It seems like you see them everywhere in the world you go. They are plastered on hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and pretty much any other place 3 letters and a heart can be fitted. Every time I see the common “I Heart NY” pasted on something, it angers me. I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s an annoyance with the mainstream, a dissatisfaction with people bragging about their travels through their t-shirts, or maybe its just years of hating New York City sports clubs that draws me to near insanity every time I see them.
However, when I arrived in New York City for the first time this past year – I have to say, I don’t hate New York.
I don’t hate the subways that sway from side to side as yellow light flickers anxiously through the windows, nor do I hate the people who inhabit them: visitors and residents from all over the world. I love listening to the varying tongues speak and trying to figure out where they must come from. And most of all, I love exiting the train to the sound of a blues man who sings from his soul. I can’t help but stop and listen for a song.
I don’t hate the fact that few people sit down to eat, nor do I hate the variety of foods available. I love how I can walk down a street unsure of what I want to eat and be given the option of anything from street schnitzel to fancy dine-in Italian and everything in between. I love the staff who serve up the cuisine as they always seem so intensely infatuated with your meal.
I don’t hate the red brick buildings that block out the afternoon sun, or the busy streets that stand at their feet. They are so full of excitement as people scurry from place to place. Although it’s hard not to get caught up in it, I love sitting on the sidelines from a street bench and watching the world race by.
I don’t hate how the urban jungle is somehow offset by parks filled with wandering people, busy squirrels, and nervous birds. I love how despite being in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world I can find solitude in a walk through the North Woods. I love the urban playgrounds too and feel a shutter crawl up my spine as I am reminded that so many of the world’s basketball legends grew up playing on courts like Rucker Park.
I don’t hate how busy Times Square is at night, in the morning, or in the afternoon. I love embracing the crowds and excitement. I love looking up at the lights dancing on the billboards and wondering how many people have been inspired in the looking up at them the same way I am. I wonder how many people have waited their entire lives to have that very moment. I snap a photo with a grin on my face and excitment in my chest.
For the first time visiting anywhere, I don’t hate the fact that there are thousands of other tourists. I love seeing the look on their faces as they try to navigate a map, I love how they take photos of pretty much everything, and most of all I love how they aren’t yet wearing the “I heart NY” paraphernalia although I know they do love it as I do.
After two long visits in New York City, I have come to realize something I didn’t really expect: I don’t hate New York. However, I will never sport that tacky phrase.