Getting an unprovoked massage in the middle of a NOHO market and other snippets from a 17-year-old's first time alone in New York.
I needed gelato. Still trying to mentally recuperate from the trauma of a surprise massage from an older Asian woman who popped out of a vendor booth at the NoHo street market, I walked out of my hotel in the Flat Iron District to head to Eataly. She had the grip of death, so my neck and shoulders were still tense from the encounter. The tension was probably more in my head than a actual reality. As a professed touch me not, the lady's invasive nature was jarring— more jarring than bumping in strangers on the subway, in the tight aisles of the Rite-Aid and the fast-paced crowded streets. But that's how the city operates—people bump in and out of each other's life without a second thought as they go about their day.
I was used to the wide six-lane highways, empty skies and the "everything is bigger in Texas" mentality. Everything is bigger, everything is slower and the most personal space assault is being drawn into an overly familiar chat in the spices aisle at the grocery store. It was my first time in New York City. And what 17-year-old wouldn't want to spend eight days in New York?
Untethered by anyone's reference, haphazardly going in each and every direction led to mini adventures in Little Italy, Chinatown, Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Theater District, Chelsea, Tribeca and Wall Street as I tried doing the touristy things. When a trip begins by the car service accidentally sending a white limo from 80s complete with mirrored ceilings, it really sets the tone at interesting.
When I accidentally hopped on the wrong train, which was headed to Brooklyn, at 11 p.m., I met two exceptionally drunk but jolly hockey fans that were trying to find their way to a Brooklyn party some girls had told them about. Just two days later, when I couldn't find the subway, I asked a homeless man for directions and he sent me to the sandwich shop.
Since it was dark and I was girl alone in the city, instead of wandering off the last night, I walked toward the Italian market. I briefly glanced inside Jay-Z's 40/40, prompting a nod from the suit-clad bouncer. He lifted the velvet rope and motion me in. I nodded no and picked up the pace. Eataly was closing soon and I really wanted the gelato I had skipped out on earlier that week.
Just before the doors were close, I slid in to order a medio caffe. He scooped up my gelato with the air of someone who wanted to go home. I apologized profusely for coming in so late as I paid.
I jay walked to Madison Square Park and found a bench far enough from the Shake Shack crowd for semblance of quite evening. And I did the best thing you can do sitting on a park bench in front of a dog park—dog watching. Which is better than people watching.