The online home for Greg Leedberg, since 1995.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New York City Adventure

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I took a trip to New York City for a couple days. She had been a couple times previously, but this was my first time to the city. Our main motivation for going was to see the Metropolitan Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor at Lincoln Center. This may seem random for me as a software engineer, but my girlfriend is a vocal performance major -- and remember that I was pretty serious about music in the past as well, so it was of interest to me. But for me, the real draw was just to go to New York. It always seemed like a pretty interesting and important place to go that wasn't too far, so I was excited. We drove to New Haven, Connecticut and took the Metro North train into Grand Central Terminal, and our mini-vacation began.

Within minutes of getting there, on the way walking towards our hotel, we saw two taxis hit each other, which was a nice introduction to the city. But the real beginning to our night was going off to see the opera. It was a great experience. We both got all dressed up (I wore my suit that I haven't worn since job interviews!) and took a taxi to Lincoln Center. I've been to a few opera performances over the years -- mostly college ones with my girlfriend -- so I was impressed with the high production values of this. Performances were all good, although I'm certainly not an authority on such things. Lincoln Center itself was really beautiful inside with big chandeliers and whatnot. Overall, it was really nice "classy" evening. It's nice to do things like that.

Our second and third days in NYC were largely for site seeing, and largely for my benefit since I hadn't been there before. We saw the usual NYC places: Central Park (including John Lennon's Strawberry Fields), Empire State Building (including going to the observation deck), Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange, World Trade Center site (which was more moving than I expected it to be, after seeing images of it so pervasively over the last 4 years), Rockefeller Plaza, Statue of Liberty, and Times Square. One big highlight for me was we went to the outdoor part of NBC's Today Show set and stood in the crowd. We never got on TV, but we did see Katie Couric through a window in the indoor studio, and we saw the (non-Al Roker) weather man who came outside.

We also tried to make the most of the restaurants available in NYC. The first night there we went to Virgil's BBQ in Times Square, a great American-style BBQ place. I had a chili-cheesburger, and even though the crowd was pretty big, service was amazingly quick. The second day we went to Planet Hollywood for lunch and Jewel of India for dinner. Jewel of India was a really great and really classy Indian restaurant. If I'm ever back in NYC, I would definitely want to go back there. For our last meal, we had lunch at the Playwright Tavern in Times Square, which was also a really good American-style restaurant.

Overall, I had a really great time and would love to go back again. But, this was my first time to NYC, and I had lots of observations, both good and bad. One thing that struck me is that there such a large dichotomy between the haves and have-nots in NYC. Of course, in any town or city in America you're going to find that there are people who have more than other people do, but in NYC it just seemed to be the extreme of this situation. You have billionaires and millionaires riding in limos around the city, at the same time that you have a homeless person sleeping in a gutter. It's amazing to think that people with such different lots in life are living just minutes from each other.

NYC also seemed really self-contained. If you live there, you probably don't have to leave very often since everything you need to exist is close by. So much so, that the city seems to have its own idiosynchrasies in the way that life goes on there. Like, most people don't drive a car, those that do honk more than in any other place I've been, everyone seems to be in an extreme hurry to get "somewhere", and there aren't any "big" stores -- even the Best Buy I saw was just a corner store. I'm not saying these differences are better or worse, but they certainly are different. In fact, sometimes it seems that New York itself is out of touch with how the rest of the country operates, even though New York is frequently referenced as being the "trendsetter" for the rest of the nation. The qualities of New York are especially noticeable after visiting the west coast as I did recently. In the Los Angeles area, cars are the perferred method of transportation, and everything just seems really laid back. Two really different ways of life, almost like two different countries within one.

However, like I said, I had a great time and would love to visit again sometime. There were several things we just didn't have the time to do: visit an art musuem, see a Broadway show, or see a TV show (such as Letterman). It's great that NYC is so close. I also just had a great time being on vacation with my girlfriend. We've been together almost five years, but this is only the second time we've really been away on a vacation together -- the first being when she visited me out in California. It was a really special time and nice memories.