Free Rides in Manhattan
>> I'm always on a treasure hunt for spontaneous entertainment in Manhattan. And as any successful treasure hunter knows, rich finds are usually the result of considering treasure maps. The "X" might not lead us to the exact spot, but often puts us in the vicinity.
"Spontaneity" and "planning" are two concepts that don't seem to go together, but in New York, it's hard to have one without the other. Knowing about events, but avoiding them because they disrupt daily routines is dull. Finding things without being aware that they exist, however, is almost impossible.
Fishing and Finding
Planning requires that we accept free flyers passed out at major intersections, pick up free neighborhood (or subject-specific) newspapers, carry maps, gather entertainment brochures, and sign up for mailing lists at plays, dances and concerts.
9/19/2000: Good pickings! Since publishing this article, I was handed a free travel mug, a $5 "no strings attached" gift certificate, a $1.50 subway token so I can use it, and three discount flyers for plays.
Of course, the Internet is useful, but sites often lack the coupons offered by street and snail mail promotions. Also, a coupon in hand is better than one that needs to be printed out.
Spontaneity requires that we be ready to abandon our current agenda for significantly better things.
In the evening, spontaneity means overriding the compelling desire to commute home as quickly as possible. In the morning, it might mean ducking into a previously unexplored deli to find a new treat, or nosing around a green market if one is convenient. (Farmer's often bake unusual goodies as well as supply standard produce; New York peaches are to die for . . .) It also means that we stop, enjoy, and tip street entertainment when whatever's "showing" sings to our hearts.
I toss all random information into a large, old-fashioned treasure chest - a classic container worthy of a successful pirate captain. (The Bombay Company has a staggering selection.) Of course, I could just dump this information on a table, but the resulting piles look too much like bills. I rather segregate opportunity from the mundane, but to each his or her own taste.
No matter where you stash your collection, at least once a week, preferably with coffee, wine, beer or a good cigar in hand, flip through it. Even though what you see might not be compelling enough to enter into your Palm Pilot (or notebook), at least you'll become more informed. Spontaneity relies upon the power of dim awareness to magically propel you in the right place at the right time.
The Free Ride
Here's an example of my own experience with spontaneous planning.
In early September, I accepted a flyer handed out near the Path gates in the World Trade Center, but stuffed it into my purse unread. A few days later, I scrutinized my weekly collection and discovered that the flyer provided a free coupon for a New York Waterways round-trip boat ride from the Hoboken, New Jersey terminal to the Financial District.
The next day, I skipped my normal commuting pattern for this boat trip and received another free surprise as part of the promotion: New York Daily News. The New York Daily News, by the way, is the only paper in town to publish several pages of funnies, so it qualifies as true treasure!
But best of all - a 3-for-1 treasure - when I returned by boat that night, I debarked into a different area of the Hoboken terminal where I was dazzled to discover a restored, stained glass rotunda! (More on the Hoboken terminal in a later article.)
Free To Be Treasure
While not every treasure event is free, many are heavily discounted. To leverage your experiences and promote a more active lifestyle, consider playing the following game with yourself:
For every outstanding (almost) free event you attend, invest in a standard priced event, such as a play. Pretend that the second event is simply an extension of the first. That way, you'll push yourself to be involved in a wider variety of activities, but will always feel that you're getting everything at a huge discount.
Of course, if you sign up for snail mail promotions at every opportunity, you'll regularly receive "35% off" promotions for plays and other events that will further stimulate your treasure hunting season.
Article and photo-illustration by Karen Little. First published on 9/17/2000. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.
The illustration above was taken on a New York Waterways' boat during my free return trip to Hoboken from the Financial District, almost a year before 9/11/2001, when the World Trade Center was bombed.
In the early evening, Manhattan buildings often turn pink, reflecting sunset. Depending on weather conditions, Manhattan also appears as a painting. I took several photos that evening, all showing the painted-like city and was so inspired, that I combined the real photo with an illustration. That said, the background of the illustration is the photo and it looks exactly the way I saw the city at dusk.
Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all the photos of that evening. When I realized what I had done, however, I didn't worry, because I could always go back and catch the picture at a later date. Little did I ever think that a year later, the World Trade Center would no longer be standing. I never did get those pictures.