How to navigate New York City – Creative Junkie style

We made it to New York City last week with no problem. If you read about my predicament with my expired license, you might be relieved to learn that I was not subjected to a strip search.

Or you might be disappointed, depending on where you fall on the weirdo spectrum.

I won’t tell you where I fall on that spectrum. A lady doesn’t tell all of her secrets!

And neither do I.

Did you know that in New York City, the blocks between avenues are three times as long as the blocks between streets?

Or that the blocks between streets are three times as long as the blocks between avenues?

I never did get that straight.

Does it really matter? All you really need to know is the following:

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  • From 8:00 to 9:30 a.m.: one block = 1/10 or 1/4 of a mile, depending on whether it’s a street or avenue
  • From 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: one block = twenty-two miles, give or take three feet.
  • From 2:00 p.m., until eternity: one block = WHO CARES. DON’T EVEN TALK TO ME. I HATE EVERYONE.

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While in the Big Apple, we took various modes of transportation and I thought it would be nifty to give you my opinion on some of them, because I care about my readers. That, and I want to try my hand at pontificating.

Pontificate can also mean to speak in a pompous manner, for all of you who are sitting there, wondering why I’d want to impersonate the Pope.

Not that I want everyone bowing down and kissing my hand. Just my family. And warranty companies of all kinds. As well as all insurance companies. And banks.

And Anderson Cooper.

HOOFING IT, FIGURATIVELY:

Walking is a truly wonderful way to see New York City and that’s why we opted to walk approximately 3,967 miles. My advice to you is take along three extra pairs of feet and legs, as well as additional tendons and muscles. And an extra vertebrae or two wouldn’t hurt either. Oh, and a pack mule.

HOOFING IT, LITERALLY:

We took a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park. I believe it was $34 for twenty minutes. A little expensive, but we really enjoyed it although next time, we’ll choose a carriage with a roof as it was slightly drizzling and we got a bit damp.

Did you know that when I was seventeen, I was in France with my best friend Traci and we went horseback riding and I was required to wear a helmet, having never ridden a horse? And it was ugly? The helmet, I mean? And that the helmet became my new best friend when the horse, without warning, broke into a wild, uncontrolled gallop and threw me into the bushes? And that Traci swears up and down that the beast was trotting and I slid off sideways onto my head? And that she’s a liar?

No?

Now you do.

TAXI:

We took a taxi from JFK to our hotel. It was a flat fee of $45 plus a $5 toll plus tip so all together, it cost us about $60.

The overpowering smell of urine inside the taxi didn’t cost anything extra.

Either did the wrong turn into the United Nations and having a pack of bomb sniffing dogs surround us.

Who says you can’t get anything for free nowadays?

SUBWAY:

Even though you occasionally feel like you’re walking down into Buffalo Bill’s pit a la Silence of the Lambs, the subways are not bad at all. They’re pretty clean and everyone is friendly and by friendly, I mean that everyone keeps to themselves and ignores you unless you board while yelling ARE YOU SAVED? COME TO JESUS in which case everyone gives you a slightly wider birth and then ignores you. This boarding tactic comes in handy if you have personal space issues and forgot your plastic bubble at home.

Not that I would I know.

Once you get the hang of the subway system, it’s a fast and convenient way of getting around the city. If you don’t know how to navigate the system, just do the Subway Shuffle, which we did no less than 187 times as we were getting acclimated:

  1. Allow your husband to be in charge of the subway map, as if you actually had a choice in the matter
  2. Go down the subway stairs into the abyss
  3. Jump on an uptown subway called ARE YOU SURE THIS IS THE RIGHT ONE?
  4. Look suspiciously at your husband as he studies the map, looks perplexed and then turns the map upside down
  5. Jump off
  6. Climb back up to street level
  7. Race across the street
  8. Climb back down into Hell
  9. Jump on a downtown subway called DO YOU KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING?
  10. Jump off at FOR GOD’S SAKE! WHAT ARE WE DOING IN VERMONT? which, as the name clearly implies, will be nowhere near your destination.

After a few rounds of the Subway Shuffle, either your husband will know exactly how to navigate the subway system or you will know exactly how to navigate his spleen. Either way, it makes for a pretty unique experience.

Oh, and you just might just see a celebrity or two while running amuk underground. We saw Lisa Bloom, a CNN contributor.  As we were running down the steps, Nate said Hey look, there’s Lisa Bloom! over his shoulder and I said WOW! Cool! as I tackled the nearest bystander and begged for directions. It was kind of surreal.

