A glimpse of the city, in between meetings

The world is loud around me. Sirens, those that scream in alarm and others that beckon to passers-by, charmers and the charmed, disaffected and misdirected, a young boy wearing a long-sleeved, orange, polo-type shirt with thin, horizontal brown stripes the same shade as his corduroy pants unwittingly greets the hunter green, metal table with great enthusiasm using his forehead. His mother consoles her crying toddler, her antidote comes in the form of stories whispered for his ears only as he settles into her lap. The unmistakeable diesel engine of a semi truck still seems unbelievable on city streets already choking with vehicles. A well-fed bumblebee hovers near the overgrown ivy and a well-fed pigeon looks on while Robert Smith promises to “run away with you, run away with you” through speakers a few feet away. [Synthesizer interlude.] Women adorn their newly tanned bodies with dresses of many colors and varying hemlines above the knee as a full-bodied salutation to Spring. A few are faithful to their boots even as traces of summer hover in the air; are they nostalgic for winter, eager for autumn, or simply refusing to be bound by season or climate in their choice of footwear? (The same sort who would be caught dead in open-toed, barely there, foot coverings amidst a cityscape coated in white.) Backpacks are suddenly everywhere, installed onto the backs of skateboarders, world travelers, and carriage pushers. The woman with the NSFW tank top nearly avoids a collision with a man whose tee shirt would make Ozzy blush. Tea drinkers chat with coffee sippers and the lad carrying the Poland Spring water bottle sidles up to women pedaling an offer to try a new spa on 5th Avenue at 80% off the retail price. Perhaps he would be more successful if he wasn’t wearing a backpack. 

This is not L.A., I think as the young man with the dark, starched blue jeans seated at the table in front of me folds up his copy of the New York Times before answering a call on his mobile phone. Il parle en francais et il attend son ami. Aussi, il est fatigue et il a faim. Me, too, I realize and promptly recommit to doubling my French practice so that I can eavesdrop more effectively.) This is not L.A. because unlike that west coast metropolis, the people here don’t act like characters. As Apple dwellers, character is simply part of the job description.

cities and books and a few more looks

The concept of “stumbling-upon” is ever alive and well. Most recently, while visiting the author Teju Cole’s facebook page to locate a link to one of his recent audio interviews (in which he talks about his latest small fates project — Simple Tweets of Fate on NPR), a link that someone had posted as a response caught my eye: Paris, I Love You: 10 Books Starring Cities, compiled and written by Emily Temple. Among the titles were Cole’s Open City as well as:

Thus, my list grows by yet another few titles. Is sabbatical really only a year long? (she says, knowing full well that such a sentiment can bring about more than a few eye rolls…)

Twitter, too, did not disappoint and while the original tweet failed to catch my eye, I was endlessly pleased to find my way to The Atlantic Monthly’s most recent photo essay — a response to reader-suggested photo requests; a sort of media treasure hunt. A few that caught my eye for how they surprise as well as cajole the viewer into wanting to know more (click for larger views of the pics):

Here, pedestrians on London Bridge watch boats and barges being unloaded, in the Pool of London, on the River Thames, on April 20, 1929. (AP Photo)
"Hemingway doing something badass." American author Ernest Hemingway, who, at the time, was a reporter and paramilitary aide in the liberation of France from German occupation in World War II, is shown wearing boxing gear in July 1944. (AP Photo)
The Space Shuttles Enterprise rides atop a NASA modified 747 plane over the Statue of Liberty in New York April 27, 2012. The Space Shuttle Enterprise officially arrives in New York to be placed at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Photo of Ishwori Sapkota, as she arranges books at her book store in Kathmandu, on December 18, 2011. She has been selling and buying second hand books for the past eighteen years. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar)

To these fantastic images, I’ll add a few of my own that detail some of my literal, city-wide and city-dwelling stumbling-upons during last week’s very arty-cultural happenings in Philly (thanks, in part, to the lovely e! — more on that to come).

Two installations I hadn’t seen before:

1. A collection of photographs and quotes and poetic musings that line the concrete walls underneath the bridge on 22nd Street.

Photography and Poetry exhibit on 22nd Street
Photography and Poetry exhibit on 22nd Street

2. Another Mural Arts Program masterpiece — this one caught my eye for its mixed media/mixed genre effect.

Building wall mural
(Mural Arts Program)
Building wall mural - close-up
(Mural Arts Program)
Building wall mural - spillover onto adjacent wall
(Mural Arts Program)

A few more stumblings from recent weeks to come your way soon…