I’ve been in the city for three and a half days, with another day and a half to go. Friday afternoon, right after dropping my stuff at the hotel, I walked down to MoMA where I met an old friend and colleague from my TV days to see an exhibit that “reveals the ways in which artists have posed video as an agent of global change.” One wall is completely filled by a blow-up of a drawing she did in 1973 for a Videofreex manual. Until she went to the show’s opening, she had no idea they would be using it in that way. Seeing it with her was very cool.

However, if I’d been prone to seizures, I’d have had one wandering through the rest of the exhibit with its flashing screens and loud discordant sounds blaring through speakers scattered all around. The images on the screens are mostly of horrible political happenings from the 1970s on. All very worthy and all very depressing, especially in the context of what is going on in the world today. 

I need to see some paintings, I told my friend, something that holds still. But when we went down one flight to art from the 1880s to the 1940s, everywhere I looked I saw dark images that either literally or figuratively smacked of the horrors of war and brutality. The Holocaust seemed to be everywhere, even if not directly depicted. You could feel it coming in what had come before.

We left.

Out on the street again, I feel slightly shellshocked by the crowds and the glitz and the grime. It’s all very familiar and, at the same time, radically different. So many new angular aggressive gratuitously tall buildings. So many old friends gone. A great blank hole on 57th Street where galleries used to be. A multistory Nordstrom with windows that balloon out toward the street, lit up like a pale Christmas tree filled with gifts for everyone. Everyone who can afford them, that is. I feel like my city is gone and I don’t fit into this new version of it. Nor do I want to.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but by Sunday afternoon, sitting on the steps of Penn Station across from Madison Square Garden, I am home. Pigeons cooing. Horns honking. Water towers atop buildings. The sign on Smith’s Bar, on the border between Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square, has been there since 1954. The sun is shining after a cold and windy and rainy Saturday. One man reclines back on the stairs, better to soak up the sun, unconcerned with pigeon poop and whatever else is on the grimy cement. A small flock of seagulls swoops and hollers above my head. It all feels right.

I love this city. It is in my bones. I love that I can sit here on these steps and nobody gives a shit, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Whoever you are here is fine. No one’s judging the guy in the pink hoodie with white angel wings. People roll their suitcases or strollers. One man drinks out of a paper bag. A family eats its lunch out of a Zabar’s bag.

I feel at home here as I do nowhere else on earth. I know where to walk and I know how to walk. I know how to cross the streets and how to smile or glaze my eyes depending on the situation. It’s not that I have stopped seeing the holes in the sky or the moneyed pretension. I’m not tuning all that and more out. But it’s my city. Even if I can’t afford to live here.

But however often and however long I can do it, I’m going to keep walking its streets.

Photos by Ruth Neuwald Falcon


  1. Ah, Ruth, thank you for this very visual and visceral report on your experiences! The last time I was at MoMA about 8 years ago I decided I wouldn’t return. It used to be a haunt of mine but not any more. Too much too muchness! The Metropolitan and the Guggenheim remain my museum homes. I could certainly identify with the rest of your observations as well. I miss it every day after living there only 3 years in the 1970’s but returning many times since (not often enough, however!!). I appreciate your sharing these images with us — makes me miss it all the more! I’ll get back there in the next year, I hope. Enjoy the rest of your trip!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sure only a true New Yorker can grok this, Ruth. To me it sounds like somewhere I would flee, back to the safety of trees, forests, and wildness around me. Sure an illustration of the diversity that we are!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s good to be home! And to feel at home! Bless you, dear Ruth. Enjoy and soak up every moment. And, know that I send my love to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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