When I saw her I wasn't really sure what to expect. Her magnificence revealed itself through an early morning outline. She slowly came out, then stood still. "I am here," she said.
I saw her, wide-eyed, I stared. Everything I had heard about her was true. It had created a romanticism with her that begged me to explore her. I had a dream of her. I had longed to see Lady liberty and reach the Empire State Building and here I was, in her presence. Her greatness was a collection of these pockets of her identity. The quaintness of Central Park, boutiques of Soho, roof top bars of Williamsburg and the neglected streets of the Bronx. Her many flaws could not deter her lovers. She straddles the Hudson River, her five boroughs spread on both sides, creating a magnificent combination that is New York.
If you can make it here you can make it anywhere, it's the city of romance, concrete jungle where dreams are made. The heart beat of New York pulses through the streets, pumped from Broadway, the beat is stronger in Times Square. The pool of bodies moves in a seamless motion as New Yorkers and visitors alike navigate the illuminated streets. Crowds merge and separate into side streets as the buzz continues. The city never sleeps, and why should I? The lights beg to be seen and the billboards demand your admiration. You can't help but power this machine that is the consumerist vulture.
I wish the affluence was evenly spread to all parts of the city. In my time there I stayed in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy). 45 minutes away from the city centre via the J train. It was a predominantly a black and latino neighbourhood. A locality far away from the tourist hot spots, where kids played basketball in the local park and unemployed men sat on their porches looking to the streets. Where baby mamas walked to the 99 cents store, old ladies took their breakfast at McDonalds, hustlers worked the streets and the NYPD patrolled multiple street corners. Broadway cut it its way through the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick border, leaving a trail of a neglected road that boasted month-old rubbish in the curb and an uneven tarmac.
I saw a change that unsettled me as we crossed the river. Gentrified neighbours welcomed me and I learnt how the other half (10%, really) lived. In that moment I learnt what it is to be a minority in America.
"It's all part of it!" Shamarie told us. We were talking about the smell that seemed to blanket itself over New York city. Shamarie was a Jamaican-born New Yorker. He had struck up a conversation with my partner about his Blackberry (my partner still uses Black Berry in this day and age). I was shocked to see that many businesses put their rubbish out on the front curb and I had been itching to ask a local about the notorious subways and trash on the sidewalk. In the sweltering summer heat, the foul smell seemed to penetrate the nose more violently. And here it was...it's all part of the New York experience!
Her skyline has inspired iconic love stories and a formidable identity for her children. It's an incredibily fun photogenic city, the place where fashion flourishes, hot dogs are incredibily delicious and someone can threaten to fight you on the subway. That's New York, New York!