“Mommy,” asked my daughter who lives in New Jersey, “what do you want for Christmas?” Now, she and her husband are raising three kids and their income is stretched to its utmost. So I said, “Well, how about giving me the gift of your time in the spring for a few days, and we can go into the City and do some fun stuff together?” So a couple of weeks ago that’s what we did.
The image above is a view from the surprising roof-garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can see the forest of Central Park, and behind it, the imposing, anonymous skyline of the great city.
Yes, it seems anonymous from up here, at a distance, but at street level 8.3 million lives intersect in a compelling dance of remarkable intimacy.
As for instance: My daughter and I met in Penn Station, and as we walked toward the subway entrance, we were attracted to a little shop with a huge display of festive sox, something she and I and my other daughter love. We went in and browsed the sox, and bought some from the Asian lady whose shop it was. As I tendered my credit card, she exclaimed over my quilted silk jacket. “Oh!” she cried, “It from China?” I said no, from Viet Nam. “I love it, it’s so warm,” I added. “I have also,” my new friend said, and pinched my sleeve to feel its thickness. “You not get these any more, so thick. All my friend want know where I get, and I tell them, home only, not here. I show you!” She disappeared into a back room and returned carrying a gorgeous chocolate-brown jacket. “It camel hair, inside,” she explained. “Only get China!” My daughter and I admired its silky thickness and we all agreed that our jackets are the best. Goodbye, we said to each other. Have nice day!
We went walking on the High Line, the stupendously-imagined park made of an abandoned elevated rail line, now planted with trees and flowers and ferns. There are lots of places to sit and admire the views of the streets below, the buildings above, and the river beyond. One can also take in the more local scenery, such as the exceedingly buff youngish man, shirtless, lounging on a wide high-backed wood bench in the bright sunshine. Even at my age I appreciate a nice body, and his was and he enjoyed showing it off. It’s New York, you know, and nobody stares. See http://www.thehighline.org
On the street in Chinatown, my daughter, who lived in Viet Nam for ten years, exclaimed over fruits and vegetables sold by street vendors—foods she had not seen since her Asia days. She examined some fruits at a small stand and had a brisk conversation with the vendor about their freshness. We looked at sea foods, too. And I thought how these foods were going home to be eaten by people whose lifeways I do not know, and there are their foods out there on the street for me to look at, and I can imagine them at their plates, eating these foods, and talking together in languages I do not understand—what could be more intimate?
In a local park the men gathered round a game of some kind, friends or at least park neighbors together. Intent upon their afternoon’s sport, they did not notice me taking their picture.
In Times Square, as I gaped around me (I had actually never been there in spite of a year’s residence in the city and many subsequent visits), the fellow in jockey shorts and skin danced past. Was he selling something? Advertising something besides himself? He crossed the street and went down into the subway. Whatever, you know.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the end of the day, we went to see STREET, a film by James Nares. For an hour we were entranced and enchanted and moved by his vision, in which he filmed the streets of New York in all their glorious intimacy and then slowed down his film, slowed it way, way, way down, so that each person (and pigeon) in it assumed a noble and majestic demeanor. There is about two minutes of this film online, and I urge and beg you to look at it. Try: http://www.vimeo.com/43492994
All, partners in the dance of city life, anonymous and yet so very intimate.
Susannah 08:44am, 06/06/2013
Wonderfully captures a perfect day in that microcosm of humanity, NYC.
Chip 02:29pm, 06/26/2013
I too love festive sox! In a bit of an argyle phase right now.
Chip 02:54pm, 06/26/2013
Thank you so much for So What? I am planning a trip to Boston and your guide is a fabulous resource for interactive exploration and growth. Very cool. This past year or so students in my service class, and I, have embraced the EagleEyes Project (out of BC). We work with severley disabled non-communicative folks and I was hoping to organize a trip to Boston in order to see the source operation first-hand. Professor Jim Gips, who created the device, was able to visit my class last September and I am anxious to see his operation. Our success at the special needs school was extraordinary….through communication and isolation elimination the holistic growth of all involved has been inspirational and affirming. If we make the trip I will want to get copies of your book for all. Much love. Peaces. Chip