City Streets and love around every corner.
By Elizabeth Cutright

I’m not sure if it’s infatuation, a wicked crush or true love, but I found romance over the weekend….and it goes by the name of New York City.

I’m not going to lie.  I’ve fallen in love with cities before.  Dublin and I had a tempestuous affair in the summer of 95.  My hot and heavy fling with Savannah left me hungry for more Southern Gothic experiences, and New Orleans was more than happy to step right in and quench that appetite.  I’ve been mildly attracted to places like Philadelphia and Seville.  Barcelona and I were hot and heavy for about a week back in the winter of 2008, where I shed my inhibitions (and my worries about the economic meltdown going on stateside) and reveled in Gaudi, Tempranillo, and tapas.  And as for Paris…ahhh Paris…she grabbed my heart when I was 16, and refuses to let go, leaving me always pining for a tempestuous and passionate reunion.

As you can tell, when it comes to the cities of the world, I am never satisfied.

My short holiday in the city that never lets you sleep was a welcome respite and rejuvenation.  I got a chance to catch up with an old friend, and trounce around the long, long streets and avenues of Manhattan.

In my last blog, I made a list of some of the literary landmarks I’d try and check out – but late nights and lazy mornings made it easy to partake of New York’s nightlife, but harder to hit the sights before closing.  I did manage to make it to the White Horse Tavern (where a guardian angel in the form of William the Horse, paid for our drinks via $40 we found folded neatly next to a bar stool).  I also took a moment of silence in front of Tiffany’s window display in homage of Ms. Golightly and her angry reds.  I picnicked in Central Park, and listened to a duo with an acoustic guitar belt out a cover of the Beatle’s “We Can Work It Out” in front of the Imagine memorial in Strawberry Fields.  The Dakota peeked out from the treetops while my friend and I sipped wine along the edge of the lake, surrounded by afternoon loungers and curious wildlife (a fairly flippant squirrel made a run for our stinky cheese, and a raconteur raccoon wandered by as the sun set over the cityscape).

When I’m travelling, I’m always on the lookout for the one great story that will encapsulate my experience.  One time, while sipping coffee and nibbling on a beignet in New Orleans, I watched a 6-foot-something, corn-fed college kid approach a jazz quartet and ask to play along.  Skepticism and anticipated ridicule were quickly put to rest the minute he set the pace and led the way towards a rousing rendition of “When the Saints…” that brought the entire crowd at the Café Du Monde to their feet.  As I listened to that trumpet wail, I remember thinking, “Aha!  There’s my story.”

So I was on the lookout in New York.  I eavesdropped on passersby.  I side-eyed interesting looking denizens on the A-train.  I snapped shots of subway performers and smiled at drag queens.  I kept one ear on the rhythms of the city, and one eye on its inhabitants.  In the end I came back with enough tales to fill out a long dinner (or extended cocktail hour), some I may eventually write about, and others that might just get filed away until they’re needed to fill a gap in small talk.

But I won’t keep them all to myself…

As my friend and I leaned over the railings at Battery Park, watching the sunset behind the statue of liberty, we turned around to watch the last moments of a wedding taking place under the shadow of the Battery Gardens.  It was a Jewish ceremony, and the young couple – veil flapping in the wind blowing off the Hudson – read their vows to each other against a backdrop that the Rabbi described as the ceremony’s “extra guest, the city of New York.”  Guests came up to the mike to read the seven blessings, and tourists stopped in their tracks to take in the quiet spectacle.

Near the end of ceremony, the rabbi took a moment to explain the purpose behind the breaking of the glass.  The jagged edges of broken glass are meant to represent life’s difficulties and tragedy’s, from which none of us escape, the rabbi told the crowd.  But the napkin that cradles those sharp-toothed pieces represents the way love can provide a shield against the world and a shelter that is ever present and ever ready to protect you when times get tough.

After that powerful reminder, the rabbi wrapped things up and the newlyweds danced down the aisle to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, followed by their attendants and parents while the guests – and those of us watching from the sidelines – clapped and cheered them on.

And that’s my story.

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