Four boroughs –a network of intricate veins carrying superfluous life into the heart of a vibrant city. Everyday vitality flows from these vessels flooding its streets, cramming its subways, inhabiting its shimmering skyscrapers and igniting the flame that is the essence of an empire. New York. Perhaps, this city is a global icon because it represents the aspirations of all who wish for something more. Similar to Rome in its heyday, New York‘s influence has shaped the world as we know it. From fashion to business, food to technology, nightlife to academia- the Big Apple is the mecca for innovation.
As a child of one of the boroughs, I would often venture to NY hanging onto my mother’s coat sleeve as we made the two-hour trek into Manhattan, circumventing through a sea of determined crowds, and pausing to help a hobo on the street afford his breakfast.
I remember walking with my mother, feeling so small and scared, yet so proud to be a part of her magical life in the bustling metropolis. As we approached the massive building with the words BEAR STEARNS etched in white among thousands of glass panels, I beamed at the thought of spending the day seated next to my mother watching her every move as she did “very important business” from her office in the sky.
Twenty years later, I still marvel at the vibrant chaos that never lulls or sleeps as I walk through the vivacious streets of the Meatpacking district. The city means something very different to me as a young woman than it did as a small child depending on her mother to show her the world.
It became a symbol of inspiration-a figure of possibilities, an image of what life could offer, if pursued with fervor and commitment. A place of artists and lovers-those who create and those who explore with passion, coming together to keep the world turning at a quick and restless pace.
As I sit in Spice Market eating chicken samosas dipped in cilantro yogurt, I am blown away as the waitress tells me about the complex process in which the décor of the restaurant was pieced together. She informs me that much of the furniture had been shipped from many different parts of Southeast Asia and Morocco. Everything from the soft glowing lanterns to the bold tapestries had been carefully chosen to make the dining experience as authentic as possible. Illuminated by hundreds of candles, the restaurant felt like the dwellings of a sacred temple. I sat fascinated by the artistic genius of Jean-Georges and the designers he worked with. It was a typical, yet exclusive encounter.
In Manhattan it is not unusual to be blown away by inventive experiences yet each time you discover something beautifully ingenious you feel privileged to have access to some of the most exquisite examples of what the human mind is capable of when tempted, stirred, challenged, and exposed.
Strolling past the Gansevoort Hotel, I stare as model-like people sway from its doors dressed in expensive clothing made by designers from all over the world. The streets are screaming with life in so many languages I can barely decipher who is American and who has come to explore. The warm breeze is soft and aromas of fine food cooking overwhelm the air. I pass a small factory -looking building labeled “David’s Veal” as a silver Mercedes CLK rolls in front and parks. The stark contrasts of past and present meet at the corner. I walk with my husband up several flights of steel stairs to “The High Line” a glamorous overpass overlooking the bright lights of the city that once served as a rail line used for transporting meat and goods for processing in the 1930’s . A work in progress, the overpass has been transformed into a secret garden leading to the future location of the Whitney Museum of American Art facility. Teak benches and chaises sporadically line the garden where soft lighting highlights flora sprouting from concrete flower beds. Steel lines of railroad tracks jut slightly from the ground turning the story of what once was into a timeless architectural tribute to the beauty of change.
As I leave New York through the Holland Tunnel I journey through another artery though no longer a child of the boroughs. Even from the New Jersey Turnpike I can see the brilliant lights stretch from all ends-east, west, uptown, downtown-the city that never sleeps. I think of the past thirty years and how they have shaped this sassy island. Recession, war, renaissance, the naked cowboy, the fall of iconic Wall Street names, recession-rebuilding. In many ways the city represents the human spirit at its best and worst. A compilation of passion, avarice , and vision, where life thrives in chaos, and change lies in each new layer of concrete.