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TRAVEL: NYC trip calls attention to small differences of coast, Midwest

Ornament fountain decorations across from Radio City Music Hall, taken by Dani Meyer

I’ve been to New York a few times before, but this is the first time I’ve ever not done any sightseeing, and it’s the first time I’ve been there in winter.

For this trip, I stayed with a friend, focusing more on relaxing and hanging out than seeing as many sights as possible (and in New York, there are a lot). In many ways, this trip was more like glimpse of what it’s like to live in Manhattan, a much different pace of life than in Grand Forks.

In visiting New York, one of the things I looked forward to the most was seeing the Christmas decorations. The city had some of the most amazing things, and it was a lot of fun to walk around and constantly be surprised, like stumbling across a light show on the side of Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

My favorites, though, were the 75-foot tree in Rockefeller Center, which was covered in thousands of multi-colored lights and topped with a Swarovski star, and the massive Christmas ornaments in what is usually a water fountain in front of the Exxon Building.

Of course during winter, some snow is to be expected, and New York braced itself for a massive snowstorm while I was there. With weather reports calling the expected temperatures “frigid” and “brutally cold,” I was prepared for the worst.

The reality: It was 15 degrees, and snowfall was less than 10 inches. Of course, I thought all of the uproar was ridiculous as the same day it was 70 below in Grand Forks, but New York disagreed and canceled school across the city.

What really struck me though is how terrible New York is at snow removal. They barely wiped off the streets and didn’t bother with the sidewalks, leaving piles of slush everywhere. I lost count of how many times I stepped in a huge pile of wet snow and soaked my shoes or slipped around on the sidewalks. Clearly, New York needs a North Dakotan to come in and teach them the art of snow removal.

Despite the weather, it was really interesting to stay in an apartment in New York. There really isn’t much privacy from your neighbors directly across the alley from you, bringing up images of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” in which a man watches his neighbors and sees someone commit murder. And despite being in a quieter neighborhood, there were still a lot of police sirens, a constant reminder that a crime is in progress somewhere in New York.

On a more positive note, there were tons of restaurants nearby to suit whatever we were in the mood for. The array was mind-boggling, and it was fun to try as many as possible. One of my favorites was Cafe Orlin, which had the most amazing french toast, and Adrienne’s Pizza with their old-fashioned basil pizza warranted several trips. In fact, most things are conveniently located in New York, like the grocery store nearby we went to on a late night Ben and Jerry’s run.

It was also really cool when I realized I could buy all of the clothing in magazines like Lucky and Redbook in less than a 20-minute trip. I’m so used to going to Minneapolis for city shopping, and it was weird to realize everything was right there in New York. Plus, most of the celebrities pictured in that magazine had homes in the city, something that doesn’t happen in North Dakota.

Of course, whenever you went outside there were people everywhere. While there are definitely less people in the winter, it was still a lot, and between the people and the tall buildings, it got a little claustrophobic for me.

Maybe the strangest parts were things I normally encounter at home but that are completely reworked for the New York lifestyle.

When we went to the gym, my friend told me to come upstairs when I was done. Imagine my surprise when I discovered not one but four more floors above me, all looking out over the New York Stock Exchange.

Then, there were big-box retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond. I’ve never been in one that isn’t a free-standing, single-floor building, but it New York, it was part of a block and took up three stories. There was even an impressive grocery store inside.

It’s no surprise that life in New York is much different than that in Grand Forks, but it’s interesting what little things you notice when you’re not busy sight-seeing. I’m not sure it’s the lifestyle for me, but it was a great trip.

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