I’ve been surrounded by movies, television shows, and photographs of New York City my entire life, but now that I’ve finally gone, it’s difficult to describe what the city is actually like. It’s all of the stereotypes combined, but somehow it felt different: less magical, but still magnificent. I loved the tall buildings and the yellow taxis. My breath literally caught in my throat when I saw Starry Night. The Egyptian temple with a window out onto Central Park at the Met was stunning. The Brooklyn Bridge was amazing how you were surrounded by everything New York—Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty. Chinatown was huge and made me feel like I’d stepped into Asia. And Broadway is best seen on Broadway. It was all wonderful, but it was also very real. It was dirty and there were people going to work and visiting friends all around us. We had to deal with bus schedules and landlords. None of those are bad things, they’re just very normal. Some strange mix between the old dirt encrusted buildings of Poland and the run down strip malls and bright tall buildings of Vegas.
While in New York I was surrounded by tourists, many of them international. For many of them, New York is all they will ever see of the U.S. It will be their picture of America, so I tried to imagine what the picture entails: cosmopolitan, consumer, dirty, cultural, entertaining, and delicious. The truth is that New York is iconic and I loved it, but it doesn’t really encapsulate America to me. It’s the exception, not the rule. I guess if you want to know what I learned this weekend, I learned that I love New York, that I will go back throughout my life, and a part does not represent the whole.