To La Jornada‘s David Brooks.
Which way to walk in an endless city? Where to start when a place has so much to offer? Toward the Hudson or the East River? Broadway or Wall Street? Central Park or Greenwich Village? Zuccotti Park or the Empire State Building? The enormous scar of Ground Zero or the Statue of Liberty? To see a little of everything or a little bit in depth? What happens if you walk with the nineteenth century veil of José Martí’s New York chronicles? Or perhaps using Pete Hamill’s glasses, the reporter who says that New York is nostalgia, because nothing changes as much as this city? Or maybe it’s yesterday’s memories, gleaned from reading the newspaper La Jornada’s articles about the Occupy movement, and you are affected by the tear gas and the cry of “we are the 99 percent”?
So then the city is not the one you are walking, but instead the replicas and the representations that you carry with you, and what actually matters to you is how to focus the vivid images you no longer see, but which reside within you like the lines of your palm, in which are etched the corners, the window grilles, the large angels carved into the walls, the skyscrapers, the exits to the urban labyrinth that are in the songs of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Patti Smith and the models of identity that the folk song broadcasts from Washington Square Park.
You already know New York. It is described in the first chapter of Moby Dick, in The Great Gatsby and Manhattan Transfer, of course. It’s The Catcher in the Rye, the city as background for the mystery of adolescence; The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, according to Henry Miller, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, from the viewpoint of Tom Wolfe. It’s Truman Capote, Toni Morrison and Richard Price. You know that no one who writes in Spanish has surpassed the New York chronicles penned in our language by José Martí: “Culture is as subtle as air, and like perfume more vaporous than visible. But a sign of culture is a desire for it, and this is New York,” he said in 1884, having been “in the fiery workshops, where the country is forged: with those who wander, with those who fall in love, with those who steal, with those who live in solitude and inhabit it; with those who build.”
You have seen this city in a thousand and one forms in the Woody Allen films that came to the theater in your small town. You heard it in a song, Moon River, when it was the voice of a woman with a guitar and freshly-washed hair at the window in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Big Apple is also an open-air film set: you shoot aerials, panoramic vistas, kisses on Fifth Avenue, King Kong cradling Ann, Broadway musicals, bank robberies, the neon lights of Times Square…