I am sitting in an upstairs eating area at a delicatessen on Third Avenue, between 43rd and 44th Streets, in New York City. It's 6:45 AM. The tables are dirty and there are three other men up here with me. One man is drinking out of a brown bag, the other two are conversing in Spanish. It's raining outside and I'm in here, eating a two-egg sandwich, while I wait for the Starbucks across the street to open. Or perhaps I will go to Cosi's restaurant a block down; they have free wireless internet service. Starbucks still makes you pay.
Yesterday I drove over to New York from Pittsburgh. It's a six-hour drive, which I did "solo," since my wife came over earlier in the week. When I reached the New Jersey Turnpike just outside New York, I arrived at just the right time. I felt like I was home. The sun was shining and the traffic light for a Friday afternoon. As I drove, I could see all my "friends." There was the 12-lane New Jersey Turnpike leading me to the Lincoln Tunnels, my entrance route of choice into the City. I could see the coal-black Pulaski Skyway running toward Jersey City. The Empire State Building dominated the New York skyline, as it tends to do since its cousins, the World Trade Center twin towers, were removed by some angry Islamic visitors. Over to the west is Giant Stadium in Rutherford, home to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The new Seacaucus train station is on the right side, and it looks like a museum or music hall from the outside. I have picked people up there, but haven't been inside yet.
When you drive into the City using the Lincoln Tunnels, you reach a sharp, hairpin curve right before you get to the tunnel toll booths. At that point, you look to the left and see New York harbor and skyline in all its breathtaking beauty. It looks a painting and I've always wanted to stop the car, get out and enjoy the panorama, maybe even take a picture or two. The problem is that every lane of traffic is going 45 miles per hour, when traffic allows. That's how it is in New York: You enjoy what you see on the fly, if you see things at all. That pace, however, seems just about right for New York.
The Lincoln Tunnels go under the Hudson River, leading into the City from New Jersey. I have travelled those Tunnels since I was 14 and attending a Catholic prep school in Connecticut. I remember my high school history teacher saying, "If there is even a pin hole in the Lincoln Tunnels, they will collapse and the river above will drown all those in the Tunnel." Imagine my shock when we would go through the Tunnel and I would see water dripping from the roof. "We're about to die! Hurry up, bus driver, and get us through this Tunnel." I don't think like that any longer, now that I'm 57. Today the traffic is moving and it seems like just about the right time to come into the City.
When I get into the City on this Friday afternoon, I proceed to 42nd Street and make a right. I am now in the midst of the Theater District at Eighth Avenue and proceed past what used to be a seedy, rundown part of town. Now it's full of theaters, tourists and life! As I proceed, I go through Times Square and down past Grand Central Station. I used to take the train from Connecticut to New York as a teenager and was awed by how frantic the pace at Grand Central was. If people walked any faster, they would break into a run, which is where our phrase comes from, "Busier than Grand Central Station." Come to think of it, all New Yorkers seem like that at times, but it seems just about right for New York. After all, it's New York and people have fortunes to make, careers to launch, and deadlines to meet.
Finally, I come to Third Avenue and make a left turn to go up to 44th Street. My daughter has a flat on 44th, just a few blocks from the UN Building. I pull up to her building and the doorman opens the door for me, while I unload my luggage. Then it's off to park in a public garage, which charges $30 a day to park. I have a purpose coaching phone call to make, so I find a local deli in which to sit and talk to my friend in Dallas, Texas. I am sitting in New York, doing business I love with someone in Dallas. Tomorrow, someone is driving down from Connecticut, a two-hour drive, to talk to me about purpose. Sunday, I depart New York for London. Does life get any better than this?
Ah, the Starbucks is open. It's the plainest, least exciting Starbucks you will ever behold. It's in New York City, however, and that makes it special. In fact, that makes it, like I've said about everything else in New York, just about right.