Saturday, May 30, 2009

Urban spaces

I'm currently in NYC (I've been here since Wednesday with sporadic email/internet access--in case anyone is wondering, Blogger allows you to write posts and set a timer on them so they'll pop up sometime in the future, which is how I've managed to keep the blog populated even while I'm out and about). I'm here for both pleasure and business, but really, just walking around the city (Manhattan in this case) is really pleasurable, for me, because I have missed being in urban spaces.

I think urban spaces get a bad rap a lot of time. And truth be told, as much as I love visiting NYC and other big cities, I don't think I am the kind of person who thrives in urban spaces. Maybe it's the sensory overload. Let me give you an example.

When I first arrived in midtown Manhattan, I dropped my stuff off with my cousin "C" and headed out to just walk the streets and absorb some atmosphere. And my jaunt took me in about a 20 block circle (or square--Manhattan is pretty much laid out on a grid), and I was struck by how different the experience is of walking in the city versus walking in my sleepy Southern college town. The size and density of the buildings is one obvious difference, as is the size and density of the people walking about on the sidewalks. In fact, I deliberately walked through Times Square to get a sense of being in the middle of a throng. And it was a throng--I've never known Times Square not to be humming with people, and this day was no exception. And being in the middle of Times Square is to be in the middle of sensory overload. There are so many sights to take in--the people, the buildings, the bill boards, the lights, the huge screens flashing scenes from ads and movie trailers. The scents: you can imagine that they run the gamut of food scents and human scents (I have to say that one of the things I've always noticed about NYC is that there is a persistent smell of urine, whether of dog, human, or horse, never quite clear, but it overlays everything). The sounds: cars honking, police whistles, human conversation, and just the low level buzz of electricity--because there is so much electricity being pumped into this one section of NYC.

It was exhilarating and exhausting. And it does make me wonder about whether I could ever see myself living in urban spaces like NYC. Because on the one hand, there is so much that is exciting about living in a city--so much to take in. And lets be frank--there's so much diversity. NYC is diversity central on many, MANY fronts. But there is also part of me that feels tired being here. And I wonder what kind of toll that would take on me to be here day in and day out.

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