TTLB New York Photo Essay:
Reclaiming an Old Friend

I returned recently from New York; my first visit since last summer.
Much earlier; a few years ago, I made the city my home. I was a reluctant New Yorker: a New Jersey native drawn into the city by the sheer desperation of a 80-hour-a-week job combined with a 90-minute commute. Find a local apartment; devote a year to complete the project at hand, I thought, and I’d be free of the city.
Five years later, I finally left. The project went for two years, not one — and more astonishingly, I found myself seduced by the city. I stayed long after the job was over, and fell into the rhythms of Manhattan.
Eventually, though, I left, and headed West. In my time there, New York’s charms led to a dizzying, but necessarily temporary, flirtation. The city was, for me, like the romance you had in youth with someone you knew, in the end, was not right; but when it was over, you left with more than passing regret — for the ending, not for the time spent.
And so last September, whether deservedly or not, I felt that it was my city that was attacked; that it was not simply my fellow countrymen who were murdered, but my old neighbors.
I wanted, in this past visit, to reclaim my memories of New York. For a year, I — like many, I suspect — have found myself thinking of New York not in its glory, but in its sorrow. Not as a place where I spent five eventful years; but as a city-sized crime scene.
I was successful in this, I think. It was, frankly, a fairly dismal visit. But not for reasons of mourning, or fear, but for the more banal reason that New York in August, quite simply, sucks. The heat is oppressive, the humidity awful, and everything, everywhere, feels sticky and heavy. And it smells.
But that was OK. The New York of my memories was never perfect; on the contrary, it was maddening; a crazy-making place that demands a hate-love relationship even from its most ardent admirers. Other cities may strive to eliminate the negative; to create urban bliss — not New York. The negative is inherent, and inescapable, and everywhere. You can never truly love New York unless you also hate it.
I took a few photos during my visit; random scenes that, to me, reminded me of the real New York. I present them here for you to share as well.
You won’t find any photos of the Trade Center site here. And in fact, I offer these as an alternative to the horrific images that we have had burned into our minds in this past year. The next time you think of New York and see the wreckage; the next time you see an image of the towers burning — come here. Take a look at the real New York; the New York that is still standing; still open for business, and still pissing people off every day.
Others, obviously, are way ahead of me in this process (most notably those that actually live in New York, of course). And I certainly don’t desire or intend to claim any special revelation or vision here. But this was my journey; and if it offers anything to you as well, then so be it.
I didn’t get nearly as much time as I had hoped to spend picture-taking; so there’s really only a few modest shots here. But hope you enjoy them nonetheless; they’re
PS – I would love to see other, similar images that anyone else has captured of New York in the past year. If you have some and can post them yourself, let me know and I’ll link. (And I suppose if anyone wants, I’d be happy to add other folks’ photos, properly attributed, to the collection here — go ahead and email me if you like).