I was looking forward to finally setting foot in the JFK airport we hear about in movies. And while I moved through the queues and processes of entering the legendary New York, I kept asking myself, did I land in the wrong airport? Poughkeepsie maybe? (don’t know where that really is, but kept hearing it from New Yorkers as reference to a modest location)
As I waited in yet another long queue for a taxi, i was approached by many a man trying to convince me to use their cab service instead. But I wasn’t going to be tricked into that, I read the signs plastered all over the walls of the airport. And like a good tourist that I was, I stuck to my queue. Well, I wasn’t there for tourism, but I sure felt like one the whole time I was there.
Camera at hand, I snapped images of the view into midtown. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I missed autumn this much. The warm colors of the leaves really did something to one’s soul.
The closer I got to midtown, the less I got impressed. Buildings got a little bit taller, colors got a little bit grayer, people got a little less nicer.
Got out, into the office, and embarked on what I traveled 15 hours to do.
I knew straight away I will not have any time in these short 4 days to get acquainted with the New York I wanted to meet. Regardless, I made sure I made the best of what little time I had to soak in the soul of New York City.
And soak I did. And I did not like what I soaked.
The men and women in the streets looked like robots. The iconic traffic lights opened to pedestrians, and the robots moved mechanically eyes straight ahead, coffees grasped firmly in their hands. They just sped across with an almost numb look on their face. I tried to read them. Some were so blank, for seconds I thought they were clones of a once human race, locked up somewhere in the sewers of this gray city. As if part of a secret government entity that recruited excelling calibers and made doubles and triples out of them to work their lives away, building on the remains of what seemed to be once, indeed, a great city.
Others were a little easier to read. I managed to see a smidge of humanity. I swear for a second I almost saw a cry for help creeping its way out of those blank expressions. I attempted to smile at them, just to make sure they are indeed human beings, but got nothing. Must have been my imagination.
Day in and day out, I saw the same.
I decided to go to Time Square. The icon. That place we see in movies, the news, and in tourist Instagram pictures.
I walked there, and I was told, you won’t miss it. The neon will lead you there.
So I walked and walked. And then I asked again how far is it? Only to be answered, you just passed it.
What?! That’s it? it was small, crowded, everyone looking up as if mesmerized by an alien ship landing on earth. The colors were so loud, billboard aesthetics so unrefined it literally hurt my eyes. My cultural aspirations towards New York shattered.
I gathered the pieces of my expectations off the tourist filled loud neon streets and walked on.
New York was oversold. That was the fact. At that point.
No real stories were to be found along the street I walked to and fro. No inspiration, nothing.
It was like the world lived on the memory of what obviously was once ago a great city, a city that led the world in all that is artistic, intellectual and advanced. All left to see is remains of that age. And not too well maintained.
Walking the Avenue of the Americas every morning I held my tongue many a time from screaming “New York, get over yourself! New York, the world has moved on! What have you done about that?” I wanted to shake the robots and yell in their faces “smile dammit! life is short. SMILE”. But I didn’t.
Some may say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a city by one street. And I should have listened.
Last day I found my way to a place called Union Square. And there it happened. The spark. I stood mid square and looked into the people’s eyes. I found humans! And what humans they were. They were young and old, and dark and white, and happy and sad. They were real. They played chess, danced, ate, played and most important, they smiled. They smiled at eachother, at strangers, they smiled at me.
I saw the old buildings, the park entrance, New York Film Academy, everything. The details screamed maturity of talent, remains of an age that once was. The architecture so warm yet bold that it overcame the perils of time. All I wanted to do was run to them, touch their corners, and listen to the secrets left behind by their makers. Who are you those who had this vision of an intellectual rich Utopia? Who are you and what else have you left behind? Tell me or I will never see a moments sleep again.
They couldn’t tell me yet, for I had to pay my dues and look for these answers in the streets of their city.
There was nothing I could do then, I had a flight to catch.
Instead, I took pictures. For that moment, I was a smitten tourist.
Damn you New York, you cast a spell on me.
I will be back, but I beg you, save the best stories until then.
To walk the streets I walked in images, visit my Instagram account: