Old NYC: New York's Past via Eighty Thousand Photos

134-136 80th St. btw. Amsterdam and Columbus, circa 1911
At dusk on Memorial Day, Tom and I walked through Riverside Park to the waterfront and looked at all the boats and buildings. We took note of tall shiny buildings and the new(ish) constructions stretching from 80th St. down to the tetrahedron-in-progress that reminds me of the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas.

Tom pointed to the West Side Highway, "I'd really like to see them get rid of that."

"What would they put there instead?"

"A subway underground. Then they could put a long stretch of green and bike paths that connect the city to the waterfront without the highway getting in the way.

I squinted and saw a line of bike riders cruising below the highway. It could definitely have been a prettier ride for them and could imagine what Tom was describing. I agreed it was a good idea, but knew that changes of that scale probably wouldn't happen in our lifetime.

"Wouldn't you love to come back in five hundred years to see what New York is going to be like?" I said.

"Yeah that'd be awesome," Tom said, "Or I'd like to come back in fifty. Because I can actually do that."

This morning City Room, NYTime's blog about the five boroughs, introduced me to this awesome little website: OldNyc.org. 
There are more than 80,000 images — all from the New York Public Library’s Milstein Division, and many from the camera of Percy Loomis Sperr, who captured the shifting shape of the city from the late 1920s to the early 1940s.
The photo above shows my street, one avenue east. I walk past those old brownstones every time I visit Central Park, and aside from larger trees on the sidewalk and the different people inside, the houses...haven't changed at all. And are just as beautiful.

In five hundred years I hope to be Stardust (yes, with a capital 'S') but who knows where we'll be in fifty years. Perhaps still in or returned to New York. But I can always look back in time for as long as I want. Clicking on the orange dots I have a feeling as much as parts of the city are changing or will change, many parts will try to stay more or less the same. That is, unmistakably New York.

++ A fitting Sunday Funny from the New York Times Magazine.

The Sunday Seven: Not Quite an MFA Graduate

Not me. 
If I was going to walk, I would have done so this past week. But I didn't, because I'm not done with my thesis and graduations are about being done.

I tell myself I have a lot of time to finish the thesis, which is due early August, but you and I both know how quickly the past two years went by. Pretty soon it'll be July 31st and I'll be sweating and typing till my fingers seize and using up a lot of printer paper. I'll wonder what it all means.

Except thank God, a handful of "let me be real with you" classmates have said the thesis is pretty low stakes. Two or maybe three professors will read it. They will give their suggestions and you can either beat yourself up because they were suggestions and not praise and pay another few thousand dollars in research fees to "revise" the thesis so you a few dozen rewrites later you can hear the word, "Promising." Or, you can say, "Thanks for your time." You take the thesis home, tuck it into the deep left hand drawer of your desk where rest a half dozen other drafts of old old old essays and stories, and think, "Well, that was interesting." Then leave to go buy groceries.

I think I'll go for the latter option.

Anyway, I'm happy with who I've met and what I've read. I'm even pretty happy with the eight or ten pages I actually took the time to rewrite. Rewriting - what a revelation. But I've accepted that the fruits of the MFA grow on a mysterious tree that takes forever to flower. I'm sure the branches will bear fruit but when or how, I don't know and I've stopped trying to guess.

So this Sunday's Seven: some opinions on the MFA in Creative Writing:

1. A flashback to my personal statement for Columbia's creative writing program, which I described two years ago as a sort of "homecoming." While I still feel comfortable in academic, writing intensive environments, I realize was hardly "at home." An early instance of this writer throwing that word around.

2-3. MFA vs. NYC was a popular debate the past two years. It's impossible to apply to Columbia without writing about New York City so the Columbia MFA is like the best of both worlds...(or redundant if you're feeling glum). But intimate and fully-funded as the MFA in North Carolina might have been, I don't regret moving (back) to New York. Saying "I study creative writing at Columbia" at every cocktail party for the past two years was also fun in its own way.

4-6. If I say I'm happy with the program one more time you probably won't believe me. It's fine. I waffle back and forth between loving and hating the MFA, wondering if I've become a certain "type" of writer or if I'm too stuck in my ways to change.

7. But in the end it's always, always, what you make of it: 27 Writers on Whether to Get an MFA 

And some laughs: The James Franco Problem, Actual Sentences Written by Students in a Well-Respected MFA Program Fiction Workshop, and Writer's Workshop Critiques as Applied to Your Sex Life. 

Why I'm Not Ready to Have Kids (Aside from Not Being Married)

Tiger Flying a Helicopter, 2015    Charlene    Pen on Paper.  
This morning, I read this blog post from one of my favorite bloggers:

"How Did You Know You Were Ready To Have a Baby?"  *

"Ha," I said, and emailed it to Charlene.

A Note on my Mother

I don't often write about my mother, but birth and mothers go hand-in-hand and both days are upon us. I thought a long time about a lot of things. For instance, our recent interactions, of which there are few because I live in New York, but mostly because she has in the past two years become less talkative in general. Not just on the phone, but also in person.

MFA Dispatch: My Last Writing Workshop

Usually, I was looking out the window.
Yesterday, I had my last workshop ever. It sort of just snuck up on me. On all of us, I think. I haven't been the best student and it didn't take me going to graduate school to realize this. I would have flunked out early and efficiently if my program was slightly more rigorous than it was, and I knew this going in. It wasn't hard - I'm not bragging - but after twenty-five years as a student of somewhere or other, you get to know yourself as such. You learn where to invest your limited academic energy.

Saying 'No' to Park Slope

Tom on a stoop in the Slope.
Two weeks ago, Tom and I went to see an apartment in Park Slope. We had already seen close to thirty and Tom's apartment theory states that the more you see the closer you'll come to finding what you want (and not be afraid that you've settled - so yes, a lot like dating*). We had gotten used to saying to friends, "We're only looking in Chelsea and Park Slope," which gave off an unintended whiff of snobbery, but in practice, we were mostly looking in Park Slope since our budget, the same in either neighborhood, afforded us more space there.

The Sunday Seven: Maintaining Friendships

“A lot of women, when they’re young, feel they have very good friends, and find later on that friendship is complicated. It’s easy to be friends when everyone’s 18. It gets harder the older you get, as you make different life choices, as people say in America. A lot of women’s friendships begin to founder. I was interested in why that was, why it’s not possible for a woman to see her friend living differently and just think, Oh, she lives differently.” — Zadie Smith, PBS NewsHour, October 2012

It is possible. But I wrote on Wednesday how much I dislike change, inevitable as it is. Hence this Sunday's Seven: the truth about maintaining friendships in the midst of life's crazy changes. Happy Sunday.


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