Jostled, bumped, ogled, cat-called. The occasional smile exchanged with a stranger in the scrum. Sirens and jackhammers; incessant honks and aggressive shouts. Clashing and clamoring and noise levels so loud it is hard to hear yourself think. Or sleep.
Flower stands and coffee shops and pizza parlors and chocolatiers and dry cleaners. Dog walkers and street performers and construction workers and models with photographers. Every cuisine under the sun, sandwiched by buildings, buildings, buildings.
Weaving through the pinhole spaces of a crowd crossing at a busy corner; openings so tiny and fast the whole chaotic dance appears choreographed to avoid collision. Natives exasperated by the doddling visitor that -- God forbid -- stops to think, take in the view, snap a photo or study a map. On a rainy day literally fending off -- with arms as bumpers -- the ambush of eye-level umbrellas from oblivious or uncaring crowds. Tourists, don't give yourselves away! Houston Street is pronounced "HOW-ston" (not "hew-ston" like the Texas city).
Everyone is going somewhere. Fast. Cars speed UP when they see you in the intersection. Pedestrians don't wait on the sidewalk to cross. Walk signs are mere guidelines; red means slow your pace until you just barely sneak behind the last car to go through the light. But watch out for bikes!
Elevator etiquette: it is customary to press the door-close button with near-maniacal fervor as soon as the last person enters an elevator. This repeats on every floor. Someone always steps up to do it, yet you'll appear horribly impatient to try this anywhere else. Fun game: make a point to talk to every person who shares your elevator. Bonus if you can get them to crack a smile.
Layers of wafting smells while walking down Broadway: Nostalgia from the hot dog stand, temptation from the cupcake truck, salty-sweet invitations from paper cones of roasted nuts. Warm, thick subway air blows up from below as you walk across the grates. It smells . . . dirty? Stuffy? Wonderful. Like New York City. Like no other place on Earth.
People-watching underground as the sea of commuters enter and exit the subway cars. Where do they look? Sit? Stand? How do they talk? What are they reading? What are they listening to? What are their struggles? Who are they going home to? What is weighing heavy on their mind in this very moment?
The shock of being woken up by a stranger while accidentally napping in a park: "You should really be more careful, those people just stole your phone." He hands it back. Hazy confusion quickly turns to fear, adrenaline and disappointment. But it is soon replaced by simultaneous wonder and gratitude for this Good Samaritan. People can be as kind as they can be cruel . . . but don't fall asleep in the park with valuables on your person!
Landing at LaGuardia feels like a private helicopter tour. Flying in to the city lower than seems reasonable over the most incredible, iconic skyline. Bridges and buildings and Lady Liberty, all the more beautiful when lit up at night. The empire state building dressed in candy-colored rainbow lights to celebrate pride weekend, and civil rights, and one of the great melting pots of the world.
An amalgamation of the best, brightest, most stylish, most interesting, highest quality, highest concentration of . . . everything. Food. Yoga. Art. Fashion. Music. The list goes on. Call me biased. Or maybe you've experienced it yourself. Let's leave out the worst of the worst for now, of which Manhattan has its fair share too: how about rental market price gouging, cockroaches and corporate greed.
Unlimited possibility juxtaposes feelings of financial impossibility, impracticality, insanity. This is a city that will swallow you up; shake, rattle, and roll you. But it will also uplift, inspire, teach and transcend you. It is a city that will help you make magic happen, if you're open to it.
Living here feels like living at the center of the universe. Like being swept up in a passionate love/hate love affair. Like being in on a secret with 8.5 million other humans who call it home.
New York City is a crazy fucking jungle, but I love it. Most of the time.
September marks my two year anniversary of living here. Since my first visit as a kid my heart whispered, "This is your yellow brick road." After years of failed attempts, it was a huge relief to finally follow it. And now I surrender to wherever its delightfully ordered chaos takes me next.
Humans of New York