Wednesday, May 5, 2010
New York I love you but you're bringing me down
I was talking to a lady today who is serving an LDS mission with her husband here in New York. I asked her what she thought of the city and she said that she has a love/hate relationship with it. I instantly knew what she was talking about. Now, I have only been here for a week so everything might change by the time I leave, but if today is any indication then the relationship I have with New York is definitely love/hate, and I think this is perfectly fine. To be honest I was surprised that I didn't love every second of being here right from the start, but really, why should I? It's a strange and new experience for me, and the city is also quite dirty (even in the nicest areas), crowded, noisy and it has been either freezing or incredibly hot for the last week, there are weird looking people walking around, you are constantly surrounded by people you never have any reason to talk to, and it often smells of urine. So, with all of these things to hate, why do so many people continue to live here, to raise their families here, to grow old here? I'm pretty sure I just don't understand this place yet. I'm trying though, and maybe some day I'll figure it out.
I spent most of my day in Central Park, walking around, looking at people, knitting, you know, the things you do in Central Park. I love Central Park, and I have always loved it, before I even went there. In fact, I wrote a paper on it for my Environmental Humanities class a couple years ago and had plans to expand it into my thesis, but as many of you know, I switched to zombies because I realized that writing a 100 page thesis about a park would end up being extremely boring. I think I made the right decision, but I still have plans to expand that paper. It's about the poetics of park design, but I wanted to also talk about urban nature in general. The interesting thing about Central Park is that it resembles nature, but in a contrived way that is supposed to induce recreation and transcendence. It's like looking at a landscape painting where nature is improved upon. Landscapes and parks do not show its scary side, but instead are meant to be morally, and in the case of parks physically, theraputic. After the morning I had feeling like I absolutely hated this city I went into the park and wandered around the "ramble", the woodsy area behind one of the lakes with trails. Of course I know the history of the park well and I know that all of those trails were very carefully designed, but I totally fell for it. I felt like I was out in the woods, not in the middle of huge dirty city. I calmed down, breathed deeply and relaxed. I totally fell for what Frederick Law Olmstead had planned. I felt like I was far away from the dirt and noise of a crazy city. I watched the birds and the squirrels and I decided that I would forgive New York this time. After another hour in the park I decided that I loved New York again. I left the ramble, but later went back in to eat my lunch and knit.
I spent 6 hours in the park today, knitting and taking pictures and enjoying the warm sunshine and the clear blue skies. I climbed up the Belvedere Castle and looked out over the park. I got lost a few times, turned around because I couldnt see any buildings and didn't know which way from Sunday. But even that was nice because I found places I hadn't known existed. I bought a frozen custard at the Boathouse cafe which was way overpriced but entirely delicious, and a few times I was genuinely entertained by the people walking their dogs and their children, and at one point a little old French lady complimented my knitting.
The last week has been filled with anxiety, but today I am happy. I'm glad Central Park and I were able to get to know each other a little better, and I hope we can be real friends now. I can't wait to start working on that paper again.