Why I live In New York

The first time I came to New York City, I was ten years old. I grew up in a small town in Maine and despite whatever television and movies I’d seen, I was totally unprepared for an experience like New York.

My uncle is a woodworker—an artist really—and he had a gallery opening in Manhattan that my mother and I were to attend. A trip longer than an hour away from home was rare occurrence for us and this would be three days and two nights in the big city. We stayed in a modest Murray Hill hotel one night and some wealthy relatives put us up in the Hilton in Times Square the other night. At the Hilton, I remember the glass elevators—lit up like year-round Christmas trees—that catapulted us into the sky.

Overall, the city was a shock to my system—one that forced me to alter my basic understanding of the world. I’d never seen such wealth and such poverty. People and places that I’d read about, seen in movies, and heard on the news all suddenly became real. Taxi drivers donning turbans, crazy bag ladies, businessmen in tailored suits, prostitutes and pimps, doormen—these were nothing more than ideas before New York revealed them in the flesh. The city felt unsafe and exhilarating. Not just in the sense that one could be mugged, maimed or murdered, but in how palpable the energy of the city was. It felt as if the city could suddenly fold in on itself and combust.

During this trip, I had a simple encounter on the street that would having a very lasting effect on me. We were walking down an avenue—I couldn’t tell you which one, but it was somewhere near midtown. It was the middle of the day and in the center of the street, there was a Volkswagen Rabbit engulfed in flames. Fire poured from under the hood and smoke curled up though the its open windows. I stopped and stared, flabbergasted.

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How could this be happening?

I took out my 110 Kodak camera and snapped the photo you see above, thinking this was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen. Then I looked around and noticed something else: No one cared.

Everyone kept walking on the sidewalks. Cars continued to speed by. I remember thinking to myself, “How amazing are these people’s lives that this means nothing to them?”

It was then that I knew, someday, I would be a New Yorker.

 
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