photos

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urban

North America

unseen alleys amidst metropolitan fame

 

 

 

mega-avenues channeling into cobblestone twists & back alleys, where displays of art neighbor abandonment

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a glimpse

 

Some trained cliché-cells in my brain assume that everybody remembers their first time in NY as vividly as I do. It’s just one of these cities. I have a hard time imagining how pointy icons like the Empire State or Chrysler Building could not pierce their way into people’s hearts and memoirs, as much as I had a hard time grasping their realities back then. Because that’s what it means to disembark at a place of dreams: to jam it into tight realities, to render it in commonplace eyeball-truth. I won’t lie – the Empire State Building wasn’t as tall as my expectations. From the other side of the Atlantic I had envisioned its peak to disappear in far-flung skies; it didn’t. It was right there in front of me, not tucked away in a secluded yonder. And yet, I will never forget that first gaze up the inimitable façade. The Empire State Building mightn’t have scraped the heavens as I had fantasized, but the feeling of actually being there, of giving a dream a lift to the corner of 5th and Lived-Experience-Avenue, no matter how boxed-in reality's grid, left me with a handsome keepsake. It must be the same for everybody who has ever dreamed of New York, no? Certainly the face of the urban icon was complimented by the fact that I had never seen a metropolis of such dimensions. Coming in from the airport, we crossed the East River and black towering skyscrapers with thousands upon thousands yellow windows stoked my fascination and announced “you’re here”.

 

New York City, USA   the Empire State Building's piercing peak seen from a coffee shop on 5th Ave

crossing the border into Mexico for merely one afternoon wrote up enough narratives of an altogether different world to tattoo an overdue novel onto my heart.

I also remember the myriad lights upon taking off at night, civilization’s gigantic electrical sprawl with Jersey City and other neighbors chipping in their bulbs. Only hours later the spectacle was outshone by the descent into Las Vegas - all alone out there on the blackest desert-blanket its dimensions were undiluted and tangible. In Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego I learned unsurprising lessons on low, high and nonexistent expectations respectively. And crossing the border into Mexico for merely one afternoon wrote up enough narratives of an altogether different world to tattoo an overdue novel onto my heart. It was a first glimpse into a society and life so abundantly different from mine and it left me with a smile, like a child opening an unknown door.

 

San Diego / USA   communal commute

 

San Francisco / USA   fading in the mist

 

Las Vegas / USA   garish ceilings

Two years later I fell for Mexico beyond recuperation and the early-20s-me could not grasp the teenager’s mesmerization with the neighbor to the north, who was now believed to be arrogant. Today I make more nuanced distinctions. I think it’s mostly Republican politicians and a backwards movement trudging after these fearmongers that has made US society as a whole fall from grace in the eyes of other nations. I have met the other half, the open-minded generation slowly taking over for the baby-boomers and I would visit this vast and diverse country again any time. With that being said, I guess it’s fair to say that many splinters of my heart remain foremost in Latin America. Speaking of Mexico brings me back to city lights once more: Every time I flew into Mexico City in those days of going forth and back, was like the first time. The sheer size of this brick jungle always remained in a realm I couldn’t fathom. Flying in after dark meant soaring over lights for several minutes at airspeed and with every moment the dimensions of this megalopolis became less comprehensible; yet, as though the mind hadn’t been puzzled enough, the view then opened up due to one last air-turn to the left and suddenly the sea of lights became an indescribable ocean. I’m not even doing it any justice. How I loved being there, working there, in the rusty heart of the city, walking through mazes of perpetual new impressions, riding the subway, making my way half way across town and back to Toluca, a several hour commute that never seemed bothersome to me.

 

Mexico City / Mexico   the ubiquitous billboards of DF

much depends on circumstance and encounters, little on the place

All these are faraway pasts. But, I did return to North America twice during my current journey and arrived at a twofold realization: Coming back to Mexico after 4 years the spell was unbroken; and, after arriving to the US almost 10 years later and more than 4 years into my journey, New York seen through more-traveled and elder eyes suddenly didn’t seem quite as big anymore. My vision had sharpened too. Suddenly I spotted disparities my previous angle was oblivious of. Looking at the expectation-chart I guess it all made sense. I had feared going back to Mexico and facing my paradise lost, while I had craved going back to NY ever since that first time.  

I guess returning to a former Eden always carries the hazard of things never being the same again. Much depends on circumstance and encounters, little on the place itself I’ve come to find. I assume Mexico and the US taught me how a former fascination can turn into a new and different astonishment, or pale next to vivid and beloved memories.

 

New York City, USA   a smaller New York the second time around

glimpse: SLEEPING IN THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS | For the last two hours, we’d been swept along by a torrential stream of hungry tourists, rushing up and down the Empire State Building. Now, stepping out onto the nocturnal Midtown grid, we slowly wandered away from the iconic 5th Avenue landmark and into the silent mediocrity of an adjacent 33rd street. That’s where an elderly man caught my eye by almost disappearing in the gloomy marble all around him, and in his corner, the busy noises of Manhattan died down gently. Fast asleep on a chair, he seemed left behind and forgotten by the crowds, as though he couldn't keep up anymore with the pace of a city that never sleeps.

And then there is the falling for new places; like Montreal, which had a way with me from the start and kept me for many months. Today it’s one of my favorite cities and I have an inkling that a potential and strongly desired return could hold up to the pedestal-position my subjective feeling forged.

glimpse: SHE | Scars adorn her face aplenty. Gripping and remarkable. She keeps these tales to herself and ignores the skinny rumors, petty shots in a dark where they don’t belong, trespassing questions that don’t merit answers. She is pure in her imperfection. She is who she is. She is.

 

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