The wanderer in Manhattan

People ask me ALL THE TIME why I want to move to New York, and they do it with that look on their faces, as if I've just told them that "crack whore" is my new long-term career goal (with fringe benefits!), and most of them usually follow it right up with "I hate New York" or "I could never live there," as if I'm the one who asked the question in the first place or am begging them to come along with me. Naturally my initial knee-jerk reaction (as of yet always unspoken) is either, Mind your own goddamn business, or Fuck you, why do you want to stay here? But that's mostly because my wanting to live in New York is a longing so deep and real and palpable that I can't quite find the words to explain it, even to myself, and also it's the sort of thing that, if you've never felt such a longing, you're never going to understand anyway. But it has something to do with this:

[...] The wanderer in Manhattan must go forth with a certain innocence, because New York is best seen with innocent eyes. It doesn't matter if you are young or old. Reading our rich history makes the experience more layered, but it is not a substitute for walking the streets themselves. For old-timer or newcomer, it is essential to absorb the city as it is now in order to shape your own nostalgias.

That's why I always encourage the newcomer to surrender to the city's magic. Forget the irritations and the occasional rudeness; they bother many New Yorkers too. Instead, go down to the North River and the benches that run along the west side of Battery Park City. Watch the tides or the blocks of ice in winter; they have existed since the time when the island was empty of man. Gaze at the boats. Look across the water at the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, the places to which so many of the New York tribe came in order to truly live. Learn the tale of our tribe, because it's your tribe, too, no matter where you were born. Listen to its music and its legends. Gaze at its ruins and monuments. Walk its sidewalks and run fingers upon the stone and bricks and steel of our right-angled streets. Breathe the air of the river breeze.

And look up: There are falcons in our sky again, safe at last from the perils of DDT, returned to full life after a long hard time. They can be seen moving through the upper stories of the tall downtown towers, those spires of the magic city, where they can also build their nests and teach their children. They fly over the places where the Dutch once lived and the British watched plays in powdered wigs and Africans insisted upon their humanity in streets where they were owned by others. On explorations uptown, the falcons can see the spires and the bridges and the endless roll of rooftops moving north and west and east. Their movements might at first seem aimless. But be patient. Near the end of the day, with the sun heading for New Jersey and the sky suddenly mauve, you can see the falcons wheeling and turning, heading downtown, heading for home.

—Pete Hamill, Downtown: My Manhattan

And it's also this:

+ Daily Blague: South of Houston
+ About Last Night: Survivor
+ Lux Lotus: My Life In Pictures
+ rachelleb.com: Now That I'm an Old Lady...
+ bluejake: skyline at sunset
+ tien mao's little read book: police, cheney, delegates and protesters
+ oh, my favorite day. ever.