A Week In New York

I’ve always thought that if there is a dichotomy of where people would live, they would be compartmentalized into those who prefer either Manhattan or London. The former being lively, vibrant individuals with ideas and hopes while the latter being blokes and ladies who are fond of timeless, classic lifestyle. Until last year, I was quite confident that I belong to the second box. Having experienced New York myself, however, I should say that I might have made a huge mistake.

This is my post-conference article about world’s most beautiful city. As Frank Sinatra puts it, “If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere.”


1. The People

For one thing, people here talk and walk fast. They take subway, grab a portable meal and phone on their way to work. Time seems to be an extremely rare commodity, and one shall do whatever it takes to use it very wisely. This can hardly be found in Jakarta–let alone Depok–whose citizens should bear with traffic jams and belated trains. In the Big Apple, you simply can’t survive without pushing yourself off the limit and keep up with everyone’s pace. Even beggars and street singers need to be creative lest they want to make money.

Quick fact: almost 250.000 people test their luck by moving in (and out) every year, but only really, really determined ones get to the top. New York is like the ace card: one needs to know what game they enter to make the most use of it. Otherwise, it’s almost definite that you’ll fail.

Anyway. What I like the most about New Yorkers is their inherent individualism–some people mistranslate that as ignorance, though–that allows you to be your complete self. I can shout amidst a flow of humans (a simpler experiment would be wearing an annoying, orange shirt) on the street and nobody would care enough to judge and talk about me in more than an hour. This behavior welcomes the wildest form of dream and, with a little extra hard work, it might actually come true.

2. Books, Books, More Books

Strand Bookstore (its slogan being “where books are loved” and “18 miles of books”), is so far one of the main reasons why I think I would love to stay here forever. This is not to mention the other 9 independent bookstores and Union Square’s Barnes and Noble. Yes, people usually go to New York to enjoy its bars and restaurants, but one (read: I) needs to read before they can hit anything else. Here’s why:

Imagine one shelf of good books. Does visualizing it make you happy? If yes, now imagine there is one big room full of sectionalized shelves of good books. And if that’s not enough, imagine there are four floors of them. FOUR EFFING FLOORS! Now that I have visited the bookstore myself, I can die peacefully. Wait–I still need to make a lot of money to buy the whole building before I can really rest in peace. HAHAHA.

Anyway. It’s not actually about the fact that their stores are huge. It’s the basic reality that the books are good. Let’s admit it: Indonesian books offer you less worth-discussing ideas, but rather mainstream books that people would buy. American bookstores, on the other hand, were made in such way that you could hardly see books as mere economic commodity. Books are rather very appreciated. The Harvard Bookstore in Boston even printed their own custom cover with a card saying, “The great story inside might be undermined for its horrible cover.”


Here in our country, the publishers dare not to take unorthodox titles that would barely be popular for domestic readers. Shall we sigh in unison now?

These reasons being said, I think you would understand why the United States is such a perfect place to breed and feed thoughts.


3. Breathtaking Spots

One does not simply walk and fall in love with a city–but such statement might need further justification for New York. One simply stops at the 42nd street station and walk up through Times Square to comprehend why people can’t stop romanticizing Manhattan. History also contributes a lot in shaping today’s United States former capital city. Go to Top of the Rock, sail to the Liberty Island, throw its museums a visit, or simply stop at Chelsea Market and you’ll understand what I mean. Alicia Keys did not lie when she says that the city is a concrete jungle whose lights will inspire you. No exceptions exist for that statement, methinks.

I tweeted this but I’ll say it again: if Boston is the City of Academia and D.C. is the City of Power, then New York is the City of Dreams. With all humility, I wholeheartedly wish I can spend a significant amount of my life there–an amen from you might mean a lot.