Nov 23, 2006


Day 2 of distance. I had the chance to see a little of the hustle and bustle of the city in full holiday cheer. In the spirit of things, I almost took the head off of some lady in line behind me at the bakery when she asked me "are you in line?" Sometimes it seems like white women in the middle of whatever crisis they are imagining tend to treat men (and women) of color as if we're invisible, inept, or ignorant. I can't begin to imagine how people working in the service and food industries at Grand Central during the holiday rush can deal with it all.

I had a good few hours between studying and getting ready to spend some time with family. It's nice to step away from the law school/studying bubble into the bustling metropolis. New York during the holidays is the one time I feel like it's okay to be a little more forgiving of tourists, though I still wish they'd spend their money and fuel our economy while walking at our pace and enjoying the sublime subtleties unknown to them in their suburbs (rather than Times Square and the Capitalist Concourse on Fifth Ave).

Okay - that's a lie. I just can't stand people who come into the city, treat it like a well-treaded carpet and go to the same old places in Midtown Manhattan, then call it a day. I am offended that so many people think they can somehow distill this vast and strange and beautiful polycultural landscape of tastes, struggles, art, songs, stories, sadness, and rebirth into a family vacation documented by a few staged photographs, cheap souvenirs, overpriced musicals, generic food, and an adventure or two downtown. I am incensed that people don't take the time to learn more about the many nuances of the city. That the white people who come in from middle Amerika can't ask the right questions or see what a beautiful and fluid tapestry our city's many peoples are weaving beneath our feet even now.

But I better understand when people who live or have tried to live here feel overwhelmed. It is a place where perpetual motion is the rule, whether while you're walking a mile through the busy city streets, or you're hustling for your job - be it on Wall Street or Church Avenue. Without stamina, or a fire inside that is fanned with each unexpected turn or encounter, this place can wear you out. I've stopped trying to keep track of all the changes. And I'm scared that in a place where the unexpected business or artistic expression creeps up out of the concrete like some delicate, urban bloom, there is a rapid movement of big box stores, chains, and suburbanization that seems to be wiping out a lot of what kept NYC ours.

Anyway - this is all old news. But seeing all the tourists, seeing them sipping away comfortably on their mochachinos that taste exactly the same as wherever they came from, seeing them shop for things in stores that are just flashier siblings of the same stores they have in their nondescript towns, and hearing their pronouncements about New York after coming through and leaving with the faintest of ideas about its people, its magic, and its importance in the history and future of the country, I feel helpless and angry.

Perhaps not the Thanksgiving story I set out to write up above.

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