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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On Looking Like a Tourist on Holiday

Grand Central Terminal
One of my favorite public spaces in New York has to be the main room at Grand Central. Passengers headed toward upstate New York and Connecticut wait for their trains here.

With large windows letting in daylight and majestic stairways on either end, the space makes a dramatic first impression. Never mind the blue ceiling painted with constellations overhead. A couple fancy restaurants raised up from the main floor make for a fun dining experience.

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Today Mark and I had the day off. We walked across the Pulaski bridge to Long Island City, then ventured up to Midtown for a delicious lunch and some errands.

It was a beautiful, warmish day. We're never ever in Midtown, so as we walked, I looked very much like a tourist. I usually keep below 14th Street, or at least below the 20's. Looking up at the skyscrapers all around made me dizzy.

I've gotten over looking like a tourist. In my early years as a New Yorker, I feared being mistaken as one and I took particular pride when people asked me for directions.

Fortunately I've gotten over my snobbery. It's fine if people think I'm a visitor, standing in the middle of the street, gawking and taking photos.

While walking down Second Avenue this afternoon, Mark said that he can't see New York the way tourists do. He grew up in Long Island after all, and is on intimate terms with just about every block here. This is where he used to hang out with buddies after work, that's where his grandfather used to bring him when he was a kid.

I try to suspend what my brain knows and remembers, and experience the city just through my eyeballs. The camera only helps distance you from the scene.

10 comments:

Tammy said...

Whenever I take the wrong street I pretend I'm a lost tourist so no one things I'm and idiot because I have to turn around and go back the way I came. LOL

gizelle said...

lol @ above comment. grand architecture there! People always think I'm a tourist here because of my camera lol. Good day to you.

Kitty said...

aw Tammy...I'm sure you don't look like an idiot. People living here get lost all the time!

Welcome Gizelle! Love your blog!
Yes, the camera is such the tourist prop. They ought to devise a camoflaged version!

Spandrel Studios said...

The ornate details in Grand Central are so lovely - even the tourist in your photo is upstaged a little by the decorative glimpses of metalwork and marble in your photo. Nice shot, Kitty!

BrianC said...

For those of us who live below 14th St. it's so easy to never venture uptown. I only go to midtown and Times Square if I have to and still find it an unpleasant experience. Working just above Madison Sq. Park and the Flatiron I still feel close enough to downtown and the older sections of the city that I don't get that sense of claustrophobia that afflicts me in the 40s and 50s. If you're interested in clandestine photography in the city, check out Walker Evans' "Many Are Called," reissued a couple of years ago after eons out of print. It's a collection of photos he took of subway riders in 1939, '40, and '41. He hid a Contax under his coat, with the coat slightly parted and a cable release stretching down to his hand. Amazing shots of ordinary people.

Mama Mayborne... said...

You are seriously making me want to hop on a plane and come back to NY for a visit. Loved your post about the shoe store, but there is nothing better than strolling the Village to find the latest and greatest!!

Reluctant Blogger said...

Wow that is an amazing station.

I am a bit of a one for not seeming like a tourist and even when I am in a strange place and don't know the way I won't get out a map incase people think I am a tourist. Just means I end up getting lost all the time! BUt sometimes you see more when you are lost!

Kitty said...

Thanks Spandrel!

Hi Brian
it's funny how many people think of NY as skyscrapers, but few New Yorkers experience it as such.

I know the Walker Evans shots you mention. They are astonishing (for the trains, how cool?) and depressing (for the people. How bored and hopeless some look). I love Evans for his photos of vernacular buildings and for those candid shots of people.

Hi Mama
Do come on over, lol. The weather is starting to perk up a little. It's the best time to stroll.

Hi RB!
I agree. You get to know a city much better by getting lost in it.

Some cities are easier to get around than others. NY should be easy because of the numbered streets, etc., but most people don't live that way. So it's confusing for people when they visit.

Hence the maps!

Ming the Merciless said...

When I was at Long Island City earlier this week, a few people offered to take a photo for me with my camera.

So in essence, I look like a tourist.

Kitty said...

aw Ming...that's kind of funny.
I guess they don't get many tourists over there (yet)