Last week the big event in New York City was the opening of Hudson Yards. Called a “dystopian playground” for the rich by some observers, it opened to mixed reviews. It is a 25 billion dollar proposition and the largest urban real estate complex built since Rockefeller Center opened in the 1930s. There are stores and restaurants, most notably the first Neiman Marcus to open in New York. The central feature of the complex is a large spiral staircase with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, named the Vessel. I must confess it puts one in mind of the architecture of Dubai, it seems oddly out of place in New York City.

Many of my fellow Instagram influencers were there for opening night of VIP and celebrity festivities but between being down with the flu and catching up on content to be produced for other projects and the usual academic chores, Calvin and I elected to check it out under less “instagramable” circumstances.  We decided to go into tourist mode. So Sunday afternoon we entered the “city within a city”. or as one critic observed, consumerism on steroids.  Although an H & M and Zara were thrown in the mix of Van Cleef & Arpels, Dior, and other luxury shops, it was clear this was, in fact, a place for tourists and the very rich and not necessarily everyday New Yorkers. I must admit I felt overwhelmed, confused and not really happy about what I was seeing. It felt very unlike my idea of New York; what it is and what it represents.

The one thing I can admit to is wanting to see Neiman Marcus. I have an emotional attachment to that store as it was a favorite of my grandmother and her sisters during the time they all lived together in Dallas and traveled the world. They moved in together after they were all widowed within the same year. When my grandmother would visit the tags in her clothes attested to her frequent visits to the store. I can still smell the way her perfume lingered in her clothes and on the satin hangers she hung them on. I adored her and how elegant, smart and nonconformist she was.

So in search of my grandmother’s spirit, Calvin and I entered the store and what I found most interesting was a beautiful exhibit of black and white prints by Bill Cunningham and fanciful seating tableaus set throughout the women’s clothing floor. Hidden among the racks of clothes, we found them engaging and as the tourists, we were this day, we started taking photos. The creative challenge of hunting them down and creating a photo made me feel so much more authentic and real than if I was buying something. After that, satiated and feeling like we had just eaten an overly rich meal we left Hudson Yards, not feeling much like we wanted to return., Later that night we wandered into a classic New York neighborhood joint, on a nondescript corner in a more messy, smelly, loud, and full of life and democratic kind of neighborhood and had dinner. We were out of tourist mode and back to being bona fide citizens of the real NYC. What a relief.