There has been so much that I’ve learned on this trip around the world – I simply can’t get into it yet (later posts I will) – but coming back to America feels (and is) like the beginning of the end of this trip. I’m happy that the last stop is New York City in all of its summer glory and of course – one of the best things about living in Hawaii is that every trip ends with what most of the world dreams of – a trip to Hawaii. So, we have that to look forward to but for the moment here we are.
We arrived late at JFK. Customs was a breeze, surprisingly. A very nice black lady was the customs officer – asked us questions in an interested and conversational manner and wished us a good night. I’d booked a free night at Crown Plaza JFK in Jamaica (Queens) using reward points from my IHG credit card. This may seem hard to believe – but all of our accommodation in NYC cost me $0. 6 nights gratis in nice hotels. First and last night at the Crown Plaza JFK using reward points and four nights in a sweet Brooklyn boutique hotel using my Elysium Club NFT benefits.
Finding the shuttle was a little bit of a search but after taking the air train to Federal Plaza, we found a shuttle waiting – almost completely loaded with Arab families – I couldn’t tell from where exactly but veiled women, lots of kids, and two different Arabic dialects I couldn’t place exactly. I think they may have been Palestinian and Iraqi but that’s just based the pronunciation of a few words and honestly probably doesn’t matter – but was interesting to me at 11 pm after a long flight. Five minute shuttle ride and a ten minute wait to check in. No free breakfast but I asked for late check out and was told we could stay until 2 or 3 pm if we wanted – that’s never happened before. When I looked how far we are from the city though, it made sense – there is really nothing around there. If you want to work or stay in your room, it makes sense, otherwise – no real point. No pool here just a fitness center. As crown plaza hotels go – this was a pretty shitty one. I woke up early (I slept hours on the plane) but let Sophia wake up when she naturally did around 8am. Ordered expensive ass room service breakfast – $40 for a slice of avocado toast and two mcdonalds style pancakes. Still, nice to have breakfast taken care of.
The Elysium NFT apartment had a 4pm checkin- but the complex offers luggage storage and common areas are open to those checking in that day from 8am so I decided we should go for it. It was a cheap time for an Uber and I didn’t want to struggle through the metro with baggage so we Uber’d into the city for $40. I feel like that was an hour well earned by the driver and we enjoyed the ride and seeing how much NYC changes in short distances. The hotel was in a cool part of Brooklyn and the staff were super cool. I got into an NFT/crypto/Bald Jesus discussion with the manager while we waited for the room to be cleaned. Despite the fact that Elysium is using his property as a perk for holders, he hadn’t heard of it yet. He was knowledgeable about crypto/NFTs and our discussion was really enjoyable and quickly ate up the hour we needed to wait. His comment of “This is the first NFT I’ve heard about that gives you real tangible benefits” was noteworthy to me. People simply don’t know, they don’t realize the potential of this technology or how (in a limited way) it is already being used.
So, as in Paris, it was like we had a bonus day in NYC. We grabbed a NYC Slice of Pizza – Sophia’s take was that it was the 2nd best pizza she ever had – second only to her mama’s homemade pizza.
My favorite thing to do when I get anywhere is to take a long and wandering walk and I have been forcing Sophia to join me on those, so we did a nearly 11 mile Urban hike, walking across the Manhattan Bridge, checking out NYC Chinatown where I bought her a boba tea in a shop and asked for a cup of water, the employee told me ‘Our owner only lets us give people a shot of water because she wants people to buy a boba – do you want a shot of water?’ I couldn’t refuse that bizarre and very ‘Chinese boba shop owner normal’ opportunity and got a picture of the great event.
We bought some mango from a street vendor and walked around exploring the massive concrete canyons of Manhattan.
We walked to Wall Street and the 911 Memorial. I was surprised at how little Sophia knew about 911 and when I explained it to her and we walked around the memorials – it touched her deeply. I would almost say she was in a state of shock over it. I forget that she was born into this post-911 world almost a decade after it happened, when the world was already changed but not yet in the bizarre and dark from it has transmogrified into. I had thought maybe we would go to the 911 Museum and program, but just from walking around the memorials – I could see it would be too much for her.
The huge architectural wonder of the Oculus sitting next to the memorial is a bizarre and powerful statement about the USA and consumer culture in this post 911 world. It was beautiful and incredibly interesting – but so disturbing to me that it would be put there, also that the beer garden next to it would exist at all.
After 12 years of construction and constant delays, it finally opened to the public on March 3, 2016. Designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the $4 billion building exceeded the original estimate by 100%! In total, the WTC Oculus is 350 feet long and measures about 75,000 square feet of retail space. In fact, the Oculus blurs the line between a railway station, shopping center and pedestrian tunnel!
We explored quite a bit – saw teenage girls queueing up for a concert at Pier 17, saw a man being arrested by NYPD at Pier 11, took the Ferry back to South Brooklyn catching views of the Statue of LIberty and the city around us and then walked back to our hotel through Brooklyn Heights. We walked down a few dodgy streets on the way – but it was good for her to experience the true vibe of this city from the old folks drinking lemonade on the steps of the brownstones to the druggie arguing with his girlfriend ‘What do you mean I was a complete embarrassment last night? That’s not possible…’ to the guy beebopping down the street carrying an old school boombox. People from everywhere, shops from everywhere. This city really is the entire world. I love it. I love NYC. I love New Yorkers in all their diversity. It’s such an incredible city.