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Doing it my way in NYC - Kathy Jefcoats

So when last I left my faithful readers I had made it to Manhattan for my trip of a lifetime. I know many people aspire to Paris or Rome or somewhere equally romantic but I love New York and I can't help it.

When I got to Erin's apartment, she told me that her schoolwork had accelerated and she would have little time to spend with me during my week's stay. She was apologetic but I was thrilled. Suddenly, the entire city opened up to me. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted and not be bound by someone else's schedule or desires. She did take me to Chinatown for supper one night, followed by a midnight ride on the Staten Island ferry the last night the twin spotlights shone in place of the World Trade Center towers.

We took the subway and then walked the rest of the way. I stopped in a shop and bought silk purses for my twin daughters, which was really cool. Although it was late, the sidewalks were alive with people, oblivious to the time and lack of sunshine. Cars whizzed by, horns bleating, jaywalkers took their lives in their own hands. Odors from a multitude of restaurants, some fragrant, others pungent, met and mingled in the air before wafting down around us.

It was great.

The rest of the week was mine. Erin gave me a walking guide with a subway map and tips for getting around Manhattan. She lived on the Upper West Side, a block from Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. I got up the next day, secured my spending money and wrapped my camera bag around me. The first thing I did was call one of my daughters right from the street. I could not believe how utterly excited I was to be in New York City. It was ridiculous, really, for one city to have such an impact on me but I loved every minute of it.

I bought a sausage from a street vendor, getting mustard on my shirt that has yet to come out n a yellow-stained memory. The weather was beautiful and I strolled into Central Park as if I owned the joint. I found the reservoir, around which so many celebrities jog, and a park bench honoring the late actress Madeline Kahn. I took a picture of that for my mom, a big fan who cried when the comedic Kahn died from cancer.

I found Strawberry Fields, constructed in the memory of the late, great Beatle John Lennon, murdered in his own doorway at the Dakota, right across the street. I photographed a woman lighting a candle set in the middle of a sidewalk tribute to Lennon, talking to someone on a cell phone.

"Yes, I'm here, right now, I'm looking at it, lighting a candle," she said.

There was the park lake and beautiful swans, the center fountain, cherry trees heavy with pink and white blossoms. There was the Central Park Zoo. So soon after Sept. 11, there were tributes to firefighters and police officers at every turn.

People were everywhere, bicycling, skating, walking, jogging, pushing carriages, strolling hand in hand with each other, yelling after kids, looking for the next adventure. I was in heaven.

During my stay I rode the ferry to Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty, which was closed to tourists. Thank you, Osama bin Laden. I wandered the halls at the receiving building on Ellis Island, trying to feel the long dead spirits of immigrants, mine included, who came to this country, afraid but excited. The foreigners who built this country, who couldn't speak English, who were inspected and de-loused and harbored until they could be released into their new homeland. I was filled with emotion, wondering what my life might be like had they not made the journey to America. Would I even have been?

I went to the Empire State Building, all the way to the top. What a rush! I rode the lift up but took the stairs down. The view, as might be expected, was magnificent. Again, more photos, from all around the top. There was the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, where the Towers so proudly stood just months before.

I went to Fifth Avenue, bebopped through Rockefeller Center as though I owned it. I saw The Plaza, featured prominently in one of my favorite movies, "Plaza Suite," FAO Schwarz, Trump Tower, Tiffany's. I rode the subway and buses, took cab rides and walked my feet off. I visited museums and took tons of pictures.

Here I am, out of room again. I could go on and on about New York. I love it and hope to return. If you can, go there yourself.

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