It was a bright sun New Year's Eve afternoon a little more than 32 years ago when we began our greatest journey. We found ourselves nervously sitting amongst one of the most unique collections of people we had ever experienced. The mixture of languages, skin colors and the obvious financial differentials of this diverse cast of characters meant it could only be one city in the world. Nowhere else on earth could have offered this mixture of cultures, shapes and varieties of the human experience. It had to be in New York City.
We and about 100 other couples were here in the Manhattan marriage license bureau for the second day in a row. The previous day we had stood in line and paid our ten dollars to receive our license. Today would be the day we spent another five dollars for a ceremony during which we would cast off our single lives and begin our life as two. We hadn't put a lot of thought into our plan but despite our nervousness, we stepped forward when our names were called. While others were waiting in a different part of town for a giant crystal ball to drop marking the
As seen from Brooklyn
start of a New Year we were waiting for our certificate to be signed, officially marking the start of our new lives together.
With our vows declared, our journey began. As the years passed, we found joy and sadness, experienced contentment and anxiety and shared fulfillment and loss together as we made our way along the path we created. Children came, careers were forged and money was acquired. Friends were made and homes were purchased. Plans were made, promises were kept and experiences were captured.
After 24 years we came to a spot in our life where we felt we needed a change. Children had grown up and left the house, jobs had become tedious and tiresome and life had taken on a routine comfortableness that while secure was rather boring. We needed something to challenge us. We needed a change. We needed to see the world.
With not much more thought or planning than 24 years before, we quit our jobs, put our things in storage, rented our house and hit the road. For the past 8 years, we have made our way around the world visiting 53 countries on 4 continents. Each year brought experiences
Brooklyn Bridge, East River and Jane's Carousel
that constantly topped the previous years. We have seen countless things that have astounded us beyond our wildest imaginations.
Somewhere in the back of our minds, I suppose we always knew that someday we would find the end of our journey. And that time has now come. It's time to put away the maps, cover the camera lens, put down our pens and empty our suitcases. As New York City was the beginning of our greatest journey many years before, it will also mark the conclusion of our most recent adventure.
We probably made the decision a few months ago. Somewhere between Cape Town and Addis Ababa, the writing on the wall became a glowing billboard. We notified our tenants we would be returning home when the lease was up. We still had a few places we wanted to see. We planned time in India and Sri Lanka. We wanted one more visit to Italy. We wanted to visit something in the UK and most importantly we wanted to spend a month in New York City.
The cost of living in this amazing city kept us from visiting earlier in the trip. As it would be our
Seen from Brooklyn
last stop we felt we could make a bit, but not too much, of a splurge. We rented a tiny apartment in a definitely non-gentrified portion of now-trendy Brooklyn. Surrounded by Haitian, Jamaican and other Caribbean accents our fourth-floor brick faced apartment building didn't offer many luxuries other than an elevator and a fairly convenient walk to the B and Q subway lines.
We did our best to see as much as we could. We purchased monthly subway passes which provided us an unlimited passage to all things New York City. If I was ever asked which neighborhood best represents New York, I would have to say the neighborhood that exists under the ground at all hours of the day. Taking any train (as they are referred to here) that passes through multiple boroughs gives the best possibility of seeing all the different flavors New York offers. Every race, nationality, religion, shape and disposition on the planet can be found here twenty-four hours a day. A never ending coming and going of every style, attitude and level of sophistication that marks human existence is constantly on display. It is infinitely interesting and we enjoyed every opportunity we had to
Manhattan skyline seen from the Brooklyn Bridge
New York is called "The Big Apple" but I often think of it as more of wonderfully sweet onion. Whenever you peel back one layer, you discover another just beneath. It would be silly to think that you could see everything here in one month. That didn't even get us through the first layer. It would take a lifetime to get through several layers and several lifetimes to experience all this city puts on offer. As often as New York has renewed itself, by the time you finished you could probably start over again.
We saw unbelievable collections of art at the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum and galleries of Chelsea and Soho. We enjoyed some of the great public buildings. Grand Central Station, the Manhattan Public Library, and the Customs House were all amazing. We spent many sunny afternoons in parks both large and small. Union Squares farmer's market, Bryant Parks sophisticated crowd, Washington Squares NYU students and aging hippies and several trips to amazing springtime Central Park were among our favorites. We walked across the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges at sunset. Watching the lights of Manhattan come alive from these unique vantage points
was truly awe-inspiring.
We rode the famous ferry to Staten Island and the less famous ferry to Governors Island. Views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattans downtown are especially gorgeous from the water. We toured some of the most famous neighborhoods. Afternoons spent in Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Central Park West, Prospect Park, Wall Street and Soho only gave us glimpses of the variety of lifestyles here. We loved the lights of Broadway, colors of Chinatown and quaintness of the Fulton Fish Market area. All deserve multiple visits and more time than we had to commit.
We enjoyed seeing the classic architecture of the UN Buildings, Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building and the modern architecture of Hudson Yards. We traced our trip on the giant globe of the Daily News Building, the model for Superman's Daily Planet. We saw Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and Barclay Center in Brooklyn. We toured incredible food markets in Grand Central Station, Chelsea Market and central Brooklyn. We saw history at Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace, Federal Hall and the Museum of Natural History.
Basically, we exhausted ourselves for one last time. If there is one thing
Central Park and the San Remo Building
we have learned over the last 8 years, it's that no matter how hard you try, you will never see everything. There is always one more incredible thing just past wherever you find yourself today. Something will always remain unseen.
We have been lucky enough to see most of the great cities of the world. Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Bejing and London are each amazing. Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Bangkok all have their charms. But nothing really compares to New York City. The reason is simple I think. It is the only place on earth that combines parts and pieces of all the most interesting places together. America is often called a melting pot but I don't think it truly is. New York City is the true combination of all the best in the world, all in one tiny place. No matter who you are or where you come from, you will find someone like yourself here. That is what sets New York above all other challengers.
While this tour around the globe comes to an end here in New York City, the journey we started 32 years ago continues. I suppose someday we will look back on
this greatest of all cities as just the start of our next adventure, wherever that might be.
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