Monday, May 3, 2010

New York, New York: Life Goes On

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
~ Thomas Wolfe

Five years ago, when my demanding, time-and-energy-sapping job decided it no longer required me, I made a resolution: nothing would ever again stand between me and the art, theater, music, poetry and discussions that make this city the only place I have ever wanted to spend my life (even now, when I can't afford it).

Saturday, May 1st, was unseasonably hot and humid with a high in the upper 80s, but close to the river, a cool breeze made it glorious. I spent the day with an old friend visiting galleries near the Hudson in the West 20s, New York's Chelsea district.

We saw a roomful of cheerful, quirky paintings by Maira Kalman, including the one above, which introduced her meditation on the inauguration of Barack Obama.

We saw fragile and beautiful creations by Kiki Smith, who has found a way to create an emotional, moving story of woman’s life on glass panels. The photo of Ms. Smith above was not part of the exhibit, but the drawing on the table is the face of the woman etched in glass. Is it the artist? I think it is.

Our final stop was the FIT Museum, where 250 years of women’s fashion left us goggle-eyed.

“I moved to New York City for my health. I'm paranoid and it was the only place where my fears were justified.”

~ Anita Weiss

Saturday night, Twitter began buzzing about the evacuation of Times Square, a rumor quickly confirmed by the sight of cop cars and empty streets on the local webcam. Whispers about a car bomb began to circulate. By midnight or so, reporters were saying yes, an SUV had been rigged to explode.

As always when terrorism-related events transpire, I found myself reflecting on how inured we New Yorkers have become to danger since 9/11.  On Friday, for example, two former Brooklyn men were arrested on charges of meeting with Al Quaeda leaders in Yemen and acting as a sort of Geek Squad for them. On the street, people barely mentioned it.

Saturday morning, when I collected my friend at Grand Central Station, I passed two of the heavily armed, camouflage-clad soldiers who constantly stand guard there. Awareness of danger is always just below the surface here, but it rarely rises to the level of conscious thought. And so my focus was on how handsome one soldier was and how many girls must flirt with him every day. I imagined one or two would come this way just to see him.

Like most New Yorkers, I barely notice the concrete crash barriers that have popped up since 9/11 to protect banks, hotels and other terror targets. While I still stop and stare when a police emergency drill rockets by with its long convoy of cars and ambulances, I watch with fascination instead of fear.

Yesterday, Sunday, I went to see a new play, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, at the Public Theater. It is an anarchic, bawdy, hilarious, foul-mouthed look at this country's past and present. I was thrilled to be there. Every day in this city is a gift. Life goes on.

“New York has always been going to hell but somehow it never gets there.”

~ Robert Persig


  1. I love this, Michele—it really captures New York in all its facets.

  2. Thank you, Susan. I honestly wasn't sure if this held together, but the fact that you like it makes me feel that it must.

  3. When Tom Waits moved away from NYC in the late 80's, after living here for several years, he claimed he did so because the City was causing him to develop Tourette's.

    (This entry was really great, btw)


  4. Wayne,

    That is hilarious, but I can understand it, especially in the 80s, with all the big hair and wealth-flaunting in the face of poverty.