It is little wonder that Columbus Circle is named after the person who discovered the Americas. Or perhaps, the area has developed its full throttle of activities as a tribute to the name it acquired. Located at the heart of one of the entrances to Central Park, Columbus Circle encapsulates the essence of New York City unlike any other.
One could say that the most defining characteristic of the area (apart from the towering 76-foot statue of Christopher Columbus, of course) is the Time Warner Center, with the steely radiance of its surface wall unfailingly capturing at least as much as a nonchalant glance from the busy New Yorkers scurrying to secure their 2 feet of standing space in the packed subway. However, for the artist juggling balls by the imposing USS Maine National Monument, and seeming to have all the time in the world, this epicenter could look vastly different. Aimlessly walking around the block during a brief sabbatical from my job, I assumed the role of this artist, and am reminded of the importance of perspective-taking.
Dressed in Under Armor attire overlaying a chiseled body, with a Starbucks black iced coffee in one hand, and airpods blocking the soft rustling of the 6am wind, the resolute gym-goer entered the 59th street Equinox, accessible only to the upper echelons of society. Why has wealth come to be the marker of what is considered “upper echelon society”?, I wonder.
My gaze goes out to the morning joggers giving company to the squirrels and sparrows, the local dwellers of Central Park. Open to all public, this magnanimous park acts as the equalizer in society. One can’t help but feel humbled by the sheer vastness of the park, the enabler of unbridled joy that stems from human connection in nature. Only nature can tame the human ego.
Consumers relishing the delicious Grom ice-cream under the afternoon sun may fail to notice the Museum of Arts and Design located across from them. Not quite as Instgrammable as the sugary chocolate delicacy in waffle cones, the Museum is still home to contemporary craftsmanship by old and emerging artists.
I walk by a homeless lady asleep near the pavement sidelines – just another common occurrence in the life of a New Yorker. Our dulled senses have become accustomed to such imagery as we march on fidgeting with our phones. Mockingly, 432 Park Avenue, the world’s tallest residential building towers above the commoners below. The 1,396 foot building is too tall to even cast a shadow off the sleeping homeless lady. It stands above all means of contact outside of its enclosed world.
Tourists take pictures outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which is ironically situated right next to the giant steel globe. Time to replace the world globe with the American globe, Mr. Trump?
The fountain at the center of the Circle, and the Amazon books store in the background remind me of Ayn Rand (reference to The Fountainhead), a cultish figure in Silicon Valley. What do New Yorkers think of her philosophy?
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” — Ayn Rand
As the evening slowly descends into night, the hungry bikers return their bikes to one of the several “Bike Rental NYC” stores and make their way to the Halal food trucks. The dog-walkers traverse towards their homes, while dressed-up couples sit with locked arms in the yellow cabs taking them to the Jazz Performance at the Rose Hall, Lincoln Center.
I can’t help but feel a sense of deep love for the city as I stand by the park watching this plethora of activity unfold before me. Undoubtedly the city has its flaws, but that’s what truly defines the place. To an outsider, this may sound hysterical and even perplexing, but New Yorkers secretly love the city for its inadequacies and not despite them.
“The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.” — John Updike
“New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it — once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else in good enough.” — John Steinback