At its heart NYC, just like any other city or town, is the collective energy of its inhabitants. When I land in a city, familiar or not, I can’t wait to get out and walk amongst the people and the buildings and along the rivers and through the parks.
I’m staying East side and I’m in unfamiliar territory. I stepped out of the apartment this morning and headed for the river. I walked past apartments and commercial buildings, walked past NYC housing sites and homeless people wrapped in plastic (see glad wrap) for warmth and protection.
I walked over a footbridge and was passed by a lacrosse team in training. I looked down on a stream of traffic that included the NYC yellow cabs and school buses. I saw people jogging and geese in the river.
And I realised I could have been anywhere. Except for the New York ‘feel’ which is defined as what? Take the citizens of Barcelona and put them on the streets of NYC and what would you get? My memories of Barcelona include colour and movement everywhere but it came from the people and from nature – and a few Gaudi colourful unique buildings for extra flavour. The people laughed and greeted you as they went about their business. There was art everywhere, and artists drawing and performing and of course the signature statues. And there were wide-open streets and very little high rise.
NYC is coloured by billboards and advertising. There are people everywhere, but there is little interaction. I’m on a train to New Jersey to check out the Creative Arts District and the travellers appear to be engaged on their technology but not with each other. I’ve bought transport tickets and coffee and a few bits and pieces, asked for directions (OK many times!) and no one wants to exchange one word more than they have to. Maybe it’s too early in the morning? Maybe they don’t like the look of me? Maybe they don’t like my accent?
I observed people in the subway and on the trains as I made the journey to Rahway. What was it (that I could put my finger on) that made each of them unique? Why was one woman adorned with jewelry and one young girl with only one earring? Their choices make them the individuals they are but what is it about those choices that lets them feel defined by what they wear?
I love NYC! The hustle, the bustle, action, the sites. When I was here a few years ago, I travelled with my family (and a few others as well). We laughed and talked and ate and saw as many sites as we could. We had fun, learnt a lot and felt a belonging.
This time I’m travelling on my own. I don’t mind my own company at times but I really enjoy interacting with other humans. And it’s the strangest feeling when I have no connection with anyone here. There is an incredible freedom that is a side dish – but for me the main meal is missing. And I’m truly grateful for this experience and the personal revelations coming with it. And I know when I hit Rahway and I’m with like minded creatives that will change…
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where we go – it’s how we belong that gives us a sense of place. And how we are treated.