By Nicole B. Ryan
Not All of New York Shouts // 6.29.16
Not all of New York shouts.
Sometimes it whispers, like the rustling of the wind through the trees in Central park, The gentle crash of the waves on the docks of Battery Park.
Sometimes New York sings, like the street performers who play for tips, ducking inside the subways when it’s cold, or raining.
Ah, the peaceful bliss that is New York in the rain. Most profoundly late at night, when it gets so quiet you can hear each drop as it graces your window.
Sometimes New York prays. Like the hundreds of flowers and mementos left on the doorstep of the Stonewall Inn, after the Orlando shooting.
Sometimes New York cries, as I imagine it did the day its skyline was changed forever.
And often New York laughs, like in the tucked away comedy clubs of the Upper West Side, or the little kids playing in the fountain in Washington Square.
It dances, rejoices in the beauty that is, and only can be, New York.
And always, New York is proud. As Lady Liberty stands in the harbor, like she’s done for over 100 years, welcoming those to what is, and always will be, the greatest city in the world.
And yes, occasionally, New York shouts.
Top of the Rock // 6.15.16
I found my love for New York in many places. In the majesty of Liberty Island, in the tranquility of Greenwich Village, in the excitement of Times Square; all the hidden haunts and faces of people you see once on the train, knowing you will most likely never see them again. So many times I fell in love with New York, over and over again. Yet, I never truly knew my love for New York until I saw it from the top. 8 million people condensed on this island. I looked down as sirens wailed, tiny cars and ant-like people hurried by, a city moving, yet still. I imagined their stories. Up here, time was suspended, as I watched life keep moving down below. I am reminded… shown truly, my love for this city. The city that slows down for no one, fights, blossoms and grows, even after you’re gone.
The city beats on…
Something More // 6.1.16
He brushes the hair out of her face as the train slowly sways them. Drawing into each other, she curls into his chest; her protection from the turbulent world around them. In a packed train car, they act as though they are the only two people there. Quiet tranquility, not speaking, just being. They don’t need words as they hold on to each other. Frozen in time, he looks at her in wonder. If there is something more than love, these two knew what it was; holding it secret in the entanglement of their bodies together.
Beautiful. Together. One.
Just Because // 5.30.16
Walking down the streets of Chelsea, I passed a little shop on the corner selling flowers. I thought to myself, They’re all so beautiful, I wish I had a reason to buy some. After grazing through the flowers for a few minutes, I decided to buy some for myself… just because.
It’s good to do things just because sometimes…
Humanity // 6.14.16
I saw humanity come together at the Stonewall Inn.
During my time in New York City, the Orlando shooting happened. It was near impossible to grapple with the painful heartbreak the shooting caused our nation, and the LGBTQ community. I was left shocked and devastated, as this served as another reminder of how far we are from peace. I admit my hope was lost. Seeing how one person could take so many innocent lives over things like race and sexuality shook me to my core, leaving me with little faith in my fellow man.
The Stonewall Inn is a historical monument, which serves a great importance to the LGBTQ community for its history of the 1969 riots that started the gay rights movement. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, people flocked to The Stonewall Inn to leave flowers and candles as a vigil for the lives lost. I was moved by what I saw when I got there.
Couples holding hands, holding each other. People crying. Strangers taking the time to talk to one another. People standing in silence looking upon the faces and names of those who had died. A Muslim man was there advocating for peace and unity. People stopped to talk to him and thank him for his message. In the half hour I was there I encountered dozens of people; gay, straight, from all races and walks of life, came to show solidarity, to acknowledge, pay respect, and remember the innocent people killed.
My faith in humanity, my faith in the world around me, was restored that day. I know there is hope for a brighter future.
Even the Clouds // 6.19.16
Lying on my back, feeling the warm grass beneath me A relaxing moment captured on Roosevelt Island
As I look up, I notice the clouds surging through the sky Even the clouds move quickly over Manhattan
Where are they going?
