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I know I’m doing something right when old men are giving me the eye.

June 4, 2010

So, my interest/rising desperation for finding a good, more specific thesis topic has reached a crescendo this week, probably because we are supposed to hand in a preliminary hypothesis statement on Tuesday and I realized, really I’m just where I began.

Part of the thing I’ve been trying to do to brainstorm is to be a tourist in my own city; everywhere else I’ve been, Berlin and Atlanta, I had maybe sort of ample free time in which to wander and explore, so that projects naturally came to me. New York has been driving me nuts, and I’ve been admittedly super busy with school–its been hard for me to get lost like that, to wander like that. Plus of course, there’s this super-tight grid that runs the city, making it a bit hard to go off the beaten path–your beaten path. I’ve tried a number of times to experience NYC as a tourist, but yesterday was the first time I felt like I succeeded (since moving here).

At the risk of getting a little personal, that’s where the subject line comes in. When I’m GTD (getting things done), I walk fast (well, my fast)–or better yet bike, I have a number of things on my mind, and every person between me and the destination is a giant, annoying obstacle that sometimes veers to the left or right. When I’m in tourist mode at my best, I am walking slowly and ogling everything. I stare. A lot. When I am at my best, I am looking so hard at things, looking so hard at people, so unabashedly, that weird old men at the fringes of society start giving me the eye. Basically, when I am a tourist, I look like such a weirdo, such a fringe object, that the fringes of society finally knows I’m one of them. It’s funny though. You can’t force yourself to stare, or to ogle. You have to accidentally fall into it, though of course, like anything, you can help things along by settng up the conditions…

So I hit it yesterday! Hurah. I had a meeting yesterday in super Lower Manhattan, where I realized I’d really never been, not since I lived here. Of course, to refer back to the objectivity of the thing, that area is not on a grid, so I think the sense of lostness and discovery is much easier to hit. I will confess: I love feeling discombobulated. That for me is traveling. It’s exciting to be barraged and accosted by the city and its architecture and try to find a way out. I guess this marks also how I tourist: without many set plans, and very willing to get lost.

I found an EXCELLENT public (but privately owned… more about that in another post) park, at Pearl St and Water St. It’s called the Elevated Acre and it’s beauitfully manicured and overlooks the East River and gives you a stellar skyline of the city; it’s really a sweet little gem.

Actually all of lower Manhattan was pretty bopping. Nuts. People were out and about everywhere. It also helped for this excursion that I was walking and not on my bike (though it’s important to note that one can get lost and feel a tourist with a bike involved, but sometimes it’s quite detrimental.)

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