonade while perusing the wares of each seller.

Beilul considering some jewelry.

Eric and Will at the street fair.

Just look at those crowds! We certainly weren't the only tourists there, that's for sure.

Some wooden masks for sale on the street.

After everyone had exhausted themselves (but hopefully not their wallets) at the street fair, we regrouped for a moment to come up with a plan for the rest of the afternoon, and decided to become proper tourists for the day. We walked our way up to the Empire State building, dodging scam artists and mildly desperate bus-tour hawkers on our way, to reach the famous building and decide that the price was a little too steep for our student budgets. So, we turned right around, hopped on the subway, and made our way to Ground Zero.
Milani was the one who suggested visiting the famous site, and I'm glad she did. I'd been there before as a kid, and I remember feeling this... weirdness, a big open space filled with rubble and crying people in the middle of a bustling metropolis where they were climbing to the skies in search of more space. The sadness of the event was not lost on me: I had been seven when the towers fell, not old enough to understand the series of events behind that catastrophic day but not young enough to be unaffected by the intense emotional change that happened in this country following 9/11. To my shock, when the five of us reached the site of the World Trade Center, construction was going on; recently work has been started on building memorials to 9/11 on the once-empty space. It was... healing, in a way, to watch this going on. I suppose that for me the new buildings symbolized a sort of shift in our way of thinking: that horrible day was not a catastrophic recent event scarring the country anymore, but was on its way to becoming something perhaps more meaningful and important, the way WWII memorials help us honor those lost in that struggle without reawakening that anguish that had permeated the time. Just food for thought, I suppose.
The original plan was to go see Times Square once it got dark and go atop the Rockefeller Center after the sun had set (the other four ILCers hadn't been when I had gone, and I was willing to see that incredible view again). But after we'd made our way to Times Square, Will said he wanted to see a movie, and we all shrugged and said, "Sure," mostly to kill time until the sun set because, really, who would want to go back to campus and then all the way back to Times Square instead of seeing the Green Lantern? The subway's
After the movie, we became part of the tourist mob that flooded Times Square, an ever-thickening crowd that only grew denser as the sky grew darker. Its quite a spectacular place: neon lights and signs glow even brighter when the sun has set, and the press of people just makes the area seem that much more vibrant and alive. Though we did not end up making it to Rockefeller Center, we did have plenty of time for touristy photos and just generally enjoying the mayhem that is Times Square after dark.

Broadway, outside the movie theatre, by Times Square.

Times Square in all its glory at night.

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