James C. Banks

I Have Returned (To Blogging and from New York)

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 at 3:15 am

It feels good to be back.  My week+ without the internet brought on moments when I felt as though I might be, through fasting, on the verge of some new enlightenment or revelation and I found more time for reading of a substantial nature. However, I’m glad to be hitting the news links and even more glad to be blogging again.

The latter of these two activities was postponed still further by my prolonged weekend in New York City.  Unlike most of my friends, I never set a foot in any of the five Burroughs until I was in my early twenties and prepared to start attending graduate school (that was Round One–in upstate New York; Round Two in the same place is coming soon).  Since my first visit (in the late summer of 2009), I have generally met my goal to make it to the city at least once a year.

Not the least of reasons for this is to visit cousins in Brooklyn–always extremely humid during the summer months.  But I additionally have a love for the counterculture of the city itself.  Even people who have no knowledge of New York know it to be a city of “yang” (or “action”) rather than “yin” (that is, more or less, Washington, my hometown).  Unlike Washington, New York does not have the feel of a city adapted for its inhabitants. Rather its inhabitants seem to have adapted to it.

Very little in Washington goes beyond the basic requirement that the city serve as a functional capital.  The monuments are impressive (and, as my bus got in late last night, I can assert that they are absolutely stunning in silence at 4:oo AM.) But the manhole covers are only manhole covers. It is difficult to imagine a manhole cover in Washington that is also a sculpture of an pinstripe-suited alligator devouring a child with the head of a money-bag. Yet there is no need to imagine it in New York, for it can be seen in the subway.

The irony is that this somewhat odd and seemingly arbitrary sculpture betrays a tinge of moral-ism. When I saw it, I wondered at all of the Wall Street bankers who have seen it and must have taken a momentary–but nonetheless real–forewarning from the sculpture which serves a similar purpose as the medieval tapestries depicting the mitered souls burning in hell.

New York–unlike Washington–is a city defined by myriad acts of microanarchy.  Though the MTA workers probably would just assume everything run according to plan, the signs on the subway train car doors specifying that passengers should absolutely NOT travel between cars are not obeyed by any New Yorker.  In Washington, no one ever trangresses this directive (if someone did, he or she would probably be tazered as a suspected terrorist.)

Living in Washington is like living in a marriage of convenience; the relationship is rarely passionate, but it keeps you in a community which is well-worth the trouble.  If this is the case though, New York makes for an ideal place–or almost personal entity–to visit on the side.  It wears its visitors down, but, sometimes, being worn down is precisely what this Washington visitor needs.

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