Sunday, July 10, 2011

thoughts I had while in New York.

“One belongs to New York instantly; one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years”  --Thomas Wolfe

I loved people watching in NY.  I love the feeling that anything goes in that city, the variety of interesting faces, crazy outfits, accents, languages, high fashion, low fashion, runners everywhere you looked. While the city is in many ways intimidating, it also seems to have a place for everyone.

I found myself wanting to know everyone's story. Where did you come from? How are you making it here? Our spanish-speaking bus boy, the man making bagels in the back of the bakery, the mothers with small children at the playground, and especially the career women with the tailored suits getting out of work.

Whenever I travel, I play the "what would my life be like if I had ended up here?" game. In New York, that voice in my head seemed really present. Maine and NYC are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Just as it took me a long time to get used to the quiet rhythms of Maine, it would take me a while to find my place in NYC if I did live there, but there is a part of me that feels very comfortable (if a little more on edge) in that city. Walking around, I could catch tiny glimpses of a life I might lead there. I was a working girl in the city as a paralegal in San Francisco for a few years, so I am familiar with that coffee-on-the-go, uncomfortable shoe wearing, subway riding side of myself. I also recognize myself in the woman carrying a bag of groceries into her apartment, or the one walking the dog after work.

It's not that I pine for a city life. It's that we all have aspects of our personalities that don't get fully realized in our daily lives, ones that might have come to fruition if life circumstances had been different. Inside of me, there is a career-driven city girl, and also a hairy-legged Appalachian thru-hiker, a small-town bakery owner, and a wife and mother and English teacher in Maine. Sometimes we get the chance to wave to our other little possible selves.

Our first night in the city, we met my dear friend Marjorie for dinner and then, as was the plan, Skyler and my mom stayed in Manhattan while I went home to Brooklyn with Marjorie. We rode the subway for 40 minutes and walked the several blocks through a tree-filled park into a very different side of New York.

Marjorie is my city friend because she has been in NY for 12 years now, but also because we lived together in San Francisco. So again, hanging out with her meant I got to hang out with my old self a little bit too. We lived together in our twenties during a very fun but somewhat tumultuous part of our lives, while we figured out what to do with our selves, and there was love and heartache and many other things to discuss while sitting for hours and hours on our front steps.

It was fitting then, that when we arrived at her place on Tuesday night, we sat ourselves on her front steps for hours, revisiting some old chapters, catching each other up, discussing new plot twists.  Marjorie is now, after many hard-working years, Dr. Marjorie the psychologist; she is the very best listener who asks questions that make you totally honest with yourself, but actually, she's always had these skills. Now it's just official.  I always walk away from my time with her feeling like I washed my windshield, like my perspective is crystal clear again. 

I loved getting to see her life first hand, even for just one night.


In the morning, I got to see her cool neighborhood in daylight, and we managed a short run around Fort Greene park even though it was so so hot.  We then took cold showers, grabbed some ice coffees, and got back on the subway.  She was going to an appointment further uptown, so at the stop where I had agreed to meet my mom and Skyler (Lincoln Center), I peeled myself away from her and off the subway in mid sentence; we still had so many subjects to cover!

Soon I was back with my mom and Skyler, and we were sitting in the blessedly cool theater for The Lion King.  Skyler was wiggly and wide-eyed with excitement, and I was so focused on her and what this was going to be like for her (her first trip to NY!  Her first Broadway musical!) that I was caught off guard when the show started:  the big, clear voices, the beautiful bodies of the dancers, the unmatched creativity of the costumes, the music!  My eyes filled with tears while I glanced back and forth between the stage and Skyler's expression of joy and awe.   I can't quite put my finger on it, but I felt so inspired by the show, and by being in the midst of all the excitement.  I felt like life is so big and good and full of possibility.  People are so talented and creative.  There is so much love in the singers' voices.

I know that the actors in The Lion King have done this show hundreds of times, weeks on end, but you could have fooled me.  I felt like this show was just for us, the first and only time.  It was magical.

I needed to come home to the quiet of Maine, and to my little family, after 3 days of travel and city living, but my brief trip to New York gave me a burst of a whole different kind of energy.  Skyler was a delightful travel companion, and my mom was so generous with us both.  Thank you, mom, for a weekend the three of us will never forget.  Thank you, New York for giving me so much to think about and so much to be thankful for.



Kerrie T. said...

This is probably one of my favorite posts ever. So much of it resonated with me. I play that, "What if I lived here?" game, too.

Joanne said...

Fantastic Wolfe quote! Your wonderful post so keenly resonated with me. The first two paragraphs are so right on. And although I was in Minneapolis in my 20s, the search and recognition of "what would my life be like . . ." applied to me as well.
I loved your writing of your feelings being at the musical! EXACTLY what I felt at the two Broadway shows that I have been to in my life (Although I was the little girl and adult wrapped up in one!)
"life IS so big and good and full of possibility." And the love and the magic . . . !
Thanks for sharing your thoughts so eloquently.

Zoe K said...

I think there's something unbelievably special and soulful about the Lion King. I saw it on Broadway myself my junior year, and I was unable to stop my eyes from leaking like a broken tap. How awesome you got to share that with Skyler. :)

SNW said...

love my ole stompin' grounds but must accept that it will not work for me anymore-- my hiking poles and camping gear and mtn. bike and paddling gear would just gather dust! even running there felt rather loop-y. that's okay though. (one of my favorite NYC quotes from Fitzgerald: "I remember a lonesome Christmas when we had not one friend in the city, nor one house we could go to. Finding no nucleus to which we could cling, we became a small nucleus ourselves and gradually we fitted our disruptive personalities into the contemporary scene of New York. Or rather New York forgot us and let us stay.")

Carver Fam said...

Love this post and the idea of the alter selves. I think I could alternatively have been a movie star (yes, a star, not just an actor), a famous writer (what is it with the fame?), independently wealthy living on a coastal estate with gorgeous gardens and painting in the afternoons, or a baker or thru-hiker like you.

No wonder we are so tight- three of our selves are really very similar...

So cool to do this 3 generation trip of girls. I love all 3 of you so so much!

Eileen said...

You have a very special family. Not every grandma could or would do a trip like this. I'm so glad you had that time together! I lived in NYC for years, and will never get it out of my system. I absolutely love it, and I hope at least one of my kids decides to live there for a while. I had the exact same response when I saw "The Lion King" ... constant, happy tears of awe.