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June 2006, vol 2 no 2

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Deb Baker

New York State of Mind

Whenever I return to New York City, I expect it to be the city of my childhood—oversized, overcrowded, smelly, loud, closing in on all of my senses, even closing in on me physically, nudging me out of the way on the sidewalk as I clung to someone's hand on my semi-regular visits with relatives.

winter wind
the cold proud spires
of St. Patrick's Cathedral

But my two recent trips have evoked instead a longing, as if the shadow of a New Yorker rests in my soul. Immersing myself in a sampling of the city's literature, I feel like I'm going home. Scanning the crowd in the glorious entry hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I plan to spot an old friend. Watching my kids scramble over the pyramid in the Ancient Playground in Central Park, I know I'll recognize another mom's voice.

Grand Central
a bit of dirty snow
from someone's shoe

Walking briskly, I duck into the subway as if I do this every day. No, I scold myself; stop pretending! You're an outsider here. Looking around at my fellow passengers, picking up bits of the conversational chaos, I realize the absurdity of the concept. I am inside the city all right, inside its rhythm, its language, its raw reality. None of us belong anywhere, if not here.

Manhattan
from the airplane window
it finally makes sense