I lived in New York City for a few short-but-long-enough years in the “early 2000s”. My renovated-but-still-affordable apartment rental in West Phoenix was on (as we told my girlfriend’s conservative suburban mother) the “upper upper upper East Side. Otherwise known as east Harlem.
I was in anthropologist heaven but quality-of-life hell. While I appreciated joining a neighborhood (even if it was as a friendly and respectful interloper) with a vibrant and sometimes very dark culture, I also spent much of my time keenly aware that I had no business being there. It was the kind of place where most people growing up there strive to get out and then see well-meaning but naive “upwardly mobile” young white folks moving in BY CHOICE and just can’t understand.
My brother lived (and still does) near Union Swuare and so I spent a lot of time commuting to the “bottom half” of the island. When I lived there I rarely took the time to look up and out from my immediate mission of self preservation. But now when I visit (often for work but this most recent time for “liesure”) I was focused on allowing the outside in and making a point to see all the writing on the wall (or wherever else the writing is).
What I found on this most recent expedition to the concrete Empire State jungle was a lot more love than I had seen before. I think I had chosen not to experience the city as a place that required armor to keep the darkness out. But lately (and maybe it’s been there all along) I have been finding the light. Here are some of the “not so scary” pieces of art and life that I spied on my weekend trip in late June. Somewhere near Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and some pavement in between: