The promise of the city

Here I am in the heart of Manhattan, loving every minute.  May 2007

Here I am in the heart of Manhattan, loving every minute. May 2007

“…in New York I am always wondering, ‘Who are you?’ and it is the promise of the city with its many stories that keeps me coming back like an avid reader dazzled by the library shelves.” Julia Cameron

I have always loved New York, even back in the 70’s when it wasn’t doing so well.  The first few times I went there, part of the fun was seeing so many of the things I’d read about for years.  But mostly, the sheer density of it amazed me.  People, businesses, buildings were packed together so tightly that the same bookstores and coffee shop chains would have establishments only blocks apart.  Everything was moving, alive.  The diversity of sights and sounds was stimulating, and the discoveries engaging and delightful.

Cities seem to be growing more and more like each other now, with large chains swallowing up the local businesses and obliterating their unique personalities.  But there are still things that can be seen and experienced only in New York.  It may have been bumped down the list somewhat on my roster of favorite destinations, but every time I go there, I fall in love with it again.

If you’re living in a city or visiting there today, I hope you have a fabulous day full of the sort of energy generated by urban rhythms.  If you are far from the city, try channeling at least a bit of its wonderful intensity to jump-start your imagination and productivity.  Thanks to technology, we can bring at least some of the excitement to wherever we happen to be.


  1. Sheila

    Good Friday morning, Julia. We were in New York many years ago and I still remember the busyness that was in the air. Bill went to New York University for some of his career education. That was quite the experience for a southern guy. This afternoon will see bumper to bumper traffic; everyone coming to the beach. Picture one car LEAVING….that’s Bill and me! Haha. I so hope it’s a good day for you and healing for Jeff. Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, NYU would definitely be an alternate universe for anyone from our neck of the woods. When I was pregnant with Matt, I took a day trip to NYC with one of my childhood friends who was living in L.A. at the time (that was when I was with Piedmont and could fly free) and she had to admit that even L.A. was tame by comparison! Re: traffic – that Friday/Sunday snarl has been our most un-favorite thing about living in DC much of the time. Jeff is feeling much better although they STILL won’t take that pesky NG tube out. One day at a time…

      • Sheila

        Julia, one day at a time. Our precious Salty is gone now but the only consolation is he’s pain free. But my heart is breaking. I miss his love!! Sheila

        • Sheila, I had no idea about Salty! Is this something very recent? My heart aches for you; I know we will inevitably be in that place soon, but it’s so hard to contemplate. I imagine you are in a similar position I am with Pasha, who has spent more hours with me over these years than any human has. I am so sorry and will keep you in my prayers as you go through this grief. I hope that the photos, along with happy and funny memories, will be a comfort. I thank God always for the beautiful gifts he has given us in our animal friends.

  2. Lovely photo of you. I always love a city for a visit but I am always happy to come home to quiet villages or smaller towns.

    • Amy, until we started living part-time in the DC area three years ago (can you believe it’s been that long?!) I had never lived anywhere that was as big as the place I grew up (Atlanta). Over the years, though, the advantages of a smaller location have really grown on me. BUT I really love being able to walk most anywhere I need to go, and that’s something I will definitely miss if/when we ever sell our place in Alexandria. You wouldn’t believe how much you save on gas by cutting out the little 2 mile jaunts here and there.

  3. Mike Bertoglio

    Going to NYC this weekend to visit my son so this is a timely post. I have been to most tourist sites so will be checking out some off the road places. I have been to Strand once-any other favorite book stores in NYC?
    Miraculous event last night -50 miles North of us when major thoroughfare bridge went down on I-5. No fatalities and minor injuries to three. So PTL. Could have been so much worse.

    • Wow, that is a blessing that nobody was killed in a situation like that. We take it for granted that our roads and bridges are safe, so something like this is always a shock. Would you believe I have never been to the Strand OR to the NYC Public Library? The latter is on my “must do” list and has been for years; probably the Strand should be too. Some of the popular but less-traveled spots I like to go include Brooklyn Heights (great views of the skyline along the river), strolling through the GORGEOUS neighborhoods around the MMOA, as well as the museum itself (not to be confused with the MOMA) and riding the Staten Island Ferry, which is the best free deal I know of anywhere. (That’s where I took this photo.) We have spent very little time on Staten Island but I’ve heard it’s a pleasant place to explore. Ever since my first trip to NYC in 1973, when I had my first hot pastrami sandwich, I have never found any place that has one to compare. It may just be my imaginative memory, but it seems like NYC has perfected deli food in a way that can’t quite be equaled. And you could probably explore Central Park for a week and not see it all. I’m sure your son will have the best ideas; locals tend to know all the great secrets. Have a blast!

