The view from my window looks like a cartoon snapshot of New York's buildings lit up at night that would appear on the cover of The New Yorker. Each miniature bolt-hole of light representing the life stories that exist within, ever-changing and ever-tantalising. It takes me by surprise every time I catch a glimpse as I stride into my bedroom or stand to observe. I check myself and think there she blows, ol' New York. The Upper West Side, with its homely air and bookish charm, moves at a slower pace to the neurotic beat of Midtown and Times Square and lacks the pulsing cool of the Lower East Side. For this reason I love it. My building is old, full of old-timers and eccentrics and the elevator smells. Mini-cockroaches have been seen to scoot across the counter-top more times than I care to admit and my landlord insists on keeping baby pictures of her kids hanging at awkward heights on the hallway wall. But the sight of those clear bright lights depicting an all too familiar skyline are what sold the apartment to me and I feel smug.
Tonight however, an eerie fog and biting drizzle hovers just over and beyond. The Chrysler is just about recognisable, the Empire State Building utterly cloaked. Strange. It's the eve of Thanksgiving, my flatmates bicker-flirt in the kitchen over their turkey prepping and I have yet to warm up after walking 62 blocks home. My suede turquoise boots are destroyed and my umbrella has left an impressive puddle on my wooden bedroom floor. Yet I all but skipped home with a smile on my face like a goon and a Christmas song set on repeat in my head. This city is infectious and I swear I fall in love on every corner block. If ever there was a place meant for walking, NYC is it.
Thoreau wisely concluded that 'every walk is a sort of crusade' and though he may have been championing the art of sauntering through the wilder elements of nature over the basic act of urban transportational utility or simple physical exercise, my crusade today had me joining the pavement shuffle as the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation took place by the American Museum of Natural History on Columbus Avenue. Watching these giant cartoon characters take shape has become almost as traditional a ritual as the main parade spectacle on Thanksgiving Day itself and there I was, an unsuspecting spectator, simply trying to power walk my way home in my rain-soaked boots. Just another reason to salute these streets and their never-ending series of surprises.
Being buoyed along by the festive cheer of the gathering crowds, undaunted by the bleak night wrought about by the rain and chill factor, I came to see my neighbourhood in something of a new light with the reassuring familiarity of coffee shops and deli's I have only started to frequent cascading alongside heaving bars playing host to the Thanksgiving revellers. It's a Wednesday night and the work week has officially ended and the silly season has commenced state-side. The newbie immigrant in me laps it up all the while feeling more than a little detached. This isn't my holiday, my life up to this point has never indulged or has had reason to indulge or partake in such a celebration. I'm not even really sure what it's all about. People are wishing each other a Happy Thanksgiving, Trader Joe's hums with panic-buying shoppers and staff on full alert, advertisements scream Black Friday and supposedly 'things are just getting started' in an Irish pub in an Irish neighbourhood of Queens - any old excuse I say.
I may or may not dive into the Black Friday madness in a bid to score Christmas gift bargains and have them shipped homeward by airmail in what I would like to think of as ample time, in reality this will probably fare differently. So it goes. As for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I will be content with a turkey sub and a slice of bodega-bought pumpkin-pie chowed down to the view from my 16th floor UWS apartment. Happy Thanksgiving y'all.