From time to time I start reading The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick.
I particularly resonate with the descriptions of how she was discovering New York over time.
In summer we went to the concerts at Lewisohn Stadium, the great amphitheater on the City College campus. … sitting on those stone bleacher seats July after July, August after August, I knew, I just knew, that the men and women all around me lived on West End Avenue. As the orchestra tuned up and the lights dimmed in the soft, starry night, I could feel the whole intelligent audience moving forward as one, yearning toward the music, toward themselves in the music.
Reading about these concerts in New York, I involuntarily remembered a completely different city.
A warm evening of the Italian Indian summer came to my mind – saying “the land of eternal spring” always spun on my tongue – and our study of the topography of the resort town with long-standing traditions. One of our evening routes was crowned with an intricate and graceful building in the style of the beginning of the last century called “theater”, erected to entertain “those who have come for the waters”, in which a restrained excitement was felt and from whose premises an inviting soft light streamed into the street darkness of early October. A wonderful atmosphere of anticipation hovered in the small hall, filled with respectable audience, who were going to have some cultural fun the coming evening.
Further in the text Vivian Gornik writes about how much more comprehensive presentation of her friend Leonard about New York was.
And it wasn’t just the streets Leonard knew. He knew the piers, the railroad yards, the subway lines … He knew the footbridges on the East River; the ferries, the tunnels, the beltways. He knew Snug Harbor and City Island and Jamaica Bay.
And the pictures of another city, stored in my memory, opened up to me when I read the mention of the harbors.
Our small, almost toy balcony provided a view not only of the remote island of If, but also of a part of the line by which the port city wrapped the sea with its land; and in our schedule, filled with trips so densely, all these beaches and coastal cafes with corporate parties, over and over again inevitable getting into the field of our view, they won the right to exist not only as points on the spatial panorama, but also as possible interiors for “spending the evenings” in time periods of our future.