Lo­cal fam­ily gets taste of Big Ap­ple

New York­ers fas­ci­nat­ing from Point A to Point B

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - OUR TOWN - GWEN ROCKWOOD Gwen Rockwood is a syn­di­cated free­lance colum­nist. Ar­chives of The Rockwood Files can be found on­line at nwaMother­lode.com. Email Rockwood at rock­wood­files@cox.net.

In our fam­ily, we have a tra­di­tion. When one of the kids turns 13, he gets to take a trip to any city in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. with Tom and me, while the sib­lings stay home with grand­par­ents. When our old­est son turned 13, he chose Wash­ing­ton, D.C., be­cause Amer­i­can his­tory is one of his fa­vorite sub­jects.

But his younger brother had a dif­fer­ent idea this year when he turned 13. “I want to go some­place known for the best food,” he said. “Let’s go to New York.” So, we booked the tick­ets and asked friends to rec­om­mend fun things to do and great places to eat in the city.

As far as food goes, we did in­cred­i­bly well. The food was amaz­ing, and we man­aged to ar­rive at the most pop­u­lar restau­rants just be­fore the rush, which meant we never had to wait more than 10 min­utes for a ta­ble. We had gi­ant plat­ters of pasta, tow­er­ing pas­trami sand­wiches and pizza per­fec­tion on a ra­zor-thin crust.

Get­ting to and from any­where in New York, how­ever, wasn’t nearly as much fun as the food — mostly be­cause of the weather. Dur­ing our visit, July tem­per­a­tures surged into the 90s, and hu­mid­ity lev­els hov­ered some­where between swel­ter­ing and “Are you kid­ding me?” And as any­one who has ever been to New York knows, it’s a place where you walk — a lot. (Maybe it’s de­signed that way to counter bal­ance all the pizza and pasta plat­ters.)

The longer we were there, the more fas­ci­nated I was at how New York lo­cals get from Point A to Point B. It’s easy to tell tourists from lo­cals be­cause we look so dif­fer­ent on the side­walk next to them.

You’d think it would be the tourists who don’t watch where they’re go­ing be­cause they’re busy gawk­ing at sky scrap­ers. But it’s ac­tu­ally New York­ers who don’t watch where they’re go­ing be­cause, quite sim­ply, they don’t need to. I walked for more than a mile be­hind a woman in her 20s wear­ing ear­buds and no­ticed she al­most never glanced up from the so­cial me­dia feed on her iPhone to see what block she was on or whether the cross­walk light was on “go” or “stop.” But she never made a mis­step. Never stum­bled in any way. She stepped into in­ter­sec­tions with con­fi­dence, as if the rhythm of the city was a fa­vorite song she could play by mem­ory.

I started to re­al­ize the heavy traf­fic on the city side­walks is al­most like a fast-mov­ing river, flow­ing around tem­po­rary con­struc­tion scaf­folds, trash bags and tourists who can’t fig­ure out if their iPhone GPS is telling them to go left or right. The lo­cals slip seam­lessly into that cur­rent and let it take them down­town or uptown, us­ing the time in the stream to lis­ten to mu­sic or check emails. When they reach their des­ti­na­tions, they slip out of the stream and get on with their days.

I kept think­ing I’d get the hang of it and make it look as ef­fort­less as New York­ers do, but I never quite got it down. Af­ter four days of non­stop sight­see­ing, far more food than any per­son should eat, a Broad­way mu­si­cal and more than 20 miles on foot, I was crav­ing the slower pace of our South­ern home.

As ex­cit­ing and de­li­cious as it was, my bite out of the Big Ap­ple chewed me up and spit me out. It’s good to be back home where the side­walks are spa­cious and the tea is sweet.

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