New York is a city of doors – revolving doors to be precise. People are always going somewhere, in and out, never knowing quite when to stop or to slow, or whether to stop or slow at all. Everywhere I look, there’s a new face, a new style, a new culture. In walking around the city, I hardly expect to run into anyone that I know and, for that matter, “knowing” someone in New York is somehow drastically different from knowing someone in any other (smaller) place. It’s as if the place makes the person in New York. The movements that start are bigger than the individuals that start them and, speaking of which, difficult to pinpoint in terms of origin. Even in the lobby of NYU’s Bobst library, it seems difficult to imagine the intrinsic differences between persons aside from making stereotypical guesses derived from the information provided by his/her gate or clothing. And then, there’s the question of whether to waste time imagining, since chances of ever seeing that person twice remain ever so slim.
In truth, I do love New York – but, as James A. Reeves suggested, it’s difficult to know exactly what I love about the place. In high school, I took a course in Human Geography. We spent the first six weeks exploring the concept of place – trying to unravel, in academic terms, what exactly makes up a persons “sense of place.” We discovered that sense of place, or the sense of it, has to do with a number of factors both geographic and metaphysical. In New York, I know I love the scale: the tall buildings, the hectic sidewalks, and the consistency of the yellow cab. Even now, when I fly into New York after a weekend at home, I grow excited by the skyline, by the lights, by the traffic and the commotion. All of these factors, which in effect, make me appear small, both by size and scope, in comparison to my fellow men, empower me deep down inside; it’s as if New York is this stream of seemingly endless opportunity – but even I know that isn’t entirely true.
Just by taking a walk down the street and looking, really looking, I can see the burnt-out lines chalked on people’s faces. Every few blocks, I’m confronted by the jingle of a homeless man’s near empty change cup, reminding me that many, many people don’t make it in the big city. All over, on blogs and in literature about New York, there are anecdotes written by people who, in a nostalgic tone concede, “l loved New York and miss it dearly, but I just couldn’t stay.” In so many instances, it seems the city gets the best of those who come into it, opening their hearts, and willfully pouring their youth into its allure. Some days I feel that’s just what I’m doing, aside from studying, of course. When someone asks how long I plan to stay in New York, I always respond, “Just while I’m young. I can’t live here forever.” I usually laugh at myself right afterwards, admitting, rather cautiously, that I have little control over where I’ll spend my life and, as a result, little forehand knowledge about the matter all together. I suppose it’s the illusion of control, of man’s power over nature that is so represented by New York, and which proves so addicting to many souls (especially the young ones).
Now, that I’ve found myself growing accustomed to the city lifestyle, I’ve begun to imagine myself somewhere in southern California, ten years from now, in a glass house hanging on the edge of a hill. A warm, sunny place where I can look down over a cityscape from my omniscient vantage point and just imagine that I have complete control over my own destiny. I feel it’d be like flying in over tiny Manhattan Island all the time, glued to the window, sunbathing in the lights. But, nowadays, I quickly snap out of my daydreams. If there’s one thing New York has taught me, it is to daydream sparingly, for while my head is in the clouds, someone else is slipping ahead. Move, move, move – go, go, go. So I ask myself, has New York transformed me into a lifelong drifter? What cycles am I learning and what cycles am I breaking? Oh, and, all the while, in some quite corner of my mind, I’m praying that California is still warm and sunny by the time I make it there – one of these days.
Sent by Harrison from New York, NY