At about the second or third red light, it became apparent where we were. Harlem looked just like it did in the movies. Complete with amazing graffiti, old black people sitting on door steps and bars on all the windows.
A nice lady in skimpily clad clothing wearing roller blades offered to wash our window while we waited on a green light. I smiled real big, and tried as best as I could to say ‘no thank you’ in my best northern accent. (yeah, right….) But it was obvious, we weren’t from around those parts.
Even with the heat, we rolled up our windows. It was hotter in Harlem than it was was when we left West Point 2 hours earlier. Must be all the concrete and lack of trees. Or maybe it was a nervous sweat.
We kept driving. Stay straight I said as I noticed it seemed to be the main road. We surely didn’t want to veer of the beaten path. If we kept straight & didn’t make eye contact with anyone maybe we’d make it out alive.
After what seemed like an eternity, we came upon a business district. Then right there in front of me was Times Square! For the record, it too looks just like in the movies. (Moral of the story….if you’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s, no need to visit NYC)
We decided we couldn’t see anything while driving. Between cabby’s, jay walkers and roller blader’s we couldn’t take our eyes off the road. So we started looking for a parking place.
Well, parking places don’t really exist in case you were wondering, but we eventually found a public parking garage and quickly flew underground, eager to finally get out of the car.
Because of the difficulty finding a place to park we had gotten out of the business district and were in what appeared to be a housing area with clubs and bars. As we walked along the urine soaked streets, I made a mental note to not drink too much so I could avoid using the public bathrooms. The stench, especially in the heat, was unbearable.
While walking the streets we shook a mayoral candidates hand, heard “preachers” of several religions and saw people from every sexual affiliation. This little small town girl was in shock most of the time. I couldn’t fathom living in this place.
3 hours later we decided we’d had enough and returned to the parking garage to get the car. After paying nearly 50 dollars in parking fees, we were on our way out of that concrete jungle.
Can you believe that we actually went back? A year later. We were a year older, and a year wiser. Having learned our lesson the hard way, we took a train into Grand Central Station.
The funny thing is, that even though we had a difficult first time experience driving into NYC, that trip was where a love for travel was birthed within me.
To just go…get in a car, on a plane, take a train or even a bus. Get off and decide what to do next once I get there. Doesn’t really sound like the safest approach to travel, but certainly the most exciting.