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Posts tagged ‘New York City’

Cacophony

Just viewing the photo makes my ears ring! The cacophony of car horns, traffic, and the swirl of people on an average day in midtown Manhattan makes me woozy. It’s too much: too much noise, too many people, too much aggression, everyone vying for their place.

NYC at Noon

NYC at Noon. © JustHavingFun

When I lived in New York City I learned to walk with arms akimbo, elbows out, so I could have my own space on the sidewalk and not be run over by some mindless drone looking at his cell phone screen while zooming down the street.

The endless jockeying and competition, the noise pressure, and the thump thump heartbeat of the City are a siren song for some but alas, not for me. When crossing the street became an art form as skilled as ballet, when maintaining my four-square feet of personal space became an obsession, when the subway became my greatest source of entertainment, I knew I had succumbed. I was indeed a New Yorker.

Ya gotta love it! Or hate it! But nobody can stay neutral about it: New York. Everywhere you look something new pops out. One day you may see performers, the next day pigeons, then the glitz of Broadway and Times Square, and the next day homeless people, but something always catches the eye.

But oh, the sounds! The noise. The cacophony of car horns and trucks backing up, scratching against the strains of street performers and buskers. The subway cars that sound like the opening strains of “Somewhere” from West Side Story: There’s a place for us…. Yes, there’s a place for us going uptown.

I took my fingers out of my ears and held up the decibel meter when the train approached the platform. It routinely topped 85 dB. “Mom, you look silly,” my children decried. “Nobody does that.” “I do,” I countered. My hearing and tinnitus thank me for blocking some of the extraneous sound.

Nowadays, out of the New York zone, I swallow fewer headache remedies, don’t need earplugs except when running my blender, and my ears are buffeted by the sound of rain drops hitting the pavement on my porch…

…and fire engine and police sirens of the uneasy urban soundscape which comprises Baltimore’s night.

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Changing Signs

Changing of the times at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Changing of the times at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, © JustHavingFun

“Late Night with David Letterman” departs from Broadway’s Ed Sullivan Theater with the installation of the new sign: “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” I’m sitting at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf store across from the theater enjoying a bran muffin and rich, dark iced (decaf) coffee on a Monday afternoon. Something over there requires the assistance of several men, and involves a man-lift, dangling wires, and a cherry-picker. The work area appears dark though my side of the street is bathed with sunlight. The wires dangle from the underside of the marquis. What my eye detects readily, the camera fails to discern.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert Sign

Efforts taken to change the sign at the Ed Sullivan Theater

Life often has layers we see easily and those that are mired in the shadows. We train ourselves to avoid appearing to avidly eavesdrop, but by the same token, we fail to notice someone’s pain when it is socially uncomfortable. For instance, do you look a grieving person straight in the face? It’s hard.  I carefully watch people in public in hope of obtaining great photos, but I can’t be too overt lest it be construed as prying. I’ve seen great emotion but haven’t always been able to record it–it’s been too personal, even for me. A recent change is that sometimes I’ve asked if the person is OK or posed a question about what’s going on around my subjects. I’ve found that it’s all right to stretch past my comfort level. Most people respond positively. Some engage me further. So much for the stereotype of New Yorkers being tough. Another change?

Different cultures enforce different areas of personal space. It changes depending where you’re at. I’m very American so my space expands to fit me and my group. But what is my group? I often find myself on the subway wanting to join in on conversations I overhear. Sometimes I feel it’s OK to chime in, especially when I have knitting in my hands and sense people have questions. Sometimes an eye-roll and smile completes my silent conversation, like when we hear, “OK folks; it’s showtime,” and the performers start swinging from the poles. Sometimes I do comment. Other times I just carry on a conversation in my head. Is this a sign of something different?

So here I sit, sipping coffee and observing, wondering if the changing sign portends any changes … other than a new show and a new host.

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