10 April 2007

I like New York

In the last year, I've had a love affair with New York. I've ridden more subways than I thought possible (including adding a 'commute' to my daily routine.) I've gone to exhibits, concerts, performances, shows, fairs and festivals.... some of which were fabulous, and some were... bizarre at best. I've haggled with street vendors, fought the crowds in Times Square post-theater, given directions to Rockefeller Plaza, the Empire State Building, Macy's, Central Park, Lincoln Center, the Met, Guggenheim, Natural History Museum, and Lincoln Center. I've shopped at Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Sacks Fifth Ave, Madison Avenue, SoHo, Union Square and all places in between. I've been to the Cloisters, the East Side, West Side, China Town, Little Italy, Meatpacking district, Tribeca and Flatiron. I've eaten Thai, Lebanese, Italian, American, French, Greek, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and just about every "fusion" cuisine available.

Today I was walking down the street and I realized... I don't know if I love New York any more. I think I have downgraded it to an "I like New York" kind of day.

People say that New Yorkers are snobbish, distant and aloof. But I don't necessarily think that - in general - this is true. My theory is (actually, it's more of a hope), is that there are mostly cool people in New York.... we're just all so focused on where we need to go that we simply don't take the time to stop and look around at where we are. And I think I miss taking that time. I mean, if anyone in New York (besides a tourist) were to simply stop in the middle of the street, and just look around... people would think they were nuts. Actually, I take that back... they wouldn't give a crap, unless you happened to stop in front of them.

But my point is, it's hard to be a 'real New Yorker' and just stop to smell the coffee... (unless you're in a Starbucks updating your Myspace page on a wireless internet connection or sunbathing in Central Park on a Saturday afternoon scoping out guys and trying to avoid tan lines.) When I walk down the street, I walk with purpose, and am not easily distracted... and this may very well come across as "aloof", but I think it's more of an emotional survival technique.

To be honest... I miss a place to get away from the noise... a place to let down my New York guard. I miss driving to a secluded place, sitting in the middle of an open space, looking up at the stars (we don't see many of those in NYC) and just listening to... nothing. I miss driving... the solitude and meditation of being in a vehicle that you know and love (my cars are always named Nellie Bell, thanks to my mom.) I miss diners where you know the waitress, and walking in a town you know well, and recognizing people well enough to say "hi" to them and stop to chat. I remember growing up and trips to the grocery store would always take an hour - even just for a loaf of bread - because you'd inevitably meet 3 or 4 people that you knew and would have to catch up.

Perhaps it struck me today that New York - for all its bustle and noise and people and crowd and energy - can be a very lonely place. Each person walking down the street is their own world... and cracking the shell into that world is nearly impossible. Even if you manage to catch someone's eye (rare, but possible), by the time you smile and nod... they're gone. You never know who you might meet in this city... you also never know who you're missing.

I don't know if it's my mood tonight, or if it's an observation that others' have made. But the distance between people in New York is off-putting for me today, and the press of the population is stifling.

Perhaps it's a nostalgia thing, and perhaps it's a sign of a slight burnout? Who knows... But maybe I'll just hail a cab and drive to Arizona... I'll just sit and look at the sky for a while. Want to come with me?

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