In Plain Sight
I visited New York alone for the first time when I was 18. Too young to drink and way too unseasoned to make new friends, I spent most of my week in the city walking alone. Having lived my entire life in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I had not spent a great deal of time dealing with urban blizzards and the cold, which meant I was woefully unprepared for the amount of trekking I was to do. That particular trip wouldn't prepare me for moving into the city (chasing a girl, something that would not work out) in the middle of Hurricane Sandy some years later. And although I could wax poetic about the city coming together, like most New Yorkers I squirreled away in Brooklyn and went about my life, going to work, coming home, and adapting to a fairly shocking new adventure.
Making it to the West Side, where I still live today with my wife, felt like I finally made New York home. We are waiting for our first child and I can see myself living here forever - even if I can't afford it. Still, walking has become a form of therapy, much like what I experienced when I first moved to California and walked the empty streets of San Francisco at 2 AM. I looked to repeat that experience in this city but found myself gravitating to other busy, busy people, shuffling about and never wanting to stop. From tourists to New Yorkers, we are all one form or another of immigrants: for the day, the week, or a lifetime. This city has a tendency to change enough to make you feel like you're visiting even if you happen to live around the corner. I now like to walk in broad daylight because it’s when the city morphs in real time.
The city is a strange place for people who don't initially belong here. New York is one of the only places in the world where immigrants of such absurdly diverse and socioeconomic backgrounds seem to coexist harmoniously. It might have to do with the fact that New York has been a pressure cooker since day one, but I'm not sure it would be enough to explain how spectacularly unique this town is. It could be that it’s situation as an immigration gateway does something to a place. In a way I see how growing up in Buenos Aires is like growing up in New York, without the "on steroids" bit.
Other cities have felt more disorienting, but none are as aggressively dynamic and loud as New York. In Tokyo outdoor advertising is insistent, but there's quiet around every corner. In New York the whole city, every street, every block, seems to shake with the imperceptible vibration of every person here. It's a lot like atoms shaking violently trying to release themselves and it makes this place special. The city hides some of its best qualities in plain sight, waiting for you to walk in front of that one park, building, hot dog stand, or whatever you fancy for the third time before suddenly revealing itself. As if the atoms vibrating selectively lift curtains and decide it's time - New York reveals itself every day.