Friday, November 4, 2011

We Knew This Place

It was lunchtime in midtown Manhattan and our little band of first-time Big Apple visitors was looking for a bite. 

Guided by our Okie-outlook, we thought we could walk right into a delicatessen on 5th Avenue
and get a seat. (Somehow we weren’t aware that there were more people on that one city block than ever packed the stands for the Salina versus Locust Grove football game).

Waiting in crowds seems to be a way of life in NYC. You wait to get in the door, then you wait to order and then you wait for a table. You wait for the restroom too. Then there’s the wait for the bus or the taxi cab and then the waiting in traffic. No wonder they call it the “city that never sleeps”; if you did fall asleep, you would probably lose your place in line.

Anyway, the idea of dining at a real New York deli quickly drowned in a boiling sea of people. So we kept walking, not really knowing where we were going but fortunately we had the Empire State Building as some sort of landmark. Walking just seemed to be a better approach than waiting. Eventually we were on the sidewalk right in front of the grand old building. I remember thinking “this is just about where King Kong came crashing down.”

The observation deck of city’s most famous skyscraper gets plenty of attention, but on this day we were more interested in the restaurant on the ground floor. But like I said, it was lunchtime in Manhattan. So, prompted by our Okie impatience, we kept walking.

Finally, we spotted a familiar restaurant sign; one that is easy to recognize whether you live along Lake Hudson or the Hudson River. It was an eatery and a menu we already knew well. And though it was also crowded (compared to its Tulsa counterparts), we decided to just go ahead and wait here. We were on familiar ground and after our long, fruitless walk, we decided this was a good place to be. We knew this place and that made all the difference.

Long story short, we didn’t get the NYC eatery experience that day. We didn’t gather in a booth at a real NYC pizzeria or try the Reuben at a real NYC deli, or even grab a hot dog from a street vendor. Instead, in the midst of so much unfamiliar territory, both impressed and pressed by our surroundings, we found something very familiar and recharged our proverbial batteries there.

So I guess the real NYC dining experience will have to wait until next time. But I did walk away from that episode realizing just how comforting it can be at times to find the familiar amidst so much unfamiliar territory.

I think that’s a pretty good life lesson too, whether you’re walking the streets of a strange city or just feel your life drifting into uncharted waters. There are some things; actually, there is some One, who never changes. And that One needs to be familiar to all of us.

When that happens, you can find comfort, and be filled, no matter where you go.

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