Seems fitting somehow that the last time I posted was in New York. Like everyone else, the last two days I've been able to think of little else. Like everyone else, I loved New York. I reveled in the cliche of being enchanted with the city. I made little mental tick marks on the list in my head of New York experiences that I just happened upon. Ride in a yellow cab. Tick. Come around a corner and see the sunlight glinting off the top of the Chrysler building. Tick. Subway trip. Tick tick tick.
The thing about New York is that even if you've never been there, you can't help but feel like you already know it, a little. An ersatz version, surely, but the city figures as a central character in so many books, movies, and tv shows, that we all have a shared experience of the city - even those of us who have never been there. It feels familiar, the landmarks comforting.
|A little souvenir of New York I brought home for The Imp|
I loved sitting in Bryant Park people watching. I loved walking around Chelsea and the Garment District, Soho, the Village. I loved observing the private moments that happen in public in a city that large - like the woman in midtown changing out of her sensible flats into killer heels on the sidewalk just before squaring her shoulders and stepping through the doors of her office tower, or the business man shrinking away from the vocal shoe shine guy calling him out loudly on the state of his footwear. "No corner office for you!"
I loved it when I finally figured out that what I thought were raindrops beginning to fall were actually dripping air conditioners in windows above me as I walked through the August heat. I loved the casual disregard New Yorkers had for traffic signals. The only people waiting at lights to cross are tourists. After a couple of days, I too sauntered across the street in the face of oncoming traffic just as blase as the next guy, secretly thrilled with the notion that a fellow tourist might mistake me for a New Yorker.
I am an urban traveler. I love getting lost in crowds, I love the encounters with the unexpected. I love the energy; it feeds me. Camping or a cruise would be my worst nightmare. Getting lost in New York? Perfect.
Which is good, since I got lost a lot.
We wandered around, my traveling companions and I. We emerged, blinking, into the sunlight from the subway tunnels and I managed to pick the wrong direction every. single. time. Gwen and Sandi were ridiculously good sports about all the doubling back we had to do. I'm not sure why they kept following me after the 17th or 18th time I went confidently off in the entirely wrong direction, but we stumbled on a couple of great little restaurants that way, so I think they've mostly forgiven me.
Theory: once you've gotten a taste of New York, you get home and start saving money to go back. I know I am.
I don't have anything to add to the common discourse about the devastation in New York. It's not possible to look at photos of destruction and loss and feel nothing. I can't pretend to know the city; I only spent a week wandering its neighbourhoods.
It just feels closer than it once did, is all.
The thing about social media in general, and twitter in particular, is that it vaporizes distance. Geography becomes merely a descriptor when I can chat in real time with a woman hunkered down in her apartment in midtown Manhattan in the middle of the worst storm to hit New York in living memory. I was worried about her situation as I saw more and more shocking photos flitting by in my twitter stream. She was concerned about me as she saw news of earthquakes in British Columbia fly by in hers.
I can't get this song out of my head.
"We are calling for help tonight on a thin phone line-----
As usual we're having ourselves one hell of a time
And the planes keep flying over our heads
No matter how loud we shout
Hey, hey, hey, hey
And we keep waving and waving our arms in the air but we're all tired out
I heard somebody say today's the day
Big old hurricane she's blowing our way
Knocking over the buildings
Killing all the lights
Open your eyes boy, we made it through the night"
Being on twitter, the night of the storm, felt like we were all sitting together in the dark holding hands.