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You Can Go Home Again

August 17, 2011

Is New York in the same league with Paris and Rome as a great tourist destination? I never thought so. I lived in and around the city for the better part of two decades. I love New York for all of its opportunities and conveniences. It’s a fantastic place to live. But let’s face it, it’s ugly. New York’s most majestic feature is actually best experienced by leaving Manhattan. The skyline view from New Jersey is simply amazing.

New York has its strengths, to be sure. Towering buildings and the glitz of Times Square are probably as foreign to most folks as is Taipei. Its museums and restaurants are world class. But as fantastic as the Metropolitan Museum of Art is, Paris houses an equivalent collection in a 12th century royal palace. There is no comparison, really.

It wasn’t until I returned to the city, after more than a year’s absence, that I finally understood. New York’s greatness isn’t something that is seen, it is felt. There is a buzz and an energy that pulse from some unknown source. I couldn’t put my finger on where it came from, but I felt more alive and more spirited because of it.

It’s possibly a function of the purposefulness of the people who move through the streets with such speed and efficiency. If you venture outside the gridlocked sidewalks around 42nd Street and Broadway, or away from any area where out-of-towners congregate and into the places dominated by locals, you’ll notice something amazing: a chaotic blur of people bustling past one another with near-choreographed grace.

One thing that distinguishes New Yorkers from Europeans is that we rush. One thing that distinguishes us from almost everyone else on the planet is that we watch were we’re going. Long-time New York residents, either consciously or unconsciously, develop a running back’s sense of space. We constantly look for seams in the crowd and head toward the light. We’re aware of our bodies when we move and avoid using them to cause bottlenecks.

Everywhere you see determined people carrying briefcases and yoga mats, talking on phones, and dodging their compatriots, while sprinting to some all-important future appointment. Their energy is infectious.

For twenty years I marinated in that environment. I didn’t feel the city’s energy any more than I felt the air I breathed. Coming back was different. I was no longer part of the city. I was an outsider. And as an outsider I saw, and felt, a youthful vigor that I had previously not known, or had somehow forgotten. I finally understood the attraction. New York really is like nowhere else on earth.

Whoever said ‘you can’t go home again’ was wrong. Returning to New York I found it even better than I remembered.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 17, 2011 8:34 am

    yes when we visit Long Island we certainly feel the energy in the area… love visiting it as much as we love leaving it to re-explore serenity and quietness…

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