New York, what a beautiful city. Why would I know that? Well, that's easy. The city has been in countless movies and TV series available globally - yet it's popularity reaches deep into every person's heart. All of us would somehow has an image in mind of what New York looks like, whether it's the Statue of Liberty, Central Park or the yellow cabs.
As for me, the first memory of New York came to mind when I was growing up. There was a new mall opened up just near our house and turned out they had a dancing fountain in one of the precinct that played a "show" every hour regularly. It was such an exciting thing for me back in my home country, so I and my family would actually go there on most weeknights when we didn't have anything else to do. Most of those nights we'll end up at this cafe that overlooks the dancing fountain in the middle of the mall's hall.
The jazzy sounding track would start playing, the lights started to dim as the theatric lighting started to dance in unison with the song. The speaker started blazing, "I want to be a part of it, New York, New York" and as I watched those fountains danced, I was caught up in my own world.
Noone really knew that I was imagining those fountains were Broadway performers, nor the tall ceiling was the city's skyscrapers and the TV screens displaying advertisement were Time Square's big screens. Even I didn't realise it myself but that fountain has made me fallen in love with New York before I even got there.
We used to sit there so often that we probably had almost all the menu in that cafe. We brought guests, extended families, we took videos, we took photos, until in the end we're so used to it that we just sat and whistled, sang along and enjoyed the moment. It was such warm memories and I would never forget them. It felt like me and my family had our own "New York" and it will always take a special place in my heart forever.
I then had the opportunity to go to New York once when I was a teenager, even though only for a day trip. Our main destination was New Jersey but we had a day spared to go to the Big Apple. It was such a while a go that I don't have all the details memorised but one that stuck to mind was definitely walking through the streets and seeing how busy and buzzing it was. It made me understand why the song said "a city that never sleeps".
At one occasion, we were walking slowly and taking heaps of photos that our friend who's local told us: "You might have to walk faster if you would like to stop bumping into people". Yup, I kept bumping into people due to my apparent tourist-walking. "In New York, it's easy to spot tourists. They walk slow, they stare and they stop and they take pictures. The locals walk very quick, they're very busy and always got some place to be." I tried to fasten my steps all day to follow our friend that the next day I couldn't walk any longer. We were so not used to the need-for-speed.
However, that was then. It was a day in New York that made a lasting impression in my mind. I loved the city. I wished of going back there one day.
Fast forward to now, our whole world is swiped by a global pandemic that no city is left untouched, including New York. The rush hours have turned into quiet days. The photos we've seen of those buzzing streets have turned into photos of silence. It almost feels like the big city is humming, "These little town blues..."
No matter how it looks like right now, one thing we know for sure is there's always light at the end of a tunnel and we know that there's always calm after the storm. So I'd like to take us all to a virtual vacation that takes place in the future when this is all over. We don't know how it may look like yet but I can't be more certain that we all will bounce back no matter what, no matter how long, no matter how hard. So, would you take the ride with me? I'm leaving today.
IN NEW YORK
It was a one cold winter day that me and the Mr. arrived in the city. The snow was falling and the streets were buzzing. We were so excited for the day but something caught my attention at the corner of my eyes: THE HOTDOG STAND. "BEST NEW YORK HOT DOG", so I must try, right?
I've seen these stands on our screens so many times but nothing beats the actual feeling when you take a bite and really knows what it tastes like. Wow. It was probably the simplest lunch I could choose for our first day in New York, but it was so worth it. I guess eating a hot dog in the middle of New York city in winter really does something. For me, every bite transported me into being inside a Christmas movie.
We then kept walking and got to Times Square. The pedestrians are crossing, the TV screens are blaring and the shoppers are queuing in some shops too. I saw someone bumped into another person and I laughed inside, thinking that it happened to me before and it still happens now too. Deeper than that, it reminded me that the city still stands strong. It still shines, even though it's been through a lot, but it got up again and it bounced back even stronger.
We decided we would like to go to Central Park after. It was just as big and alive as I thought in my mind. I saw people doing exercises, moms pushing prams, couples embracing, families having a walk and it was a beautiful moment to see - because not long ago, we would've not been able to do this.
However, being through what we've all been through together in this world, these moments now have such an extended height of appreciation. We hold on tighter to the people we love and we treasure deeper each moments we have embracing each other. Right there and then, I hugged my husband and walked through the park holding hands, never wanting to let go.
After spending the hour walking and taking pictures, we decided it's time to go have some New York food! We had a list of places we'd like to go, but we thought why don't we spend the evening going to places spontaneously? So we did. We went and ate less food at more places. We tried pizzas, tacos, burgers, milkshakes and we were way too full by the end of it all.
Strolling through the streets admiring everything I saw, I felt so happy to be where I was. We got ourselves a yellow cab and we went inside and headed back to the hotel. Just when I thought the day could've not gotten more special, the cab's radio played "New York" by Frank Sinatra. This is my song! Nothing's more special to be hearing this song that brings back all of my nostalgic memories.
WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
As i sat in the cab holding the arms of my husband, my mind travelled to those dancing fountains. Just right in that moment, I could feel two things at one time.
I felt the warm memories of spending time with my family and friends at that dancing fountain then but I also felt the beauty of spending this present New York with the love of my life.
I thought of the time I went there as a teenager, bumping into people and I thought of now how I'm here and still bumping into people.
Then it rose to me: That's this city. It is multiple things at once. Yes it endured an extremely difficult times through the global pandemic, but it's not its first rodeo and yet it now shines beautifully.
Every shop owner would have their stories of how they survived the time. Every person in a coffee shop would have a story to share of what they had to do to make it through, but they've made it. The empty seats could represent the lives lost but we're also glad for the lives saved.
New York and its people have their stories to tell. We all have a story to tell. In our stories, we might feel beauty and pain at the same time, we might feel victory and loss at the same time, but that's okay - just because we made it out of the tunnel doesn't mean the tunnel disappeared.
As I looked out through my hotel's windows onto the bright New York lights, I was glad that I made a right decision to go and choose this city for my virtual vacation. It made me feel a lot of things at once and it brought back memories while I created new memories. Thank you, New York.
Yes, the journey continues, but for now, I'm excited to go to bed and "wake up, in the city that never sleeps.."