New York Exit
What could be written or thought of about New York after a fortnight visit which hasn't been written or dwelled on a million times before. Like the photos composed from atop the Empire State Building, anything you come up with will have already been composed, created or pondered a thousand times before. Probably that same day, (if you visit around sunset, and why wouldn't you?).
Two key themes stood out through almost every activity we participated in during our stay that I felt were worth saving. The first was how surprisingly I felt the city was connected to my life. This was notable because I rarely feel connected to places. It was nothing like a homecoming, more like bumping into an old high school friend who had attended the same lessons as me and reminiscing.
I first started to really feel this on the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History. Walking through the dinosaur rooms brought me back to the exact contents of the dinosaur encyclopedia I spent hours with as a child, so closely did their content mirror that it really felt like I was not on my first visit. Wall Street - although we did not spend much time there - had a similar ethereal vibe which I couldn't explain other than to theorise that that was where the decisions and fortunes of companies I've given hours of my time to had been forced to prove themselves. 2013 was the year I upgraded to my first paywave credit card in a world where money is becoming more and more immaterial. On Wall Street it felt like somewhere in these high-reaching skyscrapers all that invisible money was stockpiled, and in some dimension wires reached all the way across the ocean to my wallet in Australia.
The NBA arenas in Brooklyn and Midtown, regular features on my TV screen back home, were now also real but once again they already familiar. So many buildings and streets and sights were recognisable from TV and that, it seems, is the major factor in my brain when it comes to how homely a place in the world is.
The second recurring theme or impression I sensed during my time in New York was the size. Downtown and Midtown each would dwarf most other cities on the planet by themselves. Once you then consider the rest of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and New Jersey the city takes on a scale unfathomable to anyone who has in their lives depended on a single NYC toilet-bowl worth of water for their entire daily water consumption. The more we travelled, by foot, cab, boat, subway, bus and found ourselves in another city while still being in New York, the more I came to appreciate that New York is more than just the sum of its parts.
By that I mean, for most cities in the world, you could suck the entire population out through a large wormhole to a fertile parallel Earth, give them limitless resources and they could create an approximate equivalent city again before they all died of old age. Not New York, given its breadth and density and complexity I can't imagine it could ever be replicated. It's just too organic, in a way, well planned in the beginning with a grid of streets like fertile flower-boxes and then a huge boom of a human ecosystem developing and feeding off each other and all striving to be the best. I think New York's denizens also appreciate this. New York is like a machine, a game that you enter knowing the the general rules but also aware that they're not always enforced. Success in New York, essentially, is up to the player. There's a lot to gain, but unlike Australia there's not a lot of hand holding coming your way. If you are truly determined, like those vendors who spend twelve hours a day inside a tiny caravan with a BBQ in them, you might taste success and live your life in one of the shining examples of what humanity is capable of when they work together in a competitive way. In other words, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh there's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York.
(Seriously that song gets into your head at least once a day).