Once we had the dates set for our trip to New York City, I put them in my calendar. I did not write “vacation” or even “NYC.” I wrote, “Look around! Look around!” Because Hamilton.
Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now
History is happenin’ in Manhattan and we just happen
to be in the greatest city in the world
in the greatest city in the world
—“The Schuyler Sisters”
That’s what we did all week, look around. notice people. Notice buildings. Notice parks. Most of my vacations have been more nature-oriented, more Mary Oliver: woods, mountains, rivers, beaches. This trip was E.B. White, who wrote “Here Is New York.”
He wrote this 7,500-word piece in 1949, and I found it still for sale all over New York in 2017. The man loved Maine with all his heart, and he also loved Manhattan. Meet E. B. White, greatest essayist of all time:
The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is incomprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.
New York is a poem. I second that. And poems are made of specifics, things you notice when you look around.
Here are just a few things I noticed during our little week on that crowded island:
- More languages than I’ve ever heard in one spot.
- I thought smoking was over, but a lot of people still exhale.
- Every clerk, barista, bartender, waiter, doorman, driver, housekeeper, tour guide, security person, and usher was polite, if not friendly.
- Merciful heavens, Central Park! Black rocks, bronze statues, trees glorious trees, winding paths, so many dogs and strollers, toddlers dressed for blizzards and playing in snowmelt, grownups on swings (including me).
- Delis on every corner with good food, some with a specialty, like dumplings or felafel. Extra seating upstairs or down.
- It doesn’t take long to adjust to walking at least 10 miles a day.
One moment I loved, that E.B. White would have too because he loved dogs, was when we ran into actor Tony Shalhoub in Central Park. He was throwing a ball for his dog, which landed at my husband’s feet. The dog came over to fetch the ball, his owner behind him. John didn’t want to make a big scene—here was a guy out walking his dog on a cool, sunny day, just like we walk our dogs. Here is New York. And here is Fredericksburg, and here is wherever you walk your dog.
(P.S. More about the trip in the next four posts!)