view from New York City's High Line

something unexpected: fresh views from Manhattan’s High Line


ew York surprised me. That’s its job, really, and you can’t get mad at someone—much less a city of more than 8 million souls—for doing its job. Upon our return I find that I am tired and not just from our late night flight. My mind keeps turning over all of the unexpected things we encountered and learned in our time there.

The city was cleaner than I remember it. I only lived there for two years in the early ’90s at the beginning of the Reign of Rudy. Even then, though, Manhattan lifers were waxing nostalgic for the grime and intermittent street crime of the late ’80s in that stereotypical, geriatric grandparent way, only these people were 40 at the time.

I’m a military brat. I’ve lived in a lot of different places. This is probably why I’ve never been one of those people who get weepy when contemplating the truism about not being able to go home again. You can and you can’t. Home is where you are. Visit where you were, but prepare for some changes and, for God’s sake, stop your kvetching already.

But on this visit I was treated to a view of the city’s very first downtown IHOP location on one of our walking tours, and you know what? It bummed me out a little. And there was an REI in SoHo. What are those millions of city-dwellers doing with sporting good store and one two mile long park where they can use it all? Pitching their tents in front of Nordstrom so they can be first in line when the latest designer shoes are offered at retail, that’s what.

The blogging conference

was full of surprises, too. Some of these poor dears, fellow attendees all, have been so successful at creating their personal “brands” that you could see them nervously draw back for just a second when someone recognized them in the wild. This was true of some of the not-so-well known writers as well. I felt sorry for them. Be careful what you wish for, I suppose.

The corporate presence was considerable at BlogHer, a fact veteran bloggers commented on in a variety of ways after the event closed Saturday. Do you want to write or do you want to make money? There’s no better place to ponder the greater questions of the day then when they’re being posed in any number of loud, extensively promoted ways on a convention floor. Even when they’re relatively small conventions like the one at the Hilton for bloggers over the weekend, things don’t get discussed more loudly than in New York

Marcel surprised me, too. He tried calamari for the first time. I paid him a dollar to do it, but whatever. He ate that damn calamari! I was less surprised that he was able to navigate the Metropolitan Museum of Art with that free map they give you but I was deeply grateful for his ability to do so. I’ve only been able to find my way around Manhattan because of it’s grid-like, directions-for-dummies layout. That museum map was beyond me.

And I may have buried them in this post, but New York had its own lovely surprises for me, too. The new views of the city available to tourists and Manhattanites alike through the High Line, a recently converted stretch of long-defunct elevated train line are revelatory, a reminder of the inventiveness and vision of the city on its best days. Conversely, my friend’s story about the removal of public chairs from a public beautification project focused on a downtown intersection because they kept getting themselves stolen made me smile, because some things do stay the same.

New York is still wild-ish and I am, too—as long as I can recognize the possibilities for growth and change in myself. There’s great comfort in that.