New York is always new
I walked all over New York City, but saw it most clearly when I stopped
It’s a city that is always changing. It’s like how they tell us all our body cells renew every seven or ten years, and so do the city’s cells. While I don’t know the scientific renewal rate in New York, I would guess it takes less than a decade. Take a walk down any street and you can see scaffolds and construction crews, machines, and bright yellow “area under construction” signs.
New York renews its cells in front of our eyes and loud enough for all to hear.
When I arrived in the city a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Maybe I was just running away from my routine. I had an old ticket the pandemic had hit pause on, and after many calls, mercury retrogrades, and a customer rep hero, my ticket was moved to the last week of March. For all the to-do’s I had before getting on the plane, there were none when I got off.
Undeterred by the not-so-warm welcome, I (added a lot of layers to my “spring” outfit and) set out to explore. I tried to find the city I loved in all the places I’d visited before, but it wasn’t there.
The weather was different. The spring weather was there before my trip and it was thereafter, but I got the freakish cold streak.
People were different. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was post-pandemic stress. I don’t know what it was; I can only guess.
Places were different. Hidden gems had been bared and full of tourists. Not tourists like me, happy to walk like ghosts at NY speed, quietly, barely seen. The other kind, the loud kind, the kind that stops in the middle of the street for fifty selfies and knocks you with their handful of bags. No judgment here. You-do-you-philosophy and all that, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
New York is always new. It doesn’t hold up to your old sketch. Embrace the chaos it seemed to say. My mother, the wise woman that she is said, “it’s a new trip, just do new things.” So I tried that. I tried to embrace the chaos. I tried to go with the flow.
I would leave the hotel at eight am and walk. And walk and walk and walk. I let the morning madness move on the weekdays, marveling at the empty avenues on the weekend.
The city is always moving and I moved with it. But the city doesn’t tire and I do. I found myself trying to catch my breath. End of the day (defined by the time when it’s a little dark and a lot colder than I can handle), I’d collapse on my bed, and if I closed my eyes, I could almost see the next street up ahead, the cars driving by, and the sea of people moving around me.
I never stopped walking. There was always another sight, another “saved” location on my Google Maps until I went to the park, sat on a swing, and breathed. I remembered I was on holiday. I remembered this madness was not my madness and that my madness was many miles away. I remembered it was okay to stay still. After that, I saw a play, and I sat still for more than two hours, and it was perfection. I felt all the feelings. I laughed and cried and got swept away by the beauty of the music and the production. That night, I walked back to the hotel, freezing but not rushing. I went up to the rooftop, and for the first time in a week, or maybe longer even, I heard silence. The city was merely a hum below. It was not overwhelming anymore. I could see endless windows of all sizes and golden hues that looked like stars if I squinted. So I squinted.
I squinted and breathed.
If I tried, I could see people in the windows and I wondered how they did it: how they live here. If they embrace the chaos or they just know how to avoid it if they try to control it or if they are numb to it. I never thought my city would feel chill, but next to New York it did. I don’t know what I was looking for when I left, but I could see what I got: perspective.