In June I saw New York City for the first time. I suppose I haven’t written about it yet because I’m afraid to, afraid I won’t be able to say anything meaningful about a place so full of meaning that I think my heart beat faster than normal during my entire stay. This is similar to the way I never write about my mother; I believe I subconsciously assume that my love and gratitude for her simply reject words or description, and I leave it at that. And New York, New York – what can I say when there is so much to say? I find myself stammering and returning again and again to certain words: life, energy, movement, color, diversity, layers, depth. Depth.
When people ask why I like it so much, I feel my lungs expand and my eyes close and my head move slowly from side to side and all I can say is, “There is so much there.” And apparently, there’s so much that I’ll just have to return someday for a longer stay – perhaps a year, perhaps ten, perhaps a lifetime (if I can handle the snow) – so that I am able to write, able to focus for a little while on one color, one layer, one life. For now, though, I will lean on a passage from E.B. White’s graceful and honest essay written in 1948, Here is New York.
A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.
The full meaning contained within the city remains elusive to me, but I was lucky enough to walk amidst its vibrant rhythmic energy for a few dizzying days and perhaps begin to understand what makes the noises seem louder, the smells stronger, the colors brighter, and the people more complex than any other place I’d been; what, in other words, quickens the city’s pulse.