Whenever I am asked to consider a trip to New York City, I encounter a strong pull towards my identity of white girl from rural Oregon who is more intro than extro on the ambivert scale. That city scares me. Not its diversity (which is compelling), but its size and cacophony and overstimulation and concrete and big-building-ness and rattling-subway-car-ness. It looms dirty and claustrophobic in my mind, falsely so. Turns out, I just needed to have a visit like the one my family and I just had. Here are some scenes:
A family of three – mother, two daughters, seemingly indigenous Central American (long dark hair, short, squat, beautiful) – walking in a line on the subway platform. Mother first. Then first daughter, looking all around, engaging the wide world. Finally, second daughter, nose in book.
A man, brown-skinned, with a true and kind smile, bounds down the stairs and through the open door of the about-to-depart train. He leaves his hand on the threshold, anticipating others to come. Which they do, also bounding down the stairs, triumphant to have made it onto the train. The doors close. These four people, all sorts of ethnic diversity represented among them, clearly once members of an urgent, transient team intent on one purpose, disperse. For those brief moments, they had been kin, though now they act as if they are no longer bound to each other. I know otherwise.
Random white guy on same subway train overhears my white husband grumble that the express train had not stopped at Columbus Circle which he had been counting on and upon which we had planned our somewhat labyrinthine logistics. Random white guy shares how Tony can get to where he intended and offers to accompany him to make sure he gets to the right platform.
We three women: one forty-something, two seventeen. We three women: two white, one Chinese-American. We three women: two adopted, one adoptive. We three women: two visiting from Massachusetts, one visiting from Hawaii. We three women: two live together 24/7, two haven’t seen each other in two years. We walk the streets of Manhattan – first along the neighborhood of the World Trade Center, then off to Chelsea, wearing fake mustaches, hailing people with the entree, “I mustache you a question. Oh, you don’t have time for us? Fine, I’ll shave it for later.” Furtive looks at our unexpected visage, only happy verbal reactions (“Love your mustaches!” “Looks awesome!”). A guy in Chelsea asks if we are doing it in support of Movember. One guy, on West Broadway, (near the Balloon Saloon where we bought the mustaches,) African American, exuberant, early twenties, asks to take our photo. We oblige. Somewhere, we exist on some strangers’ Facebook page or blog.
We give him the last mustache from our kit, so he can have some joy, too.
More joy on a subway car: