Ryan Chartrand

They say that New York is the city that never sleeps. Believe me, it doesn’t. Within its neon-lit streets – jumping with speeding taxis and fat, fluffy squirrels – is a constant adventure waiting to be had.

Compared to good old San Luis Obispo, which shuts down at the ripe hour of about 6 p.m., New York is like the Energizer Bunny on crack. Not only are the bars, clubs and restaurants open practically 24 hours a day, but even the people of New York seem to be zooming around in fast forward.

When I left my position as Spotlight editor of the Mustang Daily to spend a semester in the Big Apple, I was quite the California girl: friendly, pro-health food, an avid beach lover and relatively laid back (except on deadline, of course).

But after more than seven weeks of living in the city, I’ve changed. Most of the change has been good. I’ve become more independent and street savvy. Now I can read a map correctly. And, most importantly, I’ve learned how to deflect pathetic pickup lines and catcalls from local construction workers and homeless men with expert speed.

However, as I continue to assimilate myself into the New York culture, I’m reminded more and more of a routine I once saw comedian Henry Rollins perform in Big Sur.

In the routine, Mr. Rollins explains the phenomenon known as the East Coaster:

“You know how East Coast people are; we think too much, we talk too much, we talk too quickly, we drink way too much coffee and we’re far too opinionated for our own good.

“Walk the streets of . Manhattan and you’ll see people carrying 90-ounce bongo cups of coffee, which they just inhale through straws, and they’re either on their cell phones or screaming at the person next to them .”

What Rollins is trying to say – regardless of what it may reveal about his, or my, personality – is that everyone has to be a little crazy to live in New York. But since moving here, I’ve come to learn that crazy isn’t all that bad. In New York’s defense, it’s the “crazy” part of this city that makes it unique. My friends and I have affectionately christened the crazy things we’ve seen as our “only in New York” moments.

At the top of this list:

No 1. Sneaking onto the set of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” then almost getting kicked out; and then meeting Mariska Hargitay (a.k.a. Detective Olivia Benson), and getting my picture taken with her.

No 2. Meeting “Kitty Hiccups” (the Queen of drag queens who frequents a local pub in the Flatiron District).

And, my personal favorite:

No 3. Watching an elderly Indian man dressed in a white tunic ride his child-sized Care Bears tricycle down Fifth Avenue in the middle of a downpour.

However, not all of my “New York Moments” have been happy and fun. Last week, just one month after the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, a small plane crashed into an apartment complex on the Upper East Side. The crash was later reported as an accident, which sadly ended the lives of Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, but there was a strong sense of apprehension and uncertainty in the city that day.

The plane crash reminded me how much our country’s political and social policies have changed in the past five years. But it also made me realize how New York sits at the center of this fluctuating climate, a beacon of strength and hope.

From the moment I got here, I’ve been in silent awe of New York’s bravery. I’ve already heard multiple personal accounts of the horrors witnessed on Sept. 11, but I’ve also seen how the people in this city don’t let what happened changed who they are.

Whether it’s on the Hunter College campus or in a Broadway theater, New Yorkers continue to live their lives with passion and character. It is true that the security in the streets and on the subway has become noticeably stricter. And it is true that people take a moment’s pause while drinking their giant coffees to watch an airplane flying low over the city.

But it’s also true that New York and its people set a good example for the rest of the country when it comes to dealing with terrorism in today’s world. New Yorkers are constantly aware of their surroundings, and they’re constantly asking questions of our government and society.

New York may not be the most relaxed city in the world, or even the most beautiful, but it does have quite a few things going for it: it’s smart, it’s switched on and it’s alive.

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