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Greetings from the BIG APPLE

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A letter to my Nana from New York City

By Beth Braden

Dear Nana:

It’s the end of our third day here in New York City, and Chad and I are exhausted. It’s 4:30 p.m. and we’re already back at the apartment we’re staying in this week.
I can’t help but think about when Hannah and I were kids and you would get us milkshakes and we’d ride around Oneida at night and pretend the lights along the four lane was the Big Apple. We’ve not done that in probably 15 years, but I’ve wanted to visit ever since we pretended to be “fancy” and cruise around town. It doesn’t seem like I should be old enough to plan a vacation and leave everybody back at home — but here we are. It’s another one of those times when I wake up and realize adulthood has snuck up on me.
I’ve seen some stuff you’re going to be sad you’ve missed, like a cowboy in Times Square wearing nothing but boots and underwear and a guitar. I got a nice photo of him.  I think you’ll like him.
I can’t decide if I think you’d like it here or not. On one hand, there’s tons of stuff to see — museums, parks, restaurants and way more stores than I have money for. But on the other hand, the streets are filthy and the smells vary between two extremes: the best food you could hope for and solid waste. Nobody wants to chitchat while waiting in line or while on the train. Everybody just has somewhere to be — and they want to be there fast. There’s no time to visit.
And that brings me to my next story — Chad and I dropped by the NBC store and ran into some people from Georgia who saw our Tennessee shirts and asked if we were from down South. We then stood there and talked to those folks for about five minutes. They too were shocked that nobody in line or on the train wants to visit. We talked about football and congratulated them on Georgia’s win over Tennessee, and they congratulated us on Tennessee’s win over South Carolina. They hate Steve Spurrier as much as we do.
You should have been in the taxi with us. Nana, the drivers have no regard for road lines and it’s like they make a sport out of cutting one another off. You think I drive like a maniac, but compared to them, I drive more like you. And get this — they all drive with one hand on the car horn. Don’t like the look of the other drivers? Lay on the horn. Pedestrians in the way? Blow the horn. Somebody cut you off? Blow the horn. The guy in front of you sits half a second at a green light? Blow the horn.
And when they’re really angry, they start yelling and waving their arms out the window.
Road rage in New York City is just a way of life.
When we got here, we were excited because the whole city is flat. Walking around here would be a breeze, we thought. The normal route I take when I go on a jog/run at home is 3.1 miles of hills.  If I can do that, I figured I could walk forever in Manhattan.
Here’s the thing — only the street level of this city is flat. Once you go to get on the train, it’s up and down countless flights of stairs. And then, the place we’re staying at is on the third floor with no elevator. That doesn’t sound so bad, but the third floor of this building is a regular man’s fourth floor. That’s right, they don’t count the ground floor. You’re on one after you go up the first flight of stairs.
It’s a darn good thing I’ve been working on getting in shape.
The food here is incredible. We’ve eaten pizza from a restaurant that operates out of an old church, burgers from a restaurant underground, spicy mac and cheese from the Hard Rock Cafe, and this city has the best delivery options imaginable.
Seriously. At home, we can order pizza to be delivered. If you can dream it in New York, somebody, somewhere, will bring it right to your door. Last night, I ordered a Philly cheesesteak with waffle fries. It arrived hot. Chad ordered Chinese food and had plenty of leftovers. Tonight, I believe I will order some pizza. We brought home two kinds of cake from a bakery at Grand Central Station. That’s dessert.
Get this — we saw Al Roker this morning when we went to see the Today Show. He shook my hand and I had my picture taken with him. Ask Mom to show it to you if she hasn’t already. I put it on Facebook.
Anyway, I’m going to get back to lying around. Tomorrow is going to be hectic. We’re seeing the taping of an NPR show. On Wednesday, we’re seeing Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.  
I can’t wait to show you pictures when we come home.
We love you and we’ll see you soon.
Don’t let your meat loaf!
— Beth (and Chad)

Beth Braden is on vacation this week in NYC. She’s bothered by the dirt and grime, but having the time of her life. She’ll be back in LaFollette bright and early on Oct. 28 — provided the airline lets her fly with all the M&Ms she bought in Times Square.