October 21, 2010

Old Friends

Posted in Children, Friendships tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:02 am by Liliana

Old Friends

Old Friends

I had dinner with an old friend while visiting New York last week. We hadn’t seen each other in over twenty years.

Donna and I met as high school students in 1973. Our families had just immigrated to New York, hers from Poland, mine from Yugoslavia. Neither of us spoke English.

Together with my sister Branka, we became fast friends.

Our American experiences and identities unfolded in similar ways.

We took ESL classes together, and learned to love and appreciate the English language. As our communication skills improved, our confidence grew. We started venturing outside Queens and expanded our explorations to Manhattan – the three of us on our own!

We roamed the streets, walked around Central Park, visited every famous place we had heard of.

By the time we were juniors, we bought our first tickets to a Broadway show. We almost fainted from excitement as we sat in the very first row, watching Yul Brynner in “The King and I.” Branka and Donna threatened to stand up in the middle of a song and shout to Yul Brynner how much they loved him. I was relieved when they didn’t have the courage to actually do it.

We walked all around the Museum of Modern Art for an amazing Picasso exhibit. I had bought brand new, high healed red sandals, and they started hurting my feet. I complained but the girls had no patience or sympathy. They were transfixed by the wonders in front of them. I took the sandals off, and barefoot but comfortable, delighted in the beauty of the art before me. New Yorkers didn’t even notice.

When John Lennon was shot, we went to his Central Park memorial service. It was an overcast, freezing winter day, and the crowds so overwhelming, the police feared that someone would be trampled to death. We were told to all sit on the ground. So, we sat on the frozen snow for hours, listening to speeches, to music, to remembrances. Afterward, the three of us were sick for weeks.

One winter, for New Year’s Eve, the tree of us decided to welcome the new year at the Times Square celebration. Again, we froze. Again, the crowds were so great, they were not for people who were claustrophobic or faint of heart.

But the tree of us, best friends, intertwined our hands and held on tightly to each other.

And here we are, still reaching out.

October 19, 2010

Streets of New York

Posted in Travel tagged , , , , , , , at 6:55 am by Liliana

Crowded Street in New York

Crowded Street in New York City

I spent four days in New York City last week.

One minute I was in Michigan, and then, a few hours later, I walked out onto the streets of Manhattan.

It is not easy to describe the living and breathing monster that is the energy of this city. One feels its pulse and hears its labored breathing with every step one takes.

On this overcast, steamy Thursday the animal opens the wide sphere of its bottomless jaw and swallows one more pedestrian as she joins the mass of humanity walking down Lexington Avenue.

Everyone and everything seems to be in motion. People and things are: walking, honking, talking, running, sliding, driving, bicycling, arguing, directing, begging, drinking, twirling, dancing, swinging, stirring, swaying, crawling, flowing, hovering, dodging, eating, bustling, signaling, shifting, rolling, fluctuating, buzzing.

The bubble of deafening noise envelops the city like a cacophonous cloud. Traces of exhaust, food, smoke, steam and who knows what else, cling to one’s hair and clothes like barnacles.

There is no sky, no air.

There is no sweet smelling, expanding, green and silent earth.

There is no outside world.

One has been swallowed into the stomach of this leviathan called New York City. But as this willing captive glides with the crowd, she wishes to be nowhere else.

At least for a few days.