I don’t know where to start, exactly, except that I have very recently returned from my first ever trip to New York. I’m gobsmacked by my experience and really don’t know what to say. It’ll be a little word-vomit-y, for that reason, since when I wrote this I was foggy and tired from travel, and time changes, and the redeye flight, and such.
I had always thought I’d like New York, though when I graduated with my acting degree and everyone was like, so are you moving to LA or NYC? I was like, no. But I did feel amazingly comfortable there in that urban environment, and loved the sights I saw.
I realized that I would have to be quite a bit more monied if I were to live there (or even indeed to travel there again). The SO was our gleeful sponsor for the whole 3-day trip, and knew where to take me and what to show me. But that’s kind of a life theme, not specifically a New York one. I mean after all, I could say the same thing about Boulder.
No, the theme for New York, for all the things we did (beyond the bare basic fact that it was a *vacation;* a trip purely for pleasure, something neither of us do very often at all) is the image of a window and a mirror. I’ll explain:
When I teach children’s lit, we go through all the major genres of fiction in detail. Realistic fiction is described in that way: designed as either a window into another real person’s life, or a mirror which reflects your own back at you. That’s what this trip did (to both of us, I believe): it showed us this other kind of urban life, making us appreciate it, and by doing so we came to appreciate our own life choices much more than when we’re face down in the shuffle, work blinders on, and etc. Just to relax and look around was a much needed pause, and it didn’t stop our home stress momentum as much as change the points and divert it into a new direction.
(Now that I’ve used a train metaphor, I needs must relate that we actually saw a big rat in the subway. So. I mean, yanno? Other than the Statue, how much more of a New York sight could you ask for?)
Self reflection without disparaging self judgment is unusual in my world, and two things did it for me, beyond the active reflective conversations at the super cool Irish pub. One was seeing the World Trade Center memorial—as all memorials do, it makes you think. Makes you reflect on not only the lives lost, but life itself too. As they’re built to.
The other event that smacked me silly into self reflection was meeting one Emily Flake. She’s successfully doing all these things I want to be doing, and I guess am to a much smaller degree. But she’s a contributor to the New Yorker—how cool is that? And her little daughter is completely in love with
Paul, too, which was delightful to witness. It was great getting to know Emily, first simply because she’s an interesting person. But seeing the show she co-hosts and specifically talking about art and being an artist with her afterwards was pretty life changing. It’s like: this amazing person doing famous and amazing things is just like me. And Paul. Doing cool entertaining things with copious amounts of both talent and self-deprecation. And as much as my ego always enjoys the stroking of a person exclaiming, “Whoa!! You are fascinating!” it was more than that when Emily said it. It was deep, meeting her and her family. I haven’t made a fan, I’ve made a friend. Which is big, for me. The island of brilliant misfit toys is a lot bigger than I realized. (And it’s got some really cool suspension bridges leading to it).
Walking around The Met on our third and final day there, the SO and I were both struck by especially the Roman statuary—the busts of people we’d heard of like philosophers and emperors and semi-deity warriors. But there were also a lot of unnamed men, women, and children portrayed too. And two Byzantine portraits in paint that hit us for the same reasons.To look through that window, to have a clear look at a regular person, from that far back in time, is extraordinary. It’s awesome, in the most literal sense of that word. To look into the eyes (and it often really felt that way) of a human being that lived thousands of years ago. We’re really no different. And there are such a lot of us.
It’s rather paradoxical that I feel much bigger and more powerful in my life today, by being made to feel so small. Not really small, just. One of many. To feel my uniqueness by seeing the larger population I belong to. Paul too. The tribe of talented weirdos. It’s like family. Chosen family, though. That’s something else. Something more than the obligation of the biological kind.
I feel like I’m rambling and I also feel like I’m not equipped with the language to describe what I’m attempting to. So I’ll conclude my reflective ramblings with a description:
Post-museum, Paul & I found this French bistro with a window seat. We relaxed there with a bottle of excellent rioja and people-watched, reflecting on the art we’d just soaked in. There was a moment when an older couple, each of them strange like a pair of mismatched socks, ambled right up to the window and pressed their noses to the glass to look in. They were close enough almost to kiss us through the glass, but I don’t know if they saw us. Made us catch each other’s eye and snicker.
That’ll have to do, to conclude. And I did see Lady Liberty and was actually unironically moved. Which I can’t begin to understand, so I’ll just leave it at that.