Beltway Boy In The Big Apple
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Beltway Boy In The Big Apple

New York, Washington, and I-95 Between Them

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Beltway Boy In The Big Apple
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The last thing I wanted for my 21st birthday was a repeat of my 17th, spent in a little town in Texas while my extended family ignored me. So, when the chance to spend the day in New York City with a friend of mine from Long Island presented itself, I, of course, leaped upon it. I spent the day with him and two of his friends wandering the city, eating at restaurants and visiting the Strand bookshop, among other things.

I had visited the city several times, and I have many memories of the long stretch of I-95 between Washington and New York. I remember Delaware rest stops and Maryland traffic jams, and long stretches of New Jersey that go through smog-filled industrial areas. Trenton isn’t on the route, but you get the impression that this state makes and the world takes.

Eventually, you’re in the city proper. You might have holidayed upstate in a town like Millbrook, like I did, and take the train down from another town, in my case Bronxville in Westchester County. You may have crossed the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee like we do most of the time to visit relatives in the city itself. You may have taken Amtrak up the Northeast Regional, seeing the East Coast unfurl before you.

The big difference between New York and Washington is the sheer scale of the two different cities. Washington is fundamentally a city that was designed for one purpose, and one purpose alone: government.

The city is planned out in a way most cities are not, and unlike many cities its size, there are no skyscrapers. The law isn’t quite what the word on the street is, but it is correct in that the vast majority of the buildings in the city are shorter than the Capitol. The only one that’s obviously not? The Washington Monument, the commemoration of the first president of the nation towering over that metropolis on the Potomac.

New York, on the other hand, deserves its nickname of the concrete jungle. For me, having grown up among the stately marble of the national mall, the staggering pillars of glass form what is almost a viewing conduit towards the sky. This city was not made for the government.

It was founded in 1624 as a trading post by the Dutch. It was once New Amsterdam, and unlike what the song might suggest we can say it was changed, namely the capture of the city by Richard Nicoll during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Centuries later, Times Square keeps the feel of commerce alive, an entire district of a city devoted to nothing less than the production of spectacle.

New York, unlike Washington, is crammed. Ungodly crammed. Even Chicago is less cramped than New York. In Chicago, I felt like there was space between myself and other people. Not so in New York, the largest city in the Union. Even with all the tourists in Washington in the summer it never felt as New York did in the dead of winter. Washington is a capital. New York is nothing short of a metropolis.

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