Sunday, July 6, 2008

Expectations of Experience

We could not hear each other talk. I had to repeat myself at least three times which made what I had to say seem tedious and unimportant. We had wandered into a sushi place that had live music, a band called The Blues Buddha was playing. Now, dont get me wrong, they were pretty good, but I just wasnt in the mood.

I read a quote the other day that said something like {if the music is too loud, then you are too old}, and that is how I felt. My husband and I are not really that old, but in the last few months I have just felt like I am winding down. Cant stay up too late, dont enjoy loud music, Joe even called the police because of too many fireworks on the 4th of July. And as I lay in bed I heard him refer to them as {explosives}. I wasnt sure what had gotten into him, the man who asks in stores if they sell those sneakers with wheels on them for adults.

But thats not the story I want to tell. As we ate sushi and yelled across the table we were talking about New York City and how if I leave in the next few years, I will not ever have felt that I truly experienced it. In New York there is an underground to the underground and I know I have not even scratched the damn surface. I am not amazingly wealthy and seeing that New York, or very poor and experiencing it that way. I am not very old, or young, I dont like things too harsh or too cushy. Which brought me to my next idea.

What truly constitutes experiencing something? seeing it? feeling it? When you experience the Grand Canyon, for example, although I have never been, don’t you just drive for miles and then get out of the car and take pictures and talk about how it looks like a painting? and is that experiencing it? and, as for New York, is riding the subway, walking around with your ipod, gawking at the prices of everything, sitting in dirty parks, hearing loud noises, walking and walking, carrying heavy awkward packages for blocks, having a chatty cab driver, seeing a rat or a roach, smelling garbage, is that expereincing it? Have I really experienced it? There is more to it I think, Joe says there is not, and I am not sure where that leaves me. All of my senses have been bombarded by New York, but I still feel as though I have lived as a ghost here, but maybe thats just what this city wants you to feel.


  1. Maybe its because there is so much going on and it feels like everyone is part of it. All the time. All around you. And if you aren't out seeing a show, or an exhibit, checking out a new restaurant, whooping it up on the dance floor...then its almost like its a party you weren't invited to and you're standing outside the window watching everyone else experience it.

  2. Isn't the classic definition of experiencing something firsthand, in anthropology terms, as someone who is an active participant? In NY there are so many facets of the city that even native New Yorkers can't truly say they've experienced everything about the city. But when people who don't know much about the city asks you about NY, you can truly say you were an active participant in some facet of the city. Same with the Grand Canyon, I haven't hiked the whole canyon, but I've done some hiking into the canyon. I think my experience is definitely as legit as those who repeatly return to visit the Grand Canyon but have never ventured beyond the rim as well as those who have hiked all the trails from rim to river. When you get to the Grand Canyon and you get out of the car, you're doing your part as an active participant.


    New York is so big, it takes millions of us experiencing a little piece of it each and every day to fully experience it.

    I remember after 9/11 wanting to hear everyone's "story" about where they were when it all happened. It helped me to get a full picture of the events of the day. There was the friend who walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to get home and the housewife who watched it on tv and family member who watched it from work in midtown and those whose plane was diverted to Canada when they grounded the planes and the cowoker evacuated from his office in Seattle. They helped me fully experience that terrible morning (and later get through it).

    My own singular memories of being downtown that day are clear and defined but it takes all of our stories together to capture the essence of that single day in New York.

    It takes millions of us to experience this fabulous city each day and I bet some aspect of it is being missed right now. That's why it's the greatest city in the world (native New Yorkers can say that!)