My idea of a good time is a cozy, lazy, curled-up-in-bed with a hot meal to look forward to kind of deal. But New York City had piqued my curiosity. How fast do New Yorkers really walk? Why is it such an attractive destination? These questions begged to be answered, and off we went.
NYC is bright, loud, fast. It’s as if Orchard Road turned into Orchard City. The cool, brisk weather kept me walking for far longer than I would’ve back home, and while I’m no stranger to the flashing lights, electric billboards and rows of boutiques and restaurants, their amazing infinity is something I’m unfamiliar with.
If variety be the spice of life, then winter is where the flavour flows. Row after row, people throng the streets, dressed to the nines in their own, unique styles. From punk to preppy, casual streetwear to dressy blazers (and even a pirate draped in flowy dress), wintry weather turns the sidewalk into a fashion walk. For people watchers, it truly is a feast for the eyes.
But it wouldn’t be NYC without the noise. Oh, the air is thick with the Whoop-whoop-whoo! of police cruisers impatiently making turns, the braggart blare of modded cars farting down the street and the body-rattling rumble and thunder of MTA trains every hour on the hour. It certainly was a shock, culture wise, but I guess you could chalk it up to the character of the city.
Unlike my photographer friends, I’m not one for landmark hunting, but you can certainly fill your day with other interesting destinations. I visited the Museum of Sex. Each storey documents different facets of humanity’s sexual history – from women and queer rights, to the evolution of the use of sex in selling other products and its place in mass media. While the social pressures of our time forbid us from teaching much of it in schools, I think it’s extremely important work that the Museum is doing to unabashedly document a subject that people’s “faces” wouldn’t normally allow them to. With this knowledge, I believe we can learn to be better people.
The highlight of NYC was certainly Thanksgiving dinner. Jeff and Zenton once again came in clutch as they burst into our apartment like Santa Claus, with backpacks full of turkey, potatoes and a mean pack of habaneros that I sorely regret underestimating. As we gorged ourselves on the magnificent spread prepared by our wonderful chefs, I stepped back mentally to admire the scene. There we are, cramped in our apartment, swapping stories over food and drink, karaoke turned down low. While it’s a picture perfect Hallmark moment, that warmth and cheer we felt was genuine.
I left NYC not with answers, but with the understanding that it’s difficult to quantify human experience in different cities. Every city has a unique, charming character that’s observable outwardly- culture, dress and speech, but deep down, people are just the same humans getting by and getting on with life. There’s nothing exotic about that. As global thinkers and doers, we should use our travels to inform ourselves of the different histories and evolutions of those cultural patterns, but approach every person with the same empathy and warmth as we would any other.