Empty NYC

It is this weekend, isn’t it — five months since I’ve been in Chicago; five months since I moved to New York. Five months since I said anything here too. I’d apologize, and I do, but it’s been an interesting busy, a sometimes staggering busy, the kind of readjustment I haven’t had to do since after I left college for a brief and ill-advised move to San Francisco.

I miss my camera. I have this great camera that I love using, but time management is a lot of work when you’re trying to just straight-up find your feet. I do love Instagram, though, and I recently got my first iPhone. It’s no Nikon, but it helps me do a thing I love in little bursts.

I notice this about my Instagram feed, though: It doesn’t take place in the city I see every day, but some sort of post-apocalyptic quiet, with very few people and interesting light. I think this says less about my state of mind than about when I’m comfortable snapping pictures in public — I don’t have the instinct to whip out my camera phone when I’m just hanging out with friends, most times.

I remember, when I came to Chicago from my small college town in Appalachia, how worried I was that I would never experience silence again, that somehow a city would be nothing but noise and lights and I’d never get a reprieve. But of course those moments and those places and times do exist, and they’re a good time to remind myself that I can spare a pause, and that I really can do something other than hurry to wherever I’m going. That it’s okay to be in the world and observe it and frame it to keep for later. New York is neat. I really do like it here.

I yelled and screamed about coming here before it actually became a possibility. New York believes a lot of its own hype, which is infuriating if you have lived in the places it considers not real or inferior. But coming here, I’ve thought less about the self-obsession (which is surely a coping mechanism for the cost of living) and let myself be surprised (and proved wrong). The light, when there aren’t clouds, is always like an Edward Hopper painting — I think that must be the effect of the ocean somehow, all that light bouncing off all that water. I’d always loved the Chrysler Building, but it’s the Empire State that I’ve come to regard as a friend. I saw Don Cheadle walking toward me on a sidewalk as I made my way to work. I’m not going to lie — that’s neat.

I’ve seen almost none of this city, is the thing. In five months, I haven’t yet been to Central Park or Coney Island or most of the museums. I’ve ventured into Williamsburg and Park Slope, though not a lot. But I got lost in the Financial District in a snowstorm, and fell in love with the twisting streets and surprise federal-style buildings. I know where to get good duck in Chinatown and great mofongo in Washington Heights. I’ve already spent too much at Forbidden Planet and the Strand. I know where to pick a straight line and just walk.

The days are getting longer now. I keep joking that I’ve only ever seen New York in the dark, after work, and that I won’t recognize any of the places I do know in the light. What a thing, to get to be in a new place. We should all be so lucky.

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