I enjoyed myself least of all in New York….Go into the first drug-store, ask your way from a passer-by, and the indifference and harshness of the New Yorker cuts the old affection for the city out of your body as sharply as a surgeon’s knife. It is partly the hysterical pursuit of money, the fast buck, that chills, but it is also the disdain of the New Yorker for the guy who doesn’t know his way about, who isn’t on the inside.
- Ian Fleming, Thrilling Cities
I immensely enjoyed my first day in New York. By taking the train in over the water and then walking out from the tunnels into Grand Central Station’s chandelier-lit infinity, one first encounters the city the way that people were meant to; not from behind the sooty exhaust of a dirty semi-truck. I saw a lot that first day: I got my picture taken by a doorman, watched skateboarders doing tricks on the steps of a Park Avenue office building, ate in the window of an Iranian restaurant with Shervin, walked through Central Park, and imagined myself strolling through the mishaps of a Woody Allen movie. After we’d eaten, Shervin drove me on a hair-raising trip down Broadway and through Times Square, pointing out landmarks as he honked his horn and cut off other drivers. As a city driver, Shervin saw beauty in every stoplight on the avenue changing green all at once, as if opening a path for him to drive onward into eternity. I was content admiring the buildings with my head outside the car window.
But it was only on the second day, when I emerged downtrodden from my interview with Kriasho Japan (where I made a poor impression—my concentration thrown off by a hurriedly improvised teaching presentation and several questions probing the weaknesses on my application) that I experienced Fleming’s New York. I walked through a city of people rushing to their destinations completely oblivious to everyone else, where it took the accident of an old man collapsing in the street to break people out of their stupors and actually interact with the environment around them. I saw young men in blue business shirts laughing together on their lunch breaks—for they had decent jobs and could afford to laugh when I could not. There were, of course, the tourists, but some stubborn bit of pride kept me from associating with these photo-snapping gawkers. Several times I caught myself staring up at the skyscrapers and looked back ahead with the rest of the crowd lest they think I was some sort of country bumpkin. I adapted the New Yorker’s quick stride but wandered without aim; contenting myself to my usual people-watching (highlights from the day include a crowd of theater buffs smoking outside an Irish pub, a bus full of rabbis, and more hot girls than I’d seen in months) and avoiding any actual destination. My aching feet and shattered ego could only take so much of this, and I drifted to a hill in Central Park overlooking the skyline and immersed myself in a book I’d brought. Solace at last.
At least the day ended on a good note: I highly recommend that anyone capable of seeing [Title of Show] do so immediately. I found it both creatively uplifting and hilariously funny, and it raised my spirits from the pit they’d fallen into after the interview. Shervin was right—there’s no shame in going to a Broadway show alone.