My three-week temp job at a publishing house ended yesterday. I’m as apathetic about leaving that job as I was about the job itself, but today, I reveled in my unemployment by sleeping past 9am and wearing unprofessional garb. I would have slept later, but my Dick Van Dyke Show theme song ring tone, interrupted my dream about ballet workshops, brownies, and New Jersey, forcing me to open my bleary eyes and fumble around for my phone. I think the florist was on the other end, but at this point all the phone calls kind of run together. I only know that someone had a very one-sided conversation with my half-awake self and that I replied “yes, of course” a lot. I may have just agreed to join a cult in Staten Island, but I’m going to pretend I was very bridely and talked about official wedding-ish stuff.
After this cryptic exchange, I planned to simply walk to down to the nearby bank, come home, do some chores and then take the subway downtown to visit Graham at work. Instead, I left the bank and decided to go on an adventure. Since moving to this neighborhood, I’ve had little time to explore properly. When I’m in the area I’m usually in my apartment or hiking through the nearby parks which– incidentally– were just featured in the New York Times wellness blog. Little did I know that I live in one of the most vibrant areas of the city. As I walked south on Broadway through Washington Heights and the northern stretch of Harlem, I found myself wishing I had about a dozen more eyes. (Like Harry Potter upon seeing Diagon Alley for the first time.) Maybe because I grew up in a heavily Mexican-American city, and spent many school holidays visiting family in Mexico, but being in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood is comforting to me in a weird way. It reminds me of home and childhood and unforgettable moments.
After about a mile of strolling, I headed West toward the Hudson river an riverside park, favorite route of bicyclists and joggers. Water is my element. I can stand and stare at a fountain or pond or ocean for hours and the only way to get me to relax when tightly wound is a long swim or dip in the hot tub. I resisted my temptation to simply sit on a bench and gaze over the water at the New Jersey shoreline (which looks much prettier from a distance) and continued walking along the water front until I reached 125th street. Walking this route lead me to undiscovered churches, playgrounds and beautiful scenic paths that felt miles away from the city.
I briefly considered hanging out around the Columbia University campus (where I am considering applying for graduate school someday) but my desire for air conditioning and water conquered my masochistic, unattainable fantasies involving the Ivy League, so I hopped on a south-bound bus instead. I rode the bus all the way down the east side of Central Park, exiting a few blocks from Graham’s work. Although the city buses are slow, it’s nice to be above ground during transit sometimes. It makes me feel like a real person, rather than some anonymous, frantic zombie zooming through smelly tunnels all the time. The subway and I are like an old married couple– we bicker and I complain about it, but I ride it all the time and wouldn’t know what to do without it. (Feel free to make that dirty if you want to, you sick-minded freaks.)
I watched Graham make some coffee, perused guilty-pleasure young adult novels at the bookstore and ended the day in the East Village, learning some news about upcoming dance-related opportunities involving my church. The moral of the story? Today was an exciting day. Nothing huge or profound or life shaking occurred, but I lived and lived well. I know that when and if I move away from New York, days like today will be the ones I miss most. Not that there won’t be things to explore no matter where I go, but its hard to imagine finding such diversity of people and landscapes anywhere else. No matter how well I think I know this place, I always find something new. To be honest, at times I loathe it. At times, I can’t wait to live away from the smell, the crowds, the attitudes, but there’s something here that speaks to me, something ineffable. And you know what? I think ineffability is the key. If I could map out this city’s good and bad qualities, then it wouldn’t be New York.