ALONE TOGETHER

A LOOK INTO THE WORLD

New York City. A place inundated with tourists, businesses, children, actors, immigrants, hopefuls; practically any identity one could possibly imagine is in this city. All these people are dispersed within 304 square miles of land. The distant, inhospitable slabs of concrete lie in every direction. Mobs of crowds sit in every subway station, pack the trains, and roads. With the volumes of people crammed into one area, one would logically think there is some sort of mutual connection between the people one comes by; that we would take the time and effort to understand the stories of everyone who traces our path. I have ventured to and from the city multiple times. The oddest and one of the most instinctual aspects of a New Yorker is the uninterrupted pattern of isolation. When I sit down on a public bench, the next visitor places themself, essentially, in the farthest position possible from me. Almost every time, there contains some sort of awkward and obscure distance. The air seems thick and a barrier slowly builds between. Oddly this whole ideology isn’t abnormal. We all do it. We all ignore the stranger who sits next to us on the subway. The homeless person. The irony is interesting to me. That such a vast and large city can feel and pressure people into this state of loneliness. How do New Yorkers sustain a sense of community while in a city which almost promotes this single type of living? How is isolation overcome?

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A woman walks in front of the Fordham Campus on July 25, 2018 in Mahattan. Photo by Madeline Provost, SoNYT.

Just along the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is a small, run down record and book shop known as The Westsider. Vinyls from every genre of music feasible are littered throughout the cramped shop. Walk in and see the vinyls towering over your head, and the music flowing through both of your ears and into your heart. Sitting at the cash register is a man named Bruce. He was born in the Bronx and was raised in a home regularly crowded and crammed with people. As a person who has lived here for the entirety of his life, Bruce frankly prefers to live alone. “I used to live in Whitestone, Queens. I liked that solitude out there. I used to appreciate how quiet it was. It is quiet in a way that most of Manhattan never is. There are moments when I do miss that ability to sit somewhere outside in peace,” Bruce said. New York City is truly the place that never sleeps. It is always bursting with an eccentric sort of energy. But, it gets to be too much, and people need time to ponder about the world and truly find a sense of identity. Bruce described the city as “controlled chaos”. He told me it has always been a goal of his to live alone; it’s lures people to the city, to find your own independence in a place filled with opportunity.

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Bruce sits at the cash register in his record store, Westsider on July 26, 2018 in the Upper West Side. Photographed and reported by Maddie Provost, SoNYT.

Central Park is unique compared to the bloated outskirts of the city, that it’s almost deceptive. It is a different universe with a charisma; it lures people into the park. Early on Tuesday morning, I strolled through Central Park, my eyes drawn to every corner. Sitting down alone, I approached an old man reading a newspaper, Arthur Albert. AA grew up in the Bronx alongside his parents and brother. While talking about the general idea of isolation, AA always had a way to turn this dark and depressing idea, and make it beautiful. “I am from the fading generation, so that was the Depression,” he told me with a gentle smile, “and the lucky breakthrough my brother and I had was that we came from an apartment with our mother and father who loved and respected each other for 48 years. When you have that background, it is worth all of the money in the world.” AA then continued to tell me a little about the more recent events in his life. I noticed a distinction. I then persisted to ask, “How do you think this idea of isolation has changed?” He stopped and gazed for a moment, and completely blew me away. “It’s like a song I heard in 1972, “The World is a Ghetto”. ‘You don’t have to search anywhere, happiness is here,’ he said reciting these lyrics by heart, ‘have your share, if you know you’re loved be secure, paradise is love to be sure’ In 1972 the world was a ghetto. Here we are, take a look at the world.”

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|1.| (Right) A man sits on a bench in Central Park drinking coffee on Aug. 1, 2018. He sat alone in the park during mid-day. |2.| (Left) Arthur Albert relaxes while reading a newspaper at Central Park on Aug. 1, 2018 in Manhattan. Photographed and reported by Maddie Provost, SoNYT.

So how is isolation overcome? We use what is right in front of us. We take a look around at the world and discover something. We make our own happiness. Sometimes, solitude separates us from the chaos and anxiety of the universe; releases us to a place with a beacon of hope, the heaven's light at the end of a dark tunnel. It allows us the rest that is necessary to recognize the beauty of humanity. The love one can feel from their family, and the love we share, as a human race, gives us a reason to feel as a community and part of something. I realize I am wrong and have always been wrong about this concept of isolation. I thought of it as a negative aspect of life. But, we all need time to understand and listen to the world before we can speak to it.

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|1.| (Left) A man sits on a bench on the rainy day of July 26th, 2018. |2.| (Right) A man wearing a Patriots hat, rests his head on July 30, 2018 at the China Town in Flushings, Queens. |3.| (Middle) A man stands behind a bicycle peering out into the busy streets of Flushing, Queens on July 30, 2018. Photographed and reported by Maddie Provost, SoNYT.