New York City -- Eleven hours ago I was climbing onto a Greyhound bus in Toronto, and now I'm standing amid a flurry of activity in New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal. It's noon in the Big Apple, two days after Christmas Day. The city is characteristically full of the vibrant din of tourists, and yesterday's thick white layer of snow has turned into a murky greyish slush.
My reason for being here could be described more as business than pleasure. My public relations job in has beckoned me to the tough and formidable streets of Manhattan for an ongoing interviewing process with a prominent PR agency that began in September 2004 and will continue into tomorrow. My mission for today, though, is to concentrate on the immediate pleasures of exploration.
I drop my suitcase at my two-and-a-half-star hotel and wander outside, where people of all ages are pouring onto East 51st Street. The locals are either burning up their day minutes on midday conversations with pals and business associates on chic cellphones or power-smoking now that eateries have enforced a smoke-free policy.
Others, like me, bounce along at an accelerated pace as if trying to outrun the cold. Fashion has been routed by the mishmash of poorly matched scarves and coats. Later, when I mention this fact to an ambitious artist selling his demo CDs near the Virgin Records megastore on Broadway, he tells me that staying warm is first on his and every New Yorker's agenda today.
I continue my trek to Fifth Avenue in search of a high-end fashion fix that only sophisticated window-shopping can satisfy. There are the sought-after trends of Louis Vuitton, the stylish creations of Jimmy Choo and the miscellaneous couture of Saks, the clichéd shopping mecca of the Sex And The City heroines. The only purchase inside my bag is a black New York City T-shirt with red, white and blue sparkles that I bought from Grand Slam, a wildly crowded tourist store on 46th Street at Time Square.
Itching to experience Christmastime in Manhattan, I find myself at Rockefeller Center. Smiling tourists pose in the courtyard for the unnatural snaps they'll later show to friends and family. Collectively, we marvel at a display of wicker angels glowing with white lights that match the snowfall, and a row of 7-foot-tall soldiers from the legendary Nutcracker.
Next stop is the famed Museum of Modern Art at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, whose renovation is the work of the fames Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi. Unfortunately, I can't experience Van Gogh's Starry Night Or Dali's The Persistence Of Memory for myself because the lineup to get into the museum winds two blocks down Fifth Avenue and then spirals into a special outside waiting area.
At the entrance, I ask a staffer about the wait time. She gives me an uncaring glance and an estimate of 45 minutes.
I'm disappointed, and the numbness in my hands has suddenly brought me back to reality: I'm not Carrie Bradshaw, who can afford fine dining on a writer's salary, and I retreat from Fifth Avenue.
With every step through this winter wonderland, I'm on the lookout for a restaurant in my price range, and eventually I opt for Chevy's in Times Square. As I add my name to the waiting list for a table, I think about the writing test I have to take at the PR agency tomorrow. If I get the job, there will be many more adventures for me in Manhattan. Images of sharing a small Upper East Side apartment with 10 roommates and a weekend gig washing dishes flash through my mind.
But those are thoughts for another day.