Central Park FallWhen I was an illustration major in college, the Art Department would sponsor a day trip to New York City each year. After the 2 hour drive from Delaware to NYC, we would visit the Society of Illustrators museum, and then we’d have the day to ourselves. But I never hung out with my classmates; I preferred to go off alone, and experience the city my way.

I loved these trips, mainly because it gave me the opportunity to escape into New York City for a few hours, and then I’d take the bus home to Jersey and have dinner with my family. They’d drive me back into the city to make my bus ride back to Delaware.

I was young, and thin, and my feet took me everywhere. I’d walk from the Society of Illustrators on 63rd to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 20+ blocks away. I’d scour every floor of the Met, then I’d walk all the way to the Port Authority Bus station, more than 40 blocks away, to get the 166 to Leonia.

And I’d shop, and dream, along the way. Once I got past Central Park, there was 5th Avenue to explore. I’d ride the escalator in Trump Tower, peek in the windows of Tiffany, and browse in Saks. I bought an $8 pair of socks (which I nicknamed my Saks Socks) during one of these trips. They were black and neon yellow; very 80s. It felt so good to buy something there – so cosmopolitan.

I have two distinct memories of these trips into New York City. One was when I was walking along Central Park on my way to the bus. A man driving a hansom cab stopped and asked me if I wanted a ride. I told him I had no money, and he said that he was driving to the Plaza Hotel anyway, and figured I could use a lift. I climbed aboard and we chatted as the horse trotted past the park, and I have to tell you, I felt like a princess. Plus he saved me a good 15 blocks of walking!

The other memory is going to be hard to tell without sounding like a total tool. When we took these trips to New York, I got pretty gussied up. I wore my best clothes, did my hair up (shellacked good & proper with half a can of AquaNet), and made sure my makeup was meticulous at all times. I was on 5th Avenue window shopping when a man walked past me, stopped, turned, and came back. He was middle aged, distinguished and fairly handsome, in a business suit. He said, “Excuse me miss, but I just wanted to tell you that you are quite beautiful.”

Then he turned and walked away again. I was flabbergasted, and very, very flattered. It was a far cry from the cat calls you usually got from your average nimrod.

After navigating the Port Authority and the bus ride home, I’d enjoy both a home-cooked meal and a nice visit with my parents. I’d down a few beers with dad, and then he’d drive me back through the Lincoln Tunnel where I’d meet up with my fellow students. Everyone would talk about where they went and what they saw, and I’d do the same.

But there is a feeling that goes along with these days that I can’t quite describe. It comes from spending the day alone, in the crisp autumn New York air, doing what I wanted when I wanted to. Of being familiar with the city, but still having a sense of adventure and discovery as I roamed through it. I’d walk along the park and look at the apartment buildings and dream – dream of the life that was waiting for me after college.

I’d love to take that walk again. To stroll along 5th Avenue while golden leaves fluttered from the trees under a brilliant blue sky. I doubt I’d get a free carriage ride, and I’m sure no business man would comment on my beauty, but I would love it just the same.

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