As I stepped off the bus I felt the familiar warmth of the NYC summer air radiating off of the pavement below my feet. I had been warned of the heat wave which kept the city at a steady 90 degrees for the past week. Somehow, lucky for everyone, I seemed to have brought the cooler weather with me from my Canadian home. Despite the lower temperature, New York still had it’s usual after sunset heat that gets trapped by the overwhelming architecture, lack of trees, black pavement, constant traffic, and 24/7 never ending people. And although these things may seem distasteful to some they are just the reason why NYC is magical.
It’s 10pm and the bus has arrived an hour late…but in the city that never sleeps, it hardly matters. We get dropped off at 30th and 7th. A throng of people waiting for their bags to be offloaded, intermixed with loved ones and friends who have come to pick them up. Since my guitar has been stashed below, I make sure to keep a hawk eye on it’s removal from the ‘cabin’. It’s already endured enough I’m sure with the 12 hour bus ride and x-ray examination at the border. I am very happy when the nice passenger who decided to help the driver offload, gently pulls it out and passes it to me. Thank you for that, I’ve only heard to worst stories of instruments and travel.
Sixty pounds in hand and forty on my back, I start making my way to my cousins incredible (movie like) loft in SOHO. What a dream to once again return to NYC. I feel as though every time I arrive here, my cells suddenly turn into overdrive and they awaken with the pace of the city. NYC in case you have never been, or have been and would like to be reminded, is a beast of it’s own. It breaths, it moves, it stalks, it charges, and it certainly goes to battle on the regular. If you get still enough you can hear it’s heart beat. But as many of you probably know, being still in NYC is like trying to move quickly through molasses…you might as well invent a way to change time. But like I said this is one of the many reasons I love it.
I walk through the familiar streets of where I was born, and take it all in. I can’t help but notice that not much has changed. As far as cities go, the only way this one can expand is up and out. Unlike Toronto, where even our downtown has a ton of untapped space, comparatively speaking, NYC cannot change as fast.
I remember when I was living here I recognized the changes from when I was a kid, and certainly even more since my dad and his brothers roamed the streets as kids. But in the past two years, I recognized less change then when I would leave NYC on holidays and visit Toronto. Stores, condos, the waterfront, areas and more have been going up like wildfire in Toronto, and while I was in NYC I remember coming home to lots of unfamiliar building. I don’t mean to say NYC hasn’t changed, it does everyday, but mostly buildings have stayed the same, and most importantly it feels the same.
It’s funny reading or hearing about other peoples love hate relationships, because I have one with this town! I find the very things I love about it are also the things that make me crazy and wild. First of all I think it’s almost impossible to not rise to the chaotic occasion in which the city presents. It is alluring, visceral, and ultimately non escapable. It is pleasure and pain at the same time however, because as you get swept up you can very easily lose yourself, and get swallowed whole in the beautiful experience.
I find as I glide through town I feel alive. My senses have been fully awakened. I loose sight of the heavy load in my arms and sweat rolling down my back. I am quickly reminded of my oh too intimate kinship with the beast and a matching of heartbeats begins.
The first thing I notice is the people. They are everywhere, they are everything, and they are what make New York, New York. They don’t mind if you look at them, and heck they in return look at you. They go about their business in a focused determined manner, and yet become acutely and ever so perceptibly aware of your and everyone else’s presence.
I really hate when people don’t know how to move through crowds properly, something Torontonians have not yet figured out, it really hinders my flow!!! (lol). I tell ya when you’re in NYC you’re faced with two types of people….New Yorkers and tourists. There are many ways to spot the tourists, and that is to say that they patiently wait for every single light to change and the walk sign to say go, and they still haven’t figured out how to get out of the WAY!!!! Although I can play the New Yorker card in many ways, I still probably lie in the half swing between both tourist and NY native. I adopt many of the idiosyncrasies of the beast, but I still maintain my Canadianess, because really who wants to lose that?!
