Monday, June 24, 2013

Travel Writing ... Final Post

I am on my way home from Iowa City.  It is approximately six hours door to door and I am sure that Geoff and I will talk, listen to tunes, and observe the flat green landscape as we contemplate separate thoughts.  It was a great weekend get away, but I am ready to return to the familiarity of home, and spend some time unpacking all I have learned this weekend.

In the meantime, I thought I would share one last writing prompt (we did more... but some are not worthy of public display...)

The instructions were to follow the format of a published essay by David Franzen, where he gives specific facts about place in the first paragraph, introduces the character of the narrator in the second paragraph, and finally develops the main idea/theme in the third paragraph.  Here is my attempt:

Manhattan Island

The Big Apple:  a rather interesting nickname for a city that houses more skyscrapers than trees and more asphalt than grass.  No, The city that never sleeps is a more apt description for this sprawling metropolis, covering three hundred square miles and incorporating five distinct boroughs.  But when you hear New York City the first image that typically pops into mind is the lights, sounds, and smells of Times Square located in the center of Manhattan, an island that only measures 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide, but houses about 1.6 million people.  With limited surface area, the only way to accommodate this growth is to build up… and up they did.  Multi-storied buildings of brick, granite, and glass surround you; sidewalks are crowded with rushing commuters and tourists weaving in and out and around one another; streets are congested with cars, buses and bright yellow taxis.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you witness the city from this bird’s eye view.  But move in closer, take a side street, and you will discover the individual neighborhoods, each with its own distinct cultural flavor and population, that make this impersonal city a welcoming home.

The year was 1984 and we had been married for two years living in Connecticut.  Geoff had been making the one-hour commute into the city that entire time, and I had been doing the same for about nine months.  The fourteen-hour days and frequent train delays were taking their toll, not to mention the $250 monthly commuting expense.  We decided that it was time for a change, and three months later we were moving into our one-bedroom coop apartment at 160 Bleecker Street.   Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, home to NYU, Washington Square Park, and numerous jazz and comedy clubs, the area was always buzzing with people, especially on the weekends.  But during the week, the village was surprisingly suburban:  commuters walking to the subway, mothers strolling their infants, children in uniform making their way to school.  Greenwich Village has a distinct Italian flare, and we took full advantage of the freshly baked bread at the local bakery, the homemade mozzarella and salamis at the corner butcher, and the hand cut pasta at Raffettos around the corner.  Each summer the Feast of St. Joseph would take place on Sullivan Street, just one block to the west and two blocks south of our apartment.  For several days the vendors would line both sides of the street, selling authentic sausage and peppers, stuffed calzones, or my favorite, zeppoles… little fried pieces of pizza dough doused in powder sugar and served in a brown paper bag.  I am fairly certain that an over-indulgence of this craving caused me to go into labor with my first child.  We were a part of this community for four years, and looking back, I can say with assurance that it was the best four years of my life.

I have a dream to return to New York.  Not in an effort to relive those glory days, but rather with a desire to rediscover new ones.  I will sublet an apartment, but not in the village - perhaps on the upper west side, walking distance to Central Park, or Murray Hill, where good friends currently reside.  I want to experience a new neighborhood with a different flare.  Revisiting a few of the old haunts, or at least those that are still around after three decades, will certainly be on the list, but I also want to take time to become intimately familiar with new ones that speak to my current passions and desires.  Walking will once again become my primary mode of transportation; I plan to leave my car in Kansas.  The local market will play an integral role in my daily menu planning.. I will explore the park and find a bench that has been waiting for me to return after all these years, and just sit, observe, and write.  One true highlight will be to take advantage of the rich artistic culture of the city, something I took for granted before, and therefore never made time to visit.  I will become a member of the MET and visit any time I have just a couple of hours to spare, and I will frequently visit the other museums in the area as well.  I may even take a photography class at the New School like I did so long ago when I was indulging my new-found interest in cooking.  With so much to see and do and experience, I hope that I have enough time.

New York City is known as the great melting pot of America.  It represents the pilgrimage that so many immigrants took to find a better life.  This is the nickname that resonates best with me.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to visit Manhattan again someday too; you've inspired me to think about actually spending some time there, as opposed to just visiting. I'd probably look for a place to stay in NJ and ride a bus into the city.

    Like you, there are many other places I'd love to see as well. It would be so cool to visit Paris and actually see all the places I wrote about when I wrote my first manuscript, a saga that took place in 1789 in Paris and also Saint Domingue (now Haiti).