"What is New York City like?" I asked. My guidance counselor put his hands behind his head with elbows spread wide, leaned back, and with great deliberateness and the authority of a worldly, street smart and experienced man, answered, "Have you heard of the concrete jungle, kid? Because that's what it's like. Between 23rd Street and 59th Street. It's a jungle. A concrete jungle."
With that and some college catalogs, I was supposed to make an informed decision about the merits of attending university in New York City, a decision that would shape my entire life.
I am not sure if his depiction of midtown Manhattan was intended as a deterrent, a strong warning, or just meant to impress me with his knowledge of this city, but we all know that if you tell a child not to do something, he/she will just be spurred on to do it. I was.
At 18, a jungle is just what I wanted. After all, I had read numerous African adventure books and even took out a book in Swahili in high school, in the event that I found myself in equatorial Africa. If I couldn't have vines, monkeys in trees, and tropical birds, then concrete would do fine. And, like the jungle, New York City would be an adventure. That is what I wanted most.
A jungle is a great, even if overused, metaphor for New York City. It has a density of growth and, at times and places, can appear nearly impenetrable. Scary to some, and exciting to those who like a sense of adventure and the unexpected.
If you want to truly enjoy NYC, then treat it like a jungle. Just walk with your eyes open. Don't be afraid to interact with strangers, and you will meet some incredible people. There are many treasure maps, both online and offline, to New York City. Use them, of course, but also cut a swath and blaze your own paths. Enjoy the adventure. Happy New Year, jungle lovers :)