The Pips Take Manhattan

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On a non-academic subject, I had the pleasure of my first trip to New York. To celebrate graduating and my birthday, Bill took me to Manhattan and totally spoiled me. I know the wide panorama shots don’t get appropriate space in this format, but if you click on them you can see much larger and more detailed versions.

wpid-20150607_205014_lls.jpgI had no comparable experience to the size of…everything. It’s understandable that Manhattan made me feel small. The buildings are impossibly tall, the population is impossibly dense, the clothes are impossibly expensive. It almost couldn’t be easier to get lost and be invisible.

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Like an Alice in Manhattanland, I also found myself feeling big. It’s the sensation of being close to history, in an epicenter of culture.

I stood where TV comes from (now to watch Law & Order and Friends and Seinfeld all over again). wpid-20150606_202303_lls.jpgIt’s where theater and music happens. Radio City Music Hall, Broadway… and like, half of the movies ever filmed.

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95% humidity in Times Square

It’s Central Park. I mean, CENTRAL PARK. And would you believe that we ran into someone we knew from our days at Willamette University? It’s okay, me neither, but we did.  We saw street performers, awesome playgrounds with kids who don’t know how spoiled they are, and continued to boggle at our chances of running into friends.

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wpid-img_20150606_141658.jpgIt’s where buildings used to be made like this:

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It’s where our economy lives (Wall Street, right by that beautiful bull), and where America’s oldest history is retained and glorified.

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wpid-20150607_132945.jpgBill was very permissive about my English Teacher pilgrimage walk through the New York Public Library. It has all the marble pomp and architectural glory of a church, staggering in size and full of the weight of its own importance. I loved it. It was closed for a private event the first afternoon we walked by. I am now seething with jealousy of people who go to special events there.

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I may have drooled a little over this little thing typed on Langston Hughes’ own typewriter. It’s ok, it’s behind glass.

This is where art happens constantly. It’s being created, it’s being restored and protected, it’s everywhere. It was impossible to avoid art museums, public art, and graffiti (not that I would).

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Visible from the High Line

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Who let ME in the Met?

It’s where food is perfected.  We dined in a couple high-class umpteen-star restaurants, which also made me feel big and important. I maintained my coffee habit thanks in part to Blue Bottle, as recommended by angry_barista. He did not steer me wrong. And as a self-identified pizza snob (thanks, Flying Pie) that was naturally on the itinerary. Namely we sampled Majestic Pizza, known both for its classically NY thin crust bedsheet-size slices and for its proximity to the place

where everything, everything, everything, changed.

wpid-20150607_135851.jpgThis water feature sits under shade and reflects not only the sunlight and skyline, but the striking stillness of “Ground Zero.” In the middle of all the urgent business noise and bustling New York energy is a pocket of meditative, reflective space that only grows from the site of a tragedy. I was a senior in high school that September.

wpid-20150607_134848.jpgMy world view at 17 in Boise was far too small in scope to understand the magnitude of the WTC attacks. You could make a case that everyone (individually, nationally, culturally) had to reevaluate the possibilities of worst case scenarios, but I mean scope in the most basic senses. I had no frame of reference for a city so dense, for buildings so tall, or for acts of terrorism larger than, say, the Oklahoma City bombing (which occurred when I was 11, and my world view consisted of a one mile radius of my house). Just as nothing prepared me for the event, nothing prepared me for the memorial.

I couldn’t imagine a monument that could do justice to the shock waves of shock, grief, outrage, fear, and overwhelming loss. Luckily, I didn’t have to, there were better minds.

wpid-20150607_135016.jpgThis page can provide you with much more information than I can, so I’ll impart only the touchy-feely stuff. The empty space is incredibly powerful, the shape and flow of water stirred in me the profound sinking feeling I cannot attribute to any other chapter of my life. The elements of water, stone, and air are as stark and clean as the etched names of those we lost–the sharpest contrast to devastating chaos that destroyed them. I cried.

I sat on a bench in some shade to compose myself. I closed my eyes, and listened to the water and the busy noise of people. I felt the sun on my feet, and heard a breeze through the leaves. Patches of earth interrupt the stone walkways, with trees growing joyfully. The last element is human (or so the movie tells me), and as I looked around the crowd, my heartbeat slowed, and the tension in my neck relaxed because all these sensations meant one thing: this place is undeniably alive.

Maybe that’s the real monument.