Thousands pass every day, not one of them seeing the same thing

You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city. You say, ‘It happened overnight.’ But of course it didn’t. Your pizza parlor, his shoeshine stand, her hat store: when they were here, we neglected them. For all you know, the place closed down moments after the last time you walked out the door. (Ten months ago? Six years? Fifteen? You can’t remember, can you?) And there have been five stores in that spot before the travel agency. Five different neighborhoods coming and going between then and now, other people’s other cities. Or 15, 25, 100 neighborhoods. Thousands of people pass that storefront every day, each one haunting the streets of his or her own New York, not one of them seeing the same thing.”

– Colson WhiteheadThe Colossus of New York


Notes: Quote via Schonwieder. Photo by PWH3 of New York City side street

Comments

  1. We experience this phenomena every time we return to our well known digs. Returning to UK year after year to the same place, we find other shops, places, even theatres we loved are now part of hotels, lovely restaurants have become something else, a well known church for concerts is a dancing/fast food outlet…. Last time I returned to my home city by train I lost about 20’ and several connections because I didn’t find my way around in the heavily changed, enhanced, enlarged train station. It’s called life!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your comments (always thoughtful) trigger others in my head.

      “What I was trying to explain: the final page of any novel is a destination, the creation of form offering the illusion of inevitability, the denial of chaos. We don’t love novels because they are like life, but because they are unlike it—deftly organized, filled with the satisfaction of shape. This shapeliness isn’t “closure,” a modern comfort word too airlessly psychological for the deep gratifications storytelling provides. The great carapace of the novel puts a bridle on the stampede of detail.”

      ~ Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day (Penguin Publishing Group. April 17, 2018)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Dears! I was born in NY City, and yes, so many familiar places,conditons…are no longer there! We moved to the suburbs during my school years, but the city was not too far to get to easily. Hampl’s word “carapace” reminds me of the scarab beetle, a metaphor that life is ever renewing itself. What an amazing photograph! (do you know which street this is?)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although we all have unique and different past fragments we remember , nearly all of us have the human ability to reminisce and it is that which binds us. Sometimes in the very old the past takes on a new lease of life and they spend hours recollection old treasured memories.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true. Your thought reminds me of:

      Details, tossed into the shoebox of the mind, fragments. Not a regal “story” riding its narrative arc. Just a bunch of snapshots, never amounting to a shape, but too tender to be tossed.

      ~ Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day (Penguin Publishing Group. April 17, 2018)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It was fun for me to explore this a little in my Captain America shorts—not just the lost neighborhoods, but how relics of his city 70 years past might rise up out of the present like bones.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very true. So interesting how those places are etched into memory even when they’re not physically there anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. No two visions are identical, every perspective unique – whether it’s NY or dinner on the kitchen table. It’s fascinating

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Change happens, but we have our memories. I still have the phone number stored for my favorite restaurant of all time, even though it closed 10 years ago and I drive by the abandoned structure a few times a week. It’s sad, but whenever I’m looking for another number and see that one, I go back and picture us there and smile. I believe they call that reality avoidance.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. and then. there is the sky.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When we pay attention we notice how everything is changing, growing evolving, diminishing and recycling. It’s nature’s journey, and we are on the same ride. Enjoying the ride .. and the views when we can. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

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