The Art of Standing Still in New York City
with Anna Urquhart ~ post from their “A Road Taken” blog.
Standing still is rarely admired in America, and yet it is exactly this stillness that we often find ourselves longing for. Now, consider standing silent in the middle of New York City, examining a man who has not moved one chiseled muscle in more than 2,000 years.
We did just that a few weeks ago, hopping onto a Bob Neff Tour headed for New York City—New York City at Your Leisure, which seems a bit of an oxymoron. Yet we had only one scheduled item on the agenda: the Terracotta Warriors, a petrified army of soldiers, chariots, and horses created by a Chinese emperor who feared nothing but death. Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor, hoped that the terracotta troops would impress (and even intimidate) those greeting him in the “afterlife.” This silent, entombed army, discovered only a few years ago by two Chinese farmers, recently left the colossal underground sepulcher to advance across the globe city by city.
This exhibit joins a long list of spectacular short-term events at The Discovery Museum in Times Square, including The Dead Sea Scrolls, Pompeii The Exhibit, Harry Potter, Titanic The Artifact Exhibition, and Leonardi Da Vinci’s Workshop to name a few1. Arriving at the museum, we slowed our pace, moving with awe and curiosity from artifact to artifact. We mingled with ancient history and recognized that, despite the vast expanse of years and miles, emperor or not, we all are human.
After nearly an hour of quiet contemplation, what next? Can you guess our knee-jerk American reaction to an unscripted expanse of a day in New York City? How much ground can we cover? Yes! But, wait. We decided to do the impossible: slow down in the middle of one of the most exciting cities in the world and savor exploring time and space with a friend.
Can one ounce of unhurried leisure surface amidst honking taxis (though in some areas
honking now equals a fine), Grand Central Station throngs, long restroom lines, and astronomical prices? We weren’t sure, but since we began the day’s journey in stillness, we were determined to see it through.
We hopped a subway2 and went in search of lunch in Little Italy. Arriving on the corner of Prince and Broadway intending to head south, we accidently wandered west, down a “wrong” street. Looking around, trying to get our bearings, we stumbled upon a Nespresso café and store (a decadent indulgence for us coffee lovers), a lively conversation with our Turkish barista “U,” and a luscious latte (artfully topped with a pouty dog face). And it happened only because we took a wrong turn and didn’t panic, didn’t try to make up for lost time, and didn’t feel obliged to “get our money’s worth” from our day in Manhattan. What a novel idea!
When traveling, a common American concept (and we would argue—misconcept) is: the fuller the itinerary, the more fulfilling the experience. While more is sometimes better,
when it comes to travel, more can be simply, well, more. It’s like choosing a great restaurant over a buffet—savoring an experience versus getting the most for our money.
It might be a crazy notion, but if we forego trying to conquer an interminable “To Do” list or tight itinerary, the day belongs to us rather than the other way around. On the one day we tried it, the benefits were undeniable: by getting lost, we found a delightful café, indulged in delectable sushi3 after asking a friendly, earnest policeman for a suggestion, navigated the subway system without stress, and never once thought the clock was cheating us. Time actually slowed down.
Whether taking a day trip to the Big Apple, a tour of Ireland, or an Alaskan cruise, practicing the art of standing still yields crystal clear memories, meaningful conversations–and equally meaningful silences–and ample opportunity to take the perfect photo.
Curiously, then, it’s easier to stand still in the middle of our “real” lives.
Anna & Karen
1Visit http://www.discoverytsx.com/ for the information on the latest Discovery Museum exhibits. $
2To get from Times Square to Little Italy, go to the 42nd Street Subway Station (in Times Square), buy a “Single Ride” ticket ($2.50—easiest to use the machine on the wall), and take the Yellow Line (N,Q,R) train Downtown to the Prince Street stop. This takes you to Prince Street and Broadway. To find the Nespresso Café, walk one block West on Prince Street. Tell “U” we said hello! $
3We highly recommend the Kodama Sushi, our own nugget of a discovery, at 301 West 45th Street (on the corner of 8th Ave), just off Times Square. The ingredients are fresh, the atmosphere casual and comfortable, the prices reasonable, and the chef humble and inspiring. Good things to savor. $
$$ 26.00 – 50.00