The wow factor

Trip Start May 05, 2011
Trip End Aug 08, 2011

Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, June 10, 2011

Wow is a powerful word. Simple in form but wrapped in immense and complex variety. On one hand it describes the essence that something beholds or a factor one strives to convey in a product. On the other, a powerful emotion that boils the blood with adrenalin and forges memories etched forever in our minds. A desire that infiltrates our dreams and pushes us to follow paths unknown, and when experienced there is no better feeling. 

Because the 'wow' is defined by the individual it can relate to many things and have a multitude of meanings, as little as a drop of rain or as much as the vast ocean. Some parents would say each day of their child's life produces a raft of 'wows'. But for the big 'wows', those moments that blow your mind and give some sense of the meaning of life, well, those ones you'd be considered extremely lucky to encounter more than you can count on your hands.

In contemplating my own 'wow' experiences, I certainly count myself in the lucky bracket. Most of mine surround the Natural environment, wonders that upon first sight or sense have taken my breath away. Milford Sound; upon first seeing the sun's rays shining past the magnificent Mitre Peak and dissolving into the depths of the Sound. Watching the mist clear on Mackinnon pass along the Milford Track, as it reveals inch by inch the overwhelming sheer mountain peaks and vast cliff faces touching deep valleys entrenched in wondrous forest. Flying in a small fixed wing over and amongst the mighty peaks and glacial valleys of Aoraki Mount Cook, with the other jagged snow encrusted peaks of the Southern Alps surrounding in a cathedral of mountains reaching to the heavens above. Traversing over the alien landscape of the Tongariro crossing, featuring the three dramatic volcanoes of Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and Tongariro, while winding over ancient lava flows and through craters, acidic lakes and fissures, remnants of a land folded and ripped apart. Other 'wows' incorporate humanity such as the island of Thera (Santorini) with it's volcanic caldera sprouting an island of volcanic debris in it's centre and supported around it's edge by the awe-inspiring cliffs rising high into the sky, on top of which resides the intricate pattern of the island's village doused in whites and blues shining brilliantly in the setting sun. Walking Istanbul, immersed in the history and wonder of this ancient city woven around spell-bounding waters, and seeing what I feel is the first grand world city of the human age. Being in Wellington during the LOTR phenomena that gripped the nation, and the varied events I found myself involved in such as the exhibition, that allowed me to luckily meet many of the amazing people and cast involved with those productions. And the telling historic moment when being at the Westpac stadium surrounded by close to 40,000 very vocal patriotic kiwis showcasing a sea of white in support as the All Whites bet Bahrain to advance to the Football World Cup - another event that gripped our small nation.

There are most probably a few others I could dive into, but for this moment I can now say there's another to be added to this list - the magnificent NYC.
The 'wow' of a place I believe can be likened to the ecosystem of an ancient forest. There are layers of wow at the upper most level, the canopy - the first massive factors seen that encompass all other 'wows'. Often enough there is the ultimate 'wow' which arises from the canopy like an emergent tree, seen furthermost and by most eyes, and blows all other 'wows' out of the water. Below in the sub-canopy, a mixture of smaller but still powerful 'wows' form the majority of the ecosystem and fill in all gaps surrounding the more thought of 'wows' above. Moving further down and the understory is full of 'wows' that mean many things to different people. This layer fights continuously to emerge above the layer above but often remains stationary here. Only those that explore deep into the forest witness these 'wows', and in some cases, these 'wows' become the rarest and most beautiful as they strive for attention. Not all eyes ever see these 'wows'. Resting at the bottom and in some regards forming the foundations of the forest profile are the shrub and litter layers, small and numerous in numbers, the 'wows' are so varied and delicate too. Most enthusiasts would consider these the most wondrous 'wows' of all. All of the above feature and work efficiently to create the great ecosystem of the forest.

New York incites such emotion, for it is riddled with 'wow' in many varying levels and hidden layers. Through my life, this was one place that had always captivated my attention. I knew deep down long before setting out on travels here, that NYC would live up to everything it was meant to be. If the 'wows' of a setting can be likened to an ancient forest, then NYC would undoubtedly be one of the greatest and grandest groves that there will ever be.

The first magnificent 'wow' of NYC, for my mind, is the skyline. From below it rises high into the clouds, sheer old precipices in glorious sculptured detail intermixed with modern wonders. It makes you feel so small in the world, like a miniature figurine in a fantastical world. From above, the sheer enormity is realized. It rises and declines in the foreground and stretches long into the distance. There's two layers here - the upper and lower skyline. The lower filled with high-rises that, in any other city would form the peaks, sprawl in in sections throughout the city and in amongst their bigger brothers. The upper skyline comes into it's element around Mid Manhattan and more prominently Lower Manhattan. NYC's forefathers never fathomed the city would reach beyond the borders of Lower Manhattan - little did they know! 

