I took an Amtrak train from Baltimore to New York City.
Upon arrival, I climbed from the depths of Penn Station up into the forest of skyscrapers in midtown Manhattan. I walked to the taxi stand and told the first driver in line that I needed to go to Brooklyn.
My cab driver, a friendly young man named Mark, was a New York City original. Mark told me about his troubled childhood, how much he loves the bible, and how he “used to be gay” before discovering Jesus and starting a new life as a straight man.
I learned all of this, and more, within 90 seconds of getting into the cab.
“Can you hear me back there?” he called, peering in the rear-view mirror. “Move over a bit so I can see you.”
Mark spent the remaining 30 minutes of the drive imploring me to read the bible. My guess is 99% of his passengers shut him down rudely (which I was tempted to do), or simply ignore him (which I was also tempted to do), and he was excited beyond belief that I was even listening (I was being polite, and maybe a little curious).
I wasn’t sure how to respond to Mark. Luckily I could hardly get a word in, even if I wanted to.
“I was meant to meet you today Heather, I know it,” Mark said as I hefted my bags from the trunk. “Read your bible, okay? Just read your bible.”
I thought: New York is so much crazier than Joburg.
Although I grew up only a few hours from New York City, I’ve regrettably spent very little time there. I hadn’t been there at all since starting this blog. So on my most recent trip to the States I made a point of scheduling a couple of days in the Big Apple. I spent an afternoon in Manhattan with my father and aunt soon after flying in from Joburg, then two days at an Airbnb in Brooklyn two weeks later before flying out.
Images of New York City
I dreamt of leaving New York with a beautiful, iconic set of photos to share in this post. But I feel strangely dissatisfied with the pictures I shot. Despite being a visual and sensory bonanza, New York is harder to photograph than I expected. Maybe I just need to spend more time there on my next trip. Or maybe I’ll never be able to visually capture this befuddling, bewitching city in the way I actually experience it.
Anyway, here are my favorite shots.
Dad, my aunt Jinx (who lives outside New York City in Westchester County), and I visited lower Manhattan on a freezing early April afternoon. It was my first time visiting the area since the September 11th attacks in 2001, when this whole section of Manhattan was basically destroyed. Everything feels eerily brand-new now. This is the view from a massive office and retail complex called Brookfield Place, which is across the street from the new World Trade Center.
Looking up at One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It was cloudy that day so we decided not to go to the top, although now I wish we had.
Inside the Oculus, the new public transport terminal next to One World Trade Center.
From lower Manhattan, my aunt drove us up to the far northern tip of the island to visit the Cloisters. The Cloisters, which is part of the Met, is a fascinating museum dedicated to European Medieval art. The museum was funded by John D. Rockefeller and built using actual excavated pieces of ancient French monasteries and abbeys. (Learn more.)
My two Joburg friends, James and Ted, each happened to be in New York while I was there and I got the three of us together. We took a walk through the park and I felt kind of left out being the only one wearing a shirt.
I loved riding the subway in New York. I’ve always felt intimidated by the subway on previous trips, but it really wasn’t as complicated as I thought (although I made a few mistakes). This is the 14th Street station and I think I wound up there accidentally, but I’m glad I did because this is my favorite picture from New York. I don’t know whose artwork this is — I didn’t see anything like it in any of the other stations.
2Summers in Brooklyn
I was pleased with my decision to stay in Brooklyn (one of New York City’s five boroughs) for a couple of days. Brooklyn has such an interesting mix of cultures, and while it’s definitely still part of the big city it feels more liveable than Manhattan does. Depending on where you stay it doesn’t take long to get into Manhattan via subway. I stayed in Bed-Stuy, near the Myrtle-Willoughby station on the G line.
Bed-Stuy borders South Williamsburg, where thousands of Hasidic Jewish families live. I was fascinated by the beaver fur hats Hasidic men wear — in fact I was fascinated by everything to do with the Hasidic community. It was Passover so everyone was dressed in their holiday best. Unfortunately this is the only shot I got of a Hasidic person. I spent lots of time wandering the Hasidic neighborhoods but I was (uncharacteristically) too shy to approach people and ask to photograph them.
Until the next trip to New York, when my quest for the perfect Big Apple photo will continue.