Winter Garden

I am intrigued by something called “The Winter Garden”. Part of the world financial center, it is an indoor atrium that hosts art shows as well as music and theater events. Around the holidays, it is decorated with a light display.   And apparently, this light display is a sight to behold.

And so, today I am going to The Winter Garden.  And I am counting down the clock.  I only have one hour.

1:30 Leave the office. I put on my handy disguise, and jump in a yellow cab.

1:33 Car accident in yellow cab. As my cab driver is telling me about how “there’s nothing he hates more than f_ing cab drivers”, he proceeds to rear end the car in front of him. He then gets out of the car, and starts kicking the said other cab while repeating “I f_ing hate cab drivers”. A small crowd gathers to take pictures. I pull my hat further down over my head and slink low. Driver hops back in and off we go.

1:37 We arrive at the world financial center. My driver wishes me a good day, and I am sure to give him a very generous tip.  And here I am…incognito of course.

1:40 The Winter Garden. I spend a few minutes wandering around checking it out. Smaller than I would have thought, but I like the light display. I keep walking past tourists which for some reason makes me feel uncomfortable. This is the feeling I am trying to fight. I am a tourist here too.

1:55 I walk outside, and realize they have an outdoor garden area as well. This has been another of those eerily warm winter days. I notice leafless winter trees that have crystals tied onto them, shining in the unseasonable sunlight It is a nice effect.

2:03 I hail a cab back towards the office.

2:12  Back in my desk. I even made it back early. First mission a success.

The Philosophy of Wanderlunch

Once, when I was 18, I was riding an overnight bus in Australia. Bored on the long ride, I was eves dropping on the conversation happening between the two men in the seats in front of me. They were trading travel stories. I did the Trans-Siberian railroad last year. I did Asia for a year. The stories went back and forth. For me, this conversation was a revelation. As a teenager from New York City, I never knew that travel of that magnitude existed, that there was a subculture of people who spend months at a time traveling the world. Questions assaulted my brain. Where does the money come from? How can they get that much time off from work? Searching for answers, I continued to eavesdrop. With finality, the man sitting closest to me declared, “Once you’ve got the itch, it’s a hard itch not to scratch”. I have thought about that man, and that conversation many times in the last 12 years. And at some point in my life since that moment I had a realization. I have the itch.

Since then I have done my fair share of traveling. But I have never been like those men. I have never hit the road for months at a time, a carefree world wanderer. I have always had to work, and had family obligations that tethered me to NYC. Each time I am out there I feel fulfilled in a way that I rarely feel at home. Which is difficult. Recession, financial crisis, unemployment, downturn. I see or hear these words on a daily basis. Right now, I am trying to save money. That means, working as much as possible and not going anywhere.

I have had another realization. New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and the only difference between being home and traveling is mindset. I am going to embrace New York City, tourist style. I work in lower Manhattan. From now on, during my lunch break, I am a traveler. For one hour a day I am looking at my city with new eyes. When I get back from lunch I can bust out my carpel tunnel reducing mouse pad and get back to the corporate desk monkey lifestyle, but during that break I am embracing my carefree world wonderer.

And I am doing it incognito, because sightseeing during lunch isn’t exactly the type of thing that is encouraged in my office. Welcome to Wanderlunch.