56 hours in bedlam

12 04 2011

As the Amtrak Keystone Service train slid along the tracks northward, I prepared myself for my 2-day New York City visit by trying to recall details from the time I lived there, in 1991-92.

20 years ago? Lord.

Somehow all I came up with were a couple of big blanks across my consciousness. Nothing more than a few fuzzy scenes of alleged ivy league glory. I was a graduate student, and I literally rode to hell and back in an academic year. There is nothing more to tell.

The distant skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan slipped into view…wow, that was quick… it seems like we just left Philadelphia. (It’s this close?) On the New Jersey Turnpike this trip seems to take a lot longer than by train.

We passed towns I know well from those Turnpike exits: Rahway, Elizabeth, Harrison; inching ever closer to that biggest of Apples. Planes approached the south end of Newark airport’s runways, Path trains on neighboring tracks waited for their scheduled departures. Buildings moved closer, emerging from the blue haze, their edges becoming sharper. Unlike my memories.

The biggest apple (core).

Once in the city, it took me less than five blocks to remember why I left New York all those years ago, and only ever come back to visit. If I had to live here again now, the city would eat me whole. For breakfast.

Recently I met a non-native New Yorker who has lived in the city for almost 20 years. She told me that her New York is actually just a small part of it. It’s not the whole megalopolis, from Staten Island to the Bronx, from the Hudson to Long Island Sound, but rather a tiny corner of it in which she lives, works, shops, breathes and exists. She said that the entire city all at once can be overwhelming, even for someone who lives there… every person must carefully and consciously carve out an individual community from the endless opportunities beyond one’s doorstep.

And then a tourist comes and thinks she needs to swallow NYC whole because she is only in the city of cities for a short period of time. That’s impossible, even for the hardiest of souls. I’m glad a nouveau New Yorker confirmed this for me. Some folks think I’m just too sensitive.

My couple of days in New York were full of experiences impossible to replicate anywhere else. It’s that simple. Still, I couldn’t wait to leave.

I didn’t look back when the Amtrak train left Penn station and emerged from the tunnel on the Jersey side. 56 hours in the city was enough for my delicate constitution and I don’t need any more of the smog, dirt or weirdos for the next long while. I’m done with the city and look forward to all the other wonderful places on this great earth that I will have the privilege of seeing. I gladly leave New York to those who can handle the bedlam.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: