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An ode (of sorts) to serendipity

July 9, 2015

I’ve just returned from a short trip to New York City, my first trip there. It was a celebratory trip and there was some self-imposed expectation of greatness. I wanted this to be a trip to remember and while some things were planned or at least written in a list, there’s so much to see and do, that I left some up to chance. I was not disappointed with that choice.

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On one foray downtown, we decided we wanted to go looking for vintage shops. On the trip, we are serenaded by a doo-wap group on the subway. We give them a small amount of money and they sing just for us. It’s pretty awesome, actually. We alight from the subway and wander into a cafe/restaurant that looked popular and ate a fabulous lunch with a great vibe and did some serious people watching. Some sloppy internet research led us to think a certain street was going to be bursting with shops. It turned out to be 90% restaurants and bars. We had just eaten, so it seemed pointless to sit and eat again. So, we found a subway station to check out a different neighborhood. Arrive at a park where a large jazz band is playing for picnicking families. Plop ourselves down to enjoy the concert. It is fantastic. After awhile we decide we’re going to continue walking the neighborhood and grab a cold drink. What do we spot, but the giant new and used book store with a city block of used books lining the street in library carts. We gleefully browsed, holding up ludicrous titles that would suit this person or that. We pick up a couple of books and march onward. Hit the free night at MoMA and battle the crowds, and the selfies (really people, why do you all need to take a picture?) but enjoy the energy. Truth be told, giggle at a few of the pieces. So, vintage shopping as we planned it was kind of a bust, but the day was fantastic.

Lesson Learned: Be open to veering from your plan2015-07-04 11.35.15

The next day we thought we’d wend our way east towards ourplanned fireworkswatching spot that evening. After the circle line boat tour, we thought we’d check out the Highline, but it was raining, so, we opt to explore more of the East Village (we had only hit the edge the day before). We head into Alphabet City. It’s raining and the streets are sort of empty (it’s the 4th of July). We spot a community garden that’s open and wander through it, marvelling at how we love the contrast of urban and green. We continue on and it’s raining harder, so we duck into a pizza restaurant and eat the most amazing thin crust pizza while we wait for the skies to clear. We ask our server for some shopping advice. She gives us a few suggestions, but lets us know they may not be open today (holiday). We finish our meal and look across the street and there’s a funky shop with piles of vintage jewelry and stuff. Score! Sun comes out so we continue on and find another tiny shop where we find a one-of-a-kind jacket on the $5 rack. Perfect fit. Score! Eventually we continue to our fireworks spot, stop to watch a break-dancing show for the crowds (wow!) and then find the busy “Fourth” celebration spot. Bands, food, shops, it had it all, except seating. Apparently (in Manhattan anyway), people don’t sit much. We enjoy things for a couple of hours then decide we should make our way to the fireworks viewing area, which turns out to be jam packed and we spend the next hour in a crowd surrounded by police. Eventually they send us away, as the FDR viewing area is full. So back to the streets where we realize we should have stayed where we were. Oh well. We people-watch some more, oooh and ahhh at the fireworks and then head back to the hotel. Exhausted but very pleased with how the day turned out.

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Lesson Learned: Ask for input

We have a bit of time to kill before our Broadway matinee, and we leave our hotel to discover a street market is setting up outside and there’s food carts, tacky souvenir stuff, music that runs for several blocks. So, we meander and snack and souvenir shop. It’s a great atmosphere. After fretting over picking which Broadway show we should go to, we pick one that we hadn’t heard of and have a fabulous time. After the show, we hit Hell’s Kitchen and decide to do a mini-restaurant crawl. Appies at one place, dinner at another. We end up with appies at both and our selection is based on how we are feeling at the time. Everything is delish. Hop a bus and spend the morning at the Met followed by a ramble through Central Park. We packed our books and some food to just enjoy the atmosphere of this iconic park. Find a spot and chill. We saw a cardinal (not a bird we get on the west coast) which was unexpected. Get slightly lost as we try to find the exit on the west side, but stumble on to Strawberry Fields and serenaded by Beatles sing-along. Serendipity!

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Lesson Learned: Take a leap

Now that I’m back home, I realize that I didn’t do some of the touristy things (missed the Empire State or “Top of the Rock” view), completely bypassed some neighborhoods (Upper West Side – whoops) and could have saved a couple of hours here or there with a bit better planning, but on the whole allowing for some serendipity was a great decision. As a compulsive planner, this went against some of my instincts, but I’m glad I did it. It’s a good lesson for learning as well. Sometimes you need to allow time and space for serendipity, you never know what you might discover and learn. As for me and NYC, well, let’s just say I’m planning future trips that’ll be the same blend of planning and discovery.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ryan Tracey permalink
    August 13, 2015 12:42 am

    Some good lessons there, Holly. Thanks for sharing them.

    Your post got me thinking about serendipity and reminded me of one of my fears: that digital technology may work against it.

    An example is digital TV. Soon enough we won’t be watching TV like we did in the 50’s, whereby we accept whatever the programmer decides to broadcast. Instead, we’ll all just download whatever we want, when we want.

    Sure, we’ll rely on friends and social media to clue into the good stuff, but I for one will miss channel surfing and striking gold that I would never, ever have found any other way.

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