Recently, i’ve been experiencing NYC in a strangely sentimental way every time i commute into the city for work. I find myself snapping out of my usual thought-filled daze, looking up from the sidewalk, and just taking everything in, as if i were discovering the city anew. And i can’t help but assume that i wouldn’t fit in anywhere other than New York. I have these thoughts regularly, but these days, the conviction is so unshakable. Sometimes when i ride the subway, i like to stand and hold the pole even if there are empty seats and casually look around and observe the people. I don’t know what it is about subway trains, but i instantly feel comfortable and content in that sea of strangers who are so absorbed in their own bubbles but also refreshingly friendly, when given a chance to be. New York friendly is a rare kind of friendly: not overwhelming, not interfering, and most definitely not forced. Friendliness in New York is warranted, not expected, but it’s also surprisingly prevalent, if you know how to interact with the people. It could be in a quick nod or even just a glance. Wherever you find it, it’s cool, never clingy, and it always brightens up your day, if only for a fleeting moment. Perhaps “friendliness” is not the right word. Maybe it’s solidarity.
The bubbles definitely exist, but they’re so clumsy and thin and easily breakable, and not many people realize that everyone needs and wants to break out of them sometimes. There’s a secret camaraderie among New Yorkers, and i’m not sure how much of that exists—and if it does, what it’s like—in other big cities. And so this is the question i’m faced with now: do i leave New York knowing that physically, it’s an unhealthy environment for me, but risking never getting used to a population that behaves differently? Do i go for the people or the environment? In a way, i guess they’re one and the same. What i really wanna know is, what are people in other big cities like?
*photo is of street artist Keith Haring and was taken by Chantal Regnault. found here.