I really do love that NYC seems to have endless energy. I feel very close to it in this way and get all wrapped up in it. It quickly has me under it’s spell of exhilaration and fatigue wrapped up in a tight ball and wound beautifully with multicolored thread.
I see my old bank, where friends used to live, where I used to go to school, and then I make it through my favorite…Washington square park. Not only do I just adore this spot, but I have real ties in my family to this historical landmark. You can read all about my incredible grandma, Shirley Hayes, and how she ‘saved the square’. Like us all and especially reminiscent of NYC, she had her best and worst qualities on the same side of a weighted coin. But back to why I feel not only comfort and peace, but more deeply nostalgia and love for this little square. I mean I think it speaks for itself when you note my grandmas name is on the wikepedia page for Washington Square Park!!!!!!
As I near my destination now, I start tuning in to my inner world. My outer world, after 22 blocks of walking hand in hand with the beast, has already become overstimulated and at peace all in the same moment. I start to notice and remember how whenever I’m here I want to buy everything. Obviously it’s as I walk through the streets of SOHO, that these cravings become heightened. Everything behind the glass is basically screaming at me, or better yet singing the sweet melody of a siren, who lures sailors to their ultimate demise with the honey tones of her voice. The windows have clearly been made to entice even the most disgruntled onlooker, and thus have me under their spell. It’s a good thing at least the expensive stores close shop before the city does.
I become aware of my desire to get rid of things, shed my old clothes, and totally revamp my closet with these very displays, some of which I don’t even know if I ‘actually’ like. I think back to when I lived here. I must have become more immune to such taunting, as one not only builds up a thick skin for emotional protection, but also to ward off the consumer/capitalist/commercial nature of this cities parts. It’s a skin not only of repressed urges, but of necessity.
I start hoping to myself that the idea of reinvention, comes from a place of true desire for transformation and not just for want of new clothes. I start to imagine that maybe this city has a way of making one feel alive again, making them feel like change is around the corner, and anything’s possible. I remember over the christmas holidays, when I was here last I spent a couple hours in Times Square. An area I avoided like the plague when I lived here. I could not handle the massive quantity of tourists and people. But it was late at night and I now was a tourist myself. I decided to indulge in “…the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets.” (wikepedia) I stood there bathing in the glory of lights so strong it feels like daytime. I watched as people even in the middle of the night flocked to this landmark.
I took it all in. And then it hit me…this is no different…this is a hot bed, this is a place of concentrated energy. A place that for years has attracted people from all over the world, been the spot of major artistic creation, deadly crime and ultimately great activity. The only difference between somewhere like this and Chichen Itza (a ruin freshest in my mind from having visited Mexico the year before), is that Times Square doesn’t have the same amount of historical data collection, and commerciality. Although Chichen Itza has become highly commercialized by vendors selling their wares absolutely everywhere, and anybody and everybody trying to make whatever money they can off tourist activity, which is not dissimilar from Times Square, I still think the later of the two wins out in shear size of commercial extravagance. In the end however, I believe there is something in the earth of the these two places. A magnetism that quite literally draws people to it. I don’t necessarily think all that visit are aware of this pull, but I do think it is why we have labeled some places on earth sacred and beyond our full comprehension.
It is extremely disturbing that New York and it’s various people, indigenous, immigrant, slave and otherwise have been exploited and cultures appropriated in mores ways than I have time to describe right now, because it is this very history that effects our present day. Who knows how many countless others have thought the way I’m thinking, done the things I’m doing, and walked through NYC streets with the same optimism and hope for change. All I can say is New York you have permission to swallow me whole this time. Take me in and spit me back out new. I will not get lost in your mysteries, but rather learn from them and observe my own.
New York is a beast, one that I don’t always want to tousle with, but right now I will tousle away. I don’t mind if I stumble and fall, cause as harsh as it is NYC will always be there to catch me. And this is something it’s taught me…and in Lhasa’s paraphrased words, “…when we think we are at the end, it is only the beginning of something else.”
Ahhhhh NYC…share your stories, your experiences, your tousle’s with NYC!!!
Till next time…Love always….