A New York City Blur
“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” -E.M. Forster (Howards End)
“Only connect.” That is the epigraph to E.M. Forster’s Howards End—a book I have not actually read, but which I have on my list. “Only connect” is a sort of life mantra for a friend I had dinner with in Brooklyn last night, and in thinking about what I could say about my NYC experiences over the past few days, the phrase kept coming up. “Only connect.”
I try to live my life in this way. Making connections, tying things together, seeing how all the pieces fit and how my geometry class in high school ties in to things like enjoying hot dogs and playing jump rope. But while living in this “only connect” way is totally exhilarating, it can also be pretty exhausting. The world is just so expansive and overwhelming and broad and diverse. The more that I travel, the more I recognize that this is so.
The last 48 hours in New York City have been something of a blur, overflowing with thoughts and observances and conversations and good food. I’m too tired now to try to process it all, so I’m afraid the following is not going to do justice to Mr. Forster’s sage epigraph advice. Instead, I’ll just sketch out a few things that have been memorable. There will be time for connecting the dots in a few days. For now, some brief, unconnected thoughts.
-New York City has felt decidedly unreal and almost dream-like for me on this trip. Maybe it’s because I arrived here on Sunday morning (having taken a redeye and slept only 3 hours) and then proceeded to visit 3 churches (sitting through the services) and have lunch in Greenwich Village with one person and dinner in Williamsburg with another. It was a foggy blur, but it was great. I will write more about these churches later (as in months later…).
-Talking about modernism, postmodernism, and the phenomenology of hipster fashion while eating arepas in a restaurant full of hipsters is a total trip. Especially when you’re delirious from lack of sleep.
-Standing on the platform of the M train in Brooklyn during a thunderstorm suddenly made me think of all the summers of my life.
-New York City feels like the most American place on earth. For this reason: everyone walks around with a confident sense of upward mobility. Whether this is evidenced in knockoff Coach purses, hipster Raybans, iPhones or Diesel skinny jeans, the effect is the same. NYC is a place where status (or status aspiration) is worn on one’s person.
-Food is going to be a theme of my trip. I travel in such a way that my money does not go to accommodations (I stay in hostels and am happy to do so) but to food. I don’t think there’s a better way to experience the pleasures of a foreign environment than through food. Some food highlights of the day: Rhubarb scone for breakfast at an amazing diner in Brooklyn; family style Italian (with my family) at Carmine’s on the Upper West Side; blueberry/creamcheese/shortbread dessert at Magnolia Bakery in Midtown; Ukrainian split pea soup and a good pinot noir at Veselka in the East Village. Oh and yesterday: the Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg was AMAZING.
-Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg Brooklyn has the most hipsters per square inch than anywhere on earth (apart from fleeting events like Coachella). My camera could not snap pictures fast enough.
-Gentrification is fascinating. And so is the way that it ties in to so many things: class, race, organic food, Animal Collective, public housing, politics, Bob Dylan, the Internet, skinny jeans rolled up to shin length, and menus that change daily.
-I’m flying to London tomorrow night and will commence my week at C.S. Lewis’ house on Wednesday. Until then!