Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Manhattan Journey

Pizza is not known to cause flashbacks.  Last night’s pizza was delicious and fresh and I flashed back to a pizza I ate in Manhattan on a trip I took during college in the eighties. 

I made the trip alone and on a shoe-string budget.  I flew into New Jersey and took a tram into the city along with suitcase, overnight bag and camera.  As usual I’d over packed and could have fit everything into a duffle bag.  In an age before suitcases had wheels I schlepped everything to my residence for the week.  Reeking of sweat and paranoia I checked into my digs at the downtown YMCA.

The Vanderbilt YMCA website states that it is within walking distance of all major tourist locations including the United Nations, Grand Central Station and Fifth Avenue, the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the NY Public Library.  This was home for a week.  It’s not a place I’d choose to stay now though you still can’t beat the price for a downtown stay.

Every morning I’d eat breakfast at the “Y”, grab my camera and walk.  The city is a blur of walkers; businesswoman in their light summer slacks or dresses; exceedingly professional looking---except for the shoes.  Sharp, stylish and sexy in expensive outfits all fitted with tennis shoes, flourished with color and carrying their work shoes in pack, purse or bag.  Contrast this to the businessmen whom---okay, I didn’t really notice the businessmen.  I was a twenty-year old male college student.  Contrast this to the Hasidim that populated the Diamond-district, their long black coats and dark curls falling out from their hats and coverings. 

Who can forget the smells of a big city?  My senses have never forgotten the sweet smell of food stands, moisture, diesel and rubbish mingling together.  There is a smell to a city that is universally the same; Mexico City, Guatemala, Manhattan and Los Angeles; the hubbub has a tang. 

I walked all day everyday.  Somewhere in the late morning I’d realize I was thirsty and hungry.  The delightful thing about wandering Manhattan is that there aren’t the normal fast food places.  There are food shops of every kind; but for a shy-young teenager it was daunting.  A boy can only go hungry so long when he is walking the entire city of Manhattan.  So it was that I came to the pizzeria; pizza by the slice.  I was famished and wasn't sure about all the choices.  The vendor and I settled on an onion and bell-pepper topping. 

For every traveler there is that one meal.  Mood, weather, company and chemistry combine to create an experience remembered forever.  I've never had a bell-pepper/onion pizza that tasted so good.  The pizza last night though was sweet and fresh and hit the spot and I remembered Manhattan.

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