It’s just a city and I am just a girl

16 06 2011

This is a city of cities.

Out of the walk-in clinic on 34th in Murray Hill and strolling up Park Avenue so I can catch the 4 down out of Grand Central, and I see flowers and doorman and shiny little dogs and most of all, most of all, the people gliding across the sidewalks as if they have every right of belonging to this city of canopied entrances and italicized addresses and by the way, shouldn’t there be music wafting over all of us?

Then through the lower doors beneath the high icon and there’s the clock and the space and perhaps I was imagining that I could hear the tiles flip to reveal train arrivals and departures on which track as I swooped obligingly through the benign and bemused swooping corridors to the hard stairs leading down the platform, and home.

And the next day on that same train, heading up, as it whooshes out of the tunnel into the 160s and the back ends of notched-out apartment building. Look fast and you see a stand of trees at the end of that early block, but as the train sashays around to 167 and 170 and beyond, swivel your head west and see the staggered sentries of apartment buildings shouldered by buildings and backed by even more buildings.

Any grace here is tired, resigned, a handkerchief wiped across the brow then flicked in an unthinking wave over the wrist to hang as if giving up, or just waiting, waiting for this longeur to cease.

Still, it moves. The long steps, utilitarian up the middle with the pole hand-rail, up between the shouldered buildings an egress between the steep streets, a kind of hillside concrete tier farming people instead of crops.

Stand on the platform at Kingsbridge and look south and on a clear day you don’t see forever but you do see the Empire State, jutting out from that discreet and italicized neighborhood a beacon warning signal to anyone standing on a platform looking south or west and knowing that this city which is her city is not her city.

This city of cities, tilt the land and we have the archaeological dig, the layers of streets and neighborhoods and boroughs and which is the real city?

Lay it back down and remember we live it across and criss-cross as well as up and down, and it’s all the real cities,  the gliding and swooping and flicking, it’s all the real city.




5 responses

17 06 2011

lovely, growing up in upstate nyc was always “the city” and having traveled some of the wider world it still is

19 06 2011

And your new landscape?

20 06 2011

still trying to figure out exactly where that will be, the already limited choices of outright decay or badly aging sprawl have been tightened by massive flooding and displacement. hopefully this week we will know for sure which part of this faux-news flyover country will be ours.

21 06 2011

This is so beautifully written, I might just have to visit NYC. Whether I would like it or not, I don’t know; I have always felt more at home in canyons of stone and geologic time than I have in canyons of concrete and steel and human time.

Plus, camping is usually cheaper…

22 06 2011

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