I'm in New York City. Today is the 6th anniversary of the events of 9/11/01. It feels like a good day to reflect and write.
After a great week spent relaxing and preparing with my family, I left Pittsburgh and headed to the train station for the first of what will probably be many many train rides over the next year.
As I walked out of Penn Station and into the den of the lion that is New York, I was struck with an odd mix of excitement and fear. This is an amazing and crazy place with action taking up every square inch of available space. It's like walking around with a kaleidoscope permanently fixed to your eyeballs. I feel like I'm missing something by not living here - but not sure I could hack the mania. Even so, it always feels like a bit of a homecoming 'cause I have so many good friends here - from family, high school and college.
I spent my first night here with my cousin Ed and his girlfriend Landis. One last amazing and glutonous steak dinner at Wolfgang's to send me on my way. Thanks, guys. It was short but sweet.
For the last few days, I've been staying with my buddy Avi and his fiance Abby at their very pimped out apartment in mid-town. It's nice. Like the nicest nice I've ever seen inside a city kind of nice. Like the kind of nice that includes remote-controlled electronic shades, lighting, music, TV and probably pizza delivery. Got some great shots of the hustle and bustle of the city from their balcony(s) including the shot above. That's the Chrysler building at top right. Avi/Abby, you're saints for taking care of me. Not sure the transition from penthouse to outhouse/hostel will be easy, but it's been fun..
On Saturday, I traveled with my buddy Phil and his friend Jana (visiting from Berlin) out to Mt. Sinai on Long Island to hang out with two of my good pals from college. John and James are both married to two very cool girls, Grainne and Dana, and each has a year old bambino/a, Ruairi (pronounced 'Ruree' - and you thought 'Grady' was Irish..) and Makaylah (pronounced 'Makaylah', duh). We spent the afternoon enjoying the sun and.. eating. (I've gained weight on this trip, people). As I watched everyone run around herding their kiddie cats, I marveled at how much these guys had grown up since we banged heads at Lehigh. And how amazing it was to watch them with their children. CHILDREN! Awesome. Well done, fellas.
I've also done all sorts of great exploring since I got here - from the MoMA to posh West Village (I now know more about the Sex and the City filming locales than I ever thought possible - thanks, Jana), Central Park (big, beautiful, green and full of runners at all times it seems), the wilds of a sports bar on the Upper West Side to watch the Steelers route the Browns with friends Molly and Kevin, Times Square (nearly naked singing cowboy anyone?)
and finally Ground Zero at the former site of the World Trade Center.
I wondered what it would feel like here today, 6 years later. I was at Ground Zero on the 1st anniversary and was moved by the memorial service held there with thousands looking on as families, firefighters and police watched the final ceremonial remains brought out of the hole in the ground that once held the towers.
While most of that hole is still there, things are a bit different today. New York, the dynamo, is moving forward. There was a service today, but it was much smaller than the one 5 years ago. Seems that people want to remember and respect, but that many simply want to move forward.
I arrived just after the service had ended but did capture some of the weirdness taking place at the subway/path station right next to Ground Zero. It seemed like more of a spectacle than a solemn rememberance with more gawking foreigners and conspiracy theorists waving flags than mourners. I guess it's natural that this place eventually become a tourist attraction just like any other around the world.
Add to that a demonstration for peace and it was a bit of a scene. Everyone's got something to say about it, I guess.
If nothing else, I was moved to think about how lucky I was to not lose any family members that day. And even luckier to have spent the last month traveling from town to town visiting many of the most important people in my life - my friends and family from California to New York. It's been like one long reunion and probably the most incredible way I could imagine preparing to leave. I don't think I've ever said goodbye to so many people in such a short time. So much so that I'm sick of hearing myself talk about the trip. Time to !@#$ing get on with it!
I think that's enough rambling for now. This will probably be the last entry I post before jumping across the pond. Tomorrow, I'm off for Philly to see more friends from college (first time in 10 years) before flying out on Thursday for Lisbon and the beginning of the walkabout.
Wish me luck.