Sunday, August 25, 2013


I’ve lived in New York for 3 years and 235 days now, and still the city reaches out and surprises me every day.

This morning's greeting from the Hudson River.

It's partly a numbers game: With so much time spent on the street, you have a 90 percent chance at any moment of bumping up against the beautiful or the strange. 

I may be over-sentimental—my father once described us as "a family that cries at Stop signs"—but I find myself constantly moved by humanity. The old man in a white undershirt, bent at an almost 45-degree angle over his walker, his young female caregiver's hand hovering behind his back. The baby crawling on chubby knees over the grass at Hudson River Park. The owner guiding his three-legged dog through a crosswalk.

But even the city's inanimate features—the geometry of it alone—can yank me to a halt. 
Lower Manhattan
Ninth Avenue, from the Apple Store

East 32nd Street

And the art. It's frigging everywhere. It's in the places you expect it, of course; like MoMA, where Robert Rauschenberg's "combine," Bed—created from pencil, paint, pillow, sheet, and quilt—demonstrates his philosophy of "acting in the gap" between life and art.

But it's also in places you don't expect it. In fact, the amazing thing about New York is the amount of art that exists in the gap between life and Art. 

It's in subway stations.

It's on West 21st Street, where this fantastic creature greeted us from the side of P.S. 11.

How could a child not learn great things after walking through these doors each morning?

And clearly, they have.

There's also art in the middle of the lawn in the middle of Governor's Island in the middle of New York Harbor, where head in the clouds, made from 53,780 recycled plastic water and milk jugs, invites you to step inside and think awhile...

...and where antique French carousels carried children and parents into the past.

The past is a constant companion here. You can time-travel while standing still. 

Walk down a side street, and you may find yourself peering through bars at a tiny Jewish cemetery, sandwiched between brick buildings that loom on either side.  

This is the Third Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel—the oldest Jewish congregation in North America, established in 1654, according to Tablet Magazine. (Also from Tablet: The Second Cemetery, tucked between brownstones on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village, sits next to a building that once housed a Civil War tavern known as The Grapevine, where Southern spies would eavesdrop on Union soldiers—hence the expression "I heard it through The Grapevine.")

I think of these men and women who've slept here for hundreds of years while Sixth Avenue and condominiums and Trader Joe's have grown up around them. Wouldn't they be surprised, just as I'm surprised every single day, by what New York has to show.