New York City is, in some way not measured in decibels, uniquely loud.
A remarkably complex machinery, it is alive with a constant flurry of activity and magnetism.
This is one city, bar London, that is so lenient and tolerant of every oddity that no one here must feel the need to suppress their quirks.
Who counts as a New Yorker? A person who, at that moment, calls NYC their home? Someone who discovered their true self there, who believes that they invariably belong there?
I suppose it’s open to more than one interpretation, although I will borrow from T.W: “one belongs to New York instantly; one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years“.
On a good day, if I ran into a perfect specimen for my project, they would not curse me away and disappear behind the next corner, taking away all their secrets along.
On that good day, they would stroke my imagination with a short but entirely unpredictable and cunning story in their collection.
In Alphabet City I was lucky to hear an urban fairytale, care of a charming shaman (in his diction and appearance), so perfect in its imperfections that whole seamless quotes, his gritty voice and poignant gaze are still etched in my memory.
Resting on a bench in St. Mark’s Place, I suddenly tune into what seemed like an aloud reading of a novel, but instead it was a gypsy on the other side of the bench recounting to herself, and for anyone who would care to listen, a tale, a memory, or her urban myth.
Around Broadway and 29th street, in a mirage of disheveled hair and brooding gaze, we both caught something that passed in the air between us as our paths crossed. Only a moment that was, followed by the slow and subtle nightfall and amplified sounds that hint at too many possibilities to be called destiny.
Loitering on the corner of 9th ave and 14th street I saw an artist sitting on a sidewalk, legs crossed, chalk strewn around, canvases stacked against the garbage can. He didn’t pose for my camera, I didn’t pose for his canvas, but we each completed one another’s image of street life on that particular evening. Flawless silent conversation.
Every new bloc is a new story, told in a realistic but, perhaps, not always honest way.
NY’s appeal may not be obvious or quickly detected, and in that tangle of ad hoc moments, in which sounds and lights fight for your attention every-which-way, it is all agreeably transient.
Suppose a lifeline is like Broadway, and all the intersecting streets are different opportunities, different futures. All our simultaneous contradictions – elegance, kitsch, chaos, and structure – amount to an infinity of stories that are alive. Beware, it may not be easy to find your way through this outlandish labyrinth.
So the moment you pinpoint your own paragon, you realize you may belong here – either ephemerally or eternally. Roughly speaking, New York is a pixellated snapshot of different stories.
Even if I stayed put in New York, just doing this – just turning stones, I would have either found it all in a day, or not even an entire lifetime. Such is its paradox.
And have I found it? Maybe.. Maybe that wasn’t it.
As with a proverbial pin in a haystack, I may have been looking for something that wasn’t ready to be found.
But what I did discover was that even strangers are not strange in this city, and that we are all seeking some kind of personal treasure.