Arriving Wednesday, the day before the conference started, I was content with how everything was going so smoothly. My bus had arrived, without incident, at Penn Station from Boston. The four hour journey had been uneventful, with no creepy people shooting me the stink eye, or mumbling to themselves. In Canada there was a renowned case where one man on a Greyhound bus completely lost his mind and decapitated another passenger. After hearing that story I have always felt a little trepidation to travel on a bus alone. Luckily everything turned out to be more than agreeable on this short trek to the big city. In fact there were three women (one of them was sitting with me), who had decided to chase their dreams by auditioning for a Broadway play. One of them was singing softly along with her IPod, and her voice sounded like an American Idol contestant, who had a chance to make it to the finals!
The bus station is like a slimy underground maze, and I was a very confused mouse trying to navigate myself out to a street, any street in fact. Within five minutes, a very nice man noticed that I was literally walking around in circles, and helped me find my way up through the concrete tunnels to 8th street, getting me right into a taxi. Little did I know that I would soon be very familiar with Penn Station, as I would pass it every day when I walked the 15 or so blocks to the conference from my hotel.
From there I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the Chelsea Savoy, a hotel I had spent weeks trying to find online, and found that it was actually a very spacious room. It shouldn’t have been startling that this trip was almost effortless; after all it is unusual for my journeys to take place where English is the main language. Finding a hotel that had a bathroom in the room for less than 100 dollars a night had proven to be a challenge. Here I was, and there was even a blow dryer and iron available! Suffering from severe sleep deprivation from a week devoid of rest, I was none the less determined to explore the city in the light of day! I was in New York, which is one of the most fascinating cities in the world!
Grabbing my purse, I headed out, the noises from the street smacking me in the face as I walked out the hotel door. Even though you can be fined up to 350 dollars for honking your horn in the city (at least according to the signs posted), that wasn’t stopping most people from enthusiastically joining in the madness. Underneath my feet, the vibrations, heat, and sounds of the subway reminded me I wasn’t in El Paso anymore. This was a city that was constantly moving at 100 miles an hour. The people that belong to New York don’t move much slower, as they are on their way to somewhere important. Their strides are long, and their focus on their individual missions is undeniable.
I found myself not wanting to be mistaken for a tourist, so I wore mostly black, walked about 12 miles an hour, and pasted a blank, apathetic look on my face. Maybe it was the fact that I was in New York on a quest, just like thousands of others who venture into the Big Apple. You can almost be carried away by the fact that the majority of people here seem so driven, and will stop at nothing to reach their goals. In El Paso there is a more laid back vibe, which doesn’t always propel me into action.
There is no denying that New York differs from El Paso. First of all there were thousands of people out on the streets. In El Paso you only see everyone walk the mall or in the parking lots. The fascinating thing is that there was such a mosaic of people: The middle age man with the Twisted Sister lead singer’s hair, the elderly lady pushing a walker, the 6 foot something skinny European looking model, the 60’s throwback hippy, the suits walking 80 miles an hour since time is money, the tourists, and all other types in between. The biting wind felt friendly, as I prefer the cold to the heat that had already been invading the desert since the end of February. The grey cloudy day was a contrast from the optimism I was feeling about finally getting answers to my questions about my book. What really surprised me was how the pedistrians play “chicken” with the motorists! It is like the Walk/Do Not Walk signs are only suggestions. Several times I saw men, women, even teenagers, barely escape being mowed down by a taxi or bus. In El Paso, there is no question that this game would go horribly, horribly wrong. We are not known for being the best drivers as it is, so you throw in the risk takers crossing the street without looking both ways, and you’d have a disaster on your hands.
What started as a short stroll, turned into an almost 3 hour exploration of the surrounding neighborhood. Hot dog stands everywhere. Pigeons were swooping down, dangerously close to my head, making me wonder if their intentions were mischievous or naughty. (There is paranoia due to an unfortunate event several years ago when one pigeon decided to relieve itself on me). Curiosity gripped me when I would hear little snippets of unusual conversations.
“The hood came out in me today when my boss got after me about the deadline.”
“I’m not sure whether I want to say yes or not. He is a great guy though.”
“If I get the part, this could change everything.”
As the sun started to set, I walked to the Ripley’s Studios on 8th Avenue. Now I knew how to get to the conference tomorrow, and wouldn’t have to panic because I was lost. Heading back to the hotel, I knew the week would be full of highs and lows, but was confident that in the end I would walk away with more answers on how I could publish my book.