A Bibliophilic Start to a New Adventure

No matter how many times I reinvent my life I am always amazed by the distortion of time which always seems to occur in the first week of novelty. Yes. It’s only been a week. Now I’m sure this doesn’t surprise any of you in the slightest but I can barely believe it! Just seven days ago I was climbing onto a plane in Victoria and now here I am having seen dozens of flats, crawled over mountains of paperwork, and only taken one incorrect train (though not for lack of trying). There’s still so much to do but in this one little week of insanity I have changed nearly as much as my surroundings. Allow me to elaborate.

Before I even made it to the city, I was first subjected to the delight that is air travel. I really enjoy airplanes and I don’t even mind airports for the most part, but there is nothing like security and immigration and customs to make a girl nervous. Though I never have anything to hide (nor any reason to expect trouble) I always fear the worst when I am under the thumb of border security staff. Fortunately, this trip was utterly uneventful on that count. Baggage on the other hand… well it would have been too much to ask for there to be nothing amiss.

At the gate in Seattle, the airline staff were delivering the standard full flight pleas for someone, anyone to check their cabin baggage. I decided to lend a hand and sacrifice my backpack to the checked luggage bay. And then there I was, one long flight and an hour of waiting at the baggage carousel later, filing a “delayed baggage” claim with Delta. Somehow it had been marked as safely loaded on the plane, and yet it was nowhere at JFK. By the time it made it’s way back to me the following day, its dirt smeared front and damp patches strongly suggested that it had spent at least a little while facedown out on the tarmac. At least it was found.

Once the baggage fiasco was filed, I stumbled my bleary-eyed self out into the arrivals hall where I met the lovely Chelsea, whose presence saved me all the additional stress of trying to negotiate transport, find my way to a hotel, etc. etc. Fuelled by Dunkin Donuts coffee, we whipped across the southern reaches of Brooklyn, across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and onto the pastoral south side of Staten Island. After dropping my revoltingly large suitcases, we managed to get me hooked up with a cellphone company and called it a day. Though most everything else is open, Columbus Day is a bank holiday so all the important bits (like banks for example) are closed and shuttered and there was little I could do until I had funds in a US bank account.

It was a generally quiet, relaxed day of reading, resting, and fighting the sleepies with all my energy. I made it as far as dinner at a nearby diner before I lost the battle and fell face first into the bottomless pit of sleep.

Everyday since that first, I got up and dressed and set out on the commute to the city via walking or car, train, and then finally ferry, before eventually reaching my specific destination by subway. Once you’ve gotten into the business of subway riding, there really seems no reason for buses. I mean obviously the train can’t go everywhere but buses are really quite inefficient and awful by comparison, and unlike my experience in Shanghai, these trains run all night. I suspect that I shall have little to no reason to ever ride a bus here. Once in the city I conquered bank account opening, apartment viewings, paperwork filing, and all manner of other more or less delightful chores. Between the must do’s I’ll admit there were a goodly number of want to do’s. I met up with a friend from China who offered apartment hunting guidance, bakery recommendations, and most excellent company. I visited Prospect, Central, and Battery Park, walked nearly the entirely length of Broadway, and killed the better part of an afternoon on the Highline. And of course I visited a library or three, namely: the NYU Washington Square library, the NYPL flagship branch, and the BPL central branch. To my delight, each was uniquely decorated and designed and all three were filled with perfectly distinctive atmospheres.

NYU Public Library

NYU Public Library

From outside, the NYU library seems like a heavy classical edifice of knowledge but inside it features sleek modern décor, large foyers, and the infectiously youthful, ambitious, and explorative tone that only undergraduates can impart. I didn’t have time to explore the collection but the main hall alone was magnificent enough.

After NYU, I dropped by the oh so famous NYPL Schwarzman Building. It’s terrifically grand from the lions guarding the entryway to the almost entirely stone interior capped off by beautiful painted ceilings. Much to my chagrin, though the building was full of quiet, studious scholars, far too many of the unique NYPL collections were sequestered behind locked doors accessible to researchers by prior appointment only. Someday I’ll talk my way into a few, I just haven’t figured out quite how yet.

NYPL Schwarzman Building

NYPL Schwarzman Building

Some days later I dropped by the BPL Central branch on the northern corner of Prospect Park. What a massively different experience. The BPL is a giant (mid-century?) modern edifice with the most elaborate door I’ve ever seen. Check out the picture below, it’s just ridiculous. Once through those doors, I was in one of the busiest libraries I’ve ever seen. There were people everywhere bustling about; they had what I have to assume were book trucks but which actually looked like those giant pallet-sized industrial laundry carts roaring through between hoards of patrons of every age and stage. Heck, there was even a queue to use the loo!

BPL Central Branch

The intensely decorated doors of the BPL Central Branch

And thus I spent my first week in NYC. Frantically trying to conquer all the technicalities in between long lazy wanders through all the free attractions I could find. I’m not a metro-master just yet but I think it’s only a matter of time before sleep deprivation ceases to lead to bad subway decisions. But I should leave this here. Tomorrow is my first day of work and there’s still much to be done before then.

Running on caffeine and adrenaline,

The Salsa Girl

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