Friday, January 22, 2016


The wind picked up from Saturday's milder forecast blowing little funnels of fast food wrappers and packing peanuts across Houston Street. Sunday was a gray day with a threat of icy rain or lite snow. It was the kind of weather that would normally keep the sidewalks of most car driven cities and towns empty of anything put the frozen steam erupting from manholes dotting the rock hard asphalt.
The inclement silence in all those small towns and conservative strong holds where according to a Texan Presidential hopeful people are wrapping themselves up in blankets of anger holstered against immigrant intruders seemed the antithesis of the chatter I heard on Houston Street on the northern edge of Soho in lower Manhattan. I had just emerged from the subway's concrete tunnel my hands in my pockets and a warm knit hat on my head. A little wind, temperatures hovering around freezing, a gray sky threatening to blow in the flakes of winter hadn't emptied the street separating Noho from Soho in Manhattan.
Lower Broadway was filled with the languages of South America, France, India, the Middle East and even Kansas as the crowds jostled along some stopping to take selfies using New York's skyline as a backdrop. New York has always been a hospitable host to its tourists and a gateway to its many immigrants. It's a city with its hand out to help and its heart filled with compassion.
As the snow started to descend there wasn't a made rush to get home or back to a hotel room, instead locals popped out their umbrellas and tourists wound another scarf around their necks. The brilliance and the energy of the city seemed to give everyone the warmth they needed to continue on. One man with his umbrella raised pointed out a direction to a young Eastern European couple that had stopped on the corner of West Broadway and Prince holding a map and looking confused.
As the lite snow fell a group of thirty-something's made up of mixed nationalities burst into laughter while waiting their turn in line outside a local restaurant oblivious to the cold or their diverse cultures.
I spent the afternoon zigzagging through the West Village and up through Chelsea where anyone could walk hand-in-hand unimpeded by taunts or the feeling that they were anything less than equal.
In the shelter of the Port Authority an Asian woman went around with a huge cooler of fresh fruit and sandwiches handing them out to the homeless men who gathered inside the back entrance of the bus terminal their clothing insufficient to keep the cold at bay.
As I sat on the subway going back to our apartment on the Upper Westside a young girl and her mother sat opposite me. Before the train got too crowded I could hear the conversation between the two of them. The girl leaned her head on her mother's shoulder and said, "We're so lucky". Her mother, still looking forward, asked why. The girl responded with a list of simple things: her bed, a warm home, her hat. Then she stopped for a moment and said, "and our friends" as she turned with a smile and looked at the stranger standing holding the strap in front of her.
We may pronounce "Houston" differently than they do where Mr. Cruz comes from but that's a difference we can live with. Open arms and the acceptance of those differences is what I see as New York values and that seems a lot better than the rhetoric congealed in anger, fear and divisiveness.
Aiding the Injured
Todd Maisel, photographer
Getty Images

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