I get it. It’s disorienting. Those impossibly tall buildings. All those signs and flashing neon lights. Cars honking. People everywhere. It’s so easy to lose your head in the clouds. But do so at your own peril. You may just miss something. There’s treasure here in this city. And sometimes that treasure is right below your feet.
There were two take-aways from my trip to Venice many years ago. 1) Learn to travel light. Though the bridges are pretty, lugging suitcases up and down them gets old fast. 2) I don’t care if Venice is sinking, it can take me with it. The city that brought us tiramisu, Titian and Vivaldi was as magical as promised. Paris may hold the title City of Love, but I’d be strapped to conjure up a city more romantic than Venice. Maybe the fact that I’m a fan of a little-known rom-com called Only You starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. has a little to do with it. (Fair Venice is one of its co-stars.)
“Please, no…Wait! Wait! Wait!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, slapping the side of the bus with enough force that the bones in my hand would gradually stiffen and the skin of my palm would radiate a dull, throbbing ember of pain late into the evening. In New York City (or anywhere else, for that matter), bus drivers don’t have a reputation for being especially empathetic creatures. Maybe it’s the nature of the job: long hours, miserable passengers, impossible traffic and a lot of repetition. But the driver of this particular bus—the final one to depart from the gate at ten o’clock—must have won twenty bucks on a scratch-off or had the weekend off, because instead of tightening his sphincter and stomping on the accelerator, he applied pressure to the brakes. And so began the silver lining at the end of a brutal week of work that would extend from the long commute home and through the weekend to come.
If you abruptly shook me awake at eight o’clock the following morning and asked me where I’d like to go and what I’d like to do with my day (WARNING: I wouldn’t recommend doing so without espresso at the ready), I’m absolutely positive that the very last thing that would spring from my lips would be, “Let’s take a building tour!” But then again, I had never visited The Steven A. Schwarzman Building, the flagship of New York Public Library’s four magnificent research centers and eighty-eight neighborhood branches residing in the boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx.