Finding New Memories Down Memory Lane… or 122nd Street
They say that you don’t know New York until you live there. I lived forty minutes outside of the city, commuting at least once a week to study cello until I moved to North Carolina for college, and considered myself a pseudo-New Yorker. When I moved to the Big Apple last week, I was shocked when I realized I had no idea where I was, and had even less of an idea of how to get anywhere I needed to be. With the newfound knowledge that Brooklyn is on a different piece of land than Manhattan, and that not all subways go through Penn Station, but rather through Times Square, I was finally ready to tackle my assigned walking tour.
One thing I have always said about New Jersey, in comparison to New York, is that at least when I walk my dog I am surrounded by blue skies, empty clean sidewalks and the smell of freshly cut grass. Like suburban New Jersey, Riverside Drive is a green peaceful Mecca located not more than 200 feet from a busy, cluttered and smoggy New York Avenue. The apartments are beautiful, and look out onto a sea of trees that are met by the Hudson River. As I walked up the drive, and realized that some of the buildings here were Columbia dorms, I became a bit green myself- with envy. I never even considered applying to Columbia because for some reason, staying in the city was never an option. I don’t regret going to Duke- in fact, I consider it to be one of the best choices of I’ve ever made- but in this moment, it was clear how a faux city girl like me could have had the best of both worlds.
There were not many people walking on Riverside Drive, but the girls I did see were very nicely dressed. They appeared to be my age, and as usual, seemed to be walking a lot more purposefully, and faster, than myself. The scenery and atmosphere were beautiful, so I was sure to get some pictures of Riverside Church, a towering place of worship that must be as inviting and inspiring on the inside as it is on the outside, before moving back to my comfort zone- Broadway.
At this point, I started to head back downtown. This is clearly why two blocks later I found myself at 122nd street- two blocks uptown. As I stood outside the awning of the Manhattan School of Music looking up at the building, I was very aware of a few changes that had been made since my graduation from the pre-college. The first thing I noticed was the addition of the flags hanging off of the building with a big M logo on them. Then I noticed that the whole side of the building, including the awning over the door, had been completely redone. Unlike the tired and dreary memories I had of this neighborhood, this building looked fresh.
As I walked downtown in the downtown direction, I passed the Union and Jewish Theological Seminaries, which looked as I remembered them aside from a new banner here or there. Another embarrassing and unfortunate truth is that for years I passed by the Columbia Campus, but it was not until this past Saturday that I ever passed through the gates to see what was a surprisingly spacious and green campus. I wouldn’t classify the Columbia area as a tourist area, although I’m sure thousands of hopeful applicants pass through the Columbia gates every year. However, I wouldn’t consider it to be a residential area either, as tenants come and go from Riverside Drive with the tide of the Hudson River.
As I passed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, on which construction began in 1892 and has still not been completed, I realized that even if I had been paying attention all these years, it wouldn’t even matter now because New York is forever changing. Whether it takes 116 years or hopefully closer to seven, there has never a better year for me to start learning the city than 2008.