it’s amazing how fast things can change, am i right? one minute we’re living our ok lives, being socially distant by choice and masks were reserved for medical professionals and halloween. now, we’re making the best of things, staying socially distant but with less of a choice, and personally, i have 4 masks in my bag at any given time.
that was the past three months. in the last month, we’ve added the stress of re-opening the city/country AND social justice protests, riots and movements. the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Missouri sparked up the Black Lives Matter movement in a big way. i’m not saying it’s a bad thing (the movement, not the killing. that was horrible), but on top of a pandemic, we’ve all got a ton going on right now.
not to mention whatever is going on in everyone’s personal lives.
2020 has been a RIDE, y’all. not that you need me to tell you. we’re all in this together, or so i’m told.
so, this is not to complain about the quarantine or to give my thoughts on the BLM movement or anything else that’s going on. i always say that most of the times i post, i’m posting for the sake a posterity. this is a posterity post. as we enter phase two of the re-opening plan, i am amazed to look at these pictures and know that the city of a few weeks ago that is shown in these images is not the city of today. it blows my mind. ready or not, we’re moving forward.
when nyc first shut down, my first thought was “i need to get to the city and take pictures”. i didn’t even care if i only brought my cell phone. i NEEDED to document an empty manhattan. i never feel like i’m in the right place at the right time, especially from a photography perspective, but this felt right.
after the world was flip turned upside down, but before it totally exploded, i made plans with lisa to go into the city. i was nervous and almost canceled the morning of. the governor had just shut down overnight train service so that they could be cleaned and sanitized, but the thoughts of “should i really be doing this? is it THAT important?” ran through my head. armed with my camera, two masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer, i took a deep breath and stepped on to an usually empty train headed to a very unusually empty manhattan.
my main goal was midtown. the suuuuper touristy areas. we got off at 34th street/herald square and made our way to times square, rockefeller center, 5th avenue and central park. if we could have done more, i would have stayed all day. but we didn’t want to be in the city too long. we weren’t supposed to be there. or, we felt like we weren’t supposed to be there. also, there was nowhere to get a snack, a beverage or to take a bathroom break so we needed to be strategic. knowing how lisa and i usually have a day in the city, all willy-nilly, make it up as we go, that was very hard to wrap my head around. “something HAS to be open. i’m sure we’ll find a deli or something.” that’s what i kept thinking but it was quite clear rather quickly that i was wrong. at the end of our trip, we were able to stop at a CVS for some train snacks, and i can’t tell you how relieved i was for the normalcy and the peanut butter pretzel and diet coke.
i would have loved to been able to go back and do the village, a neighborhood I’ve grown to love. but, we get what we get and we don’t get upset.
enough yammering. let’s see if i could get these pictures on here because I’ve been writing this and trying to put it together for two weeks already. without further ado, i present quareNYC.
ok, so a little backstory behind the next few pictures. they’re of 6th avenue between like 45th and 47th street. i go by landmarks so we were on 6ht between magnolia and radio city, if that helps anyone but me. a block away from rockefeller center. i may have told this story here when it happened but one christmas season, about three years ago, lisa and i went to see the tree and the windows. we decided to take 6th avenue because 5th gets so super crowded, it’s a lot. somehow we ended up in a throng of people. we got separated. i cannot tell you how claustrophobic it was. some douche started to use his girlfriend as a battering ram to get through the crowd. people were pushing. there were no cops (there usually is a big police presence), no traffic enforcement, nothing. i couldn’t get to my phone, i was afraid to even try because if i dropped it, forget about it. finally, a light changed or some other christmas miracle happened and we made it across the street. when lisa and i found each other, we both said “never again.” and every time we pass the area, we say “that was a terrible experience. never again.”
now all of that being said, look at these photos and try to imagine the amount of people. i cannot stress enough the chaos and claustrophobia that was those 5 minutes. i know that it was christmas time that i should know better that of course there would be more people around, but i also know what a beautiful early spring day would bring too. and it’s not this.
walking down 48th street to rockefeller center is always exciting for me. it’s usually because i’m going to see the tree and it’s christmas time in nyc and it’s magical. it’s also crowded and stressful and CROWDED and STRESSFUL. but happy and magical. there was still a glimmer of excitement this time walking down 48th street. i’m not sure why. i was truly shocked when we turned the corner of the NBC store and entered the area that usually houses the tree. agog.
it was me, lisa, a girl on her afternoon run and a handful of security guards. normally you have to scream to your friends and pray you don’t get separated or hit with a selfie stick and now, lisa and i were whispering to each other how weird it all felt.
ok, the next few are from 5th avenue. i know i keep saying it, but I CANNOT STRESS TO YOU HOW NOT NORMAL THIS IS. sure, these were taken the weekend before memorial day weekend and the city starts to empty out around then but, i almost wish i took some video, there was a humming stillness that i hope i captured. do you know what i mean? not a cab honking, not a bus roaring, no people chattering or yelling, no kids crying. there wasn’t a sadness, just stillness. a jarring stillness.
and finally, we have central park. the park was crowded but nowhere near as crowded as it could/would have been. there were certain parts that were more populated than others, but by and large people kept their distance. we stayed on the east side but i would have loved to cross over and go to bow bridge and to strawberry fields but again, you get what you get. we ended at the met. the last picture is of 5th avenue in front of the museum.
it was time to head home. we were both hungry and thirsty and with just a CVS to find any sustinence in, it was time to call it a day.
I’ve done a lot of thinking through this pandemic and everything else going on. say what you want about nyc and its people but this city is a different animal. i know that we’re one of the major cities in the US and i guess what i’m about to say could be said about san fransisco or chicago or any of the other biggies but nyc is in a league of its own.
we process things differently. we are a majorly diverse city that people from all over the globe visit or dream about visiting every single day. we know how to handle and entertain a crowd. we hold ourself to a high standard of everything. our police, fire and sanitation are second to none. our doctors and hospitals are top notch. we have broadway and museums and madison square garden. our pizza and bagels are pretty good too. we are proud. we are resilient and know that we can handle anything that is thrown at us. WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH IT. i feel like people look to nyc for advice or for reassurance. that could be my cocky new york attitude speaking, but it’s true. my mom spoke to an old family friend of ours who lives in virginia and she said to her “we just love your governor. we listen to him every day.”
we are iconic. we are the beyonce of cities. pretty to look at, puts on a good show, will chew you up and spit you out.
i hope these pictures will serve as a reminder. a moment in history that should never be repeated. the city that never sleeps finally took a nap.
love you, mean it.