A Stroll Through The Streets Of Manhattan (2001 Spring)

Who doesn’t want to visit New York City? After all its the city that “never sleeps” immortalized in so many songs and movies, countless books and publications, the line in the Frank Sinatra hit New York New York really sums the place up remember the line?

If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York

No truer a line could have been written about this iconic amazing city, from its amazing world renowned land marks such as The Empire State Building, Central Park, The Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Station and so so many more, from the long avenues running North to South or the smaller streets stretching East to West, every corner a new sight and sound playing out in front of you. A living theatrical production happening directly around you, New Yorker’s going about their business, tourist with their heads looking in every direction, trying to capture every square inch of this city in one visit. Every couple of seconds or so a horn sounds from and impatient cab driver, or a delivery person rushing from job to job. Followed by a blast of police sirens or the loud deafening horns from Fire Trucks as they maneuver around this organized chaos of a city. It’s all mad but it works believe it or not, when you stand still long enough to actually absorb it, it actually sodding works its baffling really is.

So swiftly moving on from my little introduction, I got the opportunity to live in New York between October 2000 & March 2004, whilst I was working at JFK International Airport. I didn’t live in the city (way above my pay grade) instead I resided on Long Island in an area called Island Park or Barnum Island (yep the same Barnum as the circus performers) where in the summer I tended to stay where I lived! (it was a summer beach town what would you expect) I did venture into Manhattan, to mooch around. I tended to go more in the winter months as the city is so pretty in the snow and around Christmas somewhat magical. I was a little bit of a creature of habit I tended to wander the same routes, the places where I could people watch, and marvel on New Yorker’s and chuckle at tourists as well I must confess, so I thought why not take you on “A Stroll Through The Streets Of Manhattan” as I did through my eyes experiencing the things I saw and did, the places I ventured to and stops I made. So stick your trainers (or sneakers) on and lets go.

Up and out my bed for 07:30hrs my home is a ground floor of a house in Island Park on Long Island, proper summer beach town, a walk over Long Beach Bridge takes you to guess where? Long Beach!! Where white sandy beaches alongside a long wooden boardwalk greet you, as well as the many bars and restaurants that are present along the main drag (my home and area is another blog) once I’d hopped in the shower, dressed and ready, off I go nice stroll down my street, heading towards my LIRR station (Island Park), there I will hop on the train that takes me all the way to Penn Station, ticket bought and paid for (all day return $8.00) not bad considering as it is a lengthy journey, the silver train pulls in and i make my way to either the maroon or the blue seat, armed with my NY Post, the train pulls away from the station, Manhattan here I come.

I settle back to my seat and start flicking through the paper to see what nonsense has been happening around New York? from the corner of my eye I see the various towns and stations going past, I tend to pay no attention at all to the stops just a casual glance, seeing Oceanside, East Rockaway, Center Avenue, on to Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Rosedale, Laurelton and Locust Manor before we pull into Jamaica Station. If I was driving to work (JFK) I’d hop off the train here then make my way to the airport, but as I’m off to the city I stay in my seat. Then off we go again glancing up I see Kew Gardens, Forest Hills (on the train you can see the Tennis stadium), Woodside from there we descend into darkness as the train enter the tunnel going under the East River taking me into Penn Station, I always leave my paper on the seat, so somebody getting on can enjoy it on their return trip. I’ve arrived I’m here time to get out of the station and into the daylight see what Manhattan has to offer today?

7th Avenue is my first route strolling from Penn Station up to Times Square, now I don’t go to Times Square to sight see or shop1 Been there done that got the “I Love NYC” mug, no I go to Times Square to sit outside a coffee shop be it Starbucks or whatever, I settle down in my seat outside with my Coffee and pastry and I people watch! There is no greater way to pass time than people watching, it is superb and a laugh a minute, you see and hear into peoples lives for a split second, New Yorker’s are very animated when they speak, I see bankers and brokers going towards downtown, all on their cells talking about deals, or the game last night? I see business people scurrying in all directions trying to get to there respected offices, nothing more odd than seeing a business woman in full business attire with a pair of sneakers/trainers on? guess the Jimmy Choo’s are just not up to the job eh? Full business attired men dashing through the crowds with napkins hanging from their collar due to still throwing their breakfast down their necks, workers and delivery drivers arguing over who can park where? Then in the midst of all this chaos insert the tourists hundreds of them everywhere, from all over the world, so easy to distinguish due to there heads being all over up, down, side to side looking at everything, cameras taking pictures of literally everything possible! I mean do people really go home and look at pictures of advertising hoardings they’ve taken? Or a mound of horse **** in the middle of the street? I find it incredible when I sit and watch the tourist, I remember one day I dropped my coffee cup which spilled on the floor, the cup was leaning against a wall with the coffee, running towards the road, I went to grab a napkin as I had coffee on my hands, when I got back there was a group of Japanese tourist on the floor photographing my spilled coffee cup, with Times Square in the background? Really? seriously what on earth? But hey it’s New York so better let it slide eh? once I’ve engaged in my people watching, its time to engage with the globe!

