Until this past week, I had never been to Manhattan. Okay, technically I’d been there long enough to get from Grand Central to LaGuardia last October break, but my travel stress prevented me from enjoying the experience. So when one of my close friends, Jessica Moss ’21 [Full disclosure: Moss is Copy Editor for The Miscellany News], a native of New York State, suggested we take a trip to the city over break, I was both excited and terrified.
She assured me that we’d give the busiest tourist attractions a wide berth, since I get nervous in crowds. So this Thursday, we rode the train into the city without much of a plan, other than the vague mission to “see the city,” whatever that means.
Once we took a couple of selfies in Grand Central, we set off to follow some directions from Moss’ mom to the High Line. It’s a public park constructed on an old elevated freight track. In places, the original track is visible, highlighted by the park’s design. All along the route, various tall grasses, trees and other flora are punctuated by art pieces. The park is a symbol for reclaiming old industrial spaces and making them beautiful and accessible to the community again.
The air was cold enough to sting our nostrils as we wended our way through block after block. As the old adage suggests, we focused more on the journey than the destination. I tried my best not to look too Midwestern and to walk quickly enough to keep up with Moss (which required an extra long hop-step every so often). We developed a strategy for crossing streets before the signal turned: follow the person in front of us who seemed to know what they were doing.
After a long stretch of travel in this fashion, we saw a metal staircase up ahead, connecting to what looked from below like a normal overpass. “That’s gotta be it, right?” I asked. She nodded.
About halfway up, we began to groan. So many stairs. Or maybe we just like to complain. Feeling like we’d summited Everest, we reached the top. She took a picture of me leaning back on the railing that is now my Facebook profile photo.
We sat down on a nearby bench. The sun shone on us, and the warmth was so pleasant that we even took off our coats. To our right, a couple posed for a photo in front of an outcropping of purple flowers, their outlines thrown into contrast by the sunlight.
Whether inspired by that aesthetically pleasing example or not, Moss and I began to look for the best photo-taking spots as we meandered along the High Line. We stopped to admire various vignettes afforded by the intermittent breaks between buildings on either side of the path. When the sun was no longer blocked by the skyscrapers, it warmed the crisp air and dappled the tall grasses.
Before too long, we reached a clearing overlooking 10th Avenue, and we realized we had a problem. Obviously, we wanted a picture together in such a quintessentially New York spot, but who would take it? We leaned against the railing, looking down, trying to come up with solutions.
A group wearing matching jackets proclaiming them as somehow affiliated with Jamaican softball walked up to the side of where we stood, stopping to pose. “Should we ask one of them?” I suggested in a hushed tone.
Moss wasn’t satisfied. “No, I think they’re probably on their way somewhere, right?”
A woman walked by wearing a really awesome peacoat with a muted pattern of black, grey and red and statement pockets. “What about her?”
“No, no. She’s wearing leather leggings; she’s clearly intimidating.”
“That guy over there in the yellow hoodie?” “No, I don’t get the right vibe.”
A woman walked past a little bit closer. She looked friendly enough, with a pale red bob and a fleece jacket.
“Excuse me,” Moss began. The woman stopped. “Would you mind taking a picture of us?” She extended her phone.
“Yes, of course!” She spoke with an accent that I’d guess was Germanic. She took the proffered phone, and Moss and I posed. The woman held the phone in landscape orientation. “This way’s good, yeah?” We nodded, and she snapped a couple. She returned the phone, sticking around to see if we liked the photos she took. We did.
After we had thanked her, she walked away, and we all went about our morning exploring the High Line. I went into the day expecting nothing but honking cars and passerby with their heads down, ignoring the outside world. Of course I found that, but on the High Line, I also found calm beauty amidst the sprawl.