The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Urban Canyons (#atozchallenge)


The distances between the stars seem brief by contrast to the distances between each of us and his fellows.
(Science fiction writer Disch committed suicide by gunshot on July 4, 2008 in his apartment in Manhattan. )



Français : L'île de Manhattan vue d'hélicoptère.
Aerial view of Manhattan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Urban Canyons

       JoJo from Tahoma Beadworks & Photography when considering the question What Does Manhattan Say to You? offered, 
Frenetic, loud, harsh, crowded, traffic, urban canyon (because no sunlight reaches the streets). Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy.
      In a similar vein Patricia at Patricia's Place said,  "Manhattan...cavernous, lonely, restless. Those are first words that came to mind." 

      It's funny how such a busy populated place can feel "lonely".   It's the story of modern society in many ways.  So many films set in Manhattan explore that sense of alienation that leaves many with a sense of being lost in a gritty world where few people seem to care about anyone else.  This is the serious side of the human condition in a big city such as Manhattan.

      A New York state of mind can be many things to many people, but for those who have lived there most or all of their lives to think of New York when they are away from it is not unlike Dorothy in Oz thinking back on her Kansas home.   For others who come to New York for the first time or for a return visit, their mindset might be one of excitement or apprehension. Some are dazzled while others are bewildered.  Some go to the city with hope in their heart while others cautiously trod the streets with fear or sadness in their hearts.

      Being a city of so many people, Manhattan is a place of a myriad of emotions.  Ups and downs to go along with the skyscrapers and subways.   There's someone for everyone and sometimes no one when you need someone the most.  Plenty to see and do and you don't always have to have a lot of money to enjoy it all, but having money in the city sure makes life easier.  Homeless or poor in Manhattan is not what you want to be, yet there are plenty of people who seem to subsist this way on the city streets.

       Stepping out onto the busy sidewalks during the height of the work day and you might get carried away like being caught up in the white water rapids rushing through a deep canyon.  You fight the current to find a safe haven to keep yourself from going under.  On the sidelines you watch the flow of the river of humanity.  Look up to see the hard concrete and steel walls that rise upward.

        This is indeed an urban canyon. A place that ebbs and flows, quickens and slows, but ultimately never stands still.  "Who are all these people," the stranger to the city might wonder and yet that stranger remains a stranger.  We are all alone together in this cavernous cacophony of the city.  Lonely while never alone.  Manhattan holds you in its insouciant grasp.

         Have you ever been lost in a city?   Have you ever felt lost in a crowd?   What do you do to pull yourself out of feeling lonely?










49 comments:

  1. Insouciant: good word!
    Yes, I've been lonely in a big city before, when I lived in Washington DC. At times I felt like I was living with 3.2 million people with an attitude. I'm sure Manhattan can feel like that at times too.

    "Urban Canyon" -- great description of a big city.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, if you don't have friends nearby and no one pays attention to you it can feel very lonely.
      But it's up to each of us to do something about our feelings of loneliness if we want them to end.

      Lee

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  2. Very intriguing Title.. Big Cities More people More distance more lonely..

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    1. Deepti, JoJo brought the description to my attention so I give her credit. It can be very easy to feel lost in a crowd.

      Lee

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  3. I'm so used to being alone that I don't generally get lonely. I'm pretty used to being in cities, having lived in Boston for college, living in San Francisco and working in the heart of the financial district. Plus visits to many other cities in my life. But NY is just too intimidating! Even the few times I went when I was young, I thought, 'this is nuts'. lol

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    1. JoJo, I the same way. I choose to be alone during most days otherwise I'd get less accomplished. I'm not thrilled with driving in a city like NY but driving in Los Angeles doesn't seem too bad. This city is more sprawling and it seems like most of the traffic in on the freeway.

      Lee

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  4. Caught in river rapids - that's an apt description.

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    1. Alex, I can picture a crowd being like that.

