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The Human Fan


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The human fan operates atop its bulky red deck. “To the right you’ll see The New School” says a man that I can’t help but think is in his thirties with a beer belly plunging over his jeans as he shouts into his microphone.

Everytime I find myself walking home from class I can’t help but notice those big red tourist busses where people’s stares can be felt a mile away. I will be at the crosswalk, and the bus will be halted at a light. This is the moment it happens:  What are they looking at, I always wonder. And then I snap into a defense mechanism — I  imagine that it is fascination instead of judgement coming down from the big red bus above. I project my old self onto them—wishing and wanting to be ‘a real New Yorker.’ We play a game of pretend. I imagine that my life is better than theirs, that they probably are wishing they could be me. Sometimes I’ll get really cocky. This is when I’m wearing my black and white reflective Illesteva shades or some ripped up denim.. They can’t touch this, I sneer. Then, when the light changes and I must cross, I give them the coolest walk I can muster up and then all at once I even convince myself that I am a badass.

When I step onto the next sidewalk, my fantasy dissolves. I am not a real New Yorker, but a girl from a small town. I think ripped denim is overrated, and the cool glasses I wear I could never afford myself. There’s nothing better down here than there is up there in that big tacky bus. We’re both a spectacle, looking back at one another.  I was once a tourist, too.

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  1. Scott Korb

    This is fascinating, your effort to see yourself both as you assume others/tourists see you, and as you’re coming to see yourself as a new New Yorker. What strikes me is that your closeness to that other world—your relative newness—makes you slightly more defensive about your harried life than you’ll come to be as you grow into a kind of comfort in the city. There’s part of you that imagines yourself on that tourbus, still a tourist, and you seem to want to account for your life here, to those people (and to your imagined self up there “looking down”). What experience tells me—and this is common among people who have been in NYC a long time—is that the gaze you’re referring to may end up going the other way. The New Yorker no longer feels accused by the tourist for the life she leads. Indeed, the New Yorker ends up accusing the tourist.

  2. mollie

    OMG yessss Amanda!! But really- this is such a great piece. I love the idea of the “big red bus” being an accusation but an accusation of something you’re trying to avoid – the indifferent New Yorker. I think so many people can relate to the fear of becoming “hardened” by the city since it seems like everyone on the streets is a “robot”. However I love that you bring up the other side of being a New Yorker – the caring, passionate, patient side – that only people living here understand. It’s so easy to judge New York by it’s straight faced people on the streets and bustling Times Square. I think there are two phases of being a New Yorker, trying to fit yourself into that stereotypical imperturbable shell at first and then realizing that there’s so much more underneath it. I would love to see how this progresses!

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