Friday, March 18, 2011

SB11 Day 6: And it was beautiful.

So now I've been to the Big Apple.

We visited New York City today, and I'm not yet sure what to make of the experience.

It's a city that's been so mythologized in American culture. You might call it the Mecca of our nation.

Artists rap about its ability to make dreams come true. Screenwriters tell us it's bursting with opportunity. Advertisers show us its streets—full of color and life and joy—and tell us we're missing out.

I've grown up in this city-centric culture, and I've imbibed the myth that glorifies the metropolis. I've always looked at New Yorkers enviously, like a child reluctant to go to bed because he's certain he's missing some unknown magic.

So I went. I went with my wide trusting eyes. I went to soak it all up, to smell and taste and see. I went stockpile images, to record my impressions.

I saw bustling streets and bright shops. I saw bubbling toddlers and bent old women. I saw skyscrapers and landmarks and incredible billboards, and I'm not sure yet what to think. I can't package what I saw into a neat little bundle.

I think what shocked me most is that it was real. It's not a myth, and it's not easy to make sense of. It's not hellish, but it has tragedies. It's not ideal, but it has beauty.

What draws us to the city is life—irresistible, incomprehensible life. And life is not one-sided. It holds both the beautiful and the repulsive, both hope and desperation, both businessmen and beggars.

Yes, New York is beautiful. Yes, New York is distressing. Yes, New York is real.

1 comment:

  1. Haven’t commented, but I’ve read your whole slew of recent posts. I love them, especially this one and “Anxious to Matter.” This one is SO well written. You and Kate have this extremely vivid/extremely concise style. Don’t get a big head.