Forty eight hours in New York City is like three years to me. While many people stare slack jawed at the magnitude of its scale and savor its loud volume, I believe you can keep it. There’s nothing like random sirens bellowing in the night and traffic roaring non-stop to make you appreciate the relative silence of a house full of pets and kids dropping in and out back home in bucolic Pennsylvania.
I took three students to the city for the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System conference. Although it has an unfortunate acronym, the mission of this group is decades old and concerned with protecting the integrity of student broadcasting, a mission I share with them. At King’s College where I spend “the other half” of my work life, we’ve been preaching the gospel of protecting the professionalism and ethics of our craft. Radio has always meant so much to me that I sometimes feel that it’s the only thing I understand. That’s why I like to see students excel at the thing that I love and value. Our radio station at King’s, WRKC, won four first place awards and seven other finalist trophies in the national IBS contest. While that was certainly the highlight of the trip, the lowlights were everywhere else. The traffic to enter the city was unreal on Friday afternoon. Finding a parking garage for the car was expensive. Our hotel had no heat.
I could put up with all that, but New York was coarse and depressing last weekend. Beggars are brazen, with one holding a sign stating that whatever you gave him, he was going to buy dope and booze. While you might want to applaud his honesty… really? There were people down on their luck wherever you went and I commented that I had never seen so much open poverty and what appeared to be mass homelessness in a city I’ve been visiting since childhood when my mom took us on the bus for the day. An article in the March 4 edition of The Wall Street Journal backs up what I had suspected. According to the WSJ, more than 50,000 people slept in NYC’s homeless shelters in January, joining a growing trend of homeless individuals and families in the U.S.
The topper came for me when we were walking one of the students across Times Square and to the train station. There are many characters inhabiting Times Square these days. Some are known, like the Naked Cowboy, who now has a lady friend. Some appear to be rogue. A case in point was a “Mickey Mouse” character who was there Sunday morning. In the high pitched squeal we all know and usually love, this “Mickey Mouse” appeared to proposition a young lady. “C’mon baby!” he squealed. Yuck.
So, although New York has an awesome theater district, great shopping and palpable energy levels, it feels good to leave all that behind for the next group of tourists. I’m sure I’ll go back soon because the students love it and it’s so close, but I am thankful to live elsewhere.
Because it was spring break, I had the chance to go see my dad’s friend, Trapper, in Fleetville this week as well. He takes about 20 minutes to tell you a story, mostly because he’s an engineer and very detailed oriented. He told my son and me a long, rambling account of being gifted a channel cat in a bar one night, which he held in the bath tub for safe keeping until he could properly deal with it the following morning. It made me forget all about New York and reminded me why my dad and he were such buddies. It was also about four gears lower than the activity level in Times Square. Goodbye, city life!