Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Walkin' New York Blues (Part 2)

I arrived in New York at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. JFK is the busiest international airport in North America. At the exit, I was almost literally taken for a ride by a "cabbie" soliciting fares in the terminal. I thought this must be the American way, until the hustler led me away from the taxi queues to a private unmarked car in a dimly lit corner. I was expecting to see a yellow New York cab so I hesitated and backed out. The authorities should look into this cab scam but first-time tourists beware. You might end up being taken for a ride.

I had booked a place in Flushing overlooking Manhattan.

Queens (Queens County) on Long Island east of Brooklyn, is geographically the largest borough and the most ethnically diverse county in the United States. 
Two of the three major airports serving the New York metropolitan area, LaGuardia Airport and JFK are in Queens. Chinatown in Flushing, Queens is one of the multiple satellites of the original Manhattan Chinatown. It is now a thriving urban enclave as large-scale Chinese and Asian immigration continues into New York and neighboring areas. About six percent of New Yorkers are of Chinese ethnicity, with about 40% of them living in the borough of Queens alone.
While preparing for the big race, I stayed in Flushing for a few days feeling right at home with my distant relations of mainly Chinese and Korean. I wouldn’t have looked out of place either with my closer cousins the Lenape of the Algonquian tribes here in the land of the braves and used-to-be free, but there’s just too many million dwellings to go door-knocking to find them.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens is the site of Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, and was also the setting for the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair. The US Open Tennis Championships are held here every August and September. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the place was deserted but for birds, ducks and squirrels.
There were many fallen trees and tons of maple leaves.

It wasn't foggy outside but all the trains and buses have been grounded.
An eerie atmosphere prevailed with the empty cavernous buildings and grounds.

I saw the world's fair marker and walked down to the Unisphere, Queens museum of art, state pavilion and down to Meadow lake.
One day travelling to Manhattan from Flushing, I had a New York experience I didn’t have to have – I got stranded in traffic for hours. Traffic jams happen every day but this one was caused by that blow-in Sandy.
New York City's public bus and rail network are the largest in North America. Buses and trains were at capacity in the week I spent in the city. More people live here than Los Angeles and Chicago combined. New York City is now home to more than one million Asian Americans, greater than the combined totals of San Francisco and Los Angeles (Filipinos make up the largest southeast Asian ethnic group at just under 1%). New York City residents spend on average about 38½ minutes a day getting to work, the longest commute time in the nation. Mass transit use in New York City is the highest in the United States. However, due to their high usage of mass transport systems, New Yorkers spend less of their income on transportation than the national average.
New York's high rate of public transit use, 120,000 daily cyclists, and many pedestrian commuters make it the most energy-efficient major city in the United States. In 2011, it was the most walkable city in the United States. Walk and bicycle modes of travel account for 21% of all modes for trips in the city. Just like me and 99.99% of Chonglianites, 78% of Manhattanites do not own a car. And just like 99.9% of Mainit households, New York is the only US city in which a majority (52%) of households do not have a car. 

Grand Central Terminal main concourse.
The combined rail network systems converge at Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station.
Park Avenue viaduct.

Grand Central Station which opened in 1913, is not just a transit center, it’s also an aesthetically beautiful building. Amtrak also uses Pennsylvania Station for long-distance train service to other North American cities. I went to the subway to catch a train to the Cordillera but Penn Station was closed that Sunday due to Sandy.

I waived on a bus ride around Manhattan.
I did not wave the bus down but instead caught a train uptown.

Another day I took to the Brooklyn bridge to explore Brooklyn. Brooklyn (Kings County) on the western tip of Long Island, is the city's most populous borough. I started near ground zero, from the Manhattan Municipal Building which housed New York’s seat of government along with its many city agencies.

The Brooklyn Bridge linking Brooklyn and Manhattan provides great scenic views.

I saw a church reminding me of my homeland.
The residential districts are often defined by row upon row of elegant brownstone rowhouses and townhouses. Many were built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Stone and brick construction became the norm in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1835.

I trod down Flatbush avenue then Atlantic avenue. I was not following any casket but in the late afternoon I turned north and ended up lost in the middle of numerous mounts: Mt Judah, Mt Neboh, Mt Lebanon, Mt Hope. It was the evening and I had stopped at Mt Carmel cemetery. I looked right and then left and looked behind me and ahead of me. I had walked many a mile to the mouth of some graveyards - the main portal to the resting place of the departed. As night fell I realised that all these mounts were mounds of cemeteries. After a few hours of hailing for a ride finally a new york cab stopped for a tired and worried stranger in a strange land. Maybe it was just a few minutes, but it certainly felt like hours.
I visited Manhattan a couple more times just to look around.
The New York Times has won the most Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. I saw a little bit of New York and enough stories to tell. I just could not do it like those NY Times journos. I went looking for a feed instead.
New York is home to many of the finest and most diverse haute cuisine restaurants in the United States. The city's food culture includes a variety of world cuisines influenced by the its immigrant history although hot dogs and pretzels are still the main street fare.

I walked on.
Seen old buildings.
Seen some new.

I shot the sheriff's car with my camera.
But I did not shoot the deputies'. There was not enough light,
 and New York's finest were mobilising.

I saw many of the colleges and important universities located in New York including Columbia University with grounds and buildings on the Harlem. New Yorkers have high levels of education.

As of November 2008, 67% of registered voters in the city are Democrats. New York City has not been carried by a Republican in a statewide or presidential election since 1924. In the November 2012 election President Obama carried New York city not in a landslide but in a historic hurricane, winning 80% of votes.
Hurricanes are rare in the New York area, but always have the potential to strike the area. Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on October 29, 2012, causing destructive flooding to streets, tunnels, and subway lines in Lower Manhattan and other areas. Sandy caused the cancellation of the 2012 NYC marathon and forever blew away my one chance to win.
I did do my own version of the New York Marathon. I did not venture to Staten Island or the Bronx, but I walked from Queens to Manhattan on the Queensboro bridge, Manhattan to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn bridge, walked the Hudson River greenway and most of Manhattan, jogged around Central Pak and even a bit of Inwood Hill Park up near the Harlem River. All up I reckon I did at least 42.2 kilometres walkin' New York.
I heard that there are up to 800 languages spoken in this great city of immigrants. I did not hear them all I have to add, but I added or spoke in one more tongue, hailing the lady: Aji ka ngen mavray ay mange-egnan ahna sileo mo? Engka omreng ta awni ay fomonet as maschem hamet kahi ingato. She kept holding high the torch. I gazed in admiration at Libby for quite a time, until I started to feel the chill in my bone. Then I bid adieu to the lady of the big apple.
So long New York, howdy miss orange.

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