I was dimly aware of the train suddenly jerking itself to a stop. I believe I was aware of my Dad’s slow, almost amused voice as he said “Patience, Elie,” watching me wait at the sliding doors like a cat ready to pounce. I may or may not have been aware of my heeled boots on the ground, click-clacking like the heartbeat of a lover running to meet her love. All I remember being fully aware of was the excitement building from my toes to the tips of my fingers and filling me with that sideways, tumbling joy. I reached the doors of grand central station and threw them open, rejoicing for a moment in the smell of my favorite city. How can one even begin to describe this smell? It is the smell of pretzel vendors and cab exhaust and a thousand perfumed women, of sidewalks bursting with time and restaurants bursting with people, of coffee and bagels and costumes and paint; it is the smell of skyscrapers and cabs honking at each other and a hundred different cultures dripping from a giant melting pot of color and energy and art and life. It is the smell of New York City. “Finally…” I thought to myself, “I’m home.”
My name is Elie, I’m 17 years old, my passion is photography, and in 2008 for spring break I spent three days in New York City. My parents have never really wished to travel out of the country or even far into the country (money conservation), even though I would love to; it was a rare treat to even be in New York, and I wasn’t about to start complaining. I was born in Manhattan, so going there truly feels like going home. This particular visit resonated deeply and furthered me on a path of self discovery- and it really all started with throwing open those doors to the heart of the city.
I walked out into the great abyss of New York, grabbed my best friend Andrea’s hand, and let the current of the city take me. That really is the best way I can describe it. Over the next three days that we were there (Andrea, my parents, and myself), we stretched the 24 hour days thin with a rushing torrent of activity. We trampled sidewalks, discovered Max Brenner chocolate in Columbus Square, stood in awe of the sweeping green of central park, bargained with street vendors, marveled at the magnificence of the 2D-esque buildings in Columbus Circle, winked up at midtown Manhattan skyscrapers, and ate many delicious (if strange) cultural meals. What I remember most was a feeling of immense gratefulness, though this feeling in its entirety wasn’t complete until the very last few hours of our trip.
Nothing Earth-shattering happened. I didn’t meet the queen or anything. We were lingering around Madison, and I was photographing as usual. It’s hard to explain what happened, but I’ll try: we were crossing a busy street, and I spotted a wonderfully urban girl with a hello kitty backpack. I took a shot. A second later: a classic New York couple, decked out in black clothing and sunglasses. Snap. They just kept coming: a high-heeled model-type. An incredibly old Indian man. A bohemian dread-locked woman. Snap, snap, snap… within a minute, I had about six amazing shots. And that’s when it hit me: this was why I loved photography. I could capture this type of beauty: the beauty of difference, the beauty of life. Basically- I realized I wanted to be a photo-journalist. And truly… I can’t thank that trip enough.
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