About 11pm tonight, I was driving my uncle to Terminal 4, JFK. I decided to take a route through Times Square, to see what kind of madness was there precipitating in the wake of the Giants’ stunning, difficult-to-believe upset of the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Answer: lots of rhythmic honking, some crowds chanting “Let’s Go Giants!” (hadn’t they already gone?), and a general sense of subdued mayhem. Subdued, perhaps, because New York doesn’t seem to have the same kind of centralized, working identity that sports teams tend to express.
There were plenty of manly hugs and back-slaps being exchanged, and a few cars dangerously weaving. A man on Forty-Eighth street wandered into the street, muttering, “the Giants” into my window as I passed. Through the Midtown Tunnel, the car behind me spent more time in contact with the orange, lane-dividing rods than not. But overall the effect was much, much quieter than one would expect in Baltimore or Minneapolis after such a win. Where is our soul, our grit to be found?
My day, I reflected, had encompassed many New Yorks. It began with a breakfast of green plantains and fried cheese at a Dominican cafeteria on Flatbush Avenue, the aorta of Brooklyn; I spent the afternoon shooting an art project in a penthouse on Park Avenue, in the most valuable few square miles of property in the country, back to Brooklyn, and through the Battery Tunnel on the way to watch the Amercian pageant with my dad. I watched the big game near Lincoln Center. Mostly, I felt bad for Randy Moss.
Nearing midnight at JFK, I decided to do a full lap of the boroughs, circling the Belt Parkway, dazzling myself with the Verazzano Bridge, and crossing, on a whim, the Brooklyn Bridge, before crossing Canal Street and getting home. All in all, I visited three boroughs and crossed the Manhattan Bridge alone three times today, and it was just another day here, really. Seventeen years ago, the Giants broke my heart by defeating my beloved Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, so I’m no fan of New York City’s football team. But circulating the city today, I’m happy for it, even if many or most of its citizens don’t even follow the American pastime (which is football, not baseball, by the way).
On my last few blocks home, I waited behind a garbage truck. It moved slowly down Mott Street, but the solitary man working the street was throwing the black bags into the compactor from ten feet away, with power, with flamboyant verve. Next to him, an elegant woman walking her dog stood watching, in appreciation of the human energy that this city capacitates. Not everyone here pays attention to the same civic touchstones. Boosterism and newscaster morale are much more easily ignored here. There’s more to do. It was easy, tonight, to forget that the football championship had been won. We don’t need the trophy to symbolize any victorious transformations for us. This exhausted city renews itself every day.
The rest of my dispatches.