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New York, New York!

Posted: May 23, 2013 1:26 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I’m planning my first trip to New York in June and I am so excited!

I’ve never been to a city bigger than Charlotte or Atlanta. Charlotte has a population of about 750,000 and Atlanta has about 430,000. New York City is home to more than 8.2 million people. 

There is so much history -- and art and music and a lot of other things for that matter -- in New York that I’m extremely anxious about how to fit everything in. Obviously, I won’t be able to see everything, but I do hope I will wander upon some real gems. I have a week to get a taste of what New York is about. Some people I know say it’s overrated: it’s too expensive, too many people. It’s just not that fabulous, I’ve heard some friends say. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed, but for some reason I have a feeling that I might have to do a lot of waiting.

I plan on visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, the Guggenheim and/or the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, Times Square, China Town, Grand Central Terminal, the 9/11 Memorial, New York University and Studio Museum Harlem. Hopefully, I will be able to take a tour of the United Nations facilities, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and/or the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, as well as take a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I may also try to see the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and get some shopping in. I like unique things and I’m pretty cheap unless it’s a one-of-a-kind, plus I get overwhelmed in most stores, so I am not worried about hitting up any of the landmark stores New York has to offer, such as Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman. I will probably just do a quick scan of one or two of them and get out of there.  

Hurricane Sandy has the Statue of Liberty closed until July, so I’ll have to save that and seeing a Broadway show for another trip. I may try to find a good foreign film, however. I want to find the best pizza and I may even venture into hot dog territory -- even though I’m not a fan of them -- just because it’s New York. 

My plan is to visit as many boroughs as possible: Queens, Brooklyn, Harlem, Manhattan and the Bronx. I am probably the most excited about visiting Harlem, though. The Harlem Renaissance is the point in history where the works of African-American writers, poets and intellectuals first garnered wide spread attention. I’ll get to walk the streets that Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Countee Cullen, Ralph Ellison, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Jean Toomer and Claude McKay once walked. Although Hurston only arrived in Harlem at the peak of the renaissance and didn’t stay very long, she is one of my favorites. She caught a lot of harsh reviews by other black writers at the time, because her stories did not explore the experience of African-Americans in the way most black authors expressed them at the time. Hurston once lived in an all-black town in Florida that probably influenced her work: she wrote about the everyday interactions of black people, instead of black-white relations or the difficulty of being African-American in the early 1900s. Richard Wright, one of her biggest critics, once wrote that her most well known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, exploited the everyday life of African-Americans.

Those writers were accompanied by major jazz musicians who played in the 1920s, such as Chick Webb and Duke Ellington, and plenty of visual artists. They used the experience of their parents and grandparents, as well as their own experiences, to create a whole new genre and subsequently influenced many of today’s artists. There is an online book store, which closed its storefront last year, called Hue-Man that is based in Harlem and concentrates on the curating and selling of works by people of color. There is also a movement of small group of black 20-somethings who are musicians, poets, and actors out of New York that are inspired by the renaissance and affiliated with Street Etiquette and the Romantic Movement.  

I can’t stop talking about my trip. If you have any recommendations or favorite places in New York City, please, please, please, drop me a few lines at mbennett@chronicle-independent.com. I’m especially interested in restaurants and any kind of non-touristy spots.    

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