New York Fucking City

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You board the PATH at Journal Square. The seats are hard plastic and full of bodies with expressionless faces. The train ushers you through bedrock hundreds of feet below the Hudson River, wheels screeching against the steel tracks.  You reach 33rd Street and people pour out of the train. The station always has that damp musk that signals that you’ve entered Manhattan. Above ground are Glass towers and lights. Gray buildings against a gray sky. The chatter of pedestrians mixing with the hum of cars and buses. The perfume of heavily sugared cashews from the street vendors. Street gutters filled with slush in the winters and stray garbage in the other seasons. It’s months since I’ve been back but when I close my eyes I can summon this imagery at will to perfection.

Manhattan always struck me as ordinary. It was an obstacle to my morning commute. A city of constant irritation. Growing up in the vicinity of the skyline, I was completely desensitized to it. New York City was the beautiful girl next door that went unnoticed. Something about being too familiar with something for too long renders you immune to its charms.

In my fifteen year absence, whole neighborhoods have changed and some have even popped up out of thin air. My encyclopedic knowledge of the NYC subway is fading and being replaced by subway systems from other cities. What were once dangerous areas have become havens for interlopers from far away places. The border containing the once dangerous Alphabet City has shrunk and given way to gourmet meatball shops filled with tattooed patrons hailing from the Midwest and other far away places.

But hey, this is how New York works. Nobody lays claim to the city for too long.  Neighborhoods change and people come and go but the subway stations always smell the same.

 

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