Lady of Liberty in New York City
The setting sun’s final blood-red glows reflected on the heaving ultramarine waters of The Hudson River. From the very edge of the horizon, a faint torch glow lit up the banks of a distant island. The ferry moved in a swift rhythm, at one with the churning white foam of the water, beating in time with my thrilled heart. I was just about to catch my first glimpse of The Statue of Liberty; my eyes strained across the river, the green silhouette focusing into a clear and perfect picture. Suddenly I felt the hair-whipping wind die down, the ferry’s whirring engine momentarily halting with harsh choking sounds and time freezing for a fleeting few seconds. My mind began reliving the past hours in an instant, and I felt my day rewinding in a flash of bright white light. “How did I get here?” The blinding blaze of light ceased, and I found myself sitting in the dark pink colored booth of our own Motorhome RV. Looking out the fogged window, I saw a monster large metal beam pass over my head, and I looked down to my left to see the frothing water down below. I was on The George Washington Bridge. The RV rumbled over the final speed bump, completing our journey over the mammoth bridge and into a whirlwind buffet of swerving cars and motorbikes. Dad reached up to adjust the rearview mirror so it was focusing on Lalika and I sitting in the back. “Welcome to New York City!” he said.
So many lights, so many people, and so many new experiences awaited us as I boarded the Double Decker Bus at the New Jersey Transit Bus Station. It would have been impossible to find a parking spot for our RV in the middle of the city for anything less than a small fortune and so we had parked at the Light Rail Transit Carpark, walked the two miles to the Bus Station and began our trip through what seemed like a mesmerizing vortex of time and space – The Lincoln Tunnel – and emerged just a few moments away from the very middle of Times Square.
Joining our peers (fellow travelers), we followed their example by jostling our way through The Port Authority Bus Terminal and out in the bone chilling wind of the city. I don’t think I will forget that one moment when we exited that terminal building. It was way past rush hour and yet there seemed to be walls of people rushing like ants, into various little holes. I felt like we were inside the mound itself. It seemed so frenetic, upbeat, loud and overwhelming. But I had already peeked out from under my shell and caught a glimpse of the neon lights and golden bulbs, and there was no going back. I was entranced, bedazzled, and spellbound; I simply had to see more. We entered NYC smack bang face to face with the Times Centre, home of the New York Times Newspaper, with its unmistakable typeset logo covering the facade of the building. I felt like I was watching a movie but this time I was in it, and there was no one sitting on the couch at home, for we had all jumped through the screen. I was brought back to reality when crossing the road a cab swerved dangerously close to our little group, and we were inches away from getting hit. It was exhilarating but extremely alarming at the same time.
Times Square was a throng of screens the size of IMAXs blaring silently and lighting up the whole sector with neon colors. I was lost in a colorful dream as we made our way through the tight-knit crowds through the streets. TV Characters floated around, waiting as sly as serpents for an unsuspecting tourist (us) to snap a picture, before blandly charging $8 for it (at least in our experience, Elmo must have really been running low on cash). So we promptly deleted the photo in front of red fur’s beady eyes and moved on to view a performance of one of the many Street Magicians that stood on the street corners. The hypothermic wind whipped through the magician’s cape and soon we, along with other viewers, took refuge in a small café, where we purchased creamy and sweet dark hot chocolates that had just a hint of bitterness. Now with a warm fire in the pit of our bellies, we stepped out to brave the cold and New York City once again.
Tucking our near to frostbitten fingers into our pockets, we stepped lightly to get to our next stop: The Rockefeller Building or Radio City. The atmosphere could only be described as hair-raising and electric as we navigated our way through the concrete jungle with quick thinking and precision. If we were too slow we would be swallowed whole by the large monster that was continually breathing down our chilled necks: The Horde of New Yorkers. We could only permit 5-second breaks to catch our breath or snap a quick picture for we would be trampled by the sharp shoes that were gaining on us. However, we did manage to maneuver ourselves into a close enough vicinity to see the Chrysler Building beautifully, so calling on one of our fellow speeders (a kind lady) we asked her to flash a quick photo (which she gladly did) before all of us sped on.