  4. It’s always fun to see your sweet, fresh face in your posts Julia. What a contrast to the glass, concrete and advertising in the background. Is it a case of opposites attract? We’ve talked about New York trip, perhaps a short one. I realized in San Francisco that I’m a small city girl. We loved visiting all the sites and restaurants but I really couldn’t reside there. We were lucky to be staying across from a park, a little oasis in the rush of it all. I imagine New York being 100 times bigger and busier. I’ve been to Chicago many times and I’m always in awe at the blocks and blocks of tall buildings. I do like that there are home grown shops and restaurants and not the same ol’ stuff on every block.

    • Back in the 70’s when I first visited NYC and SFO, I was fond of saying that New York City was like all the cities in the world rolled into one, but San Francisco was like no place on earth. I still feel that way. NYC is less spectacular and new now that all cities are more global and various cultures thrive all over the country, but it still amazes. I will never forget my first flight to LaGuardia, when we broke through the cloud cover and got a stunning view of Manhattan rising out of the water like some giant iceberg. I am less enamored of Chicago, which I visited a couple of years ago for the first time since childhood. It just seemed to lack the appealing eccentricity of NYC, and its residents seemed colder and more distant. Despite the stereotypes, I have always found plenty of friendly locals in New York. Their demeanor can be abrupt, but they are generally quite helpful to tourists, and very proud of their city.

  5. merry

    Lovely picture of you. glad to hear Jeff is feeling some better. Hope he gets to eat soon…
    I’ve never lived in Atlanta but I grew up in Georgia, not far from Savannah.
    Blessings to you and Jeff.

    • I have never been to Savannah, but always wanted to go. Hard to believe one can grow up in Atlanta and never visit Savannah! Jeff and I keep saying we’re going to plan a trip there. He is doing better; the surgeon just came in and pulled the NG tube, with the caveat that he may have to put it back in again, but he wants to give Jeff the chance to *possibly* be able to eat something tomorrow. He’s watching ESPN right now so I know he must feel better 🙂 Thanks so much for thinking of us.

  6. Sheila

    Julia, we only made our decision regarding Salty this morning, when it was just so obvious that his quality of life was very little. We know we did the right thing for him. Thank you for your caring and your prayers. I can’t describe it, but I’m so glad that I had him and loved him so much for 15 years. Rest well, Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, I was afraid that might be what had happened. I know you had said something about him aging and thought perhaps he had reached that point. I guess loss is made a bit more bearable by the gratitude we feel at having had all the wonderful years of memories. I’ll be thinking of you!

  7. New York is a city which has always…you know inspired me. My inner voices seldom reminds me to do well in life and sojourn the city of sky scrapers.
    I’ll surely, one day will fulfill my wish. But before I know I have to experience the worst of life. I have to dedicated myself to today’s time so that I can gain supremacy over the coming time 🙂
    By the way, You look fab in the pic, Really a nice post to read.
    take care
    Harshit Chauhan

    • Hi Harshit! I will keep hoping that you will one day make it to NYC and other places in America, and perhaps Jeff and I will finally get to India one day. Meanwhile we can keep busy and content ourselves with virtual visits, something our ancestors of 100 years ago could hardly have imagined. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Each city has its own attractions. I can see NY is special for you.
    What you said about the local shops is so true. The small shops with their unique looks and homeliness are fast disappearing. These days we all prefer the giant, faceless supermarkets where there is no affectionate shopkeeper to welcome and serve us with a smile.

    • I can’t help but wonder whether we will come full circle and eventually see the return of the small, personal shop. Today even the big retail chains are on the run from online giants such as Amazon. Now they are getting a taste of their own medicine, being driven out by size and efficiency with which they can hardly compete. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Online shopping is just not very appealing. I can enjoy shopping for hours ever (or maybe especially) if I don’t buy a thing. I hate to see the little shops close.

  9. MaryAnn

    My instant reaction: WHAT A GORGEOUS FACE W/ A BRILLIANT SMILE YOU have in this photo!

    • Wow, thanks Mary Ann. Of course, I’m sure you noticed that was six years ago…right now I feel as if I’m aging fast! 🙂


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