Floods of people. So many people that if they were not people but drops of water falling from the sky they would lift an arc, an arc filled with assorted pairs of beasts. Beasts. While we are on the topic of beasts, the people rushing off the New Jersey Transit light rail and into Penn Station must first be corralled up a narrow staircase. The unbridled enthusiasm bursts forth in forward motion and out of the mouths of the people wearing sneakers and sweatpants and mini skirts and tights and jeans and sweaters. We are in New York! This is exciting! Some won’t make it past an endless line of Midtown souvenir shops; they will rub their stiff necks later. For them, there will be so much looking up. We’re here! I just love to come downtown. We came two Christmases ago and saw the Rockettes.
POST NO BILLS. POST NO BILLS. POST NO BILLS. POST NO BILLS.
What is it about the sidewalks in New York that causes people to spontaneously. stop. walking. A sticky substance on the pavement? (Old gum perhaps?) A narcolepsy of the legs? A photo that needs to be taken. An argument: we should have turned left five blocks ago. No matter, friends. This city is a box. Turn left now. Just don’t stop walking.
It’s easy to not feel like such a tourist when you are surrounded by such tourists. The cure for this pomposity is brunch in the Meatpacking District. Meatpacking. Meatpacking is for dead beasts but here there are no beasts dead or alive here. Unless…. the beast has become you. Your uncombed hair, the scuffs on your boot, an unhealed blemish on your cheek. Look around. Everyone casually laughing or seriously staring; it’s Sunday; this is New York; it’s a $22 Eggs Benedict and $10 Cold Pressed Juice. It’s a $6 can of Pabst Blue Ribbon the waiter pours into a glass for the man sitting at the next table over. His girlfriend with a towering glass of red wine. The structured mixed textures of a dark neutral toned weekend blazer and silk blouse and flats, her outfit ornamented with gold and her hand ornamented with diamonds. Someone walking by kicks your umbrella, knocks it to the floor. Sorry, he says. No no. How did you think you could be the kind of person who knows where to put your umbrella. In New York.
Come to the High Line for the novelty of a recycled train-tracks-turned-park or come to look inside the windows of New York apartments and condos. Mostly it’s just the bottoms of feet and refrigerators. Some plants or books collecting dust on the sills. Through one window, a wall of copper pots and pans hanging in the kitchen in a perfect line. Another window covered not with curtains or blinds but with a fleece blanket or perhaps a flag of an NFL football team, just tacked up there as if it were a college dorm room. The glow of a flat screen TV or lit-up Christmas tree. Modern basement-to-sky glass structures next to humble crumbly brick dwellings. Lives stacked on top of one another, crunched next to one another. We, the outsiders. Looking in.
Winter solstice, the longest night. With less to see there’s more to hear: sirens and horns (horns on cars and horns playing Christmas songs) and voices. Voices that come in every language. All around you, the languages and accents of the entire world. Welcome to New York on a seventy-degree December evening, the city that is both the least and most American. A cup full of possibility, inside of someone else’s house.