Thursday, June 23, 2011

Snapshot Stories of a Year in NYC

It's the anniversary of my first year living back in the New York metro area after years away. I've soaked up New York this year in a way I rarely did during the three decades I lived here before. Distance definitely made my heart grow fonder.

I've taken many photos over the past 12 months but my favorite ones are those I missed capturing with a camera and had to commit to memory instead. Here are a few that remind me of why it's so good (and sometimes crazy) to be back living in, close to, around and in love with the greatest city I know:

Crimson light pours into a slow-moving D train crowded with frozen, sleepy commuters. Wintered faces appear less sullen as the subway climbs out of a tunnel onto Manhattan Bridge. Nearby, the Brooklyn Bridge performs a stretch across the East River. A tug boat barrel chests its way through white capped waters. The Frank Gehry tower catches sunrise and bends it with its steel contours. New York wakes up to power and glory.

New Yorkers rush for taxis and jog alongside their dogs on Central Park West one afternoon but in moments a freight elevator at The New York Historical Society transports me from West 77th Street in 2010 to the Upper West Side of the 1800s. In the building's centuries-old library, white columns and oil paintings frame visitors as they pore over maps and photos of New York's past in fascinated silence.

Summer-dirty streets, humidity thick with noise, a string of junk stores and slouching tenements, but on an August afternoon, at the end of a scrawled maze of street directions, the Eldridge Synagogue stands beautiful and preposterous. The sight is a reward and evidence of a subtle New York barter system: aggravation exchanged for the extraordinary.

Another sunrise, not over the East River but reflected in shimmers and shapes off glass windows lining the west side of Fifth Avenue onto the facade of the old B. Altman department store building on the east. The streets below the Empire State Building seem to hold still for the spectacle then burst back into action moments later.

Night on West 55th Street warmed and illuminated, even in a downpour, by the glow of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Rehearsals are underway, visible in each window. On the top floor, dancers move back and forth in a fierce capoeira routine. On the street level, couples leap, turn, then slowly embrace. The glass studios look like jewel cases displaying treasure to a storm.

A group of frenzied out-of-town friends run from Serendipity on a Sunday at midnight. A sanitation worker, armed with a metal pole, sends dozens of rats clawing out of garbage bags toward our ankles. I look back to see the rodents, the color of sidewalks, running toward us as they race for a hollow beneath a tree on the corner. "This never happens to me in San Diego!" a woman booms over her shoulder. She laugh-screams and keeps her high heels moving toward Third Avenue.

Brooklyn Bridge crossings on full moon nights, under falling snow, in arctic winds, in spraying mist and, most frequently, under sun; always peopled and never the same twice.


  1. 'aggravation exchanged for the extraordinary' - nice, and so true. Perhaps a little less of both than in previous years.

    Nice image of the rats . . . keepin' it real. Thankfully, I've never actually seen packs of them running down the street, though I've heard stories, many stories.

    Welcome back!


  2. Thanks for reading, commenting and the welcome back, City of Strangers. The word pics you mentioned are two of my favorites!

  3. When I lived a block off of W. 125th the rats used to shoot out of the trash cans all the time!


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