The first time I visited New York as a tourist was 14 years ago. I had come to see my friend, Novia, and be a part of her college graduation. The only other US city I had visited at that point was Fort Lauderdale, FL, a year prior. Through my eyes, the only similarities the cities shared was that they were both in the US. Where FL was easy going and relaxed, NY was fast paced, everyone seemed to be rushing everywhere. Where Florida was a sea of color, everyone in NY wore black. Where FL was spacious and I got a ride to almost every place I visited, NYC was accessible by bus or the subway and I could buy a metro card and go almost anywhere I wanted for the same low, low price. I loved NY.
I moved here a year later.
A few days ago, I spent some time showing my friend Patrice around my adopted home and I remembered what it was like coming here oh so many years ago. I think about how many years it took, before I made my first trip to Central Park, because I lived and worked in the boroughs and even though people mentioned the park in passing, no one had explained just how beautiful it was. These days, I live close to the park and when I go for runs and walks, sometimes, I obsessively check my pace on my fitness watch instead of paying attention to the scenery in one of the most magical places in the city.
Sometimes familiarity means we take things for granted so sometimes I walk down the streets of Harlem, busily trying to get to Starbucks to write, thinking of myself as a trendy writer, forgetting that decades ago, this was a community where the literary arts were celebrated and revered. Sometimes I get busy trying to get to the train station that I forget I am walking on the same streets that inspired Langston Hughes’ famous poetry.
I get off the train at 34th street and on my way to shop at Macy’s, sometimes I forget it’s the same train station that services Madison Square Garden where the Knicks play, and where legendary musical acts play to sold out crowds.
And I can wander the 10 floors of the Macys herald square store, still the largest store in the world, and spend all my money buying items from the latest collections from my favorite designers. But I can also visit the Macy’s window and have an absolutely fabulous experience with the creative displays filling the shore windows, and not spend a dime.
I love the fact that the NYPL has a fantastic online system where I can reserve the latest books and pick them up at my favorite branch. And I visit the countee Cullen branch to check out the latest nonfiction titles, sometimes forgetting that the other side of the building houses the schomburg center, one of the largest black history archives in the region.
And I don’t know if I should be ashamed that although I have lived in the area for a number of years, I’ve only been inside the Apollo theatre once, and never for the world-famous amateur night.
I’m a nature person but I found out that the spring flowers are starting to open in Central Park because I was showing my friend around. And I found some of the most beautiful dedications on the benches in the park.
Sometimes, if you are not pointing out the sites, you can overlook the most beautiful things in the city…
So thank you, Patrice for allowing me to show you my city because it allowed me to see it again with fresh eyes. And it reminded me of why I love this city.
New York is an awesome place to visit or live. The boroughs are diverse, a range of languages and nationalities are present, almost every culture is represented and each group brings its food and its contribution to make NYC a fantastic melting pot.
It’s easy to get jaded by the unmentionables but it’s also easy to take a step back and fall in love all over again.