Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Travel Tuesday - New New York

Have you ever met that person who when you talk to them, you are just amazed at the amount of knowledge their brain has retained? Granted, there are a lot of us that look at these people and feel like we are wasting our lives because we haven't spent our free time learning the ways of the world. We feel less enlightened and we might even contemplate reading a good history book or going to a lecture of some sort to further enhance our brain power. Maybe we'll even head to an art museum. Then there are others who look at this very knowledgeable person and question whether or not it is in fact, them wasting their lives because seriously, how the hell have you found the time to learn that much? Do you not work?

Depending on the day, I fall on either side of these personalities. But, when it comes to one thing specific, I am that person that knows way too much. Now, I would like to lie to you and say my knowledgeable subject is something useful like Medieval history or the life works of Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte. At least then you would think “wow, this girl has a discipline”. Sadly, my vast array of knowledge is of something much more... colorful? Yeah. Colorful is a nice word.

I can't tell you when I started listing to the Beatles. I was young. My parents and my brother listened to them and I don't think you can turn on an old rock station without hearing the sounds of “Love Me Do”. The point is that I have been listening to them since I was a kid and went through a phase in high school where I immersed myself into all things Beatles. Clothes, books, albums, history, bootleg copies of obscure songs... You name it and if I could get my hands on it, I consumed it. I was a little Beatles monster who decided it was her life mission to learn everything she could. I started saving for Europe for the soul purpose to see Abbey Road Studio's before it was torn down (thankfully, that never happened and the studio still stands). I went to Liverpool, I've stood outside the Cavern Club and was at a loss for words over the fact that this small, dark little club, somehow held hundreds upon hundreds of people to listen to a band that would change history.

In 2011 I traveled to New York (and side note: I have trouble sometimes not calling it New New York). I had never been there and upon hearing that a friend that I had met in Europe the previous year (and who lives in Australia) was going to be there, I promptly followed suite. Now I could go on and on about New York. I could tell you about how I actually found New Yorkers to be nicer than Californian's. I could tell you about the naked guitar player walking down the street. I could even tell you about the humid weather and what it was like to see my friend try a bagel for the first time. I saw a show while I was there, I visited the Statue of Liberty and I stood on top of the Empire State Building in the middle of the night. I was moved to tears at the 9/11 memorial and I got sunburned beyond belief from riding around on top of a bus where a nice tour driver told us not to stand because a tree would take our head off. When I think of New York, all of that comes to mind. But what probably had the most impact on me was that famous little mosaic, tucked away in Central Park.

I don't think we had been in the city for more than a few hours before we set out to explore the park. The Imagine mosaic for John Lennon was of course, on the list of must see places. It wasn't hard to find really. It was a weekend and there were people flocking towards it. Because yes, after all these years, people young and old still go to this tiled spot and lay flowers down in honor of this man.

When we came upon it, it was saturated in color. Reds and yellows framed out the floor and little yellow submarines and green apples were placed all around. People stood in a circle, snapping pictures, some humming their favorite tune under their breath. There was a hat for loose change that would go towards the cause of choice that day. The entire moment was beautiful and bright and full of life and as I stood there, I really couldn't believe that I was a part of it. This memorial that I had heard about for years, that I had seen pictures of, was sitting right in front of me. To me, it was like someone had taken one of those $4.99 posters that we see in tourists shops and smacked it down in the middle of this courtyard with a bit of gloss and flowers. It just didn't seem possible.

We sat there for a while, watching the people come and go. Little children ran around, unaware of the history that they were playing upon. Parents, college students, grandparents and babies all passed by that day. It still makes me smile to think about the reach that such a modest memorial has over people.

The rest of New York went by in such quick and city like ways. I want to go back. I will go back. The city is incredible and before I went, I figured it was simply a cliché that others said. There is something about that city. Everyone told me that but they could never tell me what that something was. I'm not going to repeat the sentiment to you, but part of the reason I have to go back is because I believe in that phrase and I need to discover what exactly that “something” is.

Ah, but we are not done quite yet. You see, my friend left early in the morning towards the end of our trip while I didn't have a flight out until evening. So, on my last day in New York, I went to FAO Schwarz (!!!!) and then headed back to Central Park. I was walking around this gorgeous area, tree's hanging overhead and blocking the sun. I wasn't paying much attention as I was chatting on the phone to a friend, trying to explain to her what I was seeing as I walked along, when suddenly, my phone cut out. I remember looking down at it and frowning. I had full service. Nothing should have been wrong. When I looked up again, I almost didn't recognize where I was. It was an abandoned little clearing in the park, the concrete paths jutting off into different directions, their destination obscured by small hills and flowering bushes. Then I saw it. There, right at my feet, was the memorial again. Though this time, it wasn't ordained with flowers or causes or memories of others. It was sitting there by itself, gray and lacking the luster it had shone with days before, and there was no one else around.

I knelt down in front of it, reaching out to run my hands across the tile, trying not to cry because lets face it, I didn't want to be the crazy girl crying at the Imagine memorial. But as I knelt by this beautiful example of this mans work, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed. It was alone in this big park, completely abandoned for the time being, a few leaves having washed over it through the day. There was something so sad about it and soothing and so iconic at the same time. Life suddenly seemed much bigger than I thought it had been before. Suddenly, my thoughts and my experiences and all the little things that had to happen to lead me to that spot in Central Park, on that day, in that hour, came crashing over me in an almost crushing weight and for a moment, I couldn't breath.

But here's the funny thing about overwhelming life moments that threaten to shatter you into thousands of tiny pieces no matter how hard you try to keep it together.

You keep breathing.

Life still goes on.

I sat in the middle of the mosaic that day, kneeling down and ghosting my hands over the ground. A man with his daughter walked by after some time and offered to snap my picture. He did, on a blurry little camera phone of mine, and moments later, the courtyard was flooded with a tour group, carrying bouquets of flowers. My time was over. It was time to move on.

Two hours later I was in a taxi, heading to the airport, preparing to go home.

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