New York City. Craning your neck to catch a glimpse of the Chrysler Building glittering in the sun. Bagels beaded with poppy seeds. The blast of cool air that sends your skirt hem skywards as you head into the subway. Even the peeling paint and rats seem romantic; so perfectly filthily punk rock. There is a dashingly handsome fellow with a flat top haircut, houndstooth coat, chambray shirt, perfectly folded pocket square and a pretty little paper corsage in his buttonhole. The air heavy with the smell of salty meat and garlic wafting off the grills of the kebaab vendors.
The first time I visited New York, I felt intimidated. I'd heard that New Yorkers were rude and exasperated with tourists. It all felt so huge, I couldn't help but get lost and feel overwhelmed. On my second visit however, I had been in Uganda and Kenya for half a year, and New York felt so utterly and inconceivably American. (Remember the roller rink?) Instead of feeling overwhelming, it immediately felt like a summation of all our ideals as a nation, good and bad. I relaxed and felt at home. And this time, the city felt like an explosion of creative energy, filled with a vibrancy, a zest for life that didn't feel rude or aggressive at all, just joyous.
What travel really reveals is simply your inner state of mind. If you feel defensive, nervous and shy, all these feelings will be confirmed. If you feel open and enthusiastic, the place you are visiting will rise up to meet you with those same qualities. This is a lesson I am learning over and over; how to cultivate an inner state that allows room for surprise, connection, adventure and freedom.
Later, I splurged on a Turf Lobster Roll near the Highline from two charming dudes in a vintage airstream. They chatted with me about renovating this trailer, which was gutted and driven to New York from Arizona as an empty hull. They also suggested I check out Jalopy for an evening of folk music. (It was even more charming in person.)
Later I wandered off the hot dusty street, up the mountain of stairs up to the cool, soaring, marbled elegance of the Metropolitain Museum of Art. I took a winding path past Joan of Arc and through the Italian Renaissance, an elevator rides and then a furtive set of stairs up to the panoramic view of the city from the Met's rooftop bar. It all felt wonderfully secret (rather like in The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankenweiler) until I saw the massive line for beer and wine. I enjoyed a drink with my friend Gwen. (Can you believe two girls from The Big Island of Hawaii just happened to be in the same city during the same week?)
As the sun went down and they hustled us all back onto the elevators, and out into the cool night air, I had to admit, I'm another tourist who has fallen hard for New York City.