Year four of the teacher expeditions have come to a close and New York was the icing on the travel-bug cake. The city that never sleeps most certainly kept me awake for two weeks, my motto, “I can sleep when I’m dead”. I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could while in New York and I did everything in my power to do just that. There were honestly times that I thought I might be a zombie, but it was so worth every minute of lost zzzzz’s.
I have contemplated the most memorable experiences in New York and I have come up with two particular experiences that really touched me beyond all others. The first, was the magnificence and life that is the Brooklyn Bridge. I have to say that I did enjoy the McCullough book more than any of the others, but I honestly thought that he was a bit dramatic in his description of an object, not a person, but a man-made object. It wasn’t until I stepped out onto the bridge that first night in Brooklyn that I truly understood what McCullough described.
The Brooklyn Bridge is truly alive, with a spirit that you can sense as you stroll the boardwalk. On our tour, we were told that you can actually hear it hum early in the morning when activity is limited, much like a harp. As I watched the bridge from my hotel room, it reminded me of a major vein or artery, feeding life into Brooklyn and providing Manhattan with the most beautiful skyline imaginable.
The New York Tenement Museum was an invaluable experience for me. It gave me a frame of reference, space. For a number of years now I have lectured on the unsanitary and cramped conditions of the tenements, but until this trip to New York, I never fully understood the true meaning of that foul space that so many Americans called “home”. The tenements today don’t smell of sewage and garbage as they once did, that aspect of the experience is left to the imagination, but nearly everything else about tenement living comes to life in the Tenement Museum, including the ventilation shafts that were once filled with garbage and waste. The windows of these shafts opened right into the one and only bedroom, where children were born, families kept warm on cold winter nights, and where everyone probably gagged from the stench on hot summer days. The Tenement Museum left little for the imagination, including the bugs and for me, it was just what I was looking for, in your face historical reality!
Four summers of memories, snapshots, lessons and lectures, have provided this history teacher with an education that a classroom just cannot provide. It has been the most influential experience of my life and I cannot express enough my gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities. Thank you to Matt, Jonathan, and Scott for all of your dedication and hard work that made these expeditions possible. Your hard work has changed Southern Colorado for the better. Signing off on this final formal blog post is heartbreaking, but please know that I am a better teacher and now, a true historian.