Spending the day in New York City as we plan to take a bus to Boston and then board our plane to Reykjavik.
Gabe shares with me past experiences as a teenager in the city with his father, as I share with him my love for the city. Walking around aimlessly, biking to lower Manhattan, and joining a peaceful protest; dinner with York and meeting up with Tamara by chance. A day full of enjoyment, exploration and surprises.
LaGuardia Airport through Queens to Penn Station, we made our way to a little place on West 37th to store our luggage. Schwartz Luggage Storage only charges $10 per bag for the day –a steal! Walking down 9th in the Hell’s Kitchen district brought back memories of my time here in New York with the American Red Cross during my deployment to Manhattan when Super Storm Sandy hit in 2012. Empanada Mama’s for lunch, a tiny space as everyone waits patiently for a table. I glance across the street and I am instantly reminded why I love New York; restaurant after restaurant line the block providing Indian, Afghani, Greek, Mexican, and French fare, Thai, Southern BBQ, and of course a bodega on the corner serving custom sandwiches and anything you may need from a convenience store. Each subsequent block filled with more options to choose from –a walking city with public transit, and food from every corner of the globe…street art, and late hours of operation. Something we are not fortunate to have in Tampa; just a reminder of why I love the vibe and what bigger cities have to offer. The culture, energy and excitement that draws me in every time I visit.
Citi Bike –a share bike system where you can only borrow a bike for 30 minutes at a time. Gabe and I decided we could cover more ground if we rented a couple bikes during our time in New York. You pay $10 each for 24-hours; yet there is a catch! If you go over 30 minutes you are charged a $4 late fee. Of course when we weren’t looking for a bike return location we came across them quite frequently, yet when we needed to find one they were not anywhere to be found. Three late fees later we started to get the hang of it as we explored Chelsey, Lower West-side as we rode along the water’s edge. Piers, parks, tennis courts, and skate parks…sun bathers, bikers and dog walkers, the city is alive despite it being a Wednesday afternoon. Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, the Financial District, Union Square, NYU. Taking the city by bike as we ride through the streets, getting caught on one-ways, taking random turns and people watching.
As we approach Union Square we are abruptly stopped as police barricade the street in front of us; in hopes of stopping protesters from advancing through the streets. They line-up, side-by-side, police are everywhere as the higher ranks bark orders. Chanting, flags, banners and signs raised high in the air. They divert from the street as they cut through an area of the side walk, police attempting to stop people from blocking traffic and taking over the streets. They walk with a peaceful intent, chanting back and forth:
“Who’s Streets?” –One person yells, and the crowd responds back “Our Streets.”
The chanting diverts to other points regarding police brutality, human rights, and advocacy “for Freddie Gray” and “Our black brothers & Sistas.” Thousands stand-up for the voiceless, for those unarmed and killed: Nizah Morris, Donte Parker, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Eric Carter, Tony Robinson, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Freddie Gray.
Hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and signs highlighting the violence and force police take when approaching a black man or woman verses the privileged white.
[Make Chokeholds Illegal]
[Respect Human Rights]
[Hands up, Don’t Shoot]
[When will we be Free?]
[What will we do?]
[Stop Police Brutality & Murder]
Blacks, whites, and every color in-between. Americans, Europeans, Middle Eastern, Asian, African, Spanish, young, old, male, female, gay, lesbian, straight. People from all walks of life. Coming together in unity; to be heard, to support protestors in Baltimore, to stand-up for inequality, for Human Rights and for changes in the system.
Groups diverted in different directions, making it difficult for the police to follow all of the different groups. We decided to join a smaller group, taking to the streets down Broadway toward the Flat Iron District; stopping traffic, blocking cars and walking between vehicles at a standstill. Supporters bonked followed by loud cheers.
As we approached an intersection the leaders told everyone to form a circle and lay in the middle of the intersection as a tribute to the murdered Michael Brown who laid in the street for 4 hours and 32 minutes. They too lay there in the street for four minutes and thirty-two seconds to represent the hours and minutes that Brow
n lay there dead in the street.
Once everyone got up; we directed the group toward 7th to meet with a larger group of protesters. As we approached them, we turned back around as one, toward Time Square. It was a sight to see as people walked past the rows of cars, the bright billboards and the U.S. flag. Gabe and I stood on a bench, watching everyone pass by; reading signs, listening to the cries of the people seeking justice and equality.
Instead of pressing on we met up with York as we walked toward Hell’s Kitchen to a Thai Restaurant called Room Service: Bangkok Contemporary Kitchen. We reminisced about the past, talked about the present, and dreams for the future. Then Tamara calls me, “I saw your Instagram photo…are you in New York?” What a surprise, thousands of miles from home and I have the pleasure of seeing my best friend Tamara in NYC of all places. What a day!
We say our goodbyes as Gabe and I head toward the bus station. We are taking an overnight Megabus to Boston, one day closer to Reykjavik.