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.

This post was originally published seven years ago today, and I still love NYC as much as I ever did. My most recent visit to Manhattan was in November 2019, not long before COVID-19 slammed it so unmercifully. I hope and pray that it will not be too much longer before I will feel safe enough to take another trip to the city that fascinated me long before I ever saw it with my own eyes.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Mike C

    I am kind of partial to Brooklyn with its wonderful botanical garden. The curator Scott Medbury is from Seattle and I got to meet him once at the garden a couple of years back.
    Manhattan is also great with the Theatre district etc. Kris and Rachel are having a tough time, though, cooped up in their little East Harlem apartment. They order all their food online and it is delivered. Of course the Covid thing with kids now and the auto- immune response is also frightening. Do you have a favorite hangout there in Manhattan? Of course for me it is the conservatory garden -just a few blocks from the kids with the fountain of the dancing girls.
    And of course the Chuch of St. John the Divine up on Amsterdam. And I love the Kronos deli right next to it.
    Isn’t there a song,” I’ll take Manhattan.” ?

    • Mike, if I had the chance to really know Brooklyn, I think I might prefer it as well. What little I’ve seen of it I have loved (leaving aside my fascinating but somewhat scary time visiting a friend who was doing volunteer work in East New York back in the mid 1970’s, when crime was at its very worst there). There used to be a lovely military hotel at Fort Hamilton, right at the foot of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, where we could stay in a suite with kitchen for a ridiculously low price, then walk to the subway to go into Manhattan or wherever else we wanted to go. It has now become a Holiday Inn Express so the prices are not as good but it would still be a nice place from which to explore Brooklyn.

      I can imagine it’s tougher on New Yorkers even if COVID wasn’t so bad there. So much of the charm of living in NYC, as I understand it, is being able to walk to so many fabulous restaurants, museums, stores, etc. and with all of that shut down, the cramped living spaces would become more oppressive. My favorite part of Manhattan is lower Manhattan — Battery Park, Wall Street, the World Trade Center (both versions; the one that was destroyed plus the beautiful new one) and so on. BUT I also love the upper east side (near the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Central Park. My fantasy is to lease an apartment on the upper east side and live there for a short time. But I realize that is almost certain never to happen. Still, I love walking around that part of the city.

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    I love NY, too!
    I also really dig the colorful shirt you’re sporting in this great photo!
    I like your post about that certain energy that comes from the city.
    If we can both swing it, it could be fun to meet in NY for a few days sometime. In the meantime, I’m so glad there are so many online connections to the city.
    Have a super day!

    • Susan, I still have that shirt plus another one like it (back in the 1960’s we called that cut of top a shell) which looks as if someone painted it. I love them both so much that I can’t bear to get rid of them. A photo of me wearing the other one can be seen here.
      Meeting in NYC would be a great idea. Lots of good flights from here and presumably from where you are too (I would never recommend driving in Manhattan unless you are far more comfortable with it than I am) and so much cool stuff to take pictures of! 😀

      • I have a shirt printed in a similar fashion; coincidentally the print is a New York graffiti style!

        • I used to have a shirt imprinted with the old (circa 1970) NYC subway system map, with all the bright colors and tracks — AA, BB, CC, DD, EE after they used up all the single digit alphabet letters– and if I had known the’d completely re-do everything, I would have saved that shirt for sure. I thought that multi-colored map was one of the prettiest things in all the world.

          • Funny, but so true! I saved a postcard of the subway map from my youth group’s trip to London. It also had bright colors marking the approximate shape of the routes. So compelling!

            • I love maps of all kinds, and also I love public transportation of all kinds, so I guess it was a natural affinity for me to think the subway map beautiful.

  3. mike c.

    You could take a summer class at Columbia. They may have housing on campus. Two years ago Thanksgiving, we rented an apartment in my son’s building on 112th -as an Air Band B, but i am not sure they are doing that anymore. But they might be.
    My son’s church Vineyard chapter called the River was meeting in World Tower #7? Up on the 4oth floor. It was so interesting and when the kids in Sunday school drew pictures of church they all drew tall skyscrapers with the church almost on top. It was an amazing view, but i got a little dizzy looking down from those heights.

    • What is Air Band B? Also, I must plead ignorance about World Tower #7 — not sure where/what that is. Is it part of the World Trade Center? 40 floors is pretty high up, although that’s about half the height of the new Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center (which is around 90 I think). I really miss the old twin towers which had 110 each, I believe. I only went up in the one where the tourists always visited, with the observation tower. I don’t really get dizzy with heights but I do try to avoid being near the edge of any high place that doesn’t have a secure fence. I loved the old WTC because of the floor to ceiling glass that meant you could walk literally to the edge of the inside top floor (though the outside deck was fun too, but not as close to the edge). At least that’s how I remember it. I wish I had taken more photos on my visits there.

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