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Taking a bite of the Big Apple - Kathy Jefcoats

I love New York City. I know people say that but I absolutely love Manhattan and would move up there, well, in a New York minute if I had lots of money, and a job and place to live there. Since I have none of those, I have only the memories of visiting there two years ago. Oh, I also have photos, lots of photos but my memories are what I can bring to mind during a lull in courtroom proceedings or while I am waiting for a phone call to be returned.

I was born in St. Louis and lived there most of my childhood before my parents relocated to Georgia. I guess being in a big city is in my blood. Living in Macon, however, is clearly not the answer to satisfying that thirst for tall buildings that block out the sun and shoulder-to-shoulder people fighting each other for sidewalk space. Neither is living in Warner Robins, Carrollton or Aiken, S.C.

Yeah, Atlanta is a big city but it has more of a feel of a small town whose growth ballooned out of control over a period of months rather than a planned urban area prepared to meet the demands of millions of people. New York City, to me, seems like it was destined for majestic greatness.

Anyway, a friend of mine, Erin, applied to Columbia University, the same institute of higher learning I would have gone to had I lots of money, a job and a place to live in Manhattan. Just kidding, of course. I wrote a couple of reference letters for Erin, who wanted to make the jump from print to broadcast media, and knew she would be accepted. She was grateful for my help and told me that if she got accepted, I would have to fly up and visit her.

Oh, did I mention that I have never flown in an airplane? I've only ever been inside the Atlanta airport when I picked up my mother-in-law some years ago. I rode in a helicopter as part of a story I covered in Jones County but never took an airplane ride. Some people have told me that makes me sound like a hick.

Erin and I talked again at her going away party in August 2001 – which, as everyone knows, was the month before Sept. 11.

It figures that the year I decide I am going to fly for the first time is the year of the worst terror attack on American soil – and they had to go an use airplanes to do it. Needless to say, I have no immediate plans to get on a plane anytime soon.

But my best friend, Claudia, and I decided to drive up. Claudia is a native of Long Island and her accent still gets thick when she's riled up, despite being in the South about 30 years. She has family on the island so we combined forces to drive up for a week. I went to Manhattan to stay with Erin and Claudia drove on to Long Island.

I was more excited than a 6-year-old at Christmas when we crossed the line from Jersey into New York. I yelled and whooped and hollered. Claudia tried to pretend she didn't know this hick riding beside her. She dropped me off at LaGuardia where I stood in a line at a cab stand and got a taxi into Manhattan. Just like on television and in the movies, it was a wild ride.

At Erin's apartment, I got out of the cab and waited for her to come down. The cab's trunk was filled with my bags and clothes and I expected the driver to throw it all out on the sidewalk and take off. That's what they show on television but that's not what happened. He waited with me and was very kind.

I couldn't believe her apartment, a third-floor walk-up. It was so tiny, no bedroom, just an open area that encompassed a living room and kitchen and then a miniscule bathroom. She was paying more than $1,000 a month for it. Street parking is nonexistent – the cars that occupy the spaces seem never to move out of them – so she was paying, I think, $50 a month to garage her car in Harlem. That meant she had to take public transport just to get to her car.

Well, I am running short on space myself so my adventures will have to continue next week.

Kathy Jefcoats is the public safety reporter for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at kjefcoats@henryherald.com.