Emerging from this impressive canopy are New York icons, undoubtedly the next if not highest equal 'wow' in this forest. All of the world's greatest cities have several of these, and NYC is no exception. The Rockefeller Center is full of majestic grace. It not only encompasses a host of companies and products in it's collection of 19 buildings, but it provides one of the most impressive views of the city. With shorter queues and shorter numbers owing to timed visitation, the top of the rock provides the best viewing experience. We arrived here prior to dusk and watched in wonderment as the sun set. Despite the cloud filled sky, the scene was no less gratifying. In fact the clouds created a mystic element to the experience. We stayed here long into nightfall where we could see in all it's crowning lit-up glory, the next icon of the city, (if not the greatest), the Empire State Building. With the city surrounding and expanding into the horizon on all sides, and the climatic environment in the skies above, this is the best view of the great iconic feature. When we finally got up on top of the Empire State Building on another late afternoon, the view was no less impressive. Again the enormity of the city was seen here. If you don't mind lines or can somehow avoid the crowds, then this is undoubtedly a must see, if anything to tick off as done. To our minds though, the Top of the Rock view was unequaled.

From these viewpoints and of course from the waterfronts, another great icon looms. The Statue of Liberty. We bought a package which included many of these icons. A package which we thought would help us get through lines quicker. This is so not the case as of course, every other tourist has the same idea, thus while trying to avoid lines, everyone ends up being in them! Never-the-less, catching the cruise out from Battery Park, to and around Liberty Island is definitely worthwhile. As the statue rose in stature upon approaching it, you couldn't help be feel impressed. The message is clear..liberty, something of a desired need throughout the world. Miss Liberty was high and mighty but we had earlier decided not to get off here, as you have assert priorities in this city of much wonder. Passing the island onto Ellis Island we did disembark here, another one of NYC's famed icons. Ellis Island was the processing point for much of the country's early immigration from Europe and abroad. There's some wonderful history here, and some harrying truths behind the trials and tribulations of those seeking the free world. Again we chose not to explore the island too much as this takes some time.

Equal in rank among the other world-known icons, Central Park is a paradise of comforts. This is one place you can never comprehend the size of until you're immersed within it. One feels the admiration for the forefathers who dedicated this space to the public and resisted all temptations to build over it throughout the years. Undoubtedly this is one of the great city parks of the world. Filled with vegetation, interwinding paths, lakes and ponds, small greens and large expanses of open grassy fields all bordered by the watchful eyes of the high-rises surrounding it. Walking through this space the few times we did, both Kathleen and I agreed this is one place where more time could have been spent, whether that was enjoying the leisure lifestyle here or simply relaxing within it's arms. The park has attributes for everybody. At 7am one morning I stumbled upon a running competition. On other times I encountered many dogs and their owners frolicking about. On another occasion a festival was being set up, and many artists adorned the central paths selling their romantic wares. Horse drawn carriages wander by as Frisbees and an array of balls get flung about in the open areas. On the waterways, people in boats silently glide by soaking up the relaxing rays filtering in and through trees. The zoo is here, along with the ice-skating rink - which now being summer, is filled with a small carnival. And that was just the middle to lower half of this great park we ventured into!

Leaving the natural elements behind, and the architecture of the city impresses. The detail and artwork at the foot of, surrounding, and inside many buildings is a sight to behold. One of the great things about NYC is that it's an old city that has left it's old buildings largely untouched. Many buildings have withstood the test of time, whether it be from luck, a lack of great disasters or a simple pride held within it's people to treasure the sights that have helped make this the great city so.
Winding alongside and past Central Park, through Times Square and on down to Lower Manhattan one of the longest streets in the world, Broadway, showcases some of the greatest talent in the world. Some would say this is NYC's best feature, and those who oppose would have a firm debate on their hands. You can be certain that any show on Broadway, no matter what it is, will be prized entertainment. No doubt this was always one of Kathleen and mine's top picks on the agenda. If we had been a bit more on the ball we could have made it to the new hit Book of Mormon which is taking the industry by storm. All good though - we settled for another show of mastery instead - Wicked, which I can only recommend with the highest of praise. Coming out of the show and on a buzz, we decided, why not see another that night..enter Jersey Boys, which in my mind was just as brilliant. I could certainly get used to seeing NYC's shows on a constant basis. The lifestyle here makes it easy with the TKTS booths in the action-packed Times Square selling cheap daily tickets to almost all shows available. Even the shows off-Broadway provide eons of entertainment.

Yip, without a doubt, NYC has the wow factor - enough in fact to draw in the attention of much of the modern world. Of course there are elements of this city which are more 'humph' than 'wow', similar elements that feature in all cities, particularly one this size, but even upon seeing these, my awe was never questioned. I came in fascinated and will leave amazed. Isn't it great when destinations end up being far more than envisaged.

One thing is clear on my mind as I accept we'll not be able to see every great thing this city has to offer on this trip (if that's even possible in a lifetime), and that is I'll be sure to return. I have seen the impressive canopy and sub-canopy of NYC. Before I leave this experience though, it is time to appreciate all the undergrowth of this magnificent metal forest.

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Simon on

Awesome commentary Brent - it reminded me so much of what Renee and me done - and you are so right - you have to go travels and keep up the blog - you are an awesome writer mate!

fafeita on

Cheers Simon, great place huh. All the best to you guys too, B

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