“Empire State of Mind”

Alicia Keys sings in Jay-Z’s in Empire State of Mind, “In New York…there’s nothing you can’t do…these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you…”

When I was waiting in Korea to immigrate to the US, I had two beliefs about America. One, United States, America and New York, where my Dad lived, were synonymous terms. Two, New York streets were paved in gold.

I think I heard adults talking about America in glowing terms, a land of wealth and opportunity and with a 5 year old’s imagination, transformed New York into a city of gold. Gold streets, golden trees and everything else beautiful.

By the time we immigrated to New York, I was seven. Still young enough where the harsh reality of the “concrete jungle”, the loud noises of honking and subways wheels squeaking, the smell of rubber and exhaust from the cars, was softened by the amazing sight of the tall skyscrapers and the palpable energy of millions of people from all walks of life.

I grew up in a suburban city, not more than a 30 minute drive, 35 minute train ride and a 50 minute bus ride from New York City.  With such accessibility, I considered NYC as my stomping ground. 

My family shopped in many of the boroughs.  For the longest time, Flushing was the place to go for Korean food.  I remember the Hub in Bronx having great value in jeans and knock off purses.  Astoria has the most amazing Afghan bread.  Of course, we can’t forget about Manhattan.

I especially loved Manhattan during Christmas time.  Going into the city during the Holidays became a tradition.

The smell of roasting nuts mingled with fresh pine from trees sold on street corners.  The sight of the enormous Christmas tree at Rockefeller. I never knew that trees could grow so tall!


The lights on buildings and decorated department store windows (not the greatest photos… couldn’t avoid the reflections!)


Can you seen Santa on the sleigh?


The peaceful quiet inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midst all the craziness.


I never wanted to leave NY and when I did, I vowed that NYC would still be my stomping ground.  With a full-time job, a house and a kid, we’ve only managed to go three times since Soso was born.  While we still live no more than 40 minutes from the city, it feels like what it really is, another state.  A place to visit on a rare occasion.

I decided it was time to take back the city. We were going to go all out, go see Wintuk, gaze at the Tree, eat lunch in Korea Town and just enjoy strolling through the city.

We opted for a train ride. Soso was excited to go on her first train ride. Apparently the train ride to Machu Picchu, considered one the most scenic and beautiful train ride in the world, didn’t count.


Because, you know, it wasn’t in America.


So, I made sure I took plenty of pictures to commemorate this moment.


The double-decker trains that were not around in 2003, the last time I took a train, were impressive.



We headed straight to Rockefeller Center. As crowded as it was, we were able to find someone to take a family photo. The key is to actually go closer to the tree, near the back of the center. It has never failed us.


Then we made our way to the front to get another photo from afar.


We stopped by the Lego store, but it was insanely crowded. Still, I was able to take a picture of this amazing replica of the Rockefeller Center.


Took one in front of Atlas because no trip to the Rock is complete without a visit to the Atlas statue.


We made our way back downtown to K-town for lunch. Pausing to take a photo with the library lion.


I love this building and what it represents. Free access to books is taken for granted now, but once-upon-a-time, books were a privilege.


We stopped by Saks, Lord and Taylor and some other stores to gaze at the wonderfully clever window displays. Alas, the photos did not come out well with the reflections.

I loved the juxtaposition of an old and beautiful building and a modern and ugly pizza store awning.


Finally, we made it to K-town.


I was so hungry that I didn’t even pause to take photos. I love finding unexpected photos when downloading.  D took these while I was in the bathroom!


After a quick meal of fresh mandoo, pa jeon and fried rice, we walked to Madison Square Garden to see Wintuk.


Sadly no photo were allowed. I was hoping to take some really cool pictures with my new camera.

Thinking I would have no pictures to commemorate our first Cirque du Soleil experience, we took this right outside the theater.


I coveted the cotton candy because it came with a cool hat. But D wouldn’t let me get it. 😦


Then this guy came out to announce the start of the show and said we could take a photo of him.


The show had some really great moments, but some weak ones. The incredible performers were great. The storyline about a boy searching for snow was weak. I was expecting a coherent development of the storyline through the various acts, but that never happened. The token, “Can we look for the snow?” asides didn’t bind the acts and the story together. In fact, had I never read the story in Wikipedia, I would never have known that there was one to follow. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and Soso was entranced.

At the end, the performers came out to bow and seeing all the flashes going off in the audience, I took some of my own. No need for flash on mine. I know I’ve said it before, but I love my camera.


The ‘main’ characters.


Finally a picture of me and my baby!


We had a great time. We went home satiated with the New York experience. The only thing we didn’t get to try were the roasted nuts. Ah well, next time for sure.


3 thoughts on ““Empire State of Mind”

  1. Fun!! Especially since we’ve been in a few times recently and been to a few of these places. I agree with the Wintuk – I had no idea there even was a “story”!! And sometime please do go up to the Top of the Rock. $ but the view is AMAZING!!

    But what settings do you use for your shots at the show? I think my camera would have had the flash pop up, but then I probably use auto settings much more than you do!!!

    1. I use a semi-auto setting, AV mostly and change something to allow for photos in the dark. Not sure what its called, but would gladly show you one day.

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