Spring yields, Paris’s time is up. It’s summer in New York City.

When you arrive in New York you always realize you haven’t brought enough clothes. Moreover, the sneakers you dutifully packed to assuage that nagging common sense of yours are suddenly turned upon with a scornful eye. Walking all day in heels not only seems perfectly practical, you realize now it’s the only proper footwear to be considered. If things get desperate you’ll abdicate your platforms for flats, but by God you’ll not be seen in tennis shoes.

On the street everybody is eyeing everybody else, sizing up their outfits, their attractiveness, their craziness. But there’s a security in knowing that as often as their eyes fall upon you, it only lasts a blink, and then they’re out of your world again. In the short-term memory of this constant promenade you can be anyone you like, confident that whatever judgement you face will only last as long as it takes you to pass your appraiser by.

In the morning, the sidewalks are lined with donut wagons, coffee stops. In the afternoon- Halal carts, cupcake trolleys, smoothie shacks, roasted-nut rickshaws, frozen yogurt trucks. Dark skinned women are selling sliced mangos in a plastic bag with hot sauce, a snack you’ve never heard of, and can’t muster an inclination to try. On the subject of fruit, why is fruit on the street so insanely cheap compared to in the grocery stores? On the subject of grocery store prices, let’s not go there- it’s too painful a subject, we try to suppress the thought.

Walking down the street, men will purr at you, honk from their trucks, wink from the passenger’s seat. On the outside you cock a disdainful eyebrow, but as you walk away there’s a renewed swish in your hips betraying your internal, “Yeah, still got it.”

In lower TriBeCa “The Shirts” purposefully walk the streets on their way out to coffee or back to an important meeting. Black dress pants, light blue button-down  shirt is the dress code of professionalism. Standing in front of Citigroup feels like standing in a strange aviary- the shirts flit in and out all around you, flapping and fluttering in the wind.

Any tall, beautiful woman you see on the street you mentally label Model, and you’re probably right. Strange fashions start to grow on you. All these women wearing potato-sack full-length rompers… perhaps you should try it. As long as you’ve got on your wedges.

Museum exhibitions come and go. You wait in line to see upside-down waterfalls, indoor rain, nude people, cartoons. Free exhibitions lure you off the street to discover some the newest art concept of some draped fabric or a box comprising a plastic spoon, a leaf, and whatever the rest of that shit was.

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Trips to Brooklyn are remembered by the sight of greenery and the taste of some sought out specialty food- pork belly, famous thin-crust pizza, chocolate-dipped key-lime pie on a stick. Trips to Queens are concrete, bricks, boards, and broken glass. Coney Island is a crowd and a racket; a spin around and hurtle down.

The subway roars in the shadows. It’s always so much more humid and hotter down below. In the tunnels of its lair, the beast rushes, rockets, devours its way towards you. The wind preceding its approach is like a foul breath on your face, and yet nonetheless you’re slightly grateful for the breeze.

Between your breasts your bra rests always slightly damp. Stand too long catching up with a friend on the street and the sun starts to juice you like a lemon, drops of sweat beading your hairline and rolling down your back. Your hair always looked better in the morning.

In parks all over the city, thousands sit to eat, to rest their legs, to cool in the shade. A musician coaxes soulful notes from his instrument, soon joined the banging of a drum, or a bucket. A dancer follows, tapping, twirling, spinning. On paths the runners and bikers form an endless stream, an endless exercise.

The moon rises, the city glows and throbs with life. No one has to tell you the city doesn’t sleep. Spend that time directing me to this large apple I’ve heard so much about.

You go. Eyes slide past the homeless, the begging, the soliciting. Do you ever want a Metro News? Hands on the metal pole, weight shifting, lurching over the tracks. Feet slapping the pavement. Shoes heating up. Looking at signs, your phone, faces, graffiti, clothes, stickers on the mail-box. Your dress swishes around your legs, the weight of your purse bumps reassuringly against your waist, pulls achingly down on your shoulder.

It’s a time and a place. It’s like your memory of Christmas- the years change but the setting is the same, the feeling is the same. All your memories fall in the same genre, set to a backdrop of sticky air, hot sun, damp sweat, rumbling trains, bustling crowds, tired feet, excitement. It comes every year, you flock every year. The city is full of sun and life, and you are full of the city.

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Comments For This Post

  1. Susan Lake June 30, 2013, 11:09 pm

    I agree with Joe. I really like this one. I have such a sense of place.

    Reply
  2. David July 4, 2013, 6:09 am

    This is a a fantastic Essay!!!!! wonderful Photographie throughout your Blog, too! Trank you.

    Reply
  3. Susan January 13, 2016, 3:45 pm

    I still like this piece!

    Reply
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