Friday, October 2, 2015

New York City

Last week we went to New York City for the Global Citizen Festival.  I've never spent significant time in the city that never sleeps, and so we added a few days to be tourists. I've read the New Yorker for maybe twenty-five years, and have always wanted to visit. While my heart is in quieter places, New York is an amazing city, and for me this was an adventure of the first order.

Trains, trains, trains. For five days, we were subway and train gurus. We had our apps for schedules, but often I'd just ask someone. "Take the L to the A and get off at such and such station."  I even had an app which told me the best place to enter and exit a train. Grand Central Station at rush hour is sort of scary, with wall to wall people pushing to get onboard. On the ride to Yankee Stadium, a troupe of rapping, break-dancing, pole-dancing entrepreneurs entertained.

We stayed three nights in Brooklyn. Had pizza at the hipster pizza joint, Robertas, which has two Michelin stars. They had this radish dish that reinvented the bitterroot--loved it. Our neighborhood was full of graffiti and young Europeans, with a few food trucks, Brooklyn's Natural Grocery, and a feeling of rejuvenation. People walking around at all hours.

We did the water taxi tour, seeing the skyline, the Statue of Liberty and hiking the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge walk is very worthwhile, as is getting a few insights from a tour guide. We passed Ellis Island, the landing place for so many immigrants, and a personally significant sight for me.

We visited Ground Zero. The memorial is moving, and well done. Writing about it makes me sad though. I couldn't linger there too long. The memorial is actually two memorials, one for each tower, with one pictured below. 

Times Square. Crazy. The building size reader boards are worth seeing, and then leaving. So many people, coming, going. We got a few pictures with people dressed in costumes (Minion, Wolverine, et al.), and saw all the things you see on tv. So cool to connect these commonly televised sights with personal experience.

We happened upon a Comedy show at Carolines on Broadway. This was the score of the weekend, unexpected. Pete Davidson, the youngest cast member of SNL, was the featured comic. I think he's the funniest guy on the cast right now, and so this was amazing luck for me. His father died in 9/11, and he talks about it, darkly, sometimes. Great show, and I think he's going places. Jordan Rock, Chris' brother, also landed some haymakers. This is New York--we just happened to walk by, and were drawn in. Save Broadway for next time.

Yankee Stadium.  I love baseball. Great to ride the rails to the game, with all the Yankees fans in jerseys. I went in 2001 to the old stadium. The new stadium is much bigger, with legit 400 level seats.  Old time announcer.  Vendor options and atmosphere doesn't match early season Safeco. Around the 7th, I walked the stadium and checked out the Yankee Museum. So worthwhile. Yankee history is incredible, probably unmatched, though the BoSox might be right there. So many greats. In particular, I liked the featured exhibits on Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra (who just passed last week), Reggie Jackson, and Tino Martinez. They love Tino in New York.

One night we stayed next to Central Park, and I ran there the next morning. Central Park is a special place. You can escape there, and forget you're in the middle of Manhattan. New Yorkers love to run loops there--lots of runners hitting their strides. Its perhaps the greatest urban park in the world, so glad to get there. We actually spent all day their too on Saturday, on the Great Lawn.

Many other sites. Rockefeller Plaza. The NY bagel with cheese. More pizza. Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. Wall Street. Chelsea District, and the Trailer Park bar. A visit to the local clinic--so interesting to see how NYers live. Taxi ride. Also, Pope Francis was in town, as was the UN General Assembly, making it a big weekend for New York, even by New York standards.

The purpose of the trip, and the highlight, was the Global Citizen Festival. This was an all-day concert in Central Park, featuring Pearl Jam, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, and Coldplay. Guest stars included Tori Kelly, Common, Sting, Ariana Grande, Bollywood's top singer, and others. Guest speakers included Michele Obama, VP Joe Biden, Malala (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Leo DiCaprio, Bono, Usher, Steven Colbert, Hugh Jackman, Kerry Washington, Olivia Wilde, Big Bird, Bill and Melinda Gates, featured videos from Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, and it goes on. The music was terrific, and Pearl Jam closed it out. Pearl Jam's rendition of John Lennon's Imagine, and the Eddie Vedder-Beyonce duet of Bob Marley's Redemption Song, with a Nelson Mandela voice track, were highlights for me.

The Festival was special, for many reasons. 60,000+ attendees, all on the Great Lawn. At least 48,000 attendees did not pay for their tickets, but won them through a lottery after taking advocacy steps for these various causes, such as signing petitions, tweeting, and calling Congress people. I was a lucky lottery winner. The effort wasn't hard, and the causes are very worthy. The focus on the Festival was the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which are geared towards ending extreme poverty by 2030. The goals form a real business plan for the world's sustainability, and were adopted last week by the United Nations. No poverty, zero hunger, climate action, quality education, clean water and sanitation, and more--each cause is legit, and each cause had a luminary speak out for it. 

This was a truly inspiring day. It was terrific to be a part of this special event, and to see so many young activists there. Promising for the future, and a good time in Central Park.

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