The flight path treats us to this view of Manhattan and Brooklyn as we near LaGuardia Airport.

New York City and second chances

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There’s something to be said about second chances. We say we’re giving something a second chance, but really we’re giving that chance to ourselves. The second chance is an opportunity to realize that the quality of our experiences depends as much on where we go as it depends on who we are once we get there. Not only do people and places change in our absence, but we change too. Realizing this makes the “second chance” feel like an adventure in personal development and not some kind of charity relief for the things that have wronged us.

New York City is different now from what it was two years ago. Then, Occupy Wall Street was in full swing. President Obama was in town for the tree lighting. Every copper in the state had taken to the streets of Manhattan to invade the little remaining privacy of its people.

I walked a mile of security cameras, guards, metal detectors, and luggage screeners to visit the 9/11 Memorial only to be ushered away by security officers when they mistook an unattended camera bag for a bomb. And then, with posters hailing Benjamin Franklin and liberty itself overhead, I was turned away from visiting the Statue of Liberty because of a pocket knife in my bag.

He said, “Where liberty is, there is my country.” My country must have been on vacation because New York City was clinched in fear, trading dollars of freedom for pennies of security.

The invasive police presence very quickly wore me down. I found myself spending the remainder of my time with the free-thinking Occupiers at Zuccotti Park. I participated in think tanks and smuggled food into the park. I shared my ideas, and I embraced the ideas of others. We were not friends among friends; we were a few hundred strangers among strangers, willing to risk uncertainty for independence and free movement.

The rest of the city — some eight million people — were fooling themselves, building a tower in the ruins of terror and naming it for freedom, all the while becoming the epicenter of a growing police state in America.

I felt no desire to ever return.

Fast forward two years; Eric has convinced me to return. I’m hoping New York City is different now. The Freedom tower is nearly finished, after all. I’m hoping I’m different now, too. This is as much an exercise in personal development as it is a personal wish to enjoy the places I visit. I don’t enjoy sharing my negative experience of New York City, and I hope to ease those feelings with a new experience this week.

Eric and I spend our first afternoon in the city together. Winter is in full swing; evidence of the last snow holds tightly to the long shadows of things. We keep to the sunny side of the avenues to stay warm, but nothing short of going inside stops the brisk wind that rips through the open spaces.

The forecast for success is looking great despite the cold. I’m with someone I love, and we expect snow for the weekend. I’m such a sucker for snow.

We watch this sunset on the flight from Houston to St. Louis.

We watch this sunrise on the flight from Houston to St. Louis.

Snow visible over Missouri and Illinois.

Snow visible over Missouri and Illinois.

Eric does this with his good ear to hear me over the din of the cuban restaurant.

Eric does this with his good ear to hear me over the din of the cuban restaurant.

Waiting for Eric's cousin at the Times Square Gap (because it's heated).

Waiting for Eric’s cousin at the Times Square Gap (because it’s heated).

Waiting for Eric's cousin at the Times Square Gap (because it's heated).

Waiting for Eric’s cousin at the Times Square Gap (because it’s heated).

A bath in a *no-kidding* 2-foot deep tub is something to write home about!

A bath in a *no-kidding* 2-foot deep tub is something to write home about!

Happy Holidays from the Swatch store in Manhattan.

Happy Holidays from the Swatch store in Manhattan.

Revolving door photo fun. I can't help but love a genuine smile!

Revolving door photo fun. I can’t help but love a genuine smile!

Ramen at Totto.

Ramen at Totto.

Our accommodations this week are this beautiful condo, nearly 30 stories above Times Square.

Our accommodations this week are this beautiful condo, nearly 30 stories above Times Square.

The view east to Times Square through all the glass of the condo.

The view east to Times Square through all the glass of the condo.

The view east to Times Square through all the glass of the condo.

The view east to Times Square through all the glass of the condo.

Brian

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