Soon enough we reached the stop, 27th and 7th. It was a bit chilly, or maybe I was trembling with excitement at finally having reached the enigmatic city. I was snapped out of my daydream by Ketan, who asked me where should we go next. I had no clue and had to call up Sanket. It was 5.30 am and so did not expect him to answer the call. We took our chances and walked to 33rd since Sanket had roughly sent me his address the previous night. We had just snapped the Madison Square’s pic when Sanket called. Finally, after walking 2 blocks from where we were, we made our way below to the 33rd Street station. There were quite a few people around given the time, but we did not sit around to look at them. It took us a while to figure out how to use the metro card machines. With hesitation and apprehension, we finally got the metro card with enough credit value to take the 5 of us to Journal Square. We hopped onto the train named Journal Square and it promptly left.
Through the entire journey, I sat there smiling like an idiot. Smiling that I was finally in NYC. It has always been my dream to visit New York City. It may seem conveniently made up but that’s the truth. Traveling in the subways of NY, eating out of food trucks, walking around with friends at 2 am, etc. were all little fantasies I wished I would do one day. Anyway, Ketan caught me smiling to myself twice and I had to look away sheepishly. We finally reached the Journal Square station. After we came out, we gobbled up the leftover meal we had packed in our bags. I and Ketan then reached Sanket’s house while Renzil, Darryl, and Vishal made their way to where they were staying. We decided to meet at the station in about 3 hours, after getting a good nap. After exchanging pleasantries and catching up with our old undergrad stories, Sanket left for work and told us to make ourselves comfortable. We fell asleep as soon as we hit the sack.
We overslept by about 2 hours. Finally, it took 3 miss calls to me and Ketan each to get us off the comforts of the bed. We freshened up and got into slightly less crumpled clothes and headed to explore the city. We decided to visit the American Museum of National History since it was closest to other places to visit on our itinerary. For those who have seen the movie, ‘Night at the Museum’, this is the same museum where the movie was shot. We took the subway a little more confidently this time and got off at the appropriate station. To our surprise, we found the entrance to the museum was through the station exit. After paying astonishingly low entrance rates, we made our way inside. We decided to make our way to the nearest cafeteria since everyone was hungry and it was almost 1 pm. It took us a while to choose what to eat, and eventually, we pussyfooted our way to an empty table. Nobody waited for niceties and just dug in.
Someone told Darryl that it would be great if we started from the 4th floor, which was the topmost floor. We took the stairs and huffed and puffed our way to the top. It was surprising given that this was our first spot on the list and our legs felt heavy. Maybe it was the cramped up bus seats. Reaching the top floor was really worth it since we were treated to some amazing and real looking dinosaurs. The craftmanship was top notch but what was more astounding was the fact that most of the dinosaur bones were real fossils and not man-made. We then headed to the mammals and amphibians section. I got away as fast as I could from those eery looking creatures which seemed to stare back at me. After about an hour we made our way to the lower level. This was the African animals zone. The models were just too real looking and you could actually feel them blending in with their customary backgrounds. Next up were the birds which were good but we were too bored to properly look at them. With weak legs, we made it to the 2nd floor. We were now exhausted from all the walking to actually enjoy anything. The clay-made people from Africas, Americas, Asian countries were all a breeze to me. I was rather disappointed at the portrayal of Indians in the Asian section but later reasoned with myself that it may have been the case during the ancient times. After taking a small and rather deserved break beside the seated statue of President Roosevelt, we decided to head out. We really thanked the guide who told us to start from the top since that was undoubtedly the best place to see.
We next made our way to the Central Park which was just across the street. Although I had faintly heard about it, I did not know why it was so famous. I still do not know why. The park was lush green and people were walking, jogging, running and some were cycling around with friends. It was quiet and serene. If you ever heard that people came to the park to unwind and take a break from the frantic lives they led, then you could really witness it here. It was really heart-warming to see people still lived the old-fashioned way without letting technology meddle their free time. As we trudged along, we decided it would be better to give our legs some time to recover. We sat on a bench overlooking a small pond with tall skyscrapers bordering on the horizon. The view was good but nothing compared to what we were to witness in the next 2 days. The city and its tall skyscrapers were beginning to take shape how I had imagined them to be.