Surely clouds hold no responsibilities
No important meetings they’re running late to
No last minute lunch dates or kids to pick up at school
They exist above us, beholden to nothing but their gliding across the sky
The astounding energy of the city rises, forcing even the clouds to race to keep up Movement, always pushing forward, always taking another step
The clouds too keep in time with their city
Endlessly trudging forward through the New York City sky
Going Unseen // 7.01.16
I couldn’t tell you where I was, because I don’t remember
Maybe somewhere on the Upper East Side, searching aimlessly for a subway station
The sun was finishing its decent into the horizon,
The warmth from the scorching day that had just ended still rising from the ground below me
The city had fallen into a quiet hum
My attention was caught by the soft, distant sound of a guitar
As I turned my head, I noticed the doorman of the building directly to my right He was sitting behind a large desk, alone, quietly playing
I stood there for a moment, watching him through the glass
He smiled as he played his guitar, seemingly enjoying these precious moments he had to himself
These are the small moments that go unseen
The moments we take for ourselves, to do something we love The moments that aren’t shared
In this city so full
With millions of people living millions of different days, all at once Imagine how many of these small, magical moments are happening
How many guitars are being played, poems being written, and prayers being said Simultaneously all going unseen
I walked away, a smile on my face
The doorman’s soft guitar becoming continually more distant Its sound eventually going unheard
Bad Luck // 6.24.16
This wasn’t an easy day
Trouble with the job I’d traveled thousands of miles to take
Had me feeling less than worthy, less than successful, and certainly less than confident As I shuffled through the busy Starbucks by Washington Square
I cared about nothing else but getting back to my dorm, throwing myself on the bed, and not moving the rest of the day
Sometimes life leaves you wondering why things happened the way they did We all have an image, a picture of what we think our lives are going to be like Each new experience, each new adventure we take
We create a picture in our minds of how it is going to go But in life and New York City things rarely go as planned
And we may find ourselves being handed a different image than the one we had created
As I was walking to the door, I overheard a woman talking on her phone “Y’know sometimes its just bad luck,” she dryly said
On my walk home I thought to myself,
“Yeah, maybe it is sometimes bad luck. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s no such thing as luck at all. Maybe everything happens for a reason, and the things we see now as bad luck are just a prelude to something else, maybe something better. Or maybe I’m way too overly optimistic.”
Is luck real? I don’t know. But I’d like to think that bad luck isn’t real
I’d like to think that bad luck is just an excuse we make to ourselves when things don’t go the way we pictured or planned
I’d like to think that any situation involving “bad luck” could be re-routed and turned into something better
I’d like to think we all have the ability to change our “luck”
I’m tossing this day into the books as “the day I decided I was no longer going to have bad luck” Because I can’t always control the way things turn out
I can’t always control the challenges I am handed
But for every situation, every bad day, every wrong picture I can control the way I react
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction I’ve decided to look at every bad day that way, too
Take Off Your Hat // 5.31.16
Riding the F train downtown to Washington Square. An old man walked onto the train, heavy in step, shuffling his way from person to person. His ragged clothes blanketed in year’s worth of dirt the city had been collecting. Slowly, he walked up to each person, “Can you spare a dollar?” he’d say. The usual answer was, “No.” I felt a mixture of pity and sorrow for this man. Pity that his life had been wrought with circumstances that brought him to where he was today, begging for money on the subway. Sorrow, because I knew no matter how much money he collected that day, it would never be enough to bring him out of his situation, but maybe it would be enough to get him to the next day, to start all over again.
Several stops later, a young man stepped on the train. He carried a guitar on his shoulder and a prideful smile on his face. He was the type of person who projected kindness just by his presence. I watched as the older man approached him, asking if he could spare a dollar. The young man pulled out several singles from his pocket and handed them to the older man. The look of complete and utter joy on the older man’s face as the money, passed young hands to the old, was enough to make each of us on the train regret having said no.
A few moments later, the young man unexpectedly moved his guitar in position to play and announced to the train that he would be performing. “My mom has been having a lot of trouble paying her bills, so I’m here to try and help her out.”
As he began to perform, the whole train fell quiet in utter awe. His voice was enough to, for a moment at least, make even New York City seem peaceful. His music and the hum of the train were all that could be heard as the rest of the overwhelming sounds of the city faded away.
Everyone was watching him. Cell phones were put down, ear buds drawn out of their permanent home in the rider’s ears. It was as if for that short train ride, this young man was able to unify this train car. We were all experiencing something of wonder together.
At the next stop, the majority of us stood up to get off. People began to approach the young man to give him money. He quickly, without any hesitation, looked over at the old man who was now sitting next to him saying, “Take off your hat.” The old man looked at him puzzled, then proceeded to take off his hat. The young man told him, “hold it out, this is for you.” The people all gave their money, 1s, 5s, even some 10s, placing them all in the old man’s hat.
The young man continued to play his song, while the old man sat there, a mixture of smiles and tears overcoming him, as he received donation after donation from the people passing by.
The Rain // 7.4.16
Close to midnight on the Fourth of July, alone, I was walking home from Penn Station. Jessika and I had just come back from celebrating the holiday in Brooklyn. After leaving her at Penn I made my way back home, taking my time to ingest the sights and sounds of the now quietly drenched city. The sky was relentlessly pouring, completely soaking me. As the rain beat down on me I felt this overwhelming feeling of life, of rejuvenation. I felt the rain washing over me, washing away the past… Past hurt, wrong choices, falling outs and if only I hads…
I felt myself finally becoming me.
I remember looking up at the sky, letting the rain wash down my face, and thinking to myself, “Remember this moment. This is important.”
