I met a friend visiting from the west coast for drinks tonight at the Campbell Apartment. It was a lot of fun to catch up and finally see her on my coast, for a change. As the evening began to wind down, I asked her what her older daughter was doing for the summer. “She’ll be living in New York, actually,” said my friend. “And interning a bit with a friend’s father’s company.” We began talking about all the things her daughter should see and do while she’s in town. I mentioned how many free things there are to do and take advantage of. I was met with an interesting, candid response, “Well,” said my friend, “these girls are affluent, so I doubt they’ll be doing anything like that.” She wasn’t wrong with what she said, and it wasn’t said offensively, simply stated as a fact. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much that sucks in a way. As great as it is to see New York from a position of wealth, it’s also fun (though sometimes difficult) to see it when you don’t have a ton of money, especially when you’re young. I could wax on poetically, but because it’s late, and I’m tired, here’s a list of the things one could miss if they didn’t take advantage of a “free” New York:
Walking through Central Park (vs. whizzing through in a cab)
Navigating the subways (and subway performers)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walking Washington Square Park, Gramercy Park, Union Square, Times Square, Cooper Square, Battery Park, etc.
Grand Army Plaza
The New York Public Library
The Performing Arts Library
Hanging out at Lincoln Center
Watching artists paint pictures of restaurants and buildings on Cornelia Street
Encountering tourists — everywhere!
Barney’s window displays
Discovering Minetta Lane
St. Mark’s Place
Observing the characters at fashion week at Bryant Park
Granted, all of these things could be experienced from town cars, taxis and perhaps even on their own two feet. But sometimes when the experience comes easily, it doesn’t mean as much or feel as rewarding. Like coming into a warm, cozy apartment after walking ten blocks from the freezing cold subway, to finding a way to get drinks for free, or getting into an event when you don’t have tickets. Those things just feel so good. And, I’m sure there are experiences that these girls will have that most New Yorkers never will in their lifetime. But, more than anything, in New York it’s the possibility of what you may encounter and the unexpected that you do encounter that makes this city so fascinating. The trick is do it all, the free, the not-so-free and the down-right expensive. Open yourself up to it all, as much as you can, and hold on tight.