Ok, New York City is not part of the RTW trip, but I don’t care. I love it all the same. I just got back from visiting one of my best friends (hiya, Da!) before I leave the states for an undetermined amount of time. Every time I visit, it always seems as if there’s not enough time to do, see, eat it all. And while there is no place that can compare, many of the reasons I love NYC are also why I love travel.
We woke up on Sunday and wandered over to Central Park. Oh, hey, it’s the New York City Marathon!
We arrived just in time to watch the first men’s, women’s, and wheelchair finishers cross the 26-mile mark on their way to finish line. I have never been interested in watching masochists, but it turned out to be an inspiring experience (see next point). Who knows what sorts of things we’ll come across in our travels!
The human spirit
26.2 miles is an arbitrary but not insignificant distance. I can’t fathom running that distance, much less in under 2 hours and 10 minutes. It takes a tremendous amount of training and perseverance to accomplish such a feat and even more willpower to ignore that little voice inside your head that says “I can’t” and tries to get you to give up. For 26 freakin miles. I was in awe of the athletes.
Thousands of people line marathon routes, but I never understood why anyone would do that unless they were related to a racer. Strangers cheering for other strangers towards an arbitrary goal? But even if the spectators don’t know the racers (and don’t even like/understand the idea of running, in my case), humans universally understand the setting of personal goals and how hard it can be to keep pushing yourself forward when the road seems endless.
I know nothing of running a marathon; I can’t even remember the last time I ran for a mile non-stop. But I do know what it’s like to compete at an arbitrary sport (aren’t they all?) and hear that damn voice in your head say, “Meh, I’m tired. Just let up a little bit.” And I also know the crazed burst of energy that comes from hearing my teammates urging me to fight on and feel their trust and belief in my abilities when my own falters. Now imagine the voices of hundreds of strangers cheering for you to take those last few strides. How amazing must it feel to have that many people rooting for you towards a goal they don’t care about? And so the spectators cheer, they encourage, and they play a minor, but important, role in the life of someone they have never met and will never see again.
I don’t cry often, but any grand gestures of the tenacity and generosity of human spirit can crack my stone heart. We were situated in the middle of the final hill before the finish, and we saw many racers struggle up the incline. One of the hand cyclists paused at the bottom of the hill, exhausted, and blew kisses to the crowd, her arms wide in gratitude to strangers standing in the cold, cheering her towards her goal and validating the months and years of sacrifice and struggle to cross that finish line. The crowd roared in response, thanking her instead for the inspirational performance and willing her up that last hill. It was an amazing interaction to witness and be a part of.
Da and I also stopped by the 9/11 Memorial. Words cannot capture the emotions that came flooding back from being there.
Pretty much all I do when I come to NYC now is find distractions between chasing the next amazing meal. Pig and Khao (Viet/Filipino fusion): Pork jowls with brussel sprouts, corned beef hash, champodora (chocolate rice pudding with bacon bits). All eaten to a great soundtrack of Warren G, 2pac, Snoop, Fugees and the hip hop of Da and I’s youth. Pio Pio: Peruvian roast chicken, pepitas. Boku: Korean fried chicken, LA galbi, jap chae. Totto ramen. Other culinary adventures include boba, delicious Viet cuisine, soup dumplings, and the speakeasy you can only enter via phone booth. So many of my favorite travel memories revolve around food.
New York City is such an amazing mix of people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, all thrown together in the bustle. In Colorado (and most places I’ve been to), the minority populations exist but in little, isolated pockets. In NYC, everyone is in the mix throughout the city, and they all interact effortlessly. I love being able to meet such a wide variety of people and hearing about their realities that are so different than mine.
Transport hubs / the intertwining of lives
One of my absolute favorite things in the world is transport hubs: airports, train or bus stations, any place where the lives of many strangers are all brought together in a single moment. Da and I paused for a bit in the Times Square subway station watching a band play and the crush of humanity come and go: dazed marathoners done with the race, tourists ambling towards the pretty lights, haggard New Yorkers trying to avoid all of them.
I love just sitting in these places and watching people, oblivious to each other but also inextricably linked. Their lives may never touch again, but for a very brief moment in time, they were all drawn together to this one place. It’s a microcosm of the world: billions of humans scurrying about, each with his or her own story and struggles, trying to find their way and occasionally bumping into each other as they go. I see all these people and wonder, “What’s your story? How did you get here, and where are you going?”
It makes the world seem smaller. More intimate and connected. We are at once alone and together.
2 thoughts on “I <3
Matt and Lisa-Greg and I are so thrilled to hear about your RTW adventures. Sorry o have missed your send off party. We blame Charlie – the little stinker. Your blog is so epically awesome that I am recommending it to my non-Ultimate friends!
Thanks Valerie, hope Charlie is doing well, even if he is a little stinker!