March 1999

Recently, I spent a week in my favorite place in the country and (hopefully) future home, New York City.  Although I was there with a group, we were free to wander sans adults, with only one restriction: no less than three people were to walk the streets together at any time.

I broke the rule the first night I was there.  My friend and I were out investigating Fifth Ave., despite the closed status of all the stores.  We soon discovered that colors mean nothing in New York.  Red does not mean stop.  It, along with green and yellow, means go.  Go really really fast and try your very best to take out all the pedestrians.  Latched together, we ran across every intersection we encountered, in a constant struggle for the right of way.

We ended our trek at FAO Schwartz and were about to find a subway station to get back to our hotel, when we saw a news van parked outside the building.  Then we noticed the row of police barricades, cameras and reporters swarming the area.

It turned out that someone had been pushed out the window of a building near the toy store.  We hung around for a while, talking to policemen, a woman who had heard the “thud” of the body hitting the ground, and some girls who worked in the building, but couldn’t get any real information, so we headed back as planned.  We thought the night’s adventures were over, that we could go home and sleep without further upsets to our sheltered, Southern Californian minds.  As usual, we thought wrong.

After exiting the subway station, we were literally accosted by a shady man who slipped a gold Gucci bracelet out of his sleeve and tried to sell it to us for a mere $15.  He followed us for the way to our hotel, and the more we refused, the more forceful he became.  Eventually, we started running, at which point he called after us that he couldn’t keep up.  Um, that was the intention…

Needless to say, we spent the remainder of the trip in large groups, especially after being reprimanded by our one acting chaperone.  But I also learned a few things that came as echoes of long-ago lessons: There’s safety in numbers.  Don’t talk to strangers.  Always hold hands.


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