Day 2: The Bustle
My heart failed to pop, but certainly not for lack of stimulation. Our plane rose straight into turbulence that would continue to pester the flight throughout it’s 12 hour journey. What little sleep could be squeezed in was marred by a sound I until that point thought only could have come from a large ship sailing atop a pile of logs. The plane didn’t break, the food didn’t poison us and eventually we descended into Newark Liberty International Airport.
It was surreal to finally touch down in the United States. As we were approaching I couldn’t help but feel annoyed at the lady who had sat in the window seat and kept her window closed the entire trip. It turned out to be a waste of emotion after she finally opened it up to nothing but a view of the airplane wing.
We departed the plane after a booming American accent welcomed us over the plane’s PA. We’d finally made it.
Accents from television shows guided us all the way down a long corridor where we passed under a giant American flag draped from the ceiling. Loud conversations then bounced around the immigration officials desks which were also marked by miniature versions of the flag. The queues were long but the people were friendly and colourful and I was happy to soak it all up while I stood as the only Western looking person in a sea of Japanese faces.
The airport immediately links up with the rail system and I awkwardly followed Mari from one ticket booth to another, pushing my bulky bags through tight rotating barriers and crammed subway carriages. Just briefly I managed to catch a glimpse of some of the New York skyline, the Empire State Building, the One World Trade Center and the Chrysler Building all made appearances before our train pulled into Penn Station.
We’d timed our underground train adventure to coincide with rush hour and the deeper we went into the city the more we’d suddenly be overrun with crowds of people who clearly desperately wanted to be somewhere else. Again I felt as if I was in a scene from a movie as all sorts of characters moved in and out of the carriages, all obeying the unwritten law of the commute to keep to yourself as much as possible.
We eventually broke back up to the surface for air at Grand Army Plaza Station in Brooklyn, a few blocks from Mari’s friends place and our home for the next few days.
What hit me immediately was the bustling activity of the streets. The sidewalks were filled with people, some meandering with their faces buried in their phones, others laden with shopping bags on a mission and then some just hanging out on the corners, cafes and shops that lined the streets. With the sun going down there was still such a bustle to the neighbourhood that I can’t remember ever feeling in any of the big cities I’d been to before.
By the time we rang the doorbell of the apartment we were two very exhausted travellers. We happily thumped our bags down and allowed ourselves to relax properly for the first time in three days.
Mari’s friends and our hosts for the evening, Gabe and Alice, were kind enough to fill our bellies with delicious home cooked pasta and white wine while we decompressed with stories of our travels and our plans for the future. We sat on the balcony above the streets we’d conquered earlier and took time to appreciate the constant energy that moved below us.
We’d finally arrived in New York City and tomorrow we’d begin to explore.