The Man in the Moon / The Girl in Manhattan // 5.21.16
I was flying into LaGuardia
It was late, and I had watched the sunset and the moon creep out all from 30,000 feet in the air I stared at the full moon greeting me from across the sky
And began thinking about the story they tell you when you’re a kid About the man in the moon
How lonely it must be to be the man in the moon Isolated with no one to talk to
To be in the midst of this colossal galaxy Yet be alone
Taking off to New York City by myself made me feel a little like the man in the moon In this huge city, I was going to be alone
Would I get lonely? Or would this help me grow
At this point, as I sat on that airplane
All I knew is that an adventure awaited me A city with outstretched, open arms
Maybe I’d be alone a lot of the time, but with the city as my companion, I’d never be lonely
A Love That Lasts // 6.16.06
In Washington Square I saw an old couple sitting together on a bench. They laughed as they sat closely, sharing a sandwich and discussing what they should do with the rest of their day. As they sat there, looking into each other’s eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder how long they had been together. How were they able to continue to keep their love alive for so long, to continually rekindle that flame?
I think we all hope to find love. We all hope and long for the day that someone looks at us like we’re the only person in the room; a desire for trust and belonging, a hope for a shared future. Love can be found in movies and pop ballads, but how often are we presented with the chance to see a real life, true love story in front of our eyes?
I felt lucky I was able to see a glimpse of this couples love for each other. In this beautiful moment, they gave me the hope that love is real, alive, and can be found. No matter what your age, or where you come from, or where you’re going, love is out there. And that true love, a love that lasts a lifetime and even more, isn’t always just a fairytale.
Bubbles // 6.3.16
Washington Square: a little girl jumps up from her stroller, chasing bubbles as they dance through the air. She never tires, perpetuated by enthusiasm. When she misses one, she isn’t discouraged. Filled with determination and curiosity, the little girl keeps chasing.
When does it stop? When do we stop being the little kid chasing bubbles, and turn into adults chasing money, status, and praise? When do we stop enjoying the simple things in life, like bubbles?
When we slow down, we realize that the reason childhood is so filled with joy is because we appreciate everything so much more. We are seeing everything for the first time.
Imagine what it would be like if we could all be as happy as that child, even if it were only for a moment, that each day we could experience that type of joy. Pure and utter wonderment. If we could capture the joy of our childhood, save it in a bottle for those rainy, adulthood days when we need it most.
How different might the world be?
Broken Wing // 5.22.16
Birds of a feather flock together; that’s what they always say.
Jessika and I were walking through SoHo when we stumbled upon a baby bird lying on the ground. I watched as Jessika ran toward it, pushing everyone out of her way as she did so. She kneeled there, hovering over the bird as the people walked by around it. I knelt down next to her as we decided what to do. They say if a mother bird smells the scent of a human on her baby, she will abandon it. Yet, with no mother in sight, and this helpless bird lying on the busy New York sidewalk, we decided to take our chances. Jessika scooped the bird up, carrying it over to a bench. She laid it down on the bench, a mixture of heartbreak and confusion filling her eyes. We didn’t know what to do. She had to go back to Jersey, and I had to go back to Brooklyn. Neither of us was in the position to be able to take the baby bird with us.
After struggling to decide what to do, we ended up leaving the bird on the bench, in hopes it mother would come back for it. We asked an employee of the store the bench was in front of to keep an eye on the bird. I caught a glimpse of the utter sadness in Jessika’s eyes as we left the bird behind. She couldn’t get over it, the rest of the day continually puzzling if we did the right thing.
I think she saw herself in the baby bird; lost in the crowd with a broken wing. She’d felt the abandonment this little bird had; she’d felt the brokenness to mirror his broken wing. She wanted to save him, because saving him meant saving herself. When she picked him up off the ground, carrying him away from harm, she was picking up herself.
She texted me weeks later out of nowhere saying, “I still feel bad about the bird.” I told her I thought the baby bird ended up okay, but in reality I don’t really know. I’ll never know if that baby bird was okay, but here’s what I do know; Jessika will be okay. So if you’re reading this, Jess, you’re okay.
And for anyone else reading this who feels a little like a baby bird with a broken wing, you’re going to be okay.
Did You? // 5.16
Did you ever notice how the lights of the city dance on the water? Tumbling in tune with the waves
And did you ever stand in the place I’m standing in now? In awe at this city and what man can make
I often wonder if you walked these streets with the same sense of excitement I do Or did you dread pushing your way through on your way to work
Did you ever stare up at the stars as they light up the city? Suddenly aware of how small you were
Sometimes I swear that you’re drawing me here Drawing me back to your home
Maybe the years of missing you have lead me somewhere where I feel a little bit closer To you, to who I am
New York is not my home I wasn’t born here
But New York is my heart And that’s because of you
This book is dedicated to my grandma, for all that she was, and all that she always will be for me.
Photo courtesy of Teresa Ryan
All photography is my own unless otherwise noted.
Special thanks to…
My family, for the constant love and support. Nothing would be possible without you all. Jessika, for getting me, and sticking around through it all.
Pauli, for believing in me, and helping me believe in myself. Mrs. Frese, for igniting my love for writing.
Brittany, for putting up with me for the last thirteen years. Auntie, for the adventures, and for always being there for me. Kim, for making so many of my dreams possible.
New York, for always welcoming me with open arms.