Monday, August 14, 2017

NYC Memories

Sitting here in front of my keyboard avoiding the words that are all piled up in my head. 

And then.

There is no time to do anything else except write.

Adjectives and adverbs crowd the air fighting for expression.

And so.  Let me tell you about my journey into the past this summer.

My friends asked me if I wanted to join them as they toured pieces of the east coast.  We had talked of it as a distraction many, many months ago while we were all in Moscow.  Time passed.  Life beckoned.  Finally, two were in Moscow, one in Virginia and I in Milwaukee.  Still, the dreamy idea floated above us as a thread unbroken pulling us to share our love of travel, history and culture.

I’m not sure which of us was more excited and amazed as the travel details came together.   New York City, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and a side drive to Appleton and Thorp for good measure.  It would be epic!

But I think each city needs its own blog post.  They were much too full to cram into one story. 

First.  New York City.

She welcomed us with open arms.  Hot, sticky, crowded, friendly, generous, laughing New York City.  We went up Freedom Tower, down Wall Street, into The Met, around Time Square and on the Staten Island Ferry.  We made new friends at every turn.

There were many memorable conversations, but one which makes me smile immediately happened as we walked Manhattan looking for breakfast.  We thought perhaps TGIFriday’s was open since the door was open and it was almost lunch time.  No.  They were not.  We continued to a sandwich board up the street, but nothing seemed interesting on the menu.  We mumbled amongst ourselves trying to decide on a plan.

A man in chef’s apparel approached us.  “You lookin’ for a breakfast place?  I know a place.  You go to the corner and then take a left to the next corner.  It’s called Georgie’s.  Best breakfast in New York.  You’re gonna love it.  It’s my friend owns it.  It’s a great spot.  This way to the corner and then left.  Georgie’s.”

He was absolutely right.  Great breakfast.  Decent prices.  Great service.  America on a plate. 

We found a Trump building and stood before the girl who challenged the Bull on Wall Street.  We laughed at the antics of children in the splash pad at Battery Park and discussed the rich stories of settlers there. 

I could hear the whispers of history loudest, however, as we walked a side street toward Freedom Tower.  I saw the Calatrava beckoning at the base of the skyscraper and felt the wind chill my bones. 

I’m not sure what the others were doing or seeing or thinking.  I was lost in reverie as we approached. 

My mind’s eye went immediately back to the first time I was at this site.  The gaping wound in the ground, the scarred buildings surrounding, the twisted metal cross standing firm.  The dust still seemed to permeate the air.  And the sadness!  Oh, the deep sadness on my friend’s face as he spoke of the tragedy and its devastating aftershocks.  That day so many years ago, I stood beside my sister as we tried to process what this might mean for our country. 

I wished for her to walk with me again to this site.  I knew she would understand this wave of emotion in my heart as I stood looking into the black granite pools.  Names of the lives shattered line the granite as water pours forever into the base.  To me it looks like a million tears seeping into oblivion.

A poem began writing itself in my mind as I slowly walked past.  Where were you the day America cried?  Its words spilling from my heart into my own ears and marking my heart. 

I can’t express to you how deeply moved I was standing there. 

Sadness gave way to American patriotism as I looked up into the monolith of Freedom Tower.  Like a giant fist thrust into the sky and into the faces of our enemies, she taunts.  We took the Freedom tour from the basement to the top watching the history of the city on a panorama in the elevator.  Incredible, beautiful, majestic, awesome, inspiring. 

Tangible proof that out of the ashes we rise.

There were other great events in New York City.  Great in their impressions upon me. 

The Met, for example.  What an immensely beautiful and amazing place!  A quick stop in a series of several stops in one long, marathon day.  I stood amazed at the clean, white lines within and without. 
I caught a quiet moment one day to jot notes and pour out some of the words absorbed from the people of New York City.  Sitting at a deli window, I watched lives stream past me.  Rich, poor, busy, slow, young, old all scurrying somewhere important as I, from my fish bowl, observed.

It was Tuesday evening when the comparison started to form in my mind.  I was sitting in a theater on Broadway watching Cats.  It’s whimsical funniness holding me in a grip of amazement.  I loved the music and the personalities and the costumes and the set and the lights!  Wow!  All of the pomposity faded, however, when Grizabella began the first note of “Memories”. 

The tale she sang of a future haunted by the present resonated with me.  She begged to be noticed, to be loved, to be sought after as she had been once.  Humbled, thrown aside, and humiliated she begged the morning to wait until hope returned.  Then it happened!  She found herself standing at the brink of dawn in a new day, a new life, restored.
I heard myself in her voice.  I saw my past and present reflected in her words.
The first time I traveled to New York City my life was perched on a precipice of change.  I was unsure of every step and without any form of confidence.  Critical voices had twisted my self-image into a heap of fear.  I begged God to help me out of the abyss, and He did. 

Now, many years later, I view my future from a much different perspective.  It was impossible for me to walk the streets of NYC without seeing younger me darting in the shadows. 

I laugh at her fears now.  Each of them have been addressed, renounced, walked upon.  Afraid of getting lost?  I’ve traveled internationally alone.  Afraid to be poor?  I have gained, lost, gained, lost and found I need very little to be happy.  Afraid my reputation will be ruined?  I have made my own name.

Well, not me, really.  Not without the help of God and many, many friends.

A sense of strength grew in me in New York City on this trip.  A sense of identity.  Able to speak my own thoughts.  Able to identify my own ideas.  Able to make my own way. 

Just as I see the twisted metal cross imprinted in my memories as a sign of His presence in the middle of our nation’s tragedy, I hear the strains of “Memories” lifting my eyes away from yesterday and towards tomorrow.

“If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is.  Look a new day has begun.” 

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