Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Favorite Part of New York

I feel fortunate to have taken my first real "vacation" in a couple years earlier this month with one of my best friends. It was our first trip to New York and we did the typical tourist things...we saw the Statue of Liberty, visited Ellis Island, visited the top of the Empire State Building, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, ate huge bagels in Times Square and enjoyed the Guggenheim. We spent a great deal of our time either rushing to get to various spots around Manhattan or waiting in line (for the Empire State Building and the ferry to the Statue of Liberty).

Finally, on our last Morning in New York, we hopped a train to Brooklyn and Coney Island. For both of us, we felt instantly at home. While Manhattan is filled with a wide variety of people and interesting sights and cultural attractions, Brooklyn had a neighborhood feel to it. If I lived in New York, I don't think I could ever swing the high rents in Manhattan. But, I could picture myself living in Brooklyn.

Early that Monday morning, Coney Island and the nearby beach felt like a quiet, laid-back oasis after our running around in Manhattan. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the pace was slow and I could feel an inner peace. We walked along the beach watching the older European immigrants and young moms with their kids. We did not take a ride on the Cyclone or the ferris wheel because it was still too early, but this place just oozed fun- we had huge smiles on our faces. Nearby, the new minor league baseball stadium had music playing and kids were playing baseball in the practice fields next to it. A little later, I enjoyed a hot dog at the original Nathan's. This is what vacation is all about!

It sounds like they are going to make some major changes around Coney Island very soon. Part of me understands why this change might take place. But my nostalgic side simply cringes at the thought. In Chicago, they have turned Navy Pier into one of our city's biggest tourist destinations, but it lacks soul. It feels fake. I sincerely hope that the special Coney Island magic remains there forever...

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