Sunday, June 18, 2017

die stadt der schönen Freude

Full of uncomfortably undeniable hurt feelings, I make a winding way towards Washington Square Park, the gift of broken phones reaping slices of unexpected solitude. I alight from the F train at West Fourth Street and am greeted not by the discombobulating vague wash of nondescript dives and storefronts on the shifting streets of Penn Station/Port Authority’s neighboring avenues, but by the IFC center’s friendly façade, as familiar to last winter as Fred Armisen’s face. I smile and the combined force of that smile, that storefront, and the mismatched cluster of tourists outside the garish hookah window display of the neon smoke shop remind me why I love this city.

I love it for the slap slap slap of sandals moving over the sidewalk.
I love it for the swing in my hips as I traverse it with a freedom I no longer take for granted.
I love the woman eating pricy sushi on the pavement with her weird yuppie bar crawl crew, complete with lanyards ‘round their necks, smiling so joyfully and authentically with her friends. I love the Japanese fashionista with her thick orange eyeliner. The bent old priest rejuvenated, walks upright.

I walk up 6th avenue to St. Joseph’s church, so I can pray where Dorothy (Day, not Gale) once use to offer her own words of praise and hurt and thanks. I walk the path her feet have tread and think: this is holy ground. I walk into the blank white church. It’s newly renovated now, no longer filled with workmen and scaffolding. I see so clearly the altarpiece which was obscured before—Transfiguration. 

This is my holy city, my Jerusalem. And she is comfortingly the same. The cab driver takes me through Central Park—my park, where I have run through so many heartbreaks and heart aches and hurts like this—one thinks one would outgrow these things, that growing as actually left a mark of maturity, but here we are, back again, at the same old emotional junction, so run, run, run all the way around the bridle path, every single Saturday—he takes me past St. Ignatius—the translucent stone and stained glass shine like home—and up Park Avenue, which means I retrace my walks to and from that church, greeting each brick I've memorized on each penthouse corner. He takes me past Gourmet Garage—the scaffolding finally gone!—He takes me past Casa Blanca—its patio still dilapidated, its backyard tree in full leafy bloom. It has fancy new address numbers on the front. It has a new coat of paint. but it’s still mine. I am a part of its story and its mice, mold, and morning sunlight through my window are part of mine. To briefly greet that old friend once again is worth the $17.76.

But the city has grown and changed, too. Nothing living stagnates, this place least of all. The new high rise being built along my old walk to work is steadily rising. There is a new bar I meet the Cristo Rey contingent at. This city has grown and changed, even as it hums along its daily rhythm. Can this city, I wonder, ever exhaust my thirst for exploration? It swells always outwards. We shall not cease from exploration/And the goal of all our journeying will to be arrive right here, in There are other cities. The goal of our journeying is ever to arrive right here. Back at St. Joseph's Church in Greenwich Village and to finally see the altarpiece for that first time. To walk Through the unknown, unremembered gate/ of new adventures, and find that the last bit of ground we have left to discover is actually the Eden from which all our restless wanderings originated. It is that which was the beginning/the trees waving in the summer wind, the voices of the street performers in the sun, the children splashing in the fountain, clearly marked: no swimming.

This city's beauty blazes like tongues of flames in-folded into the utter ordinary, the voices of ex-pats, tourists, college students, into one glorious crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one.

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