Thursday, March 17, 2011

The arrival

Although I managed only 3-3.5 hours of sleep last night, I was up and at 'em to fly into The Big Apple today. I've been a little nervous about the trip, particularly this first day, but all in all it went pretty well.

I should have known things would be fine when the flight went about as smoothly as any I've ever been on. Admittedly, that sample size is small. Both flight attendants had British accents, which was reassuring for some reason. (I also find the whole routine of explaining the procedures with the seat belts and such to be calming.) I've had problems with my ears on past flights. They don't pop upon the plane's landing. Thus I get to the destination feeling like my head is plugged up and as though my hearing is impaired. There were no such issues this time, and for that I'm grateful. Plus, the flight arrived about a half hour earlier than the itinerary listed.

Of course, figuring out how to fill my free hours was the big unknown putting me on edge. I decided to go to the IFC Film Center and see two movies because a) I knew how to get there and b) I wouldn't have to schlep the carry-on suitcase as much. And I suppose the fact that I wanted to see the films in question didn't hurt.

The subway ride was relatively easy to figure out. The smell was the first thing I noticed as I walked onto the platform at Jamaica Station, but it seemed right rather than off-putting. I boarded, took a seat, and sat back for my underground journey into Manhattan. Granted, I was pretty tired, but the whole thing felt kind of surreal, as if I'd been absorbed into a movie. I exited as I'd been instructed and *boom* there I was on the Avenue of the Americas and by the theater. I was worried about this?

Of course, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and having a plan made me feel better about it all. I got a quick bite to eat at a nearby diner. The waiter didn't mess around asking for an order or taking care of business. Welcome to the fast pace of the big city. I ambled over to the theater. Beyond sticker shock--$13 for one ticket at 12:40 p.m.?!?!--I was ready to see a film that's been among the year's best reviewed.

Which is why I went about the work of falling asleep off and on throughout the movie. The seats were comfortable, but the lack of sleep had clearly caught up with me. Such drowsiness dashed my thoughts about trying to get to Film Forum to see another of the early year's critical favorites. Instead I stuck around and plopped down for admission to another film in the same theater. I had much better luck staying awake this time.

And then it was to the subway to get to Penn Station. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is a huge deal here, and I was fortunate to miss the revelers. I had an easy ride, got some assistance figuring out how to buy a ticket for New Jersey Transit and find the right train, and eventually got to the stop where my brother picked me up about a quarter after six. The NJ train was a bit more difficult. There really wasn't room for my carry-on luggage, and I had no clue where to go without asking. All things considered, though, it was relatively painless.

So here I am in New Jersey, yet close enough to have a view of the Manhattan skyline from my brother's temporary residence. It's all a bit like a dream. New York City is one of those places so ingrained in the popular consciousness that, having never been here before, it feels like a mythological land I'm now visiting. After a good first day here, I'm hoping its charms will only increase with a good night's sleep and my brother's company as we search the city.

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