Marisa Takes on Manhattan

Senior Marisa Ruotolo Visits NYC

Photo by: Marisa Ruotolo
Marisa Ruotolo in Times Square.

During the weekend of February 1st through 3rd, Marisa Ruotolo explored the Big Apple. Her journey started by taking a bus from Richmond straight to Times Square. To make things even more interesting, she bravely ventured into the great New York City alone.

When she arrived in New York City at 6 am, not much was open, so she waited in a nearby Starbucks for stores to open and later explored the city until 9 am. As she made her way through town and down to the subway station, friendly passengers helped her to find her way to Greenwich. Once in Greenwich, she visited the Stonewall Inn, a historic LGBT landmark, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, an Andy Warhol museum. About the museum, Ruotolo shares, “I loved all of the different elements inside: photography, statues, painting, and so much more. Andy Warhol is a really talented guy.” Something that surprised Ruotolo while in Greenwich was “compared to the big city like Times Square, it was very calm and much quieter.”

Later in the day, Ruotolo traveled down to Memorial Park, where the New York City AIDS Memorial stood in a triangular shaped park, between the intersection of two streets. Not to be confused with Central Park, the memorial seeks to recognize those who have died of AIDS. After paying her respects at the park, she continued on her way to the Washington Square Arch. During her short time at the Arch, she saw many school students break-dancing in the middle of the square.

The following day, she walked around the quaint area of Union Square. Since the L-Train was shut down, she took the scenic route and walked to Grand Central Station. Times Square was the next stop of her day. There, she went to the Line Friends store and bought souvenirs for all her friends. Afterwards, she connected with John Lennon by walking around Strawberry Fields, while listening to performers that sang Imagine by Lennon.

The first day was much scarier than the second. Ruotolo explains that she didn’t know what to expect: “I had a lot of time to think about myself and the next move I was going to make since I didn’t have anyone else to talk to.” While walking through the streets of the city, she relished in the moment with herself, which made it very personal and was a memory that she will always have for herself. Ruotolo shares, “This trip was all about me, and in society, we aren’t allowed to be selfish, but rather selfless. Here, it was all about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to see.”

Something Ruotolo got to experience while in New York that was completely different from Midlothian’s culture was the expressiveness of the locals. “You can shout out into a crowd, and no one would know it was you. I loved the amenity of it.” She was able to observe more things objectively, noticing couples and very few American tourists. “Just sitting in the park, I could watch how others interacted with one another. When you’re with others, your main focus is them, so you aren’t able to see all of that.” While there, Ruotolo allowed herself to exist quietly, relishing in the ability to rest as an outsider gazing into New York’s expansive culture.

Although the trip was an amazing experience, she had doubts about taking on such a bold trip. As soon as she stepped off the last bus stop into New York City, she thought about taking the next bus back to Midlothian. “This trip itself wasn’t impulsive, and as I planned it out, it wasn’t as big as of a surprise,” she explained. “Me changing my mind about staying in NYC was the impulsive part. All of the signs were on, and people were walking down the street, even though it was only 6 am. Going alone and knowing I could only rely on myself was a little scary, but also self-empowering. The times before when I went with my family, I had my mom telling us where we were going next and when, but this time, it was everything I wanted to do.”

Relying on herself was also for protection, since she was alone, she didn’t have a group of people to protect her from the real world. As the day drew closer to an end, Marisa made her way to the bus station to head back to Midlothian. Her trip to Manhattan gave her a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, while teaching her lessons that she couldn’t have learned if she wasn’t on her own. New York was a big place to start, but Marisa hopes to continue to make decisions for herself and maybe explore the rest of the world one day.