new york ... again
A few months before 9/11, I had traveled with a friend to New York City. The trip was her idea. Her husband, a country boy at heart, wasn’t about to set foot in the place, and she knew I’d been there several times before and—more or less—knew my way around.
I do (more or less) know my way around Manhattan. However, there’s a lot more to New York than Manhattan—Brooklyn, for instance, and Queens, where I landed recently at JFK. Nonetheless, traveling solo and schlepping only a light-weight bag on my most recent trip, I decided I didn’t need to spring for a cab when I could take the subway from the airport to 23rd just down the street from my son’s apartment. So … I hopped on the subway, got off at 23rd, emerged into sunlight, and … immediately realized I had no idea where I was. Such are the hazards of becoming so engrossed in a novel you lose track of time. I thought I’d gotten there awfully quickly, but time flies, you know, when you’re deep in a good book.
I walked a block or two in hopes I’d see something familiar, but to no avail. Finally, reluctantly, I called my son.
“Hi,” he said. “Where are you? Are you here yet?”
“Well, sort of . . . I got off at 23rd Street, but nothing looks familiar,” I replied. He asked me to describe what I saw, and I did.
“Oh, I think you’re in Brooklyn,” he said. “There’s a 23rd Street stop in Brooklyn, too.”
WHAT? Who knew? He couldn't have mentioned this before? All my previous solo subway experience had been strictly within Manhattan.
For a long time I couldn't figure out whether I love New York City or hate it. I've finally decided it doesn't matter. I like to visit once in awhile but would find it trying to live there, and whenever I see kids--and there are startling numbers of them in this city that always seems to me to have been built for grown-ups--I wonder whether they have any idea what their counterparts' lives are like in places like Ohio or Wyoming or South Carolina. Of course, New York does boast one of the more unique public spaces of any metropolis: the High Line, a leafy park-like walkway on the site of an abandoned elevated railway line and, judging by the clientele on the Friday I was there, a popular field trip destination for New York teachers and their charges.
As I mentioned, Manhattan is easy enough to navigate, but outside that tiny island, I’m lost. And even in Manhattan there's that bustling Broadway that zooms diagonally across what is otherwise a well-organized grid of avenues and streets. Well, even that's a bit of an overstatement. Once you get to lower Manhattan, you’d best have a map.
I opened with a mention of my trip with a friend in 2001. On that trip, the two of us—she rather reluctantly—had visited the observation deck high in the South Tower. Seeing the tower fall just a few months later had an air of unreality for me—like something out of a fictionalized version of someone else’s life.
Ten years later, I visited the World Trade Center Memorial site which had only recently opened to the public. The main feature at the time was the two sunken pools, one representing the location of the South tower and the other, the location of the North. On my latest trip, I visited the newly-opened Memorial Museum, a sobering reminder of the devastation and lives lost. I couldn’t help but wonder: What if we similarly honored all who lost their lives to senseless violence? Sadly, the globe would be covered with monuments, a wretched commentary on the way we treat each other.
May 20, 2015