Thursday, January 29, 2009

the city of change

New York. One of the things that fascinates me about New York is change. Or should I say; the embracement of change. The willingness to go with the flow and finding it exciting. The New Yorkers are welcoming the new, more than they are grieving the loss of the old.

My weeks here are intense. And anytime somebody suggests me yet another experience of NY, I would say: ”Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind for my next visit.” Which is obviously the wrong answer:

”Oh, no dear – until next time, it might all have changed.”

I first started to consider the notion of NY change as I was standing in line to buy tickets to the New York City Ballet. I have, by now, had a number of enlightening discussions while queing for things. The woman in front of me was especially talkative:

”The Monday morning quing for cheap ballet tickets is a great deal. I wonder what the deal will be next month...”

”Really?”, I said. And she continued:

”New York changes rapidly. A store would open for a month and then move to another place. A restaurant would be up and running for two months and than close down. It changes, but I guess that is the case everywhere.”

No, I thought. But I didn’t say anything. Not at that point. I was just thinking: No - rapid change is so not the case of every city. I came to think of what I wrote about Madrid last fall. For those of you who understands Swedish: Jag kommer och går – staden består. Something in the lines of: 'I leave and return, while the city remains'. I wrote it in the astonishment of finding my favourite spots of Madrid still up and running five years after me leaving the city.

That would not have been the case in New York. After having talked to the lady in the ticket line, I started to note how my friends guide me through NY: ”My favourite bar used to be here…”; ”We’re just passing what used to be the best meat store in East Village”; ”Unfortunately, this is where one of my favourite restaurants used to be…” Their personal place history is more present in their guiding than the actual present.

I bring this up with my temporary roomie who always conclude in clear and simple words: ”New York is all about being rebuilt.”

The only constant is change. New York knows it and lives it. Beyond the mere theoretic understandings of the concept; New York is change in practice. For better and for worse, in grieving and in anticipation, an acceptance and a fact.

A few words from Obama’s inauguration speech got stuck in my head. Especially these: ”The world is changing. We must change with it.” I would say; why don’t we all just learn from the New Yorkers!?

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