Walking around Manhattan, as I have been for the last couple of days, has been incredible. First of all, it’s kind of my home and not my home. It’s been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember, as a child hunting down (then) elusive recipe ingredients with my father in Chinatown, tugging insistently at his sleeve so he could see that there was something, a sheep, a pig, some kind of four-legged ganado (cattle-type animal) slung across a man’s shoulder as he ducked down the stairs into the store where we were.
Walking further, I feel my tongue instinctively hunt back to the space where one of my wisdom teeth used to be, and where the gummy cellulose packing placed there by the holistic dentist I had to see in an emergency when I was in NY for a work conference slipped out of my dry socket as I pass the garish facade of Ruby Foo’s, where it happened. I also, strangely remember that my brother-in-law ate duck for an appetizer, though I don’t specifically remember what I ate, except for the cellulose.
It was familiar and yet a little unfamiliar. The chain-storeification of the city is surprising, and somewhat depressing. It reminds me of when I went to the Gap outside of my local mall for the first time as a teenager. I was incredulous that it could all be so identical. In an instant I expected to be able to tesser to the other (more familiar) location. Or like when I came to the conclusion that no matter what you do to a potato, the inside always tastes the same.
And there’s more. Recalling when I learned that the smoky acrid smell that says New York in the winter was, in fact, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” when my fourth-grade-class went to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. And now, just a few blocks away, sidestepping the hawks in Times Square asking tourists if they like stand-up comedy. I do not. But they don’t even ask me. I walk like I’m from NY. And I am.