Flashback Friday Moment of The Week: 6/24/2022

by Just Juan

Last night I was perusing through Triumphs & Tribulations to gather some thoughts for an upcoming Toastmasters speech. Of course, as I oftentimes do, I looked back on entries from past years. I came across the June 23, 2009 entry in Triumphs & Tribulations IV. I was a day removed from nearly losing my life in the WMATA Red Line collision so I was still a bit on edge. Despite that, I had awakened in a new place for the first time and I had 3 days to explore this place. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: my New York City debut.

How I first came across this moment? My debut in The Big Apple started almost 3 months earlier. After a decision to extend my time in the Air Force, I made plans for a month-long summer vacation in the United States. As absurd as it sounds coming from me, I needed a reprieve from life in Tokyo. I booked a weeklong road trip right in the middle of the mid-June to mid-July leave period…8 combined days in Washington, New York City, and Chicago. After 2 days in DC for my debut in the nation’s capital in which I escape death or serious injury thanks to divine intervention, I was on the last June 22nd Amtrak Acela Express to New York’s Penn Station. The following morning, I woke up and took the subway from my Fort Hamilton hotel to Times Square. Once I emerged from the underground, I was officially introduced to New York City.

What it meant to me then? My first trip to New York City meant a lot to me at the time. It was my first time venturing that far up the Eastern Seaboard. I had plans of visiting for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2003 but my de facto tour guide, unfortunately, passed away. Having been to Los Angeles and having lived previously in Chicago for a spell, going to New York City would have meant that I would have spent time in the biggest American cities. Besides, it was a chance to meet one of my first social media friends and to get a slice of authentic New York pizza in the DUMBO neighborhood. The trip didn’t disappoint. I loved the sights, the sounds, the food, and the women. Part of me actually wanted to move there.

What it means to me now? It’s been 13 years since my debut in New York City. I’ve visited 11 other times since the June 23-25, 2009 trip with the most recent being my attendance to a baby shower in Brooklyn 3 years ago. That first trip left a lasting impression and that’s what I draw on concerning visits there now that I’ve come to the realization that I really don’t like the city and I probably would never move there by choice. Every time I feel out of place in New York, I do think back to those 3 summer days in 2009.

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