I took the train into the city today. New York City. It’s the same route I took for 2 years everyday when I worked in Harlem. It will probably be the last time I’ll take it for a while, since I’m lacking the funds to pay the $14.50 round trip fee. Ouch.
I’ll always be fascinated by New York City. It gives off the illusion that it has everything you could ever want. It has the Museum of Television and Radio where you can scroll through their archives and watch 30 minute episodes of old TV shows. You can watch “Alf”, “Fraggle Rock”, and even “Mork and Mindy” for pete’s sake.
The city will exhaust you for sure, but you CANNOT exhaust it. It will always be lit up by flashing colors, crawling with subways of endless transportation, it will always be moving and morphing. New advertisements will be featured at the bus stops and in Times Square, and the yellow taxis just centimeters away from ramming into you. The city- a giant creature stretching and groaning. Lately I’ve been corresponding with a young actor in Maine who’s curious about the “theater scene” in Manhattan. I sent her my clumsily compiled list of reasons why New York City has become less and less appealing to me- the fast-paced/numb living that breeds there, the lack of good community, a cut-throat mentality (especially in the acting world), not much greenery (besides the beautiful Central Park), not to mention the bedbug problems.
But now I see those are secondary to this one main idea that had been eluding me:
“We all influence one another. We are a part of each other’s reality. There is no such thing as passing someone and not acknowledging your moment of connection, not letting others know their effect on you and seeing yours on them…here we pass each other with our lights out as ships in the night.” Rachel Naomi Remen’s “Kitchen Table Wisdom” (142).
By “here” Remen refers to the United States. But I have especially experienced that rejection of connection first-hand in New York City. The streets reject it, building barricades around each passerby. Several years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who lived in the city for several years and firmly decided that he hated it. To him, it was hell on earth. I was outraged at his harsh assessment of the city that since a child, I called my own. After the sting of that attack (which felt personal at the time, though it probably wasn’t) I see the pieces of truth in his assessment. New York deserves some of his hatred arrows, but surely not the whole quiver-full. Every place on this earth has its own type of brokenness. But the question is will we, the people, reach out to each other in our brokenness or will we retreat into ourselves?
I want to be in a place where people dare you to keep your lights on. To be ships that slow down, pull up alongside one another and simply “be” for a while. To grab coffee together and sit in a park for a couple hours to watch the business people navigate through the pigeons. I bet there are a few of those ships in New York City’s harbor…you just have to look harder to find them.