I had originally planned this post as a quiet reflection of a trip finished and a journey to come, a peek into the mind of this scared but determined wanderer staring awkwardly at a blank sheet. But I couldn’t let my road trip stories end without at least giving an aside to my favourite stop of the whole tour. That aside ballooned into the whole damned post. I should have known New York wouldn’t be satisfied with a footnote.
I know what I’m needing, and I don’t want to waste more time, I’m in a New York state of mind
The sheer scale of New York set it apart from the other cities we visited — and left my jaw dragging across the pavement for our entire layover. Manhattan’s rows of brick, concrete, and glass colossi, solemnly gazing on the puny ants below, no doubt judging our decisions to grab a late night slice before stumbling into the underground, were never-ending. And I mean never-ending — these buildings just kept going. I hadn’t felt this wonder of awed exploration since my original introduction to Toronto’s downtown, whose entirety probably fits in the West Village. I could spend my whole life in New York and not sufficiently explore all the nooks that even Manhattan has to offer, let alone the other burrows. I was only in town for two days, but the vastness of its playground left me with a childish glee.
“Melting Pot” fails to describe the variety of that playground. No way man, this isn’t a bland swath of people merged together, as the nickname wrongly implies. It’s whole cultures completely unchanged within the city — African women with gele head scarves, loud Italian reverberating down brick alleyways, an entire neighbourhood of Hasidic Jews. It’s multifarious, with every facet hauling a giant bag of history and lifestyle.
This synthesis has also found its way into the architecture, the entire city a superstructure of whatever can fit wherever. Contemporary warped glass and steel on top of the old brick still standing. The best comedy club in town crammed into the tiny cellar of an old restaurant. A defunct elevated rail turned into a futuristic park with some local greenery. The ingenuity behind squeezing so much in such little space, physically and culturally, make the entire city growl with the bustle of variety.
I could continue listing broad reasons for my quick attachment to the city (I haven’t even mentioned Central Park!) but the truth is, I connected with New York in ways I can’t fully describe. There’s something about its humour, its bustle, its verismilitude, that reach beyond neighbourhoods, cultures, and architecture. I can’t explain it. It’s like an aura that agrees with me, or some other new-age hippy fluff. Whatever it is, I got my first hit, and now I need more of the good stuff.
Phoenix, Austin, New Orleans, Philadelphia, each of you has fantastic qualities and I’d love to revisit all of you one day.
New York? Let’s get hitched.
Quote from Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind
Background image by Tony (King of Hearts)