Christmas in New York & Invisible Cities

I've recently returned from spending Christmastime in New York City, bunking in Brooklyn. During the trip, mostly on airplanes, I re-read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. One of the books I'm having my upcoming J-term class read at Hamline University, Calvino was a fitting traveling companion, especially for a city as big and hard to pin down as New York.

"He said: "It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us."

And Polo said: "The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

I got lost by myself in the woods of Prospect Park, toured the enormous and cool Natural History Museum, and had dinner with my literary agent in a trendy Asian-American fusion restaurant in Park Slope. I drank beer in an enormous Styrofoam cup, saw a Christmas Day rat scampering happily through a subway station, and saw the sunset behind the Statue of Liberty from blustery Battery Park. I saw the big tree in Rockefeller Square on Christmas Day, hung out with a pair of red pandas, and enjoyed many a cool dive bar with my Norman cousins, who were quite generous and happy on their holiday.

Good times!


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