BUS:

Sometimes we didn’t feel like climbing into the earth’s core and feeling like nuclear holocaust survivors so we rode the buses. Nate and I opted for the One Day Fun Pass Metro Card which was $7.50 each and allowed us unlimited rides on the subways and buses. Helena didn’t need one as she rode the subways for free and sometimes the buses as well, depending on whether or not the driver was wearing a shirt that read YEAH, SOMEBODY PEED IN MY CHEERIOS. SO WHAT? SHUT UP AND PAY $2.

I liked the buses because they were above ground and had big windows through which I could see the city. However, sometimes they took forever to arrive and by the time they did, we could have gotten lost at least twice on our own, three times if Nate was feeling particularly macho.

FERRY:

This was perhaps one of the best deals we encountered. It costs nothing to ride the Staten Island Ferry. Did you know that? I didn’t either. A very cool experience, passing right by the Statue of Liberty.

Remember Tess from Working Girl? Going to work via the Staten Island Ferry and daydreaming? The one with a head for business and a bod for sin?

I had a total Tess Harper moment in my head while on the ferry. Good thing I didn’t have it out loud because I have a head for sin and a bod for business and it just would have been all sorts of wrong.

And for those of you who never saw Working Girl, how does it feel to have never thoroughly experienced the eighties?

CAR SERVICE:

We decided to use a car service for our ride back to the airport. We did this for two reasons: (1) we didn’t want to risk another ride in a taxi that smelled like 67 cats lived under the front seat; and (2) we didn’t want to risk another ride in a taxi that smelled like 67 buffalo with weak bladders lived under the back seat.

The car was a black Lincoln and it was clean and comfortable and the leg room alone almost made up for the Mexican Muzak blaring out of the speakers in surround sound.

I think of all the methods of transportation we took, the car service was my favorite. It felt nice to be chauffeured around for awhile.

Now I know how my kids feel every single day.

Except that I didn’t get the opportunity to periodically shout YOU SUCK THE FUN OUT OF EVERYTHING to the back of the driver’s head.

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34 thoughts on “How to navigate New York City – Creative Junkie style”

  1. Oh man – as a New Yorker, I loved reading this.

    Bus is by far my favorite way to travel. I’m slightly claustrophobic (and urine-phobic) so I don’t love the subway, and I LOVE to see NYC, so bus is the way to go for me. Cheap, easy, great views? Sounds just like me. I’m there. 😉

    The ferry is also a great way to see the city and get some amazing pictures.

    I expensed way more taxi rides than I should have, but dammit they’re easy! (Again, like me, so I like them.)

    But yeah, you’ve got the right idea with the car service. I’ve only ever taken them to and from the airport, but that’s definitely the way to go. Unless your Puff Daddy. Then you can take limos and semi-trucks everywhere. That must be nice too.

  2. Has anyone ever officially figured out just why NYC smells like urine? I’m pretty sure I don’t actually WANT to know, but hey, informational purposes call.

  3. I don’t remember ever taking a bus in NYC, not sure why… Did take the subway, and got regaled with the most amazing music. Although those long tiled hallways going up and down and forever between exchanges were somewhat surreal (as well as peppered with musicians). I presume you guys had fun, between the subway shuffles??

  4. I admit that I’m a subway kind of girl. I suppose it’s been from years of living in London and taking the Tube everywhere. I rock the Underground.

  5. OMG hahaha! I so wish I was as witty as you are. I’m practically peeing at my desk reading this!

    Good to know. I’ve never been to NY, and when I do, I’ll have to remember the ferry is FREE. I like me some free. Free is pretty good, pretty much all the time. Oh, and I’ll also have to remember to keep the subway map hoarded in my back pocket. And to shout about Jesus when we board the subway.

    And yeah. I was born in the eighties and never saw Working Girl. I’m glad I narrowly missed actually experiencing that short era of bad hair, bad music, bad clothes… and, well. Bad. 😛 Although I did sort of like Cyndi Lauper when I was little…

  6. This was helpful as I hope to go to NYC at some point.

    But I’m a little afraid of the taxis that smell like pee now. Yuck. The girls on Sex and the City took taxis a lot and I never heard them say, “Ew. It reeks of urine in here!” They made it look like fun. I guess that’s what I get for watching a FICTIONAL show.

    And the Subways. I’m awful with directions. I suppose I could ask someone but I hear that New Yorkers can be a little cranky.

  7. The Subway Shuffle–that sounds truly fun and marriage-building. If you and Nate can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere (or something like that…) After this trip’s success, I’m hoping that we’re going to see you on your way to Las Vegas next year WITH your folks…

    Blessings!

  8. It’s absolutely amazing to me that I’m going to marry Derek Jeter and I’ve never been to NYC. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t called?

