I probably take cities too seriously. I analyze their spaces and scrutinize their amenities. Judge their hipness. I use the best of my brain cells, because I really like cities. I ask myself: Who are the residents? What are they doing? How do they figure into the global community?
Is there a sophistication? A unique flavor? Is it authentic? In my experience…
- Boston = scholastic, collegiate, medicinal, scrappy
- New Orleans = charming, relaxed, decadent, majestic
I also trust my gut, and go with its feeling 99% of the time. How do I feel in this city? Does it motivate me, or lull me into complacency?
I’m going to say it, because I’m edgy: New York is hyper. For extroverts, this is a wonderland of stimulation and excitement unlike many others. People everywhere, social opportunities literally on every corner. All packed into a compact rectangle.
For more introverted folk (like myself), this is a delicate balance that can easily lead to many feelings…exhaustion and agitation, frustration.
What I had to learn was how to handle New York. Planned slowness, taking regular sanctuary in quiet places, or stops at home to rest, hit the restroom, and catnap. Proper weather- and foot-wear to match the level of outside walking one does, also unlike any other place, at least where I come from.
Once I did that, I could appreciate its beautiful mania, on my own terms. I could go full-steam for several hours but allowed myself a pause to recharge; I repeated that cycle successfully through my entire extended-weekend trip. The whole city is a series of restaurants, coffee shops, and tea houses, to my delight. (Never had a bad meal in the city either)
It isn’t only hyper in beehive-like activity, at all hours. It’s also hyper-hued, and regularly buffed, scrubbed, and refinished for an almost new appearance. I wrote about this phenomena last year. Despite being packed with people, infrastructure, and vehicles, there are romantic, visually-pleasing scenes nearly everywhere. See: ice-skating in Central Park, the Highline Park, all of Gramercy. I credit this to an exacting culture of artists, aesthetes, and lots of money.
Coming from a city of horizontal spread, New York’s vertical integration is strange, though it appeals to my desire for efficient use of space. A 20-story building can have as many uses, sometimes more. Lifestyles intersect and occasionally clash, but mostly live harmoniously. Rules, both explicit and unspoken, are strictly followed, for that is how order is maintained.
One of the highlights of any trip to the city is shopping. There is no shortage of glossy, shiny, sparkly retail meccas, so you’re not likely to miss them. You must see the department stores…they are simply marvelous.
Commerce on every level is squeezed into every nook (on the Subway, on the sidewalks). At. Your. Fingertips.
And, anything you could imagine, in the world, is available, sometimes below your home. If you live on Madison Avenue, congratulations, you win.
The sheer volume of things moved, carried, bought, and sold on the island each day could probably (and do) fill many warehouses. Where it all goes I’m not sure. In a Willy Wonka way, it all just happens magically.
Or maybe it’s only magical at Christmas? The snow this trip helped.
In a place where six figures is an average salary, you can imagine that standing out from the crowd requires a bit more hunting. I came across the impeccable Frederic Malle boutique (had heard of the fragrances but never tried). Left with Bois D’Orage, which I’m still savoring.
This (shopping/people/streets/subways/buildings/lights/glitz/glamour /snow/slush/energy) is the brilliant house of cards that is Manhattan. Experiencing it is thrilling, never stale.
So, New York = magical, cozy, hyper, romantic…?
Sign me up.