During my third semester at UNC Asheville, I imagined being in New York City; I had recently been viewing pictures of Central Park on the internet while sitting in my dorm room. I daydreamed about what the park must be like. The main image that came to mind was a wide, green valley with a small, silver lake in the center, charming under a bright summer sky. This picture was born from my fascination with the Nickelodeon cartoon, Hey Arnold!. If you’ve ever seen the show, you may remember the episodes where Arnold and his friends walked down a large green park during the day, having fun and facing all too real problems. And of course, the blues music always played during every episode. It seemed that Nickelodeon was inspired by New York. And I would be too. I wondered how interesting and soothing it would be to be in such a place, in one of the most renowned cities in the world. I thought about what one day would consist of. I could walk through Central Park, passing benches and zoos, while at night, I could find myself in the city with yellow lights and tall buildings surrounding me, love-making jazz music humming in my ears. It is easy for a person like me to get lost in the imagination, so I won’t pretend that I didn’t spend a few hours hoping for a chance to go to the Big Apple. But when I came back to Marion, NC, feeling as if I wouldn’t be making much progress with my life, I doubted if I’d ever have the chance to go up north.
Yet fortunately for me, my mother received some money she decided to save up. So in November, me, her, and my brother traveled for a week’s stay in Manhattan. One of the best trips I’ve ever had. And it was during the week that I discovered what Central Park was really like.
This post is one of a series of posts about my experiences in New York. They’ve been a long time coming. Today, I’ll share with you my Central Park experience.
For one thing, the weather was cold, since it was Fall. Colder than a snowball in a blizzard. Not exactly the summer weather I had always imagined in my head. I had to wear a thick black coat as I walked down a track with my brother. My mom had taken a day off to rest at the hotel. Brown leaves blew over a grey pond stretching in front of us. It was a nice sight, seeing the water below the towering trees and buildings. There were either rich people getting their pictures taken or walking their pet dogs or men dressed in overcoats quickly walking in one direction. The classic shady character. I was warned in the past that Central Park was not the place to be at night. Villians. Wangdoodles. Snozzburglers. Vicious Knits. But my visit was during the day around 1 p.m. So no problem.
Though you were allowed to walk through the park, you didn’t see anyone lying on the green lawn. True, it was freezing outside, but I figured at least a couple of people would be sitting around, but no. There were these mini, dark green fences intending to keep people off the grass. I suppose they wanted parts of the park to be untouched and preserved. The park, from what I’ve read, has a troubled history of vandals trashing the place, a problem that has progressively gotten better thanks to the city administration. I didn’t really mind. I wanted to get the hell inside a warm building when I could about ten minutes in.
Sadly, I never found the zoo advertised in a hotel pamphlet. I may not have seen as much in the Fall anyhow. It existed, for sure, but I must have followed the wrong path. Yet there was a skating ring where a few girls skied. Let them be athletic and brave; my balance is terrible. Not the most interesting thing in the world. All in all, once we passed a bending bridge and emerged next to the street waiting for another tour bus, we knew our visit was brief. I did manage not to leave without getting my picture taken. I waved with my black gloves outside a small soft-ball field. That place was rather serene. Why? I really cannot say. There is this child-like innocence in a place dedicated to kids such as that soft ball field. Maybe it represents the simple things in life, how one can just pause admist the rush of competition and just laugh. It definitely gives one time to breathe, that’s for sure.
The one thing my visit to Central Park taught me was that life is one thing on the screen and in your head, but quite another in reality. I may have lived my fantasies out in the summer more so than in the Fall. But a visit is a visit none the less. Though the cold park wasn’t Arnold’s hideout, it was still different and refreshing to be in an unknown place, away from the monotony of a small town.