Inspired in New York, New York

by Kim on June 11, 2012 · 23 comments

I am not a city person.  I’ll take mountains and fresh air over skyscrapers and honking taxis any day of the week.

“You’ll hate it,” Brian said, when I told him that I wanted to visit New York City before launching off on our travels abroad.  ”It’s crowded and the subways smell like piss and rat poisoning. There’s garbage piled everywhere on the streets.”

“How big are the rats?” I asked, only a little concerned.

“BIG,” he said, holding his hands chest-width apart to demonstrate.

No, it sure didn’t sound like a place I’d fall in love with.  But still, I had to see it with my own eyes.

A piece of the Manhattan skyline

Here is my disclaimer about cities: I mostly don’t like them. In big cities, surrounded by millions of people, I always find myself wondering what the point is. Like, the big point.  The point of our lives and why they matter.

When I am in the mountains and forests I feel connected to the primordial ooze of the universe.  But in a huge city I just feel like a small fish in a very big pond. I’m overwhelmed by the commercialism and the rushing and the worship of the all-mighty dollar. I feel sad and defeated by it.

As expected, there were times that I felt this way in New York City.

Times Square is chaotic.  

Yet, New York surprised me too.

I was inspired by the city: the artists, the talent, the culture, the diversity. There were creative people everywhere: singing in the subways, painting in the park, hunched over their notebooks writing in the coffee shops. We found a great New York hotel that made me feel like we were living in the middle of it all. 

The energy in New York City is a living thing, it zings down the streets like a live wire, it’s impossible not to be zapped by it. New York seems filled with people buzzing in anticipation over their own potential.  In this way, New York made me feel hopeful.

A sunny day in Central Park

On our third evening in town we used our New York CityPASS to go to the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  A free audio tour was included with the CityPASS and I made my way out onto the deck for a view of the city from 86 stories in the air.  I hit play on the audio tour and listened as the guide told me all about New York: the history of the 5 burrows and how the city was founded for business and not religious purposes.

But the major theme of the tour was people: the hundreds of languages spoken, the neighborhoods of the working class, the immigrants that have carved out their own piece of home in a new land: Little Italy and Chinatown and the diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

New York City from the Empire State Building

Perched above the city, the lights twinkling like stars below me, the city looked beautiful.  I knew there were people down there, winding their way through the streets and eating at restaurants and shopping and working and talking and sleeping.  Millions of people, insignificant from up here.  But like all tiny things, from my vantage point I could sense how we are most powerful in numbers.  How together over hundreds of years we’d built this great city together and still today we come from all over the world and coexist on this tightly packed island.

I felt proud of us.

In this way New York City made me feel hopeful as well.

The Statue of Liberty

A view from Central Park

Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii at the MET

New York at night

A rose at the 9/11 Memorial

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Shar June 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

I’m not one for big cities either, but I’ve been to NY twice now and loved it. There is just something about it that I could never put into words. You did it perfectly. Glad you enjoyed it. (and LOVE the pictures!!)

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Kim June 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Thanks Shar :) I’d love to go back again as there are still so many things we didn’t get to see.

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Carmel June 11, 2012 at 10:36 am

I KNEW you would love it. I had a similar experience in anticipation of our trip, but it was magical in some ways. There’s so much diversity and culture…and of course it’s chaotic and at times overwhelming, but when you can remove yourself from the chaos long enough to observe it all swirling around you, it feels like a dream. I loved it. Of course, I do love cities in many ways. I feel like it’s a much better setup for sustainability and I’m all for the European model of large cities and lots of open space when you need to get away. I still love my city, though. And I certainly don’t know if I could live in NYC. I think I’d like the pace at first and then tire of it pretty quickly.

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Kim June 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I love that description Carmel, a lot of NYC did feel like a dream (in a good way). I agree with you that cities are much more sustainability but I need more green space. If NYC has Portland’s Forest Park I just might be able to live there ;)

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Ayngelina June 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I love cities but what I have learned is that there is a lot of everything: a lot of good, a lot of bad. You have to know where the good stuff is and just stay there :)

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Kim June 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Yeah… it’s fun to look for the good stuff!

