Getting into the city mid afternoon I decided to take a wander by myself. My destination was that of the Museums but I really had no clear plan of going directly to them, and so I found myself strolling aimlessly through central park. I was struck by how vast, green, and beautiful it was, not the dirty trash filled place I somehow had in my mind. I wondered as I thought these things, why did I have that preconceived notion and where did I get it from? In my rational and thinking mind I have only ever heard good things about New York, and outside from my mothers fear of me not being picked up from the airport, I really had no reason at all to think ill of the city. It is a place surrounded by myth, a place I have heard a lot about in my art classes and from my friends who lived there, but I could not drudge up any real reason why I should, on some level or another, think of central park (using this example in a specific but general way) as a dirty place. It was this contradiction of expectations I hardly even knew I had that took me by surprise, and caused me to enjoy the architecture and neighborhoods perhaps even more than I would have normally.
Doing “things” (sightseeing) seemed obligatory as it was a first visit, but I know that what I will enjoy more in return visits is just walking and looking, taking in finer details each time I go. Caught in conversation with an overly gregarious New Yorker and dragged about to look at some things near our meeting point, I also realized how many stereotypes of character we associate with that place. Jon’s dad’s gestures and voices were mimicked in front of me by this man, as he described personalities of the city. He sounded like a movie character, or at the very least an actor, but acted unabashedly honest and proud of the place he is from. I could never show or speak of LA to a stranger in that way, the best they could get out of me might be “it is kinda fun” as flashes of Annie Hall’s LA scenes play silently in my mind.
I liked how the neighborhoods differed from each other so drastically, how they each had their own feel and how the goings on were different from place to place, almost like a community of people had decided what they wanted. Close to NYU felt very European with parks and squares and music, people walking with a purpose, pausing between tasks, others just looking. The amount of things to do in the city is overwhelming, permanent or not, and I think it would be nice to live in a place where you could drench yourself in culture all the time and never run out of fresh things to do. The food was delicious, it reminded me of SF in the number of choices, so different from Richmond. Somehow NYC feels gritter than SF, and less artificial than Chicago, and compared to LA it is simply, not alike. I think you can only really love LA if you are from there, similar to how some people preach their undying love for the AV, but it is really hard not to like NYC.
Talking a stroll down Floyd St. today in Richmond, the sky a crystal blue the quality of which I have never seen here in the no-mans-land between north and south, looking for dead cicadas to put on my studio wall, the peacefulness of the quiet streets reminded me of what I search for in my “documents”: the fact that all places can be unique if you look long and hard enough, and all of them have a personality to value. At least that idea would be the makings of my ideal America, and if I look hard enough perhaps I can prove it.