First days in New York

Jetlag is working, 7am here in New York and I’m already up and thinking about writing what is going on in here. Better do than think, so here I am. Flight was a bit of a hell for me – not that kind of a hell Christians have, I was simply and plainly sick, on antibiotics. Alitalia flew there, but possibly mainly because flight to Milan was operated by Malev and flight from Milan to New York was operated by Delta. I hope we will be that lucky on our flights back. Flight to Milan from New York is not operated by Delta, but I hope that it is full of Delta customers, so they will somehow make that flight possible.

Today, at 2:30am New York time, I ate my last antibiotics and I’m feeling much better, but I’m still not okay. Hopefully I don’t get that sickness back when the bacteria realizes no more antibiotics is going in. Anyways, New York. It’s a huge city, but huge in a good sense. I’ve been to the US before, so I’m quite used to their scaling – streets pretty much wide, buildings touching the skies (americans love high floors, it is energy inefficient, but it gives them feeling of space). They are even higher than in Amsterdam, even if you forget the fact, that New York buildings have many more floors. But you don’t feel like a little pixel in a huge sea of high-def video screen. The city is huge, both in height and in area, but it has a lot of space for people. No crowds pushing you around like London or Prague. Guys coming with me (Wilder and woody) are hackers with Wilder having the best company in Slovakia doing penetration testing. They are very concerned about privacy issues and things like this, so they were quite scared about going to America. Everyone (including me, for fun, but I have absolutely nothing personal on this EEE) came with an enciphered partition. Anyways, I tried to explain and I think they are started to feeling it themselves – this is no police state. The problem (if you can even call it like that) is, that people are much more concerned about privacy and freedom issues here. In Europe, when someone tries to touch your privacy, people pretty much don’t care. In Slovakia, we are used to it, post post-communist countries are. France and Germany saw lots of it in and after WWII. As I watch it happening around the world, the only difference is, that americans do care. They go to streets, they write it in media (not controlled by goverment-friendly owners), they don’t stay silent. That is not happening in Europe. This is no police state. Border and customs officers are very polite and professional, unlike Czech, Austrian and Slovak officers, that’s why I like the Schengen and disappearance of borders among these countries. This country at least seems very free and open minded. We ate a sandwhich in Subway. Remember those calory papers in McDonald’s describing how much fat is in Big Mac? They have the same in Subway for their products and they compare themselves to Big Mac and Whooper. You can not do that in Europe. It’s comparative advertisement and even if it’s true, it’s not allowed. We saw an ad for (I hope it was) Verizon saying something like “You still have that old crappy cable internet from Time Warner? Come on, this is their maximum speed and this is ours. Price is the same”. I even saw an ad in subway for hazardous games. People here are very friendly. It’s one of the world’s largest city, but it’s not unpersonal and you don’t feel like anonymous body walking through the streets. Our first subway ride and a french-speaking swiss emmigrant who lives here for 35 years was trying to guess where we are from. He started to talk to us, how things are back in old continent, how do we feel about prices and economy changing (New York is pretty much a cheap city for us these days, having cheap US dollar – really a much cheaper city than London and probably even Amsterdam, but I can’t compare real estate or things like that, I just know that taxes are low and food is quite cheap). Anyways, he recommended us some good french restaurant, explained us how health insurance works here and wished us good luck. This happened to us more times, anonymous people trying to help us finding something without us asking. I am also quite used to, but still don’t much like the begging for money. It’s mostly black, but (in contrast to European homeless guys) very clean and polite people asking for money. But it was so far much less common thing than in San Francisco or Atlanta. I don’t even see the Christianism being here so epidemic as in Atlanta, probably mainly because it’s too multi-cultural, but it’s still present here, in inner workings of this city, hip-hopers and rebel guys and random work-people having christian crosses on their necks. Walking through Manhattan, we (randomly) met a guy, bald, tatooes on heads, noticing that one car has broken window. “This is not a good sign, I saw it three times here for last week. This is a sign of economical problems of this country”. One (possibly business-) woman joined the talk as we did. People don’t walk around and accelerate when they see something wrong. They notice, they think and they talk about it. The feeling of this city is great. Coming from the airport, we managed to buy our subway tickets ($25 for whole week, unlimited rides, that is cheap). Finally finding our hostel (East 23rd street, downtown Manhattan), we were quite unsurprised by it. Room 2x3 meters, guys are sleeping together, I have a bad above them. There is no way to move here. Anyways, no other hostel we could find was free and this was much cheaper than the others. There is an air conditioning here, bed, one water tap, litter and one window. That’s pretty much it. Bathrooms and restrooms (for those of you who don’t speak american english, that’s a toilet) are quite clean. Anyways, we are not going to have picknicks here, sleep and go to explore the city. Jetlag and sickness playing with my body, I did not enjoy the Stars concert as I could. I really liked that concerts are non-smoking here. Really non-smoking (unlike Vienna, where there are “please don’t smoke here” signs everywhere and people just plainly ignore them and smoke anyways). The sound was quite bad, I could barely hear the singer. There were roses around the stage, which tried to decorate almost everything and they were throwing them to the audience during the concert. I personally don’t like the idea of growing a flower and then cutting it and half-dead putting it to a vase or use it in other way. It seems to me quite perverse, so I did not like it at all. Anyways, the atmosphere was quite good, Stars are from Montreal, but they started here in New York. They were always explaining where in Manhattan they wrote which song, on what streets they used to play and their relation with the audience was just great. Manhattan is organized in square blocks, with west-to-east streets being numbered (south streets having lower numbers). south-to-north “streets” are avenues and are numbered too. There are almost no irregularities, so the buildings are squares between two streets and two avenues. Simply said, you can find anything knowing just the address. And it does not matter if you walk avenue first and then street or vice versa – it’s almost always a perfect oval. Now I understand, why a common distance measurement in AI (and computing too) is called Manhattan Square Distance (look it up in wikipedia, if you don’t know it, it’s really a simple concept). And if you have a chance, look up a map of Manhattan. Anyways, finding the nearest subway station is not that easy and subways are usually quite far from where you are. It’s really a lot of walking time. We are yet to see the Bronx, Harlem, Brooklyn and the islands. Central park is really a nice place and a huge park, we could not even see all of it, there are lakes and ponds, areas where you should stay quite, so people could enjoy the silence in the middle of skyscraper city, there are places where people play music. That place has great atmosphere with noone bothering you. After that, we had a cocktail in Blue Owl (thanks to Natalie and Katherine for recommending) and went to a Tibetan restaurant (it was Wilder having the great idea we should try as many cuisines as possible). I never saw a Tibetan restaurant anywhere in the world, so we had to try. It was great, soup from sweet corn, Bocha tea (butter and salt) was great, not what I remembered having in european tea houses. Main meal was good too, nothing spectacular, but good to try their cuisine. Interesting. And there was an absolutely gorgeous tibetan waitress there. Looking forward to see some more of this wonderful city today.

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Written by Juraj Bednár //