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New York City's heart beats in time with the people's spirit

By Lacy Hilliard
New York City is often referred to as “The Big Apple.” The history of this nickname is muddied with tales of symbolism and metaphorical references. Some cite a famous madam named Eve as the reference; others give credit to a 1920 publication about New York horse racing. Though the exact history is unknown, if you ask a New Yorker why their city is referred to as “The Big Apple,” they will likely tell you it’s because “everyone wants to take a bite.” As a former New Yorker turned country girl, I know that sometimes New York offers you a bite of a sweet Honeycrisp and other times a Granny Smith complete with a worm. I have a love for New York that runs deep and though I’ve made the Appalachians my home, I return to New York often. On my most recent trip I decided it was time to take my five-year-old daughter on a tour of New York City and acquaint her with her roots.
New York City is made up of five boroughs; The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Each borough is unique and has something special to offer. However, when people think of famous landmarks that adorn New York City, they’re almost always thinking of Manhattan. Central Park, the Empire State Building, and Times Square are just a few of the famous landmarks found in Manhattan. It’s hard to believe that an island with only 23 square miles of space could possibly house so many amazing feats of engineering and pinnacles of history not to mention over 1.6 million residents. Though the statistics may sound intimidating, what many don’t know about Manhattan is that each neighborhood is like a small community where the residents know each other by name and though the famous “New York attitude” is certainly present, the inhabitants of “the city that never sleeps” can be warm and inviting – just so long as you don’t catch them in a hurry.
Perhaps even more famous than the landmarks and the people is the food. Manhattan cuisine is second to none and there is something on the menu for everyone. Thousands of street vendors can be found lining the more tourist driven avenues of Manhattan peddling a variety of foods. The three standouts when it comes to dining in NYC are Sabrett’s hotdogs, giant pretzels, and New York style pizza. I would venture to say that if you’ve never had a slice of New York City pizza, than you’ve really never had a slice of pizza at all. Though I will agree that it’s difficult to go wrong when you combine tomato sauce, cheese, and dough, the pizza in New York City is so much more than its simple ingredients. If you visit NYC and order a slice of pizza, be sure to do it the “New York way.” When ordering a slice of cheese pizza in New York, all you need to say is “Can I get a slice?” If you want a large cheese pizza you say “Let me get a large pie.” Adding the word cheese to either of these requests will most certainly give you away as a tourist. While we’re at it, the famous Houston Street in the village is not pronounced like the city in Texas; the correct pronunciation is “House-ton.” If you visit New York and order a slice on Houston and subsequently cross the street while slapping the hood of an overzealous taxi driver’s car and uttering the phase, “Hey, I’m walkin’ here,” you’ll be accepted as an honorary New Yorker for life.
It’s difficult to think of Manhattan without remembering the tragic happenings of September 11, 2001. I remember clearly when the twin towers soared proudly above the Manhattan skyline and though the amazing structures have been absent for over a decade, it’s obvious that no New Yorker will ever feel the same about their beloved skyline again. The construction of the new Freedom Tower built atop the ashes of Ground Zero is nearing completion and though the tower is a beautiful memorial to the thousands that lost their lives on that fateful day, there will forever be a hole not only in Manhattan’s Financial District but also in the hearts of New Yorkers.
A few common misconceptions about New York City are that it’s dirty, unfriendly, and full of violent crime. Though there is a bit of truth to each of these rumors, the tourist frequented areas of Manhattan certainly don’t fit these criteria. While I wouldn’t walk barefoot in the New York City subway, the streets are actually quite clean and free of debris. The residents of the city can come off impatient and rude but mostly they’re just trying to make it in a city that can often be unforgiving and is always moving at a fast pace. Most New Yorkers are willing to kindly lend a hand to a wayward tourist by pointing them in the right direction or helping them navigate the subway system. As far as violent crime goes, New York City fares well statistically, boasting one of the lowest per capita violent crime rates in the United States.
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