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Tracy June 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

So glad you loved it! It’s the kind of city that even a non city lover can feel inspired in. Now that you have seen the most famous city in the US, you are fully prepared to explore the rest of the world

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Kim June 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Agreed, bring on the world!

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Sarah Somewhere June 12, 2012 at 2:44 am

I love the way you write (have I told you that?). You’ve brilliantly captured the paradox of big cities, and in that, humanity. I love cities, the cram of humanity is overwhelming but a true testament to the notion that we are all connected, social creatures, relying on each other in our little roles that complete the big picture. I did that same audio tour, you have totally brought it back to me!!!

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Kim June 13, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I love the way YOU write! Yes, we are social creatures, it’s what we love most about it.

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Kim June 13, 2012 at 6:35 pm

and by “it” I mean US. Too many margaritas!!!

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Amy June 12, 2012 at 7:22 am

Congrats on taking the leap and living the life most only dream of! I stumbled upon your blog about a month ago and it reminded me of my own adventure.

I used to work for the Portland Trail Blazers, quit my job (career) in 2010, moved to New Zealand for a year, bounced back to the States for a ski season in Park City and now I am ironically in New York City! I can’t agree more, this city is so inspiring!

Your blogs are amazing…reminds me so much of the experiences and emotions I had (have). It’s hard to leave the unique city of Portland and see your former life change whilst traveling, but the experience (good and bad) will be the most amazing one of your life! And so amazing that you get to do it with your partner! Enjoy every minute & keep writing!

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Kim June 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Thank you Amy :)

It sounds like you have had a wild and amazing adventure. Do you miss Portland, or is it just a great memory of your past?

Enjoy NYC, such an amazing place.

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Hannah June 12, 2012 at 11:11 am

I have an undying love for New York, and have been six times now. Your description was so perfect – you found just the right words to describe the city’s many complexities. It’s a magical place. I have a 12 hour stopover on my way from Portland to London next month, so I’m looking forward to falling a little more in love while I’m there :)

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Kim June 13, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Hannah, you have done so much traveling!

Will this be your first time in Portland? I can’t what to see what you think about it. It’s a place that unfolds slowly so don’t expect so see it for what it is right away ;)

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Deborah June 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Thank you for this beautiful tribute to “my city!” I know what you mean about the connection you feel in the mountains or at the seashore . . . I call those my “Be still and know that I am God.” places. But, in the city, I am so proud to be part of a species that can create all this — the bridges, the tunnels, the skyscrapers, the parks, the art!! (And you do know that the carbon foot print of a New Yorker is among the lowest in the country, right? I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true!!) So sorry I missed you while you were here!!

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Kim June 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Yes, I know all about carbon footprints, trust me! Sorry we missed you, but we really did love your city.

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Dalene June 13, 2012 at 1:27 am

I thought we would hate NYC too, but the thing I loved most about it was that I felt like I belonged…and that anyone could belong really. There was a place for everyone, the diversity was so alive and all living in (relative) harmony. I am aching to go back.

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Kim June 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm

YES you are so right! Everyone belongs in NYC, it is probably the best part about that magical place.

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Koren @ City Gal September 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

I am so glad New York changed your mind a bit! It really is such an amazing place! I loved your line about the energy being a living thing. It truly is. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else and feel so lucky to call New York my home. There is so much more than meets the eye here!

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Kim September 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

Hi Koren, yes, I really did fall in love with New York City. There really is no place like it. You are lucky to call it home :)

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Eric November 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

Nice post. To the uninitiated, NYC can seem like a daunting place, but once you live here for awhile, it’s just like any other big city. I disagree that there is “nowhere like it.” Tokyo for example makes NYC feel like Boise, Idaho – there are 40 million people in greater Tokyo, it’s much bigger, denser, more visually impressive etc. If you want the true meaning of urban, visit places like Sao Paulo, New Delhi etc. NYC will feel like a sleepy little country bumpkin town when you return!

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Kim November 12, 2012 at 8:33 am

Ha, I don’t know if I would ever describe NYC as a sleepy little bumpkin town but I suppose I know what you mean! I like NYC because it has the urban without too much of the crap I hate about other huge, urban cities like unbearable crowds and craploads of pollution.

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