“Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan!” – Walt Whitman
I had a conversation with my husband a while ago about me spending a night (preferably a Friday night) at my godmothers’ house in the village whenever I am back in the States. This meant for him to be home with our son and I can be ‘free’ for almost two days. This great opportunity arrived and I was at the train station nice and early – ready to discover the city once again starting from Grand Central. What’s a woman to do when she finds herself in midtown Manhattan arriving at breathtaking Grand Central Station and has the entire rest of the day, evening, night and the next day to herself – son-free and husband-free? Go and get a cup of coffee and a muffin at Starbucks first. Then sit in Tudor City Park and enjoy my breakfast while taking everything else in. Tudor City is where my husband and I used to live; our old neighborhood, the oh so familiar smell of exhaust fumes, the craziness and constantly honking cabs on 2nd Avenue and 42nd Street. A woman unfolded her yoga mat in front of me and started to do all sort of poses not even bothered by me. All I really wanted was some sort of quiet spot for a while to sit but of course this is nearly impossible.
I look up and all I see are glimpses of sun here and there while I sat mostly in the shade due all the tall buildings. A familiar feeling I used to have when I lived in the city – this weird strange cold sunlight. Looking out of my window in Tudor City it struck me that it was difficult to see the stars at night so how is it even possible to dream? The city that never sleeps?
“What is this strange smell?” I asked myself. I looked around but didn’t see anything special. Is it the smell of fall or just someone who sleeps behind the bushes on a cardboard? I did not want to find out so I moved on. I had to run some errands at the UN and stopped and chatted with my friends which I enjoyed. It was good seeing them and even though we are connected through the online world it is always better to chat in real life.
As soon as I was done with “work-stuff” I started walking to see what had changed, what had newly opened and what closed and what was going on beyond. The city was in this felt rare state of transition preparing for fall or the colder weather at least. Everywhere in the stores I already saw the latest winter selection but for some reason it seemed that nobody wanted to let go of the warmth of this summer yet.
I prefer walking on Park Avenue. I love this contrast of richness of Park Avenue that somehow transfers 180 degrees as soon as you reach Union Square where actors and artists try to survive. I walked to one of New York’s best French Restaurant Les Halles but did not stop there this time. For all this matter I was on a mission to discover new things. I walked and walked and did not pay attention to the time anymore. It seemed I saw the whole world passing by. Women wore the latest fashion and still screaming in their phones that were put on speaker, hailing a cab and drinking a cup of Starbucks venti -venti -decaf -soy -mocca-someting-latte at the same time. It still amazes me how they do it. The entire time I thought: “This is not where I want to be anymore but I love it all the same!” I came back and it felt like I never left. Nothing really changed. Old stores got replaced by new ones; however, it seems the city does not keep moving, does not evolve. People come and people go but the city remains. I try to soak up every moment as I continued straight to my favorite bookstore. I missed it and as soon as I stepped in the magic caught me again. Like way back when after I entered for the first time. As I browsed through the isles I thought how lucky I am to have this time for myself, to explore, reflect, remember and to build great new memories.
I purchased two books and a chocolate bar and decided to stay at Union Square to enjoy the craziness of this park a bit longer. I sat down next to a saxophone player when I opened the first page of my book but I could not concentrate on the written word. I realized that there was simply so much to look at, observe and take in so I just people-watched until the sun disappeared behind one of the buildings. It is time to meet my godmother for dinner.
I walked and I smiled.