Today I was determined to fill some gaps in the map of the places I have visited so far in New York. There seemed to be a pocket (albeit a large pocket) from mid town to just into the east side through downtown that I kept visiting. I was going to be on my own as the girls were heading off to go ice skating. And so I planned off to tackle the east side from near the Manhattan bridge up to Harlem. Needless to say things didn't go according to plan.
After a slow late start the idea of switching to the east side (my train line runs up the west side - 7th Avenue to be precise) seemed just a little too taxing. Quick check of the subway map and I decided to stay on until 96th Street, then walk through the Upper West Side, Columbia University through Harlem to the Cloisters. It was a slow meander (as I was flying solo and I was feeling a little off), after about 20 blocks, Columbia university was inspiring and the reality of the task I had planned out started to dawn on me. I cave after 33 blocks and catch the bus at W129th Street - it happened to be stopping as I walked past the bus stop, and let's face it - there were another 84 blocks to go.
It's interesting watching the people get on and off the bus, and the changing of the neighbourhoods as I travel through. Some of the most interesting area's I wouldn't have felt right shooting in today. Not because I felt unsafe - but rather because I wasn't in the zone and my ability to slip through unnoticed wasn't switched on. It would have resulted in making them feel uncomfortable and defensive and that's not what my photography is about. But taking the opportunity to just observe, to watch some moments in their lives was fascinating.
The bus drivers fist pumping as they changed over their shifts. The hugs between neighbours passing on the street. The conversations between friends on the streets. The mothers wrangling their children as the try and get on and off the bus - or stand on the corner. Real, everyday moments, no artifice, no grandeur, just real life. This put me into a highly reflective mood. I watched as the bus slowly emptied - the elderly lady with the killer beauty spot, the long suffering personal aid with her longer suffering patient, the twins who were dancing around the aisle and their mother, all gone. I was the last person on the bus I exited at the Cloisters, I wasn't intending to go inside as I wasn't in the mood to visit an art gallery (it's a satellite of The Met), instead I chose to wander the grounds and the surrounding park. The view down and across the Hudson River was breathtaking. The photo's turned out terribly as I didn't have the right lens to shoot it. So instead, I lived half an hour of my life with that view - just me and the distance. I walked around the grounds, slowly, deliberately before returning to catch the bus - again the only passenger - before returning to the mayhem and madness of midtown Manhattan. Whilst I hadn't filled many holes in my coverage map, today definitely filled a need for peace and serenity that had been left empty by life in the city.