I always stopped at the “Easyinternetcafe” spend an hour or so reading the English newspapers, see whats going on at home, send some emails to family and friends whilst having a coffee, located on 42nd Street it was always busy, and often I’d have to wait my turn for a terminal, but once I was settled I’d utilize my time quite productively, once I was fully up to speed with happenings in the UK, I’d stick in my earphones and connect them to my terminal, listen to the radio from the UK whilst I surfed the globe absorbing information, before I ventured back onto the mean streets of Manhattan, I don’t know if the “Easyinternetcafe” is still on 42nd Street? If it has now gone its a shame as it was always my second port of call. Once I’d loaded up on world wide affairs is was on wards on my daily ramble around Manhattan, I logged my terminal off and made for the door, always being asked exactly the same question as I exited “Do you want a coffee to go Sir? Have a great day” I liked my routine I guess.

So off I went on my stroll around the streets of Manhattan, being a bit of a movie buff, I liked to stroll and see various places around the city that had appeared in movies, suppose standing in that exact spot for a movie nerd was an achievement hahaha, some of the places I strolled to was place from the Men in Black movie the bench Will Smith sat on in Battery Park, the entrance to MIB at the Northern end of Battery Park, Jeebs Pawn shop located 90 Orchard Street on the corner of Broome Street, Lower East Side, I would also wander to the Plaza Hotel where so many movies have been shot Including Home Alone and Crocodile Dundee, I would also stroll to the bar that Crocodile “Mick” Dundee drank in it’s called the Horseshoe Bar located Avenue B at Seventh, at the South East corner of Tompkins Square Park, here I’d enjoy a cold beer and think of the infamous scene from so many years ago, as I made my was around I’d pause at FDNY Hook & Ladder 8, 14 North Moore Street, Tribeca made famous as the home of the “Ghostbusters” as well as seeing “Spook Central” where Dana’s apartment was this was located 55 Central Park West at 65th Street, I also stumbled across another location, purely by chance (I tripped on the curb here) as I corrected myself somebody said I’d tripped at one of the most famous locations in New York City? All I could see was a set of subway grates, but it transpired this was the actual spot where Marilyn Monroe skirt blew up! Bit of narrative for you on this –

At the time of filming, in September 1954, Monroe‘s marriage to Joe DiMaggio was falling apart. They were staying at Suites 1105 and 1106 in the St Regis-Sheraton Hotel, 2 55th Street at Fifth Avenue.The notorious subway grating scene was largely staged as a publicity stunt. The studio made sure that the press knew exactly when and where the scene was to be shot, and that Marilyn would be wearing an outfit that would ‘stop the traffic’. Around 2,000 people turned up to witness the filming, including an enraged DiMaggio. The crowd roared as Monroe‘s skirt billowed up, and one of the most enduring Hollywood images was born. The next day, Monroe was sporting bruises and within a few days she and DiMaggio had split. The close-ups of her legs were re-shot in Hollywood. The subway grating was outside the Trans-Lux Theater, where Ewell and Monroe had just watched The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The Trans-Lux has since moved to 1221 Avenue of the Americas, but the subway grating can still be seen at the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street.

Whilst wandering around there was various food and drink places that I enjoyed frequenting one of my absolute favorites was “A Salt & Battery Restaurant” 112 Greenwich Village, NY10011 this is effectively an English chippy, I’d call there and have Chips with Chip shop curry over the top, just like being in Manchester, if anybody came to NYC for a visit I’d always point them towards this place as it was amazing, I also liked eating at “Republic Restaurant” 37 Union Square Park, NY10003 this was a kind of Noodle bar, I’d often order and take a table outside in the sun, watching the world drift by as I chowed down on my noodle bowls, and an Asahi Beer, what more could I need! For beverages “Nevada Smiths” located 74 3rd Avenue NY10003, was always a good port of call it was a Manchester United Bar so I felt right at home, would have a beer and watch United match re-runs, my favorite bar in all of Manhattan was “The Swift” 34 E 4th Street, NY10003, I just really loved this little pub, it served Boddington’s Bitter and Stella Artois on draft, always a great chilled out vibe in there, staff always ready to talk shit all day with you, such a superb spot, no matter what time of year it was when I was in the city I’d be at The Swift! When I was going home before I jumped on the LIRR I’d call into the Tir Na Nog Bar near Madison Square Garden like a tradition had to have a beer before leaving.

