I spent a little less than 1 week in New York City and have a few observations from the trip. As I took my last walk 6 blocks away to get bagels, I noticed that I could not remember seeing people on that walk the way I did on the first day I arrived. NYC is an extremely busy place, with over 8 million residents. There is such a mass of humanity around you at all times that you go beyond being pressed in and eventually feel that you are alone regardless of having people everywhere. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun on my trip, loved the food, the broadway production of Wicked, and was even grateful to see a familiar face from Texas. It isn't the fun that is the problem for me. It is the change I began to feel in myself with each passing day.
Day 1: You begin walking the streets of NYC, looking for the things you came to see. You take in the history, the tragedy, the triumph, and the glory of a city that stands in the way only NYC can stand. You walk with purpose, crossing the street the moment you have the chance in order to keep things flowing and to keep from being run over. At first, you look people in the eye, you say no thank you when people try to hand you flyers or CDs or brochures. You stay focused on your destination. The people who are strung out on drugs or hopped up on crazy kind of freak you out, but you do your best not to show it. The sound of "busy" is all around and is kind of exciting. You hear dozens of languages spoken and feel the thrill of adventure with every step.
Day 2: You know exactly where you are going and you are determined to take in the rest of what was missed form the day before. You are less distracted by the people all around you and you are getting used to some the crazy that lines the streets. You notice more homeless people, their stations chosen from the night before, cup in hand, blanket around their shoulders, and sign in place. You get done what you need to get done, move past the people in the way, and begin to notice the real New Yorkers versus the tourists (those on day one in the city).
Day 3: You have seen most of what you came to see in the 12-15 hour days you just experienced. You have time to simply explore without purpose instead of exploring to check things off a list. You head out toward areas that seemed interesting, looking for things you might have missed before. You realize that slow people now irritate you. Despite not having an agenda, you zoom past everyone in your way and find yourself in the street before the walk sign is illuminated. You push you way through crowds and shop and dine and walk and do as much as you can until you are worn out and ready for bed. You are used to the incessant horn honking, yelling, construction, and smells of all kinds.
Day 4: You are now bothered by people who don't know where they are going. You get annoyed when people are on their phones in the middle of the walkway instead of pushing towards a destination. You kind of see people around, and kind of see the homeless on the streets, but only kind of. You realize that other people are beginning to fade from your awareness as you make your way here and there. You shop, you eat, you walk, and you navigate. You realize that a piece of who you were is being lost in the big apple. You wonder what it would be like to have nobody around you. You think about what your life is like with a breeze that doesn't mix with sewer, construction, bagels, and humanity. You wonder what you were like before NYC.
I love what New York offers in the way of entertainment, dining, business, and night life. The thing I realized for me was that I began to lose my ability to see the rest of humanity in less than 4 short days. I began to see only the destination and not the people present along the path. In Baz Luhrman's speech "Always Wear Sunscreen," he admonishes those who will listen to live in New York once, but to leave before they become hard. It might be different if it was all I had known, but I love the kindness, the attention, the awareness I see in more wide open spaces. For me, I will keep my roots in Texas and simply visit the excitement of NYC on occasion.
Jody N Holland