  9. ugh!! I can’t even manage downtown Cincinnati much less consider NYC!! LOL! Hey and if I ever even set eyes on a subway in person I’ll have to remember to shout “Jesus Saves”! Gotta have my wide, extremely wide circle of personal space! 😀

  10. We went to NYC for 36 crazy funfilled drunken hours. We took one of those big red OMG LOOK AT ME, I’M A TOURIST BUSES because we got to see everything in a short amount of time for little money and didn’t have to walk 2398493 miles. We did the ferry too, I liked it…Minus the puking over the edge thing, that sucked. Then we went to Times Square after dark and got drunk… We mainly stumbled around the city that night then slept with the bums @ grand central station until our train came at 4am to take us back to DC.

    Best.vacation.ever.

  11. Loved your post! I was in NYC once as a kid, and loved it. What you failed to mention was that if you took a taxi when the traffic WAS moving, you really needed to squeeze everyone into the back seat. Being packed like sardines helps lower your risk of injury as your taxi driver careens around corners and through intersections at 90 mph.

    Hey Jaden? The eighties weren’t “bad.” The eighties were fun! Sure, looking back on it now the hair and the clothes seem a little…uh…interesting. But the music was great; and it’s the background music in the malls and grocery stores nowadays. And you know, only great music gets turned into muzak. (Now the 70’s? That was bad.)

  12. omg! you’re so funny. i’ve only done mr toad wild rides through the city. stoppin on a dime to get a shot or hanging out a window to get the shot. we did light and land twice to go see my dss’s band at the knitting factory and one other bar i don’t remember but it was like a hole in the wall. ooo oooo and we did eat in little italy. hmmm…i seemed to do more than i thought. ooo and did do the staten ferry i have 3m photos of the lady at every angle and of course the skyline which doesn’t rock as much as it used to.

  13. Back in the day I spent a few months of summer actually in the U.N. and the “Missions” to the U.N. as they are called. So we, as a university class, were granted access to the U.N., it’s library and cafeteria, taken on tours and allowed places that no one in the general populace will ever see again outside of movies and that makes me sad. The architecture and just space inside the buildings of the U.N. is incredible. The cafeteria food is amazing and cheap. One of the Missions to the U.N. was on the 53rd(?) floor of the Chrysler building. Even the elevator was beautiful.

    I remember taking cabs everywhere and feeling like I was on a rollercoaster!

    What a fun trip you had!

  14. Loved this. Too funny, and too true. I could hear Melanie Griffith’s idiotic voice saying that line from Working Girl, as I read that quote. Is that scary?! The 80’s were my heyday, and I love big hair and shoulder pads! // Now for the next post I want to hear all about where you stayed. Did it smell like pee?!

  15. Great post.

    I used the subway a lot on my visit to NYC it seems the easiest way to travel. There is a lot of walking too…. I sure would be in great shape if I lived there

  16. I am a native New Yorker and I enjoyed this sooooo much.
    Love the “pontificate” tone. It’s so appropriate for the story.
    Also, wanted to share an anecdote with you re: to Heather R’s question:

    One afternoon working in NYC I was feeling a bit lazy and decided to take a cab home from my office on 52/bway to my apt on the upper east side.
    When I got in the cab (they all smell like urine, btw, so I knew what I was in for), we were halfway through central park when I noticed a water bottle full of pee in the front seat of the cab. I asked the driver why he had it and he said “pit stops cost money.”

    Mystery solved.

  17. fun fun fun!! I have been to NYC and did the subway and walking bit! I loved the subway. You just get in..you actually don’t need a map! You just grab the closest person not in a great hurry and ask them how you can get to your destination. They’ll tell you in great detail…unlike San Diegans who don’t even know what the street next to where they live is called!

  18. You wuz ripped off–the legal fare for horse-drawn carriage rides is $34 for 30 MINUTES, but if you go to YouTube and watch the “Tourists Overcharged” and “Driver Gone Wild” vids on the HorsesinNYC channel, you will see much worse, including wildly inflated fares and illegal collection of sales tax. The laws are posted online but this cash-only industry ignores it and rips people off endlessly. Plus it’s cruel and dangerous. Horses spook.

  19. You have made me miss NYC so much! I am going up this summer (yes, when it is way toooo hot!), and I now know that I need to take the Staten Island Ferry!:D And I always do the subway system when I am up that way, but now may have to take the bus, too!:D

  20. you have made me regret spending the 18 hours I had in NYC sitting at the airports 🙁 oh that’s right I was down to my last $1.25 by then and still had a layover in Tokyo!!

  21. I’ve always wanted to visit NYC!! My daughter has always wanted to visit since my sister and her family went there and my niece told us about the huge Barbie store!!

    Sounds like you had fun (and got lots of exercise with all that walking…ugh!)

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