Washington Square Park I religiously had to visit this place, as I walked towards the iconic marble arch I wondered who would be performing today, would it be the man dressed as a medieval knight (without Armour) and his wooden sword, he would stand there swinging his sword in his imaginary world, of battling other knights and saving a princess, the more people who stopped to watch the more enthusiasm he would inject into his performance, it was intriguing to watch i must say. There were always musicians in the park playing different instruments, some sounded awful yet some were incredible and the music they performed was as good as any celebrity artist, I remember sitting in the park one afternoon I was on a bench watching a street performer singing “American Woman” he was really good, there was a guy at the end of my bench watching also, he was foot tapping all through the song, I couldn’t help think he looked familiar, he had sunglasses on a leather jacket and large hat that covered his hair, I thought at one point he was a Rasta, it was only when I got up to move on I realized who I’d been sat near? None other than Lenny Kravitz just like me taking in the ambience, I spoke briefly to him he was a nice guy, he signed a napkin I had in pocket, then as I strolled in one direction he got up hands in his pocket strolled in the other direction, I love Washington Square Park, many an hour sat just watching the world, watching New Yorker’s scurry about their business, watching tourists all looking for that one unique shot, that they hope nobody else on the planet has caught.

As I stroll from Washington Square Park up town along 5th Avenue I’m surrounded by the sights and sounds of this amazing city, different smells coming from everywhere, stinky sewers, vehicle exhaust fumes, different restaurant aromas, street vendor’s selling everything from Hotdogs and Burgers, to Sauerkraut to kebabs to the wonderful aroma of roasting nuts.

As I progress to the top of 5th Avenue I see the iconic Plaza Hotel and just beyond Central Park, a number of Red open top buses drive past me, I can hear the guide talking to the passengers about all the sights they are seeing, I snigger to myself and think bloody tourists :o) I cross the road at the top of the park and wander in, its edging towards 4pm, the park isn’t the safest place in the dark so i aim not to be here to long, as I stroll through Central Park, I approach an area set up for rollerblading and roller skaters, I stand and watch for a while as they whiz around, some are with partners dancing away with each other, another man is whizzing around the area with a bottle on his head? Every now and then he squats whilst skating then slowly rises up again, he’s aware he has an audience so he tries to add a little more to his performance its actually quite funny, I notice a pretty woman come and stand next to me, she has a small dog on a lead, I can tell by the way she is dressed I should know who it is? As I rack my brain wondering who she is? I then acknowledge it is Rebecca Romijn I nod and say “Hi” she looks back smiles and replies “Hi” back, then the moment is gone and our two completely different lives go separate ways, the moment lost in time! My journey takes me across the park to Strawberry Fields, the memorial spot for John Lennon, directly across the road is the Dakota Building where John was shot dead, I pause here for a minute of reflection, I listen to people strumming Lennon songs on their beaten up guitars, I see a man sat newt to the mural on the ground, cross legged meditating! (only in New York) as light starts to fade and the flickers of candles begin to become brighter, its time to leave the park and start to head back to Penn station, my home beckons.

I stroll all the way down 6th Avenue watching the daylight disappear and the artificial lights illuminate the streets, Manhattan is a completely different city when night fall’s as the shops begin to close, the lights of the bars and restaurants shine bright, between 5pm & 7pm thousands of workers begin their trips back home after their work day. The bars fill up as stock brokers, office workers, retail personal, tradesman and women all stop to grab a drink before home, as I continue to wander towards Penn Station I stop at Sbarro’s Pizza on the corner of 33rd and 7th for a slice of Pepperoni, before walking past Madison Square Garden, to the Tir Na Nog Bar an Irish bar, as I make my way and take a seat at the bar, my good friend Shane serves me a cold Corona, I throw $30.00 on the bar, and drink my drink, when my bottle is near empty Shane comes along with a fresh one he takes the money from my pile, I tell him to take his own, every 3rd beer he tells me its on him lol, I end up spending more than $30.00, I take a Bourbon on ice to go, then cross the road and head down the stairs to my platform, once on the train I settle into my seat, and I’m on my way back to Island Park, I make sure I don’t nod off on the train as I’ll end up in Long Beach not where I need to, it’s been a great day wandering around the city, I’ve seen places of interest, ate in great places, enjoyed a few beers, and mingled with the greatest people on earth New Yorker’s. Stay Safe Paul 13.03.2021

By Paul Sargent

I was born in Manchester, UK in 1974, I'd like to say that I have worked hard at this attempt at life? I have had some incredible experiences on my journey up to now, and will continue to make memories as and when I can, I live in Leigh, Greater Manchester, UK with my fiancee and son. My current job is that of a Funeral Director, this current year has been an emotional roller coaster, due to the awful Coronavirus Pandemic, that has devastated the globe, I needed an outlet to shut out the realities of the day! A chance for me to escape perhaps my own sub conscious if only for a moment in time. As I expand my journey as a blogger will continue to open my mind and share my thoughts, I'd like to write about Life Through Ordinary Eyes, an honest interpretation at what I see and feel, what experiences I have had, and to perhaps share things that just might help you or someone you know on this voyage of discovery called life. Oh well here goes nothing. . . . . . . . . . . .

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