Finally, the huge grey building in the shade of dull came into view. From the outside it didn’t look too good, and I was a bit apprehensive as we made our way inside. But once I stepped through the doors, all my doubt disappeared like smoke from a chimney when the vent is clogged. The home of NBC was truly a glittering spectacle. Literally, the floor was glittering. My eyes reflected the shine of the golden walls as the four of us explored the opulent halls, reading about all the many musicians, artists and celebrities who had worked tirelessly to make it big… and get a picture of themselves framed in this building. Another amazing part of World Schooling that I am most grateful for is to be able to experience what you are learning about in the flesh. We were in History class at the moment… in the Rockefeller Building, just a few floors away from where media magic was being made. Sure, you can read a book about all of this or watch a video, but nothing compares to actually being right there, right now. I am very grateful to be able to live and learn in this way.
Soon the blinding light of cameras flashing became too bright for us all, and we bid goodbye to Radio City and exited out the back door to come face to face with… a shimmering Ice-Skating Rink!? Yes, the Rockefeller has its own Ice-Skating Rink and it seemed like half of New York was slipping and sliding across the surface. Rainbow lights danced in a spectacular array of water in a large fountain with a gigantic golden statue situated right in the middle. It was even surrounded by a coronet of flags from other countries. Christmas music played loudly even though it was only October. The air was so merry and joyous that we couldn’t help singing and dancing along as we made our way past a colossal vat of cranberries, which were present for a demonstration on how they are harvested. The demo was scheduled for tomorrow though and so excusing ourselves from the dazzling lights and the beaming atmosphere, we entered down into the dark depths of the New York City Subway Station.
The overhead speaker announced: “Next stop: Columbus Circle,” the gateway to Central Park. The four of us made our way over to the sliding doors, ready to jostle our way to freedom along with all the other people crowding the exit, waiting breathlessly for the resounding “Ding”. Sure enough, it came with a torrent of jockeying and colliding into one another as we made our way up the chugging escalator and out into the bright light. The first thing that hit me was the unpleasant stench of horse dung. Looking around I found where it came from. Surrounding another fountain spraying flowery formations of water, were 5 or 6 carriages being drawn by horses. For a small second, I blocked out the sound of cars honking and the tour guide group’s conversations, dimmed the lights a little and imagined that I was in the 1800s. Unfortunately, my pristine picture didn’t last too long as this time I was nearly run over by the same horse I was marveling at. So instead, we made our way across the road and entered into Central Park.
We started down a path that headed towards the Zoo and simply enjoyed our brief break from the hectic hustle and bustle of the city. However, I did not experience that refreshing realization of total nature like when I was hiking through a National Park. The honking of horns could still be heard mixed with drivers yelling through the window at their neighbors. However, Central Park did have a small certain aura of serenity, and it was most definitely a sanctuary. I did enjoy peeking through the barred gates at the animals that called the Zoo home, (unfortunately, by the time we got to Central Park, the zoo had closed) and witnessing a few penguins (that Lalika and I fervently hoped were related to the ones in Madagascar the movie) go for a swim and a giraffe towering over its habitat gate.
After eating a few snacks amidst some flowers that were closing up their buds for the evening, we left the greenery behind and re-entered the grey colored city that was now glaring red, as the slowly setting sun set it on fire.
As the sky turned from bright blue to the unmistakable shade of twilight, we walked briefly along Fifth Avenue and re-entered the belly of the beast, the Subway, heading for our final stop of the day. It was even hungrier now, consuming the masses insatiably, as rush hour was well under way.
We arrived at the Battery Park Ferry station, ready to board a boat across to Staten Island, and along this voyage we would see The Statue of Liberty! We boarded the ferry with a swarm of other people, all heading home to Staten Island. Positioning ourselves at a priceless place that gave us a perfect view across the water, we embarked with the deep drone of the ferry horn. This is one of the gems of freedom of New York City, as the ferry ride is gratis and provides one of the most spectacular ride-by views of Liberty Island.