Today, after only 3 and one half hours of sleep, I climbed aboard a plane in Phoenix and dozed my way to NYC’s JFK International Airport. Tomorrow, I’ll be attending an all day meeting, but tonight I have nothing to do but keep myself occupied. After grabbing a cab at the airport and strapping on my seatbelt (a tip I’ve learned when being in a cab in NYC to keep from sliding left to right and right to left when the cabbie takes a sudden, jarring turn to fling the cab from one lane of the freeway to another), I watch, amazed, out the window at the buzzing mass that is New York City.
Being a creature of habit, I check into the W Hotel at Union Square and begin the routine of determining the location of the nearest Starbuck. I receive a little rush of adrenaline when the clerk explains that there are three (3!) Starbucks within two blocks.
I’ve been to NYC on several occasions and each time feels as if while my head was nodding up and down on the plane, someone has slipped new eyeballs in my sockets and installed a swivel in my neck. After I drop my bags in my room, I leave to head to the closest Starbucks. Suddenly, I’ve lost the ability to walk with any coordination because my eyes are trying to soak up all the sights and my head is revolving in nearly 360 degree circles trying to get a glimpse of it all. This leaves my feet on their own for navigating the sidewalks with its grates, stands, and clumps of people walking all around me in obvious determination to get to their destination. I tripped, I nearly walk into a few other pedestrians, I find myself first on the left of the sidewalk and suddenly on the right.
There are people everywhere – walking up and down the sidewalks lining every street, going in and out of the shops and businesses that seem to have been clumped with no sort of organization, and stopping to look at windows filled with sparking jewels, books, clothes, and art. There’s a large Barnes and Nobles right next to a PetSmart. The pet store has set up an adoption post outside and for a split second, it crosses my mind to consider rescuing the little, white Lhaso Apso with the curly-tipped ears until I remember I’m miles and miles from home.
Next to the rescue operation set up on the sidewalk is a hot dog vendor draining the cart of water at the end of his shift. Two homeless individuals are sitting against the wall of the bookstore with signs explaining their panhandling objective that cause me to giggle – at what is likely an inappropriate moment – when I read “Why lie? I need a beer.”
A few feet from the two alcohol-seekers is what might be another homeless individual who captures my attention and my imagination. He’s found a lip of a building entrance on which to sit and has parked a rough, worn backpack between his legs. Seemingly out of place, there’s a pencil tucked behind his ear. Immediately, I want to know about the pencil. Does he write? What does he write about? Has he spent the day in that same spot, jotting notes about the sights and sounds of the city? Or is he an ex-smoker who finds having the feel of the pencil floating near his ear helps him get over the habit of having once stored his next smoke in the same place?
I feel invisible, like I’m allowed to roam and stare and no one knows I’m staring at them and wondering about how they got there and what they’re doing. I listen to snippets of conversation of those who pass me going the opposite direction or those in front of me behind whom I’m temporarily stalled. “You’ll have to take me this weekend because Mom’s car is in the shop.” “Hey, let’s call Sasha and have her meet us at the bar.” “I can’t believe they said it was going to take $150 to fix my laptop.”
The smells, sometimes atrocious in downtown NYC, are sweet with the mixed scents wafting out of the perfume store and floating along on the summer breeze. My mind runs in overtime to keep up with the life that seems to be moving in super-speed around me while I seem to be moving at the speed of a turtle.
I feel uplifted, perhaps from being a part of this massive example of life and living and energy. I don’t know why, but amid this hectic, lively place, I suddenly feel so calm and relaxed.