One year ago, I was taking my very first steps in New York City, on 81st Street in the Upper West Side. I had finally arrived in the greatest city in the world.

Like any small town raised American, I had so many preconceived notions about New York. After learning that Southern California really isn’t the bleak world-gone-to-hell that I was led to believe it was, I was fully prepared to accept that New York City wasn’t such a bad place either.

A quick stroll across Central Park was all I needed to know that everything I had ever heard or seen about New York and every instance of the city as negatively portrayed by television and Hollywood was wrong. Dead wrong.

Everyone, right down to the fellow passengers on the subways, was friendly and cordial. I suppose it might have had something to do with the timing of our trip, only two months had passed since 9/11 and there were several indications that parts of the city were still in shock.

There was an obvious stark contrast between Ground Zero and anywhere else in the city. It seemed like the closer we walked to the disaster, the darker and colder it was. Not very many people weren’t talking and those that were only did so in hushed tones. It was a scene I shall never forget.

We had such a wonderful time going to the Met, Times Square, Statue of Liberty and the top of the Empire State Building. We had hot dogs in the Park and dessert at the Trump Plaza. We caught the performance of Les Miserable after standing in line at TIX for cheap seats.

I can not wait to go back. I can not wait to discover more of New York City and spend more time away from the A-List icons, instead visiting the pockets of eclectic and regional culture that have anchored permanent locations in the middle of it all.

My one short piece of advice on visiting New York is this: never go into a diner (the kind that has been serving the same menu 24/7 since 1927) and try to order an egg-white omelet with fresh asparagus tips. It will only make you look stupid and really, really out of place.