Familiar Sights and Sounds
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 23:09
When my bus pulled into New York City, I realized that I had become more Boston-ized than I ever intended.
Dropped off in midtown Manhattan, I was instantly overwhelmed by the lights, the cabs, the emergency vehicles, the massive advertisements, and, more than anything else, the people—the businessmen, the protestors, the homeless, the musicians, the consumers of overly-priced, corporation-crafted coffee.
I was reminded of the feeling I had whenever I went to New York as a child—the anxiety that came along with visiting a place that just seemed so big, how my father would always advise me to take my mother’s hand while he held my sister’s—this was ostensibly to make me feel like one of the “men of the house,” to play the role of my mother’s protector, but reflection now makes it obvious that my mother was indeed meant to keep track of me.
Alone, I entered New York, which, despite the claims of other cities, will always be the city.
Still, I found myself missing the Boston streets, which always pleased me by being relatively uncongested. Boston’s low-lying buildings created less claustrophobia than New York’s colossal structures. I even found myself missing Boston College’s own comfortable Chestnut Hill.
Underneath the anxiety and my desire for the familiar, however, was a pervasive loneliness.
There is something about New York—perhaps any city, but especially New York—that leaves one feeling isolated, despite the presence of over one and a half million souls in Manhattan alone.
I began looking for the face of the girl, an NYU student whom I was visiting.
During the weekend, she and I had lunch at a New York Restaurant called the Grey Dog on University Place—a pretty cool joint with the shtick of moving people in and out in a quick but polite manner so as to handle the high volume of its brunch crowd.
We were seated, ironically, at a table decorated with a map of Boston, reminding me of the ways that Boston is in New York, and vice versa.
Linked by history, culture, and passionate sport rivalries, it is a relationship like few others. While working on an article for The Heights about the mayoral preliminary election, I was reminded that New York is also about to engage in a landmark election. Both of these major northeastern cities—arguably two of the most important in the country—will have to choose who will lead them into the future after the departure of two long-standing mayoral figures. The choice has an impact not only on the superficial political landscape of the cities, but also on the cities’ businesses and cultures.
While on the bus back to Boston at the end of the weekend, I found myself looking at the standard advertisements that are unavoidable in the Boston area. One promised “wicked good savings” and another told customers to give their wallets a “breathah.” I sometimes find these signs irritating—the idea that a great and diverse city is reduced to a stereotype, that a company feels it can gain profit with less-than-creative advertisements. But on this occasion I felt a fierce affection for the city that I have crafted as my home. I knew that when I climbed off the bus at South Station, I would be entering a city filled with familiar sights, but I mostly looked forward to the familiar people that I would find at BC.
And that is the strange thing about any place—a sea of individuals making its ways down the street can make one feel a massive kind of loneliness, but one familiar person can provide the simplest kind of togetherness.
Like when I climbed off the bus in New York to start my weekend. I had to work my way to Union Square alone.
I was a little lost.
But then there was something else—the face of a familiar girl materializing out of the anonymous New York crowd.
A reminder, of course, that no city need be lonely for long.