Sunday, February 19, 2012

NYC Guest Post: Liam White

Hasselblad 500 with Kodak Portra 160

"It was cold in NYC when I was there; cold and weakly sunny. Like Hobart, the city I called home for eight years, the wind cut right through me, carrying with it the promise of snow. I’d visited at the beginning of November; two days after visiting Philadephia, and a day after 24 hours in Washington DC that seemed to whir by. My time in the USA came at the tail end of a month in Mexico, where I’d gone on holiday by myself for the first time in my life, at 30 years of age.

The thing I was struck with about New York City, and still can’t get over, is its size. Never mind the scale of the States in general. US blocks bloat for hundreds of metres, yards are huge, pickups are limousine-length, and cities are purpose-built for auto-commuting.

But it was NYC, more than anywhere I visited in my short time stateside, that really messed with my sense of scale. Manhattan itself is bewilderingly huge, with hulking yet elegant offices, glittering department stores, teetering high-rises and the fading grandeur of city apartments stacked neatly row upon row, as far as I could see."

Central Park, NYC
Hasselblad 500 with Kodak Portra 160

"I stayed in Williamsburg, that of vegan restaurants, bagel bars, and expensive thrift stores, renting a lonely apartment just off Bedford Avenue. Each day as I got off the L train at Union Square I involuntarily looked up, trying not to gape openly at the scale of the city. I couldn’t help myself. New York made me feel like a kid again, trailing doggedly behind my parents, feeling ant-high. I walked block after block, past bagel sellers, kebab vans, stalled traffic, until my legs and back ached, and my hands had numbed from the cold. I took the lift to the Empire State Building's 86th floor. I met a friend on his last night in the city and went to a hockey game, drinking beer and crushing whole peanuts. I walked through Broadway, Central Park, the East Village, the Flatiron District, walked, walked, walked, Each day I would take the train home, open a beer, and distractedly watch English football highlights on cable before heading out for food. I was tired, a little mopey, and overwhelmed in a city I felt like I needed a month to understand. Four days weren't enough. I wanted more.

Although there was life everywhere, NYC seemed to me austere, reserved, contained, serious. More of a compartmentalised city, even more than the self-awareness of Washington DC and the artsy fun of Philly. I expected New Yorkers to be brash; instead, they were unfailingly polite. Even as they asked me what part of England I came from (Melbourne, Australia), they exuded warmth. It was almost disappointing. I wanted some ‘tude. I hadn’t even been called an asshole yet."

Spinner 360°

"On my way to JFK Airport to take my plane back to Australia, I left my apartment, key hanging inside the now-locked door, with a route mapped out to the airport. Easy. The thing that I didn’t count on, though, was the New York Marathon being on that day (who reads the newspaper on holiday?), and Bedford Avenue being closed to both car and pedestrian traffic. Shit.

I needed to get that train, and the only entrance to the subway was on the other side of the road. There were no gaps in the runners. Five, a dozen would pass at any one time. There was no chance of crossing without bumping into at least one marathon runner. Besides, the cops were right there. After fifteen minutes trying to plot alternate routes, and finding that every subway entrance within walking distance was on the other side of Bedford, I asked a cop how I could get to the subway. After cheerfully telling me I couldn't get there, and seeing the look on my face, I asked him if there was any way I could get to the beckoning subway entrance, not ten metres from the other side of the road.
“Just run across,” he said.
“Uh…,” I said, eyeing the unending stream of thousands of focused-looking runners coming towards me, with no gap in sight.
“Uh…, I’ve got my pack. I don’t think…”
“Sure ya can,” he grinned, and firmly shoved me out into the middle of the street, where I flailed my way across to the other side, pissed-off runners streaming either side of my turtle-like movements, my ridiculous backpack turned leaden shell.
“Aw, c’mawn!” came the cry from a sweating, frowning runner as she dodged my lumbering gait. I apologised, but smiled a little smile to myself as I went down the stairs to the subway. I’d gotten my ‘tude."

Liam White

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Oh...gosh. I really enjoyed reading this. I've been to New York City once, several years ago. I was a junior in high school, and I went with my aunt and grandmother. I had never been to the East, so I was struck with its thriving metropolises, its unending streets and continuous traffic--both of people and automobiles. It was the beginning of November then, too, and it was colder than I expected. Even part of the Empire State Building viewing deck was closed because it was so windy. ...but, at the same time, it was marvelous. There was a beat, a throb that pulsated up the veins of the city's architecture, back down to the fast-paced people, and through the cracks in the sidewalks into the subway, the under levels. It's everywhere, really.

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