Moving Closer: City Life

Growing up, one of the best views in my neighborhood was at the top of Victory Blvd. On the clearest day you had the most remarkable view of the New York City skyline. At night, even more, so as the buildings lit up the dark sky. There was, and still is something cool about that skyline, something awesome about seeing it there. It was the place you wanted to be. It was a place of dreams, of hope, of anything is possible. It looked like the perfect place to be.

Then you get a little closer.

On occasion, my mother would travel into the city, dragging me along with her. We would take a ferryboat past the Statue of Liberty, and as we got closer to the city, the weight of it was even more amazing. As a child, every building might as well been as tall as the twin towers. To walk between them was like exploring man-made caverns, no less remarkable than some of earth’s greatest natural formations.  Even now, on the occasional trip into the city, it still feels a little like that. It looks as if the entire island of Manhattan is filled end to end with skyscrapers. But as you get closer, you start to see the differences in the buildings. You not only see the shine of the new ones, but the detailed work of the old ones. You see the buildings that have passed their prime. They fall between that classic look of the city, with concrete gargoyles, ledges  and other intricate designs that are still on display in so many old movies, and the buildings that are shining examples of the current ingenuity of man, pleasing to the eye and completely in sync with the modern marvels of today’s technology. These “in-between buildings” were the once-modern designs of their times, but didn’t have the lasting beauty of their earlier counterparts, so every once in a while they undergo a refit process inside and out to look new, fresh and desirable to either keep the business they have, or draw new ones to it.

Then you get a little closer.

As an adult In the city, you’re  a little more observant of your surroundings. A little more aware of what’s going on around you, or at least you should be!  As great as the city is, you see a lot more than the awesome testament to man’s architectual ingenuity & creativity. You see people. So many people of different sizes and shapes, attitudes and mindsets. It’s what draws people to the city. It really is a melting pot. A mash-up of the most conservative top buttons, the sleeveless, tattooed masses, and everything in-between. What’s amazing is that for the most part, there is a kind of harmonious existence between them all. Whether you ride the subways,  eat in restaurants, work jobs or drink hard, you’ll probably catch a glimpse of that immense diversity. But now that you moved a little closer, you see more. You see flaws. Call me judgmental if you will, I can take it. But, if you tell me you never see anyone’s flaws, I’ll assume you a liar and you’ll sit right next to me and we’ll be guilty of judging one another.

Flaws, we all have them and if you live in the city or a rural town (or alone on Mars with nothing but a mirror), you’ll see them If you look at people long enough. There’s actually enough crime in the city to prove flaws exist, but you also see it in the everyday people, like when some young person doesn’t give up their seat for the elderly on a bus. You see it when people shove and fight for standing room only on a subway because that have to be home 10 minutes earlier than everyone else. You see it when a new customer next to you feels their needs deserve to be met before yours, even as you’ve waited patiently for the store representative to help you. We like to point the finger at the worst of society and say, “well, I’m not them”, but let’s be honest, we all have our rude, impatient, selfish moments and it merely presents flaws, we just like to call them “a work in progress”, while God likes to call it what it is, SIN! (Gasp! Cue dramatic music)

Despite that, we get a little closer still.

We see this city from a distance, beautiful and shiny, but as we draw near to it we see more. It is still majestic and awesome, but now we see more than just the minor differences, but major ones as well. We see flaws, whether in the buildings, or in the people who occupy them. We’ve gotten closer, zoomed in and so much is caught in our direct sight as well as our peripheral that it’s impossible to ignore, and there is so much more. We not only see the crime, but the cast offs. Those people who have either left society behind, couldn’t keep up, or was kicked to the curb because they didn’t live up to the hype of the greatest city in the world. Homeless and sleeping on Subway grates. Hiding in the corners of dark dingy alleyways. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see it, it’s there. Most times we ignore it, step over it, or even on autopilot, give it a dollar to make it go away, and you feel at ease with your conscience as you head to your next “high” that you get from being in the city. But it never goes away. It’s always there. I’m guilty as charged. How about you?

Then you pull away from it. You get back on the ferry, and the flaws fall away in the ever-increasing distance. Once more you see this grand picture of human achievement, this shining light to man’s ability. Buildings standing tall and majestic, lights so bright, they drown out the stars. Despite that, there is new perspective hopefully. You see the beauty from a distance, you see all it has to offer, but maybe now you see with clearer eyes that there are flaws. Too many flaws to count. If you take that to its logical conclusion, you might remember that in whatever big city you visit. It’s not that you can’t have fun, enjoy it, and even love it. But maybe you won’t get so mesmerized by its pull that you won’t see its flaws. To be frank, the same flaws that exist even in the smallest town with nothing more a half-dozen three-story buildings.

As I finish the first part of this post, I like to give you another perspective to ponder until the second part is finished.

Is this also a picture of the church?

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4 thoughts on “Moving Closer: City Life

  1. Wow! This blew me away. I was particularly drawn to your observations of the cast offs of society. I’m currently studying my masters in creative writing and for my first assignment I have decided to do an 18 minute stage script on a homeless person and why some one would leave their life. Yesterday I was in my local town and I saw a homeless dude with a cellphone. Nothing fancy but I immediately judged him. How can a homeless man have a cellphone ? We’re my initial thoughts. We are judgmental bit then I got my notebook out and started asking myself why shouldn’t he have a phone? Does he want to be on the streets? What do I know of his story? Anyway I just to let you know this a well written post. Vivid and descriptive and indeed thought provoking. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. Despite a class here or there, I never had the opportunity to make a honest study of creative writing. So I just keep writing and try to improve. your script sounds like an awesome idea. It’s sad that we can be so focused on other things that we miss the hurting and downtrodden. Sometimes we miss that we are the hurting and downtrodden. When you write it, I would be honored to be able to read it. Thank you again for your kind words. many blessings to you.

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