Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New York via Ashid

"This is my last night here and my first time in New York and I want to see something, can you help?"

"Yes ma'am," says Ashid the cab driver. "Where do you want to start?"

It was Monday night and I was restless.

If you've ever worked a trade show, you know it's a whole lotta yap yap yap yap yap yap yap and then you crash in your hotel room. Three nights in a row it's been dinners with vendors and clients and competitors and all I want to do is something that doesn't involve Everyone for a little while.

So I catch a ride with Ashid to see bits of the city.

He is kind enough to wait while I walk to the edge of Battery Park for a distant glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. He says it isn't a good idea walking through the park this late because I am alone -- fascinating since I've never once felt afraid like that in Chicago.

The statue is just a glowing green ghost across the bay, although it's interesting how her base makes her seem so much taller than she really is. I wonder if the French planned it that way - a subtle symbol of how we silly Americans think we're so much bigger and more important than we really are to the rest of the world.

Ashid came to the United States from Bangalore 15 years ago.

"I move here first, then my wife five years later," he explains. "She waits. She waits five years. For me."

I ask him what was most surprising about the United States when he first moved here and he says the order of things.

"The streets are straight," he said. "Someone planned this."

Ashid waits near the site of the World Trade Center while I wander around a bit, finding my way over to one lonely guy sketching it through industrial fence. He explains where everything was and all I can think is this is without question the biggest, saddest gravesite I've ever visited.

"Where were you on 9/11?" I ask Ashid, back in the cab.

"I was visiting family in India," he says. "It was like a movie, watching this happen to my city from there."

We wiz by Wall Street and Chinatown then TriBeCa and SoHo and the Villages.

At this point I'm feeling nothing but an odd mix of excitement and sadness at the fact that I'm this old and just now visiting a place that I've been to a hundred times in my favorite movies.

Back out front of the Marriott at Times Square, I thank Ashid for showing me around.

"My whole life, I never forget this night," he says, smiling from the front after I hand him way way more than the meter needs.

Me neither, Ashid. Me neither.
I am listening to: Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Sad to be leaving here


Posolxstvo said...

New York is fun, but it is best with someone like Ashid who knows his/her way around. By yourself, it can be quite intimidating.

Just like any major city.

I'm glad you had an Ashid to guide you around. And someday you should come back on your time and terms, because there's a lot of good stuff there.

Maybe someday I'll write about my family's experience at the Empire State Building, December 30th one year... It was quite memorable.


New York has always, each time I've been there, managed to show me more about her. You've only caught a glimpse of what's under her veil, I hope you can go back and see more. Our Liberty is beautiful up close.
Glad you had a good guide that makes all the difference in the world.
Welcome back to your comfort zone!

fm said...

Hmmm.... do we really know the whole story here???

You wrote (and left out the juicy details)....

"My whole life, I never forget this night," he says, smiling from the front after I hand him...