Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Magical Moment 7, "The Skyline"

I’ll never forget the first glimpse I caught of the New York City skyline. In the passenger seat of my Hyundai Santa Fe with the backseat filled with boxes, pillows, and a dog, I saw the dark geometric shapes stretch across the horizon as we drove along I-95. I was amazed at how clearly I saw the buildings even though the GPS said we were still 45 minutes away from our destination. Despite the 10 hour car ride, hunger pains, and sleep deprivation, I shot straight up and glued my nose to the window. As we got closer, the true outline of the buildings became clearer. Stacked rows of light shone through the square office windows making the vastness of the structures even more impressive. It was a mountain of buildings, sprinkled with lights. I thought about all the moments we would encounter here – the struggles, the work, the frustration, and the success.

It’s still difficult to describe the level of shock I experienced my first days in the city. For a Nebraska girl whose idea of a traffic jam is ten cars stuck behind a tractor on the road, culture shock might be an understatement. The sheer volume of different routes, highways, interstates, tunnels, and bridges intertwined with each other like spaghetti noodles is a far cry from the one interstate in Nebraska that stretches east to west, as flat and straight as a ruler. My idea of a sky scraper is a really tall church steeple. From growing up in a state where we brag about the fact that Kool-Aid was invented there and it’s where “Terms of Endearment” was filmed, to a place where practically everything was invented here and everything is always filmed here. Think about it – Law and Order, Friends, Miracle on 34th Street, New Years Eve, The Today Show – these places were in my living room on TV all the time and now I live WHERE THAT HAPPENS! Conan O’Brian, Tina Fey, and Sarah Jessica Parker live here, shop here, and walk around freely here. When a Nebraska football player is recognized at the mall back home, that is call for chaos and autographs. It’s a bit of a mind trip.

In true tourist fashion, one of the first things we did was visit the Statue of Liberty. Talk about your magic moments; take a ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Experience the surrealness as the famous image goes from a dot in the water, to a towering statue in a matter of minutes and the enlarged black and white passport photos displayed on the walls is of the museum is enough to give any person the chills.

As cliché as it may seem, I imagined all those people making the long journey to New York City and how different it would be from the life they were used to. They arrived with their belongings and children, hoping and dreaming that they could make it here. And this is still the place where if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. A place where a restaurant that serves nothing but macaroni and cheese can be enormously successful, yet people with all the talent and intelligence in the world can fall flat. But this is the place where you take that chance.

And in spite of their seasickness and pure exhaustion, they may have shot straight up with adrenaline at their first sight of the New York City skyline. They may have dreamed about all the days that would come – the struggles, the work, the frustration, and the success.