They did not overstate the noise, New York City truly is the city that never sleeps. As I mulled over that first myth proven to be true to me, while the cars blared outside, I wondered how anyone could possibly adjust to a place like this. But it was only my first day.
I think I had hoped, visiting New York, fresh off binge-watching the entirety of “Sex and the City,” a six season-long love letter to Manhattan, that I could somehow dislike this illustrious place, even if only to be contrary. It’s hard not to want to burst the bubble just slightly, on a city so hyped up it has to be overrated, filled with masses swearing there’s no place they’d rather be. It just seemed to me that the magic of New York had to be false, designed by clever writers and slyly crafted travel brochures, biased history books and repetitive Rom-coms, people selling plane tickets and overpriced shoebox apartments. Maybe because I went in with an already half-closed mind, expecting disappointment, knowing nothing could possibly live up to how Carrie Bradshaw feels about the city, maybe that is why I was so surprised.
In many ways it really was exactly what I expected. It is a city too crowded and piled together, louder than anyone should have to tolerate, dirtier than one would like, filled with people absolutely ecstatic to be there. Jaywalking is socially acceptable and even encouraged, so much so that I almost got run over twice, and had a rough time transitioning back to following the rules of the road in Los Angeles.
Cab rides are the most terrifying experiences, taxi drivers consider the lane lines a friendly suggestion, and New Yorkers will look at you with wild bewilderment any time you utter the word “Uber.” But I did not expect the energy, I thought it was all talk.
Even on the first night, before the city had really started to settle in my bones, I could feel it. It hummed, pulsed, the throngs of people around me, the air passed between us. Everyone in New York has their own agenda, their own purpose, or at least they’ve all mastered faking a purpose. You feel it as they pass you, at first it’s alienating, none of them are looking at you, they’re all looking through you, you are someone for them to step around on their way to the subway, transporting them towards some kind of success. Then you start to see the benefit, you are in the same place as them, all strangers, all equal, you could very well be walking with your own purpose, towards your own success.
Say what you will about Manhattan, but that energy is no lie, the lack of it back in Los Angeles caused me to crash after my return. I don’t know if it’s always been there, or if it was cultivated and created by people drawn to the city due to a rumor made true, a self-fulfilling prophecy, but either way, it’s quite powerful.
After spending five days in the city that never slept, I needed to sleep. I think New York is in many ways similar to a whining toddler, it never shuts up, it doesn’t stay inside the lines or particular listen to you, and if it isn’t yours, it’s quite difficult to tolerate at times. But when it’s your toddler, your city, you love it for all the intolerable things others can’t stand.
New York may be an acquired taste, not everyone’s cup of tea, but when you fall for that city, you fall hard. Maybe, just maybe, it has earned its reputation.