Monday, December 19, 2011
i find it terribly hard to define cities. they are solid phenomena in space and time, but apart from the inevitable streets, buildings and vistas, it is some non-material spirit that gives them life. there is no single element - like size, population, history, physical beauty - that is decisive when the fame of a city is in question. the fame also doesn't last forever, but can be flickering and random.
it has always been my idea that new york is the capital of the world. i was glad to see a confirmation of this in this month's issue of national geographic, in which nyc is stated to be the place where more things happen than anywhere else in the world.
i first visited nyc in 2002, on the first anniversary of 9/11. that time i stayed there for two weeks. after week one, i knew i was absolutely in love with it. my second visit took place in february 2009, when i spent ten days with one of my best friends. since i was recovering from a surgery then, i found new york somewhat intimidating and hard. it had lost some of the splendour i had been attributing to it before. then i went again in may 2010, spent five days in upper west side, and balanced the two opposing pictures of it i had had. i started loving it again, but i certainly fell out of love with it. what will i make of it the next time i visit? god only knows.
the previous sentences illustrate the infirmity of our impressions of cities. all of the millions who lived permanently or temporarily in new york, who visited it for a month or just a day, who only read about it or just saw it on tv - all of these people, including myself, have different pictures, or more precisely different emotional responses to this city. many love it, many hate it, a few are indifferent, but it is still the same actual spot on earth. the same is applicable to any city or town in the world. and that is a fascination, and one of the reasons why i love cities.