Last month, I visited New York City for the first time. It was almost in disbelief that I got off the plane, knowing this place that had attracted me so was finally mine to explore, experience, enjoy. Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Tiffany’s, the Museum of Modern Art, the restaurants, even the crowds…bliss. Even the corner market felt different.
I was in the city for a conference, held right in the hotel where I was staying, and it was amazing. But I did get opportunities to get out and explore, and it was in taking those steps that I truly felt I was meeting the city, on its terms. I expected to be impressed, and I was. I expected to be overwhelmed, and I was. For there is so much more to the city than one sees at first glance. There was flash, but also grit. There was boldness and noise, but also quiet.
Everywhere I walked, I saw coffee shops, markets and small stores. Everyone was selling something, from the souvenir and food vendors to the businesses operating at street level in each building. Many shop windows were flashy, filled to catch the eye of people hustling by. It would be easy to take them at first look and keep walking. But I kept looking up. Up above the ground floor stores, interesting or necessary as they might have been, because for me it was what could be seen above that inspired. Old buildings were steadfast, looking as they had for decade upon decade. Brick facades, fire escapes, old windows, architectural details all stood in plain sight, yet were missed by most of those walking by.
Everything in New York seems to have more of a story behind it than anywhere else I’ve been. I look around and wonder how many stories each street and building could tell. And the same holds true for the people. It was as though every person I passed on the street had a story far beyond first impressions. The tanned, well-dressed shopper in heels – are those labels all real? How does she walk in those shoes? Why does she look nervous? The well dressed businessman – is that shirt custom, the shoes Italian? Why is he smiling to himself? The bride and groom we saw beaming as they wandered through Central Park for photos – where were they married? What lies ahead?
New York City has held a fascination for me for a few years. There is always a new reason to regard the city with curiosity. I haven’t figured New York out yet, and that’s a great feeling. It makes me even more eager to return.
And return I will. I can’t wait.
This piece was later featured by I Blog New York, a community of New York bloggers highlighting the best of New York City. Created by Carol Cain and Issa M. Mas, the site has sadly gone dormant, but was a great collection showcasing this fascinating city.