Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be a Native Tourist

My husband and I played hooky one sunny afternoon this week. I'm not making this up--there was sun one day this month.

We strolled along the High Line, a newly constructed park that recently opened in Chelsea and runs along the tracks of a former freight train line. The views of the Hudson were fresh and magnificent and it's another oasis of peace in an otherwise bustling, chaotic city. 

The visitors we spotted were made up of locals and tourists. I was able to make out about seven different languages as strollers walked by our perch on one of the benches situated perfectly for people-watching, a universal past time in any city.
The park is a delight and its complexity creeps up on you slowly. There is a rich history to the area and it was fun to hear snippets of it waft over us as people pointed, gestured and lectured about it.  I was struck by the attention to detail and care down to the selection of rustic meadow grasses that had grown wild near the tracks fifty years ago.

I glanced at the books some of my fellow bench warmers were reading. Of Mice and Men, The Psychopath Test, and I wondered if they were really reading them or if the selections were meant to add to the culture of the surroundings while the nightstand sported the juicy latest must-read.  I'm left to wonder about it and that was perhaps the most fun part of the activity. I asked my husband his opinion about our seat mates' occupations and he shrugged, "I don't know--you're the writer, make something up." So I did, and my imagination soared as it was picked up by the brisk wind that carried it from the river's edge and hopefully to my home computer several miles away.

There was a sizable group eating their lunches on a set of wide steps that faced 10th avenue and 17th street. The steps had an intriguing view of moving traffic that could be seen through large paned windows out below. The windows worked both ways, allowing street strollers to look up and see the lunch time munchers. It was a clever and fun reversal.. New Yorkers have a thing about eating on steps, i.e. The Met, the newish steps at Times Square, Bryant Park--we become pigeons when we eat, it seems, absorbed into our surroundings.

Being a tourist in your own city is fun. You don't need to bring a guide book. You can understand every sign and (rarely) have to ask for directions.

Go to the High Line, get out and enjoy your city. The sun will shine again eventually.

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