You must be wondering: Where is she going with this? This time it is my argument that may wander while I recount to you a trip my feet actually made!
Earlier this month I was back in New York City for a couple of days. I say “back” in The City because I used to live in Brooklyn Heights and commuted into Manhattan, to Midtown, to work. I have not been back only once since 9/11. When I lived there, my backyard was the (Brooklyn) Promenade and my view the skyline of lower Manhattan. It is still painful to reflect that the towers are gone and how the world has changed since that fateful day.
So on this trip, just a two-night stopover on the way to Westchester for a wedding, I stayed in Midtown. And I walked and walked and walked.
The weather was fine fall weather, not too cool yet sunny. From my hotel on 29th and Ave of the Americas I walked to 10th Ave and up the stairs to the High Line, a linear park that follows a forgotten rail line from Midtown down to the meat packing district, now known as the Meat Packing District (yes, the name is now capitalized!). A beautiful walk, winding among the buildings, among lots of new apartment buildings rising, both modern and metro, where previously there might have been questionable neighborhoods or even slums. There are trees and birds, too. For a person who loves the outdoors and nature, it was an oasis in the hubbub of a crazy city.
But, you know, it is the crazy city I craved to be a part of while I was here. I love the energy of New York. It is so infectious! You’re walking down the street, and slowly you pick up your pace, your chin comes up, your eyes light up, a smile begins to dance across your face. This is New York; one of the greatest cities in the world. Here I am…just one more person…but part of a mass of humanity. The energy of the mass fuses with mine, together bigger and better than the mere sum of the parts. I feel a kinship with all the people around me; a sense of we’re here, now, in this together … and isn’t it grand! I have dubbed this “personal space travel.” (You have to read it as personal space travel, not personal space travel.) You’re moving around but enclosed in your own personal space.
New York isn’t the only place that makes me feel that way. In fact, most crowds do. Even more recently I was in Lambeau Stadium (Yes! The Mecca of Wisconsin!) with 78,000 other people. That felt amazing. Of course, I do share something very basic with the majority of the people there (Hint: The love of a team that wears green and gold, though they weren’t on that day…)
So, are loving being part of a crowd and being an introvert incompatible? Not for me. In the crowd, I am anonymous and invisible as an individual. I am a part of something bigger, the crowd. The crowd is what others notice, not the individuals. I am in my personal space, my own little world, despite the throngs around me.
That invisibility is what permitted my tears to go unnoticed at the new World Trade Center and the memorial to the victims of 9/11. I did cry. How can you not cry at the tragic loss of so many innocent lives? Their names are there. You can read them. You will be struck, as I was, at the global origins of those names. Were they all US citizens? Probably not, but you would not know by the names. With a proud history of assimilating others from around the world, US citizens can trace family origins to the four corners of the globe. Isn’t that a huge strength for our country? It got me to thinking that the terrorists did not achieve their goals when they struck us. They did not cripple us and they did not isolate us from the world. Because we are from all over the world, the world mourned with us. (I was on my Euro-Year Trip when 9/11 happened and we Americans received condolences from individual people even in St. Petersburg, as well as in Scandinavia and other countries of Europe.)
Snapping back to reality…from the High Line, I walked south through the Hudson River Park to the 9/11 Memorial. (I did not visit the museum as the line was incredibly long. I suggest buying tickets in advance online.) The Memorial is very somber and sobering. Despite all the people taking selfies, it is not easy to take a picture of it, nor am I sure it inspires a desire to stand in front of it for a tourist snap. It is extremely contemplative; the sound of the water is calming, the rainbows it creates are hopeful. It is a place to think. Rather morose, the water flowing into the hole in the middle makes me think of the life flowing away…
Friday afternoon, I visited the Met Breuer to see “Diane Arbus: In the Beginning,” a rather disturbing and perplexing exhibit of early photos. The curator hung the show in such a way that there was no logical progression through it, neither thematically, nor chronologically. That was done on purpose, but it felt a little aimless. Was that the point? That Diane Arbus’s early work was a little aimless? Perhaps. I might have done it differently; I saw the show as being about “What is a real person?” The images are of people – but you will find images of people on the TV, in sideshows and carnivals, children with guns, a dying woman in bed, people caught in a moment, transvestites and immigrants … What is it that makes a person “real”?
Saturday morning, my feet took me to Times Square. Now here’s a place I LOVE at night…in the daytime (and it was overcast and kind of dreary) it reveals itself to be sensory overload minus soul. Somehow the flashing colors and confusion at night is beautiful and exciting, but without the lights against the night, it was soulless, maybe even a bit ugly. No good pictures here either …way to big.
There was some sort of street fair being set up so at least I was not dodging cars and waiting for traffic lights.
In summary, I was left with a desire to visit more often and for just one more night…By the third day, I was beginning to focus more on the litter and dirt and less on the fun and energy. A little extra time though would mean more night photo ops, especially in Times Square, and maybe a show. I loved my hotel (Kimpton Hotel Eventi) and especially my view of the iconic Empire State Building. It was a lovely urban sojourn and I plan to go back soon.