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John Lamb, Published October 02 2012

Lamb: I love New York - in moderation

It only took a few hours in the city to remind me why “I ¤ New York” is still such a hit, 35 years after its inception. (I’m talking strictly about the iconic tourism logo, not the brash, overbearing reality show character. She’s awful.)

As trendy as New Yorkers are, there are few, if any, American cities more traditional or aware of their own history and sense of place. I’d been in New York only once before, 12 years ago, and soon realized why New Yorkers love to point out one of its many nicknames – The Center of the Universe.

Indeed, there is so much to love in New York. Give it a few days and you’ll get your fill faster than a Fourth of July Coney Island hot dog eating contest.

Sure, there are the standard things, like seeing the Statue of Liberty. But instead of paying about $15 for a boat tour, go on the Staten Island Ferry for free and have a 16 oz. Budweiser tall boy for $3.50 to really make your heart (and maybe your bladder) swell. For that matter, walk the Brooklyn Bridge for free to get a great vantage point of Gotham – just be careful not to bump into the shutterbug tourists in front of you or get run over by the speeding cyclists behind you.

The Big Apple can take a big bite out of your wallet, so some of the little things gave me a big kick. Like finding 10 postcards for a buck in Times Square after spending $150 for two tickets to a play. The play, “Grace,” wasn’t great, but we did get to see Paul Rudd (“I Love You Man,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”) in boxers commit a triple murder – twice. So yeah, I got my money’s worth.

Watching is a popular pastime in New York, but the city really invites you to take an active role. The first day there I asked a street vendor how much for a pair of Ray Ban knock-offs. He said $10. I thought that was fair, but as I reached for my money, my friend/guide Scott Wolf (no, not the “Party of Five” actor, but rather the former bartender at Ralph’s in Moorhead) countered with $5. The vendor shook his head, Scott offered $6, the sunglasses salesmen said $7 and we had a deal.

Sometimes paying full price is fine. My uncle insisted that the $25 admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was only a “suggested donation,” but I’d pay twice that to see one of the world’s greatest art and artifacts collections and to actually see the marks and strokes and signatures of the masters.

There are some things I can’t bring myself to love in New York, namely the Yankees. I always cheer for the opposition, but when sitting in left field and surrounded by Japanese fans, it’s hard not to pull for Ichiro Suzuki. It also helps if he goes 4 for 4 with four stolen bases.

Similarly, I joined die-hard Yankees fans in a favorite pastime – booing Alex Rodriguez after striking out three times and stranding five runners. Casa de Steinbrenner turned into the House that Boos Built.

Three outfield seats: $240. Hot dog and a beer: $12. Booing A-Roid: priceless.

New York can take a toll not only on your bank account, but also your vocal chords, your feet and your stamina. You really feel the City that Never Sleeps when you stumble back to your friend’s couch after the bar closes at 4 a.m. only to get a few hours of sleep before someone starts honking and you scramble to arrange for a ride to the airport.

No sleep ’til Brooklyn? I’ll rest (and save) up for another visit. For now I’m happy to be back in my sleepy hometown.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533