City life whirls by on each side covered in lanes of concrete. I am at the crossroads of completing my very first novel and this is my last ditched effort to tidy up the details. Why did God give me a vision of a world located in a city I know nothing about? I wondered over and over in my writing process. Now was the time to find out.
I successfully conducted my focus group, interviewed several who resided in New York/New Jersey at one point in their lives, and completed a very thorough manuscript critique from a woman who lived in the very city my characters did. The only thing left was to visit The Big Apple myself.
Many warned me about the traffic and the commute, but to get a realistic sense of routes I was having my characters take (they often commuted from NJ to NY and vice versa) I was going to have to bite the bullet and re-enact it myself. So I drove.
I think because I was heavily anticipating the nightmare-type traffic that New York is brutally known for, my expectation allowed for the actual experience to be a lot more palpable. That, and God hooked me up with parking space after parking space near my destinations. (Favor ain’t fair, LOL)
It was only when leaving the city of lights on day 1 that I sat stitched to my seat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, feening for the nearest bathroom and praying that I would make it. I did, just in case you were wondering, and enjoyed my stay at a quaint little Airbnb in Bloomfield, NJ that felt more like a “home away from home”. I was so impressed with this particular Airbnb that I knew if I were to visit the city again, I would surely make this space my go-to.
On Day 2 I had the awesome opportunity to meet my editor in person, the same one who did the manuscript critique. This was such a treat because, due to the distance between us (her living in Jersey, and me in Cleveland) I never fathomed we would actually meet face to face. Even our connecting seemed to be divine since we met through another author’s writing group. She was my coach and once we had three solid conversations, I was sure I wanted her as my editor. Special shout out to Gwen, an amazing, talented, beautiful writer who saved my novel in so many ways!
So after my 3-hour-long conversation with Gwen, I was pooped and hulled up in my Airbnb doing work and hiding from the rain for the rest of the day. One thing I wasn’t ready for was how exhausting traveling in NYC really is. I mean, the media really does a poor job displaying that you’re beating up your body just commuting from one borough to the next. In some ways, it reminded me of my travels to Haiti where nothing was easy to get to and everything seemed to be a chore. The boroughs themselves are so large that you can literally spend a week just trying to see only one borough. But, I am a determined soul, so once I rested up I was back out there on Day 3.
I hit up The Morgan Library & Museum at the suggestion of my Social Media Marketer Rebecca Temeriario and was surprised at my own emotions that surfaced. Initially, grief bubbled up at the lack of Black influence presented. The museum was curated by Pierpont Morgan who collected a plethora amount of literature and art in the 1800s.
It hurts my heart when there is a blatant overshadowing of my culture in our history and other cultures in our history when it comes to our contribution to this country’s success.
It’s apparent to me that the historical knowledge we have is passed down from the storytellers in power who have predominantly been those of the European persuasion.
So I had to squint my eyes and read between the lines to find the impact of my culture in our history of literature and art while touring the museum. That’s when I learned about Belle da Costa Greene, the first librarian and director at the library. I beamed in pride when reading about her role in this historical monument in NYC, yet admittedly, was disappointed to hear about her own efforts to snuff out her blackness. She apparently was fair-skinned enough to pass as white. And so she did.
In my wrestling with this truth, I felt an immediate chastisement from Holy Spirit. How could I pass judgment on someone who encountered a level of oppression I will never deal with? This woman lived in a time of utter survival and she did what she had to do to survive.
If you’re interested, the museum is going to feature her story as an exhibit soon. I wish I could view it myself but at least I now know of her important contribution to the literary heritage that precedes my own destiny.
On Day 4 I was determined to make it out of Manhattan (as that was the only borough I had seen thus far) and I did. I found myself in Brooklyn and by sheer happenstance, made it to the Brooklyn Bridge. I had literally given up on ever finding it since I tried and failed earlier in the day, but then randomly caught the MTA where I thought I was going back to Manhattan. When the conductor called out “Brooklyn Bridge!” I made a beeline for the exit.
The bridge was PHENOMENAL to behold. I had no idea how long it was and it felt like I had walked 5 whole miles, though Wikipedia is trying to tell me it was only one, LOL. Maybe I felt that way because there was so much traffic on the bridge, or maybe because I was already whooped from all my travels throughout the day. Whatever the reason, I find it hard to believe it was only one mile of walking!
All in all, I got everything I needed to get for a good sense of the location and culture in NYC. I had visited over a decade ago but back then I wasn’t a writer and I wasn’t trying to take in certain details, so this trip was great for me to lock in some things I need even for future books (Stay Tuned).
There were the showy lights at Times Square of course, and the richness of Wall Street and the busyness of Fulton street. The powerfulness of The Empire State Building, the feeling of never being alone because you’re surrounded by people at all times, and the go-getter attitude of every passerby. But there was also the Black warmth of Harlem and the studiousness of CUNY and the familiar stench of the hood and the sewers that grace every street near the Apollo Theater and, surprisingly, right in front of the Langston Hughes Residence.
The city has everything and though it’s not a place where I would ever want to call home, I definitely appreciate that it offers everything to every sightseer bold enough to pound their walking shoes on its hardened pavement.
Thank you NYC for your enlightenment of why so many esteem your ability to launch the artistic into their peak of creativity. And thank you New Jersey for being the calm needed to tackle the concrete jungle head-on.
I truly felt something like Carry Bradshaw with my journalist eyes and my fashionable writer’s nose and the hustle and bustle that accented each fast-paced step trekked across Manhattan. And just in case you have no idea who I’m referring to, feel free to check out one or two episodes of Sex in the City 🙂
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