Bastiat, Beautiful Scenery, and the Big Apple

I recently returned from a work-related trip in the states of New York and New Jersey. Being the sheltered Orange County, CA kid I am, I had never been to New York before and was excited to plan this trip. Lucky for me, my job allowed me to embark on this quest to find and seek out conservative activists at New York  and New Jersey campuses.

Over the course of four days, I saw many things and met many interesting folks.

En route to JFK, I sat next to a Czech man also from Alexandria, VA. He was making a connecting flight at JFK to get to Prague, Czech Republic. The elderly gentleman, Pete, noticed my Bastiat book and then proceeded to talk about how great his work was. Pete said how much he valued his [Bastiat's] contributions to society and also valued those of other notable economists from the Austrian School. Pete recounted how he and his wife (who hails from Germany) came to this country in 1976. Pete quipped, “I born under Hitler and raised under Stalin.” At that moment, I knew then and there that I had an ally in him. He reminded me of my paternal and maternal grandfathers in many ways. Like him, both of my grandfathers – especially my late Grandpa Misha  – wore baseball caps, large vests, and traveled lightly. He also boasted this kind demeanor commonly found in immigrants from the former USSR, particularly the ones who saw what a nightmare Communism was in the Old Country. You know when you meet a stranger for the first time and instantly hit it off with them? This is exactly the feeling I got when I talked with Pete. Like my parents, he understands the dangers of universal healthcare, the failure of forced “equality”, class warfare rhetoric, and other radical positions this sitting president touts on a daily basis. It is always heartwarming to meet people who come from a similar background. Although I was fortunate to be born in the United States, I recognize Pete’s and my parent’s concerns about this administration embracing socialism and Marxism. I befriended Pete and plan to keep in touch with him.

Gabby Conquers NYC? Sort Of…

Once I hitched a cab to my hotel, I laid eyes on the terrible traffic that is commonplace there. What made it worse was the fact that the Messiah himself, President Obama, was in town for yet another fundraiser with his celebrity surrogates. How lovely. Those of us who hail from Southern California are familiar with traffic, and my adopted home – Washington, D.C. – was recently named the city with the worst drivers in America. New York traffic couldn’t be that unbearable, I thought. Alas, I was greatly mistaken.

Aside from the traffic, I enjoyed navigating the subway system. It boasts many similarities to the WMATA, our beloved metro system here in the  D.C. metro area , but had far more stops and is more subterranean than it. I had to get from Queens, NY to Manhattan to meet with students at the King’s College, so the subway helped out.

Kings College is set in the heart of Wall Street and the Financial District in NYC. The skyscrapers surrounding it tower high above the streets, and are worth marveling. (Yes, I did see Occupy activists in and around Wall Street.)

And the New York Stock Exchange:

Of course, no trip to New York City is complete without a stop to Times Square. Despite the rain that night, I enjoyed being immersed in the popular hotspot. Our gracious tour guides – some new friends from King’s College – gave me and Brandon, one of my field reps, a great but quick tour of the area. I was the only one in the group playing tourist, but that wasn’t an issue. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the greatness that is NYC?

Following my visit to King’s College, I went to NYU and Princeton University.

Here’s a shot of Princeton, a campus I found to be beautiful with its High Victorian Gothic style. (If you were wondering, YES – conservatives exist at Princeton and most Ivy League schools. Sad thing is, many are closeted and afraid to publicly express their views.)

After spending several days in NYC, I went to upstate NY to meet with more students. I came across this thing before leaving the city. Apparently, unions display these rather disgusting, ugly-looking inflatable rats as a form of protest when they don’t get their way…

FACT: Upstate New York is gorgeous.

I’ve lived in suburbia my entire life, whether it be in Laguna Niguel, Coto de Caza, or La Jolla in California but have grown to accept and enjoy living close to a major city. Nevertheless, I’ve always been one for the outdoors since I enjoy fishing, camping, and hiking in my free time. That being said, upstate New York was anything but boring and uninteresting. The foliage, rivers, lush green pastures, and countless farms are great fixtures in the region. It reminded me of Lithuania, my ancestral homeland, with its crisp fresh air and nature. Here is a breathtaking sunset near Ithaca, NY.

One odd thing that I noticed was cemeteries located near every land-grant (public) university. Whether Syracuse, Ithaca, Cortland, or Buffalo, cemeteries are a commonplace in upstate New York. Beats me, but here’s more information about them.

One place we stumbled upon was this diner near Geneseo, NY:

It was NASCAR-themed and had a country flair to it. The food was also delicious. Here’s another view from the inside.

My other field rep, Simeon – who also graduated from UCSD this June – and I visited and met with students from Syracuse U, Cornell U, SUNY Geneseo, and SUNY Buffalo. I absolutely loved Cornell’s surroundings with its gorges, forests, wild deer, the Finger Lakes, and old architecture. SUNY Buffalo was our largest meeting with over 30 students in attendance. Each university was unique, and the students were equally passionate and dedicated to the cause. I can say that there is true, genuine hope in New York. Young conservative activists just need to be identified and equipped with the right tools to counter liberal bias on campus.

As I was heading back to D.C., I realized I was riding the same plane with Al Sharpton (think race-baiter, serial hypocrite) and Doug Schoen, Democrat and Fox News contributor. Talk about an interesting experience…

My takeaway from the trip? New York lives up to its reputation as an impressionable and exciting place. Los Angeles and San Diego pale in comparison to NYC with respect to size. Upstate New York reminded me of several places in Southern California, with its small towns, forests, and mountains – minus being a desert. While New York is a blue state, I learned to appreciate it and value the experience by not allowing politics to entirely get in the way of my trip. I’ll be going again in October to help students counter U.N. Day.

Next stop: Boston and Southern New England!

Update: I will resume blogging in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got some wonderful writing opportunities that I will .

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