City Review: New York City

I’m starting this post with a plea for guest reviewers, because I don’t know what I’m going to write about today.  That seems a bit odd, since you’re reading this as a part of a review, and you know what that review is going to be about.  But I don’t.  Because I can’t seem to get to sleep on time (which needs to change), I’ve been favoring naps over writing, and everything else gets flushed backwards.  It’s my own fault, obviously.  But a guest review every once in a while would be outstanding, and I know I’m friends with a lot of smart people.

Actual friends not pictured.

So – email me at kevinnoble.brown@gmail.com with your ideas and/or drafts.  I have only ever cleaned up grammar and spelling on reviews, so what you write will be what’s posted on the page.  And as anyone who’s read this blog knows, you can write about whatever the hell you want.

On to…well, something…

——

Writing negatively about New York City – for someone who lives right near New York City – sounds like it’s teetering on the edge of blasphemy.  Greatest city in the world, Big Apple, land of opportunity…yada yada yada, blah blah blah, etc.  I have no choice but to love NYC, right?  Hell, they even make t-shirts about it.  No offense, Pennsylvanians, but when was the last time you saw somebody wear an “I ❤ PA” shirt?  New York City is ethnically diverse, full of breathtaking structures and sights, and the best sports city in the world.  If you can make it there, as a wise man once said, “you’re gonna make it anywhere.”

Wait, something doesn’t appear right here…

But I’m calling all of that nonsense.  Maybe if I lived in Kansas for 30 years before seeing New York for the first time, I’d be wide-eyed and never want to leave.  But speaking from a position of bias, as someone who’s spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in a city that’s just a short train ride away, I’m not.  And I realized around this time last year that I never want to live in New York City for as long as I live.  I’ll visit for a day or two and enjoy my whirlwind time.  But being squished inside a conglomerate of industrial buildings with barely any room to breathe is not exactly my desired standard of living.  I like lawns.  I like trees.  I like streets that I can stand in for 10 minutes and not have to move.  I like having the option to go outside and sit down on the grass and just do nothing and not feel pressured to do something.  Yep, I’m riding shotgun on the suburbia bandwagon.

Sure, New York City is filled with great places to go – but it’s too filled.  Good luck going for a casual stroll.  Every time I enter the city (granted, the area around Penn Station is one of the more packed in New York), I feel forced to rush everything.  I’m practically sprinting from place to place to stay ahead of the masses.  Everything’s such a high-wire act, so busy, so extraordinarily rapid.  I’m not saying I need life to be slowed down to a grinding halt – but it would be nice to walk down a block at a normal human’s pace and not feel like I’m being overrun.

——

Why a second line of dashes in one post?  Well, I wrote all of the above a couple of weeks ago and saved it as a draft in my email.  And I’ve been to New York a few times since then, and I’ve realized that I might be a little crazy.

I know, right now you can’t tell.

I was standing in Grand Central Station a few weeks ago, waiting to pick up a friend, and I realized that I can’t ever remember being in Grand Central Station.  Maybe I was there as a kid, but I’m truly not sure.  So I walked inside and I was immediately taken aback by everything.  The vibrantly gold colors.  The giant pillars.  The generally massive area of airspace.  It was the type of moment that I rarely get anymore in New York City – pure, simple awe.

I stood at the top floor of Grand Central, up a couple of flights of stairs, while waiting for my friend.  I just stood there and looked out and ate up the atmosphere.  A young Hispanic couple and a girl of maybe three or four years old then came up to the railing and stood next to me.  The girl was chatty and excited.  The mother was smiling the whole time.  The father was taking a panoramic video, scanning back and forth to capture the experience.

I wanted to say something to these people.  I wanted to ask them where they were from and if this was their first time here.  I wanted to ask how their daughter was enjoying her time in a big city.  I wanted to ask where else they had been.  I wanted to recommend places they should go in the city.  But I didn’t say anything to them.  I started to move my lips to talk – and then I just stopped.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I just wanted them to have their own moment.  Maybe I didn’t want to disturb the peace.

I just looked at the young girl and her mother and smiled.  I’m not sure they even noticed me.  They were lost in their own magical world, of skyscrapers and ceilings, of pillars and gold walls, of tour buses and trains.  And in that moment, I realized what New York City could mean.  Without a word exchanged, with just a one-way smile…I realized how lucky I’ve been.  I realized how fortunate I am to be a simple train ride away from the greatest city in the world.

I don’t think New York is perfect.  I acknowledge its flaws.  But I’m never, ever taking it for granted again.

(Call it a cop out, but I don’t think I’m assigning a grade to this one.)

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