It was almost sunset when the Q train pulled up to the beach.
The technicolor amusement park that is Coney Island revealed itself, gliding past the window in slow motion. It was like a scene from a Wes Anderson movie: the neon signage, the giant Ferris wheel, the streets lined with nautical graffiti in shades of pastel pink, orange, and yellow-- all of it was a perfect backdrop to the iconic Nathan’s Hot Dog sign that soon came into view. The train yielded to a stop and we jumped out of our car and onto the sun-streaked platform. Dodging the crowds on skateboard and on foot, we headed out to the beach in pursuit of cotton candy and adrenaline.
This is what I love about New York City: you can ride a train just a few stops East and suddenly it feels like you’re exploring another planet. You can surf with a view of the Manhattan skyline. You can ride a rollercoaster in Brooklyn.
In a city like New York, neighborhoods are like ecosystems: people are the elemental force that is constantly shifting. When you’re surfing, the ocean is the biggest element you face. When you’re hiking, you are immersed in the forest, looking to the trees for communion and a sense of belonging. Here, in the Big Apple, the “concrete jungle where dreams are made,” people are the most powerful force of nature-- a collective of souls constantly creating and exploring new ways of being in a city that can barely contain them. It’s perfect for people who love adventure, because it’s impossible to get bored: there’s always another neighborhood to explore, a new person to talk to, and something unusual going on in the streets.
We saw a bride and groom being photographed in the middle of a traffic stop. A man walked by with five identical huskies on a single leash. There are art galleries full of funhouse mirrors. There’s a dessert shop that sells nothing but cookie dough. This is New York, and yet it might as well be Mars.
We rode the Staten Island Ferry at sunset and remembered almost instantly that Manhattan is also an island—from the boat you can’t even see land, just a mass of buildings towering up above the surf. 8 million people live in skyscrapers all crammed onto this tiny island in the middle of the sea, and all it takes is a short boat ride to be humbled by that realization. Flying in a plane over New York City results in the same effect: you suddenly realize that humans built all of this, and that’s an incredible feat.
Back at the Ace Hotel, guests from all over the world get free psychic readings in the lobby. In this way, even the foyer of a popular hotel can become a playground for exploration-- a place to try new things that one might not have ever done before.
Adventure, like happiness, is a state of being. Real adventure lives in your heart; it’s about how you spend your time, whether that’s getting a psychic reading or befriending dogs in your neighborhood park. Adventure is about stepping out and trying something new, big or small, whether you’re in the desert or exploring Midtown West.
We spent our time in Coney Island riding the Wonder Wheel to the top of the world and laughing through mouthfuls of pink and blue cotton candy. We stuck our feet in the water and drank coffee in the rain, exploring the city as it revealed itself to us. Later, we played tag on the Staten Island Ferry. We made art in the park and discovered an old-fashioned diner that sold Animal House-themed tater tots. Periodically, we remembered to look up at the canopy of buildings towering above us. There are so many adventures to be had in this place. New York City is a concrete jungle, and wild is a state of mind.