Life in the car has its pros and cons. The biggest pro: you can sleep anytime anywhere (under the one condition that your windows are well tinted, otherwise you can have issues with the police). The biggest con: you can’t sleep anywhere anytime. A common denominator here is a bathroom. It’s a pretty serious challenge for an auto-tourist to find a comfortable spot to spend the night that includes a possibility to satisfy one’s physical needs.
It’s much simpler beyond the city limits — pull off the road into a little grove, or bushes, or even a field, and you are fine. It’s harder in mid-size cities. First, you need to find an average neighborhood, because in a nice one there would be a better chance that the suspicious movements around an unfamiliar car will raise unwanted attention from residents (they might call the police and there could be problems – in most cities it’s forbidden to sleep in a car on a traffic road or street). In a bad neighborhood — residents are the problem. Second, you need to park on an outer or a dead-end street, or near a park, so that you have somewhere to pee, especially in the morning when you don’t have the cover of darkness.
In large cities we go straight to parking lots of large stores or supermarkets, preferably the ones that are open 24 hours, or to a truck stop outside the city. But the hardest ones are the megalopolises: the truck stops are too far from the city, stores’ parking lots are small, well lit, equipped with surveillance cameras and patrolling security guards, and most of the stores are closed at night. The city streets are usually bright, tight and densely populated, the parks are also well lit and guarded, the toilets at gas stations are locked and are for customers only, to make the point, basically a myriad of utter inconveniences. After a few struggles like these, we decided not to spend our nights in cities, but stop in suburbs and get to the city by either driving our car, or going on a public transportation.
1. After arriving in New York for the second time, we did just that — stopped in the town of Port Chester, about a fifty-minute train ride from Manhattan.
2. There are three types of passenger trains in USA: long-distance trains, for example, New York – Chicago, Chicago – Seattle (not many of these at all). Then there are intercity trains, about three-six hour one-way rides , they look something like this.
3. And then there are commuter trains that gather passengers from the suburbs.
4. The conductor goes from car to car, punches tickets and puts them in a special pocket in the back of the seat. Computer technologies have not gotten here yet.
5. Behind the window are the suburbs of the country’s biggest city. Here, an elderly retired gangster arrived in his old Cadillac for a business meeting on an empty parking lot 😉
6. The Grand Central Terminal is located exactly where it should be — the center of Manhattan, which is also why a few kilometers from the station it goes underground and becomes a subway. The underground platform of the city station resembles the local subway: low, shabby, sooty ceilings, humid stuffiness cramped spaces. There are thirteen underground platforms like this one, out of a grand total of forty-four, more than at any other railroad station in the world.
7. And here is the main terminal — splendid! The height of the ceiling gives fresh air, the feeling of spaciousness, and, the most important, quietness: the hum of conversations and noise from passengers waking floats to the top, there turning into a pleasant general acoustic background.
8. The entrance is authentic. Nothing here has changed in over a hundred years.
9. A lot of the people who hear the word «Manhattan» imagine something like this.
10. In reality the previous photo is «me standing on a quay in Jersey City and observing Manhattan across the windy bay». But «Manhattan» is more like this. Never-ending straight avenues going in all directions, typical american mixed high-rise buildings, car noise, visual mess from ads and… that’s pretty much it.
11. And in some places, when you come out to a public garden or park, you can see a different picture, see the city from a detached view.
12. The parks in Manhattan are the best of what it can offer to a visual connoisseur. By the way, we couldn’t make it to the Central park this time and left it for the next visit.
13. One of the ugliest places of New York is Times Square. When I was young, I liked this amount of Hong Kong advertisements in Jackie Chan movies, because this is exactly how a western civilization should’ve looked like to my ill-and-doleful-soviet-union-bred hungry for bright colors visual taste. But today all this flashy tastelessness in the center of a cultural city is really annoying.
14. Here you can sit down and relax your feet for a bit.
15. Revlon knows how to attract attention to its brand.
16. Like all other cities in the country, New York is also under constant construction. A classic Peterbilt, the main symbol of the american cargo transportation.
17. The Broadway is inviting to an evening show.
18. The invitation from Alla’s point of view.
19. A line to a theater box-office. What you can’t take from New York is the theater, in all its shapes and forms.
20. The city is occupied with these stands on the wheels full of Chinese junk. An utter and surprising disgrace, something we haven’t seen before.
21. And kiosks, of course. It would be alright if they sold drinks, gum and newspapers, but no — it has to be that Chinese junk, starting from wallets and ending with smartphone covers. Why is it here, for what purpose, we don’t understand.
22. In our opinion, the only things of this sort can be left on the sidewalks in the city of such level are hotdog stands and the like. Simply because it’s convenient to grab and eat something in passing.
23. In one minute you can get a decent and relatively healthy snack, which you can eat in fresh air. Definitely better than anything from McDonalds’ garbage.
24. In general the city is pretty untidy.
25. A typical view from many of the downtown alleys.
26. For me I found the best illustration, at least for me, showing the city’s condition: a bird’s-eye view of New York.
27. The biggest marathon in the world was taking place the day we visited Manhattan. It was the reason why we couldn’t get into the Central Park.
28. To fully enjoy watching and cheering on the runners at the finish line, you have to buy a ticket 😉
29. People run from all over the world.
30. The disabled treadle.
31. The runners help them.
32. Tired but happy, wrapped in cloaks (it was chilly outside), the runners who finished the race walk into the open arms of their friends and families.
33. So that no one drops down from the exhaustion, the are awarded a medal and a bag of snacks.
34. New York has decent subway vestibules. Here your mind can get tricked and think that this will continue into underground.
35. But no. Down here it is still ugly and wretched, and only music can smooth out the oppressing impression of the gloomy and stuffy underground.
36. The mysteriousness of the New York soul.
37. Meanwhile, we are at the place where I didn’t want to go to until the last minute.
38. In place of the Twin Towers are now two black holes, on the walls of which black water is running down into a bottomless black square.
Photo by Maria Steinsson
39. There is such a thing as energy, whether it be the energy of a person, a place or a city. Those who have the privilege (or burden) of being sensitive to the energy of places will understand what I’m about to tell you: we spent about twenty minutes on the territory of the memorial, but closer to the end I felt so sick, I almost passed out (for the second time in my life). Two powerful sensations — an unfair sorrow and a treacherous lie — they cover you with black, cold with chills, dark waves from your head to your feet, at first barely noticeable, but then tangible to the point of sickness and shivering feebleness in your legs. Immediately you want to leave, but the place draws you in, and you have to make an effort, force yourself to get up and walk away. Pale and in a cold sweat I found Alla with my eyes and gestured that we have to leave now.
40. Only when I got to this FDNY memorial wall I regained my senses and understood that I will never in my life will I come back to this place again.
41. The ferry is coming back from the Liberty Island.
42. You can see Brooklyn in the distance, somewhere behind it is the «mini Russia», Brighton Beach.
43. Jersey City is located right across the Hudson River, New York’s neighbor from the state of New Jersey.
44. The Sphere damaged by the debris of the 9/11 tragedy is now located in Battery Park.
45. The riverfront in Battery Park.
46. Local residents on an evening outing.
47. The next day we observed Manhattan from the opposite side of the river.
48. The Jersey City residents placed a memorial that reminds them of the two tall buildings, which they were so used to seeing for many years, and which one miserable morning disappeared forever from the New York relief.
49. Liberty State Park in New Jersey City is also getting ready for a marathon (see the arrows on the posts?) but this one is with obstacles.
50. Here is a stage with a 10,000 volt therapy.
51. When viewed from afar, Manhattan looks grand.
52. Though it also looks good up close.
53. But in general the impression from our visit was like this photo — ambiguous.
After this we headed over to the Russian Brighton Beach.
I’ve been following your blog for a while, my wife and I live in New York City. It’s been nice to see your beautiful photos and insightful and honest view of our country. Our favorite part of NYC is probably the West Village, with its small rowhouses and connection to Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, and the Beats.
Kyle, thank you for following. We wish that we had more time on this trip to explore more (the original plan was 6 months, but it’s looking that it will be at least a year 🙂 ) If we’ll ever come back to NYC, we will make it a point to visit the West Village. Thank you for the suggestion. All the best!