      Lee

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  5. I love New York! I was always slightly awed by it, cos people would speak of it as dangerous, but somehow it always felt safe to me (okay, I was in specific neighbourhoods and didn't go out at 3 am except in a group of friends, and it was 1997 when I first visited...) -- it feels like Montreal, only ten times bigger!

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    1. Deniz, like you point out, danger is mostly a matter of time and place. The potential always exists, but the actuality of the occurrence is rare when a lot of people are around. I've never been in Montreal that I can remember, but I'd like to go for an extended visit that I'd actually remember.

      Lee

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  6. Funny - I was just thinking about this. Besides the writing community online I'm involved with the sketching one. An important teacher for me is Danny Gregory who has written many books on sketchbooking and creativity. He lives in NYC and I was just watching a video of his where he is in a canyon area of the southwest. I thought how used to seeing those high complicated structures must be to him! There is nothing higher in the nearest town than two stories. Not canyons.

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    1. Jan, visually and metaphorically the big cities and the wild canyons can draw comparisons. In a place like the Southwest there is a true isolation and distance between people. In NYC it only feels that way at times.

      Lee

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  7. Just popping in to say "Howzit." Nice post, very good visualization. I do admit that I've viewed city roads and the buildings either side of them as canyon like for as long as I can remember. Lonely, no not any more, I've lived alone for almost my whole life and the last fifteen years without anyone, no problem.
    Blessings my friend and thanks for the challenge, it's been very informative.

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    1. Geoff, there is a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. The latter can be painful while the former can be constructive and desirable. In my life when I've felt lonely I go out and seek someone or call them, but those feelings rarely come for me. Maybe when I'm older.

      Lee

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  8. Big cities can be stressful. Really liked that white water metaphor - so apt!

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    1. Nilanjana, white water seemed to go appropriately with the canyon metaphor. It came to me naturally.

      Lee

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  9. Sad but it's true. We can be surrounded by many people but still feel alone and lonely. That's a good time to give a friend a call and plan a night out. :) Something else Manhattan is likely good at.

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    1. Jeffrey, a night out with a friend in Manhattan (or anywhere) can be a great time. These days I mostly settle for an hour of conversation on the phone which can also be nice.

      Lee

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  10. The loneliest I have felt was being lost in Tokyo, Japan. So many people and yet the cultural difference isolated me. Lovely prose Arlee. Thank you.

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    1. Nicola, thank you for the kind words. Being lost in a culturally different place where I didn't speak the language seems like the height of not only loneliness, but near helplessness.

      Lee

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  11. It would be scary to get lost by yourself in a big city like New York and the crowds could trigger claustrophobia. This reminds me of a scene from "Crocodile Dundee". On his first visit to New York, he jumps on a lamp post to rise above the crowd and see everything. Your descriptive passage paints the perfect image as well as the phrases "The flow of the river of humanity" and "insouciant grip"..

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    1. Debbie D, if you're not used to the city life and the crowds it can all be overwhelming and confusing. I think it can be that way sometimes even if you are used to it all.

      Lee

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  12. I think I would be extremely overwhelmed in a city like New York. Great post!

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    1. Katy, you might surprise yourself!

      Lee

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  13. I think it's normal to feel alone surrounded by people. Most people identify with that feeling at some time or another.

    Lost in a city? Yes. Lost in NYC? Yes.

    Music sometimes helps when I feel lonely or sad or depressed.

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    1. Robin, music is a great way to delve into ourselves and find comfort or insight. Often others just can't relate to how we are feeling and we can feel so alienated. That's normal, but it's not normal if we stay that way all the time.

      Lee

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  14. Love your descriptions--they're spot on! Having spent a good bit of time in NY during the college years, I can safely say it's not somewhere I'd ever choose to live. It's a blast to visit for short bursts of time, but I'm not a fan of crowds and concrete canyons that feel more oppressive than freeing.

    The AtoZ of EOS
    #TeamDamyanti

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    1. Samantha, I prefer the concrete canyons to the rushing crowds. I'm not a fan of crowds either.

      Lee

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  15. Beautiful. You've captured the essence of a stranger in a strange land. I'm never lonelier than when I'm in a big city and know no one. I feel so much more at home and at peace alone in an open space without buildings.

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    1. C.Lee, it is a state of mind though. An attitude. Open desolate spaces can feel comforting or they too can feel lonely. I think we each create the isolation or the sense of peace within ourselves.

      Lee

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  16. Captivating post, Lee! Your eloquence is inspiring:-) I have to wonder if my shout in an urban canyon would be the only voice returned. White water rapids is a perfect analogy for the crowded streets of Manhattan, though I fear I wouldn't fare much better than I did on a raft:-) That is to say, I didn't fall in, but you couldn't pay me to get back out there -ha!

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    1. Diedre, the question is would you rather drown in the water or get trampled underfoot in the crowds. Exaggeration I know, but might as well run with the metaphor:)

      Lee

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  17. I used to love the bluster and fast-pace of New York. I loved it for the art world and the feel of being part of it. Then, 9-11 happened, and I never wanted to return. Sad.

    Mary Montague Sikes
    Notes Along the Way
    The Artful Way

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    1. Mary, it's sad that 9/11 turned you away, but I do understand. I feel like it's more of a young person's world or for someone with dog eat dog ambitions. To quote that tired adage, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."

      Lee

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  18. I feel lost where I live, what I do to get myself over this is think of two things.
    (1) think of Danny Boy and (2) think of that day you took us around Hollywood.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, it's good to have a touchstone to keep us grounded. Honored to be one of your good memories.

      Lee

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  19. Being in NYC gave me a dose of claustrophobia and abandonment. While there was so much to do and see, there was still a sense of loneliness.

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    1. Susan, you get what I'm saying. It's nice when you're with others in the city.

      Lee

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  20. First, let me say that I have never been lost. I have been confused as to where I was a few time. Second and more serious, I have never had the opportunity to be lonely.

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    1. Gregg, typical man:) I like to think that I've never been lost--temporarily disoriented perhaps but I always have gotten my bearings pretty quickly. We shouldn't ever feel lonely and should appreciate our time alone.

      Lee

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  21. Yes, we were lost in Houston once. I was also lost in this little town, too. That one was more due to a sudden memory problem. The trip into Houston was because we went down a wrong road and had no idea how to get back where we needed to be.

    Yes, I often feel lost in a crowd. Crowds disorient me on a lot of levels.

    How do I pull myself out of feeling lonely...I think back on times with my grandparents and know that I'll be with them again some day, probably sooner than I ever figured. I also read books and blog posts and listen to music and talk to people that I know care about me. And, I pray.

    Have a blessed evening!

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    1. Suzanne, there's so much to keep oneself occupied that I don't see how anyone can be lonely, but I know there are people who feel this overwhelming need to be loved and they apparently aren't aware that they are loved by the One who matters most.

      Lee

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    2. With all of the chaos and heartache in this world, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that He loves us. It doesn't matter if anyone else loves us or not in the grand scheme of things because He loves us. It is all profit if others in our lives do, too. :)

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  22. Last time I was lost in a city was about two years in New Orleans.

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    1. Mike, New Orleans is one city I wouldn't want to feel lost in. That one and Detroit.

      Lee

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    2. I never got lost in New Orleans. I just took a very long way through some very odd places. ;)

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  23. Rule no 1, never look lost in a city. I think that's why I get stopped (usually by Americans from out of town) asking me if I can direct them places in Manhattan. I must look safe, knowledgeable, but not as if I'm between appointments! Coming from London, I find it hard to understand how people can get lost in a gridiron city :)
    Jemima Pett

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  24. I have to admit, it was too urban for me. I love to see a lot of grass and teas and this didn't do it for me. Oh well....

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Lee