Monday, December 21, 2009

New York, New York

New York. Amidst its uniquely offensive smells, while biking along pot-holed roads with the constant threat of being hit by cars and accompanied by their honking refrain, I thought of the relative ills and beauties of this metropolis and kept thinking of how its name conjures one of Basho’s lesser-known haiku about the limestone islands of Matsushima bay. Because, supposedly, he couldn’t conjure the actual beauty of the experience he simply wrote:


Ah, Matsushima


Perhaps I was only told this to further sell me on the tour I was taking, but even that, I think, can be appropriate to New York: home of Capitalisms most holy of holies, Times Square, and the endless, 3D multi-media marketing blitz invading your senses at every angle. My most socialist friend has only lived there 6 months and is already softening to Capitalism under New York’s insistent charms.

New York transforms. It took the torn-edged mountains of my mountain home and the jagged pine-topped hills surrounding my current home and replaced them with squared, even, and endless horizons of cement and steel. The tiny valleys, dales, and canyons of the city were labyrinthine. Every time my sister or a friend took me to a great diner or chocolatier or bakery I asked them how they ever found it. I don’t know that they ever answered me, but maybe it was the same way I found the fanciest food shop I’ve ever seen or how I stumbled upon The Strand bookstore unexpectedly, they just went walking. Still it seems a miracle to know where anything is in a city so large and unwieldy. I loved biking down to the beach, watching the dense city slowly lose its grip on the earth and air till it receded into the background, a more distant noise to the wind and waves.

But they do find these places. And that contributes to my next wonder at New York. So many people in such a complicated and multifarious concatenation of walkers, runners, bikers, drivers, bussers, and taxis, that the mostly fluid execution of so many independent minds, thoughts, and actions not bringing it all down in rubble or at least to a screeching halt is a marvel. Sure, the dance is accompanied by the honks, roar, and stink of the city, but take a step back into Central or Prospect park and the tones soften and take on a certain rhythm and beat that a large portion of the earth is stepping to.

Because I can't resist.

I don’t know if it was this unexpected pleasure of finding anything that inspired me, but I felt almost certain I’d run into some old friend I’d lost contact with at some point during my visit. No one in particular, but it seemed, with so many people, I’d have to run into someone I knew sooner or later. Maybe I needed to sit and wait for it. But it did mean that instead of encountering a faceless horde reflecting how dehumanizing and devouring masses are of individuals, I was always looking out for someone I knew, half-expecting to run into them. In New York such an impossibility seems nigh inevitable.

And the languages. Riding a bus there was Spanish, Italian, and Russian being spoken in the bus while we passed stores with Arabic and Greek on the signs. It’s incredible. It is a world metropolis where languages, cultures, and people abut to create an endlessly fascinating mosaic.

In the end, I decided that just as you shouldn’t trust a man who has no enemies (quotation unknown and probably non-existent), the fact that a city as vibrant, magical, messy, and transcendent as New York exists without a dystopian nightmare future, is miraculous.

Be seeing you soon.