Like no place on Earth

In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you

Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys, Empire State of Mind –


The flashing lights and howling traffic. The bustling crowds and soaring buildings. The whistling wind and blowing fall leaves. And the city. Oh, the city.

One good thing about living in Buffalo was that it was merely a 50-minute flight away from New York City, something that I took advantage of about three times a year during my years in the U.S. I would fly there on my own — sometimes with a friend — stay at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Herald Square, and spend my days shopping, visiting museums, and just taking in the sights of the city. I learned how to get around using the wonderfully convenient MTA Subway system, found decent Malaysian restaurants in a tiny little alleyway of Bowery Street in Chinatown, and frequented the Fifth Avenue stores so often that some of them came to recognize me whenever I stopped by.

When I made my final trip to New York City in January 2008, I was sad to think that there was a chance I might never see it again, but I made a firm resolution that one day, I would go back there. It only dawned on me how much I truly missed it when I was back here and miserably comparing the insane, barbaric muddle of Kuala Lumpur to the flurrying yet energetic and orderly busyness of Manhattan. Sure, I missed the sprawling indulgence and decadence of Beverly Hills, and the quaint, historical architecture of Boston, but it never came close to how much I missed New York. Watching TV shows and movies like Gossip Girl, Sex & the City, Confessions of a Shopaholic and even The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 only made me ache for the life and energy of the city once more.

So I made up my mind that I would try my best to go back to the U.S. for a visit this year. I decided I would sweep through Boston, Buffalo and New York City over a span of two weeks, with Afham, who has never been to the U.S., in tow. I want to get back in touch with Cora and Oscar from my TEFL training days, see Shirley and let Aiden get to know his godmother all over again, and finally catch up with Maddi in Manhattan and take in as much of the city as I can. It would take a substantial chunk out of our savings, but we concurred that it would be worth it, because as much as I love the big cities in Europe and would love to visit them again, there’s really no place like New York.

Besides, what with people as heartbreakingly young as Brittany Murphy and Casey Johnson dropping dead without warning, who knows how much longer we have to live?

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