Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rain, Rockefeller, and Other Things

The greyness in New York feels like cold silk. It slides on the body unexpectedly, like a shirt left in front of the air conditioning all night. Imagine getting up in the morning, warm from a bed layered in blankets and pillows, only to experience only the slightest chill. The past three days have been this way, punctuated with tantrums of rain.

Sunday evening was the most beautiful, walking in Chinatown as the rain fell out of the sky in endless solid streams. The streetlights made the rain red, green, and gold like fireworks as I stepped off the sidewalk to avoid a puddle—nay, a river—that would cover my feet and maybe my ankles. The rain was friendly, though, a canopy to dance under at a beach wedding. Shielded by my little black umbrella, I was happy to step lively down E. Houston Street, cold water sweeping over my red boots. I could almost see Gene Kelly swinging on the streetlamps. Even in the midst of what some would call a torrential downpour, New York is still beautiful.

After the rain, the air is damp but cold, lovely to stand outside in and see the city. Even from a rooftop in Chinatown only six stories up, I can see the whole city. The top of the Empire State Building hides coyly in the clouds, playing hide and seek with us, but we let it win. Because 5’2” is much different than 5’11”, I can only see so much, but I can feel the city around me. There are times when I actually cannot believe I am here, and even if the sky opened up right now and soaked me to the bone, I would still be endlessly in love. As far as I’m concerned, any view of the city is a good one. But I am not yet a jaded New Yorker.

Sometimes I wonder if New Yorkers even see New York. Everyone rushes past, thinking about what they have to do next, where they have to be and they barely see what’s in front of them.

Today I waited in Rockefeller Plaza for my roommate to leave work. On my way there, young but tired-looking businessmen loosened their ties from their collars and thudded toward the subway station. They didn’t notice the giant dandelion-like fountains spraying water in a perfect sphere; they didn’t notice the candy-colored lights of Radio City Music Hall; they couldn’t see the shining doors on the UBS building.

I saw it, though. I saw how Rockefeller Plaza was filled with people marveling at the brilliantly gold art-deco frieze above one of the building’s main entrances; I saw people sitting and eating lunch in the space where there’s an ice skating rink in the winter. I saw people just staring up at this building which to so many New Yorkers is just another skyscraper, but to the people visiting it is shiny and wonderful and new. I leaned on a railing while a flock of flags waved above me and I stared up at the buildings in amazement too. It really is just incredible--so tall, so many windows. I wonder how many New Yorkers have really ever looked at it. I hope I can always look at New York this way, whether I am on a rooftop in Chinatown or a would-be ice skating rink in the center of the city. Sometimes, yes, it is important to get where you’re going, but other times it’s more important to see what’s on the way.

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