We arrived in Manhattan around 8 AM yesterday, having flown a red-eye from San Jose. I was a little more nervous than usual during the landing.
There was a piano at the San Jose airport, free for anyone to play, advertising a piano store.
I’m still tired today from lack of sleep, but otherwise, I am very happy to be here. We are staying in a friend’s studio in Chelsea, and I love it — both the apartment and the location. Here’s the view onto W 22nd St. There is a little Belgian resto at street level (between the two staircases) where I am thinking of having lunch.
I’ve been to New York twice before, once with my family at age seventeen (wide-eyed and trying not to show it), a second time on my own with the confident independence of a new college grad. In those days I thought of New York as the city of cities, an impression that is well deserved even if I no longer imagine it that way. Before I moved to LA for grad school, San Jose was the biggest city I’d ever lived in and downtown Berkeley the most urban, but now I have experience of other cities: the myriad discrete worlds of LA’s sprawl, the relaxed diversity of Toronto, the mix of ancient and modern in Edinburgh and Istanbul and Kyoto, the true concrete jungles of Hong Kong and Singapore, iconic Paris, and Reykjavík and Chicago and London and Auckland and Christchurch and Glasgow and Taipei… I like cities. My family members mostly don’t, finding them off-putting with their crowds and dirt and movement, but that is just what I love about them. They contain everything, layered, colliding, undiscovered. It must be that last which appeals so much; cities are the perfect setting for my Scanner nature.
Before we came here I found I was unable to recall New York in memory, except as an all-too-well-remembered sensation of humidity and heat and sweat. I couldn’t remember what it looked like, nor what I liked so much about it. Now that I am here, though, it feels familiar. I delight in my anonymity, just as I did when we first got to Paris, and delight equally in the sense of possibility. Although I’m seeing the city through very different eyes, it still touches some core part of me that hasn’t changed since my first visit in 1999, the part that has always felt utterly at home amid purposeful walking and a vast variety of everything. When I think of staying here for the next two weeks, I want to do a little dance.
When we got to the apartment I posted on Facebook that we were in the city, and now, thanks to my lovely and interesting friends, I have big handfuls of wonderful-sounding recommendations for things to do. And we discovered our friend Daniel is also in town. (We had a similar serendipitous meeting in Edinburgh last July… in fact, almost exactly a year ago, how funny!) We met up at the High Line, a long, snaky public park built on the disused remains of an old railroad track. I love combinations of nature and urban decay (remember Evergreen Brickworks?), so I was excited to check it out. Unfortunately it was very hot, but I still enjoyed our walk, and hope to return to the park to sketch some cooler morning or evening.
That’s the High Line cutting through these buildings:
The sunshine may have been uncomfortable for walking, but it made for gorgeous photos.
Hot days make me especially appreciative of the contrasts between light and dark.
These windows were tinted to mimic the colors of the Hudson.
Flowers growing between the old railroad ties:
We exited the park at its southern end, in the Meatpacking District.
The food was a bit on the salty side, but I quite liked it. While we ate we discussed food in the UK and New Zealand, without my ever realizing that the menu was overtly British. In retrospect it seems ludicrous that I didn’t make the connection, given our appetizers of Scotch egg and beef and Stilton pie (both very good):
I ordered squid, something I would never have done had I not learned to love fresh squid in New Zealand. I did not regret it.
This morning I walked down the street to a Colombian-American bakery I’d found yesterday while walking to the High Line. I brought my purchases back to the apartment and Erik and I had a breakfast of pan de yuca and pan de bono, a sweet corn arepa, and a dense, rich pastry square filled with guava paste and dulce de leche and bits of a creamy sweetened cheese (either cream cheese or something very similar). Sorry… I was hungry. I forgot to take pictures. But there’s always Google.
We have been here just over 24 hours and so far New York has been delicious in every way. I am so excited about the next two weeks.