Today was the day I felt a bit like a New Yorker. Living in a city filled with tourists, there is a clear distinction between those who live here and people who visit. For most of our first year, I felt more like a visitor than a dweller: more things in day were new to me than were familiar. So much so, some of my first year’s memories are captured on the days I felt could navigate and blend in to this crazy magnificent city.
It is the everyday, most mundane tasks that help me feel like I’m starting to have a better sense of the flow of the city. Not being a lifer, and coming from another country at that, means I am more in-tune with the subtle shift as I’m upgrading to residence status, yet my newness lets me see the humor and uniqueness in these distinct NYC moments.
Today, my particular sense of accomplishment comes from a lineup of very simple events. Navigating NYC is its own very particular type of exercise, so much so that I usually feel that I’ve done well to accomplish one task at a time. In practical terms, this means I can go from point A to point B and back, but adding an unexpected point C or even a point D is unlikely, if not impossible. In other words, it has taken me a long time to connect the dots and amalgamate the different bits and pieces of the city.
I connected the dots today. The day began with me needing to go to the Social Security Office to apply for my card, a place I’d been before and one I knew I could get to by taking the 2nd Avenue bus. The bus didn’t come for a very long time. The comic relief was provided by a disgusted older man who would flip the bird at the Express buses as they drove right by (three times) and from another guy who was weirdly smiling at everyone (my NYC friends laugh at me when I smile at people too much). When I finally got to where I was supposed to go (and the exact place I had been about a month ago), the office had changed location to Fulton Street, almost as far downtown as possible.
So, I gave up temporarily, took another bus to Kevin’s school and then walked the last two blocks to a meeting there. After the meeting, I walked to Union Square with a friend, got on the train to go to Fulton Street. Got off the train in search of Williams Street and the Social Security Office only to be greeted by the craziness of the Financial District with police and construction everywhere and the chanting of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I went to the Office, got my card, took the train home, walked to meet Scott at school, jumped in our car, picked up a team-mate, this time without driving in circles for 20 minutes in an attempt to drive in the right direction down the one-way street.
In between, the most stunning moment of the day came as I was headed down Fulton Street in full view of the new World Trade Centre. From this perspective, its magnitude and sheer presence was almost overwhelming. I could see how it towers over the financial district and the 9-11 memorial in the most protective, “I’m here” way. Not yet completed, it is already stunning.
All that “knowing how to get where I needed to go” later, I can’t say I’ll be walking down the street eating a slice anytime soon and I’m probably still going to wave thank you after I cut someone off in traffic (a Canadian thing). I still have many moments when I shake my head and realize that I actually live it New York City and I’m beginning to get what that means. By the way, one of the most puffed-out moments of the day came as I wrote most of this blog post on the train. home. Ohhh yaaeh! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!