Leaving New York Never Easy

by Matthew on September 30, 2008

Courtesy Stew Dean

Courtesy Stew Dean

I was up in NYC last week for work meetings.  This wouldn’t have been such a big deal but I haven’t been to New York since I was 12.  Then, going to FAO Schwartz was the highlight of my trip.  I was looking forward to the trip for several reasons, but mostly because I have been on a “I want to live in a big city” kick since spending two weeks down in Rio with my family last August.  Something about the energy and palpable vitality inspires me when I’m in that environment.  I also wanted to hit up one of the training spots I have always wanted to go to…Central Park.  How can you be a worldly endurance athlete without taking a through Olmsted’s Gotham refuge?

Thanks to my current client’s office location on Columbus Circle, I was a stone’s throw from Central Park given the hotel they put me in, the swanky Le Parker Meridian.  For a boy from Memphis, dark wood finishes and brushed metal used in 1950s Scandinavian decorative style is swanky.  But then again so is leather interior in a car, so my judgment may be a bit off.

I started my day off both mornings I was there with a 50 minute run through the park, taking the outside road around most of the inner park perimeter (I think).  I have a bad habit of just going out and running when I’m in a new place and hope that through landmarks and the location of the sun, I can fumble my way through and find my way back to wherever I started.  Most of the time it works.  Other times I end up in fairly interesting situations like the time I strode into the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans on a socked-in foggy morning getting strangle looks from the early risers who were out getting an early start on the work day.

Central Park was all I expected and more.  For 6:15 AM, there were plenty of runners out and more surprisingly, a lot of cyclists, particularly surprising were the number of those two wheelers of the aero kind.  There’s something a bit sublime about running in a nice tree-lined park and being able to see massive monuments of concrete, glass and metal towering over the tree line.  It’s a reminder of the awe and power of New York, maybe even a symbol of humankind’s bravado, hell call it arrogance, in thinking that in the natural tension between man vs. tension, man will prevail.

I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of rollers in the park, particularly a stretch after Delacorte Theater where you can get a nice steady low-grade climb when traveling by two feet.  On my second morning run, I hopped in behind a group of three running intervals in this area, enjoying getting my heart rate up and breathing in more of that fluid Central Park air.  Each day I would begin my warm-down after passing the famous Tavern on the Green, thoughts of a deranged Rick Moranis as the Gatekeeper from original Ghost Busters broadening the smile already plastered to my content face.

Between the runs in the Park, late night walks where I was moved by the vitality of the city at 11 PM – retail stores open AND still doing business – a pleasant, low-key dinner with fellow ND captain, Ryan Verlin, at the Hudson Cafeteria, I had a fantastic trip.  It reaffirmed that inner-calling to live in a true city.

Visiting New York for a short period of time or even living there for a finite period of time must be like dating a celebrity or a super-model.  It’s novel and laden with the unexpected so excitement lurks at every corner.  You soak it in, enjoying the moments as they come.  But there’s something subconsciously telling you that it’s not sustainable, that you can’t live this way forever.  You don’t want to marry the celebrity.  You just want to date her.

When I’m really honest with myself, that’s what I secretly know about living in a real city, a city like New York.  Atlanta for me is my bride.  It’s low maintenance, beautiful in its modesty and non-showiness.  It’s confident in who it is, making it an attractive place to live.  Most importantly, it’s a place where deep relationships form and are sustainable.  There’s a truth in its simplicity that brings comfort.  The celebrity is the other side that always seems greener, but in the end, we need to relish what we have here and now and can admire the other side,  even occasionally visit to swim a bit in its uniqueness and also gain a greater appreciation for home.

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