These Lights Will Inspire You.

This is a guest post by Chris, my contributing editor, contributing dad, and contributing husband.

So, the new year is here, and most of America resolves to do something.

In January of 2003, I threw my large flabby self into an old pair of sneakers and walked ambitiously to the foot of our hill and started running with all of the fervor and grace that a fat guy can muster. I didn’t make it a quarter mile before my legs & lungs gave out and I had to walk again. But I kept at it, and this January marks ten years of habitual running.

Its not just exercise for calorie burning, although that is definitely part of it. Its become my favorite hobby – a mind-clearing, fresh air breathing, challenge conquering pastime.

But the biggest reward of running is the freedom to explore the world around me.

I can go a little farther now, and I make a point to explore on foot when I travel, which I have done in San Diego, Saluda, NC, and pretty much anywhere I go for more than one night.

When I tagged along with Rachel to Blogher back in August, I left her to conferencing and explored Manhattan by running 15 miles over two days, since it was my first time in NYC.

On a warm Friday morning, I took the subway to the far side of the Brooklyn Bridge and headed back to midtown on the elevated pedestrian path.

(Note: No Mopeds, because you see those never.  And no runners over 3 tons. That’s for you, Sunday Night TLC.)

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After crossing the bridge, I turned south towards the business district, to see the Old Trinity Church from National Treasure (where all of Solomon’s Egyptian gold is buried!!), and along the way I learned where hedge fund managers buy non-dad jeans to match their metro casual scarves. Not at the Levi’s on 34th street, but on Wall Street itself, across the street from THE New York Stock Exchange, at True Religion, 14 Wall Street.

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Skinny, low-rise excess is available right there between Capital One and Charles Schwab.

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I left the district of historic fortunes and luxury denim and went north along the Hudson River, past the well-dressed foreign nannies walking babies in the 2%,

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and checked out a mix of new construction and classic NY. It felt like wandering around in Seinfeld and Friends.

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I headed back to the east side and up through Chinatown and Little Italy – where businesses flourish, especially in the basement. Yup, this is totally legit. Nothing to see here.

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It didn’t always smell “fresh,”

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despite their efforts in exterminating their unique set of pests,

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but it was very cool to see. Once you get north of Little Italy, the street numbers start, and the blocks went on forever.

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So in the interest of time, here are a few touristy shots of architecture between 4th and 34th Street, some you might know and some you might not.

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This brings me to one of my two tips for NYC.

Times Square is the zoo train of the city. It has nothing to do with the city (except I guess on New Year’s Eve,) and its surrounded by much more interesting animals places.

It is absolutely packed with tourists, back-to-back double decker tour buses, and chain restaurants that have nothing to do with New York.

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After making it nine miles back to the hotel, I cleaned up and returned, blissfully exhausted and starving to the same subway exit for the best pizza I ever had. This is where you want to go:

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A short walk puts you at the original Grimaldi’s.

This is the Best Pizza I have EVER eaten.

And I have eaten a lot of pizza in 36 chubby years.

Go to Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. I cannot recommend this with any degree of reservation.

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And not to worry – they are prepared for you to eat the whole thing.

The next day, I ran around Central Park, and by that, I mean a complete six mile lap around the perimeter. I know there are lots of other scenic trails inside the park, but it was my first time. Besides, I loved the short, old, quirky buildings along 5th Avenue stuck in between the standard super tall boring ones. Do Rockefellers, Astors or Vanderbilts live in these buildings?

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Let me insert my second New York tip here. The south end of Central Park is the popular one. See my earlier description of Times Square. The Plaza Hotel, Columbus Circle, horse carriages, bike renting pamphlet pushers, and tons of tourists are all in attendance. If you keep going a few 10 or 15 blocks, you can have 5th Avenue all to yourself – or at least the sidewalk.

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If you make it to the end of Central Park at 110th street, you are just barely in Harlem. And when I saw this, I desperately hoped that McDougal’s was right around the corner:

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I passed what was either a swearing-in ceremony or NYPD Glee Club.

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Coming back down the west side is just as quiet, at least for 30 blocks or so…

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…until you get closer to standard tourist formation, with hot tired people milling about in huddled masses.

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Oooh. Look! Standard Huxtable Brownstone!

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Sweet! Panoramic postcard vista!

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I made it back again, having thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city, and ended up with a few amateur observations about Manhattan.

1. Really New York? Has it come to this?

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2. Who is Fang Wong? And why does he have an office?

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(Google it. Not what I expected.)

3. Central Park is full of playgrounds. Really nice ones. Who knew?

4. Finally, Manhattan has some really unique churches. You won’t find these congregations in Alabama:

The ever popular denomination:

Those decisively hard nosed fellows who didn’t like the first, second, or third group at the:

And my favorite:

This particular church’s marquee sported the best sermon topic I have ever seen at a Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church:

It’s a new year and you are going to resolve something. So grab your old sneakers, build a habit, and discover irony in faraway places.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. 1
    Melanie Miller says:

    Chris, this makes me long for a trip to the big city again! I agree, Times Square is most definitely Not the part of NYC to see. I have to tell you I had one of the top three best burgers of my life near Central Park, wish I could remember the name of the little joint where I got it. That pizza looks amazing! And all that beautiful architecture tucked in that city, just love it!

    I’m resolving to increase the exercise routine…gonna try running again. Though when it’s 15 degrees, I’m gonna stick to the gym. Nothing great to explore there, unfortunately. But when it’s warm enough to run outside, I’ll be ready!

    • 1.1
      Rachel says:

      15 is pretty bad. I always do the basement treadmill when its cold, or hot, or wet, or dark. I did run the Mercedes Half-Marathon on a February morning last year that was 17 degrees at the start, but I had on more layers than Joey when he had all of Chandler’s clothes on. -Chris

  2. 2
    Annie G says:

    Now. THAT is how to tour a city!!!!!!!

    Amazing.

  3. 3
    Susan Williamson says:

    Having just celebrated (?) my 51st birthday, now I want to start running again. I ain’t getting no younger (or slimmer).

    • 3.1
      Rachel says:

      I wish everyone would try it. It certainly makes aging easier. I don’t get winded going up stairs, and I have much more energy and a way lower resting heart rate at 36 than I had at 25. -Chris

  4. 4

    I have GOT to start jogging again. GOT to. Loved your NY round-up post!

    • 4.1
      Rachel says:

      Jogging is probably a much better description. I am anything but fast. Or graceful. I have a great Birmingham route I can share with you that is scenic and safe and fun – although not as glamorous as NYC. -Chris

  5. 5
    jacqueline says:

    Very cute. I can see a lot of Rachel’s writing style rubbing off on you. Pretty soon you’ll be photographing men’s heinys in denim. :}

    • 5.1
      Rachel says:

      I am secure in my masculinity, but Rachel’s is the only behind I have photography experience with. I am not entirely sure that the skills are applicable elsewhere. -Chris

  6. 6
    Karen says:

    Great tour! I had some of the most incredible French toast at a little Jewish diner near Central Park. They made it with Challah bread… mmmm…. 9 years later and I still talk about it! Exploring on foot is so much better, especially if one is to indulge in much pizza and french toast! :-)

    • 6.1
      Rachel says:

      Guilt free pizza always tastes better. And I am a sucker for good french toast. You need to figure out the name of it – there can only be 999 Jewish Manhattan Diners on Urbanspoon. -Chris

  7. 7
    Deidre says:

    Why oh why oh why did you have to post a pic of grimaldi’s pizza? I want to go back to NYC just for that place!!

    • 7.1
      Rachel says:

      Me too!! I only waited in the line for about 30 minutes on a pretty afternoon. I have friends who have waited hours in the snow to eat there. For the record, I took the last 2 pieces back to Rachel and she still devoured it even after it sat on the pan for awhile and rode 40 minutes back to midtown. -Chris

  8. 8
    Eva says:

    never been to NCY but i like to run as well. can’t right now since i’m pregnant. i am very much looking forward to starting again. just now i did do 30min on our new mini stair stepper :D

    • 8.1
      Rachel says:

      I was shocked that a lot of pregnant women do run, but the magazine articles always said you can keep doing whatever you were doing before, not start something new during. Good luck with the stair stepper and the little one! -Chris

  9. 9
    Stephy_B says:

    Wow… that was a brave run! Certainly a unique way to tour NYC! Looks like the cops were gathered for “roll call” where they get their assignments for the shift… but as a cop’s wife, I sure do like the idea of a NYPD glee club MUCH better :)

    • 9.1
      Rachel says:

      Well, THAT makes a LOT more sense than anything I came up with. I guess there are a lot of walking beats around Central Park. You don’t ever see that in Birmingham. – Chris

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