We arrived at JFK (located in Queens) late morning and made our way into the city via two different trains. We rumbled along on the E line for about 30 minutes before making our way up to street level where we were welcomed by blinding sunlight and all the smells and sounds of the street.
We had hours to kill until we could check into our hotel (The Manhattan Club), so we wandered down to Times Square and grabbed lunch at Ellen's, a 50's diner with singing waiters (all "waiting" to be discovered to star on Broadway). What a blast! Times Square has been "disneyized" at this point. What I mean by that is that it is clean, safe, well lit, filled to the brim with stores like Toys R Us (3 stories with its own indoor Ferris wheel), Sephora, JVC, Virgin Records, and restaurants like McDonald's, Bubba Gump's, and the biggest Olive Garden I've ever seen.
Now there were plenty of people who tried to stop us for a variety of reasons. Ticket hawkers to a comedy club live taping were benign enough, but I crossed on the other side of the street to avoid crossing paths with some religious "extremists" who condemned America and everyone in it from a soapbox and microphone - our First Amendment rights at work. The Square was crowded, but not as crowded as it normally would be. It's Memorial Day, the first day of summer for many people and many of those people spent the day at the Jersey Shore instead. By early evening the streets actually emptied to a breathable proportion and we decided to go to the park for a bit before going to our hotel.
Central Park is one of the most amazing spots of green space I've ever seen. It's not because of its breathtaking views (parks in Colorado had that), or nature preserves (Florida parks are good for that), but because I see the "World" represented on every swing, every bike path, every ball field, every path, scenic bridge, and open space. Today people spread blankets on the still cool grass, put out their wine and cheese spread, popped open a bottle of wine and enjoyed one another. Couples and small groups, lovers and friends, children and families littered the city's oasis. They moved through the park like ants on a mission; the mission was recreation. Frisbies and kites, skates and scooters, walkers, runners, and cyclists accompanied the horse and carriage riders like one grand parade.
Every color, every tongue, every belief, every choice together and numbering in the thousands enjoying a piece of heaven here on earth. I watched the families at the newly renovated playground (first established in 1926) climb the "big rock," splash is the concrete geisers, and swing high enough to touch the sky. Look closely at the photo I included. You can see them all, a sampling of the Earth, playing together in this space.
It didn't matter that we lounged in the grass with thousands of others. It didn't matter how many people shared the path with us. The idea of the personal space bubble doesn't translate here. We're all in this together and packed like sardines - and no one seems to mind.
It was a good day that ended with New York pizza (and yes, we swear the difference is using New York water, the best on the planet, to make the dough) and aching feet. I wonder as we wind down the day where else I could see so many different kinds of people in one place, at peace.