This evening we walked home through Hell's Kitchen. Ted used to live here. We found his old apartment, walked inside the still broken front door and found that his name is on his old buzzer. He used to have mold growing on the walls. It wasn't the nicest of places.
As we walked down "Restaurant Row," I found myself continuing to look upward, still entranced by these majestic buildings. At every turn, I find something unusual, something that piques my interest, something I want to photograph. How long would I have to live here for this wonder to go away?
When I was 23, I left the United States borders for the first time by flying to Budapest. I couldn't believe I was there. I had this sense of amazement that Hungarians also ate french fries and that their trees looked the same as ours. Looking back, I don't know what I was expecting. These were the days before high-speed internet, so I didn't have city photo blogs to look at (at least that's my excuse for being so naive and stupid). I just spent the first few days there in nonstop amazement, excitement, giddiness even, to be in a new and foreign place.
For years after that, I would sometimes lament how this wonder was probably lost forever. I was no longer a travel virgin. I did feel a little bit of that wonder when we first landed in Addis Ababa, but that was different because it was late at night and I was distracted by more important things. I think I had figured that my wide-eyed wonder was gone for good.
Not so. I've spent this last month wide-eyed, sometimes mouth-agape. I can't stop looking. I look up at the tops of buildings, down to the interesting garbage on the street (no kidding), inside shop windows, and my favorite: through the subway window into the subway train that is traveling along side me. I so love when this happens. We clip along, clip along, clip along, together, two trains full of people, on separate tracks, no one minding the other, and then whoooosh! one of us speeds away. Just once, I want a passenger on my parallel train, my brief subway travel buddy, to look up at me, wave, maybe blow a kiss. That might make my whole year if it happened.
I love this city. I really do. Today while wrapping up a leisurely lunch with this lady, that wonderful Alicia Keyes song started playing, "Empire State of Mind." How perfect was that? I had to stop myself from tearing up.
I have loved being here. I don't want to stay, mind you. I miss big majestic trees in the Pacific Northwest. I want the comforts of my own home, and I really miss my friends and neighbors at home. I'm ready to go back to some form of normal life. But the best gift I've gotten from being in New York City for a month was that I was able to experience that "23-year-old in Budapest" feeling all over again. I thought it was gone forever. New York brought it back to me.
Dear city, thank you: for a month, you made me naive and stupid